InSite/Out: In the field for the TeaComposition H2O Initiative 1/?

I have to confess – I don’t like tea.

Well, maybe herbal tea every once in a while. You know, the ginger and lemongrass type.

However, when out in the field, at 30°C and in knee-deep in mangrove hydrogensulphidemudstink, one begins to appreciate the refreshing aroma of green and rooibos tea.

Figure 1: (A) Melaleuca Swamps in Warm, Humid Temperate Australia. (B-D) Seagrass, mangrove saltmarsh (blue carbon) wetlands, respectively, in Temperate Australia.
Figure 1: (A) Melaleuca Swamps in Warm, Humid Temperate Australia. (B-D) Seagrass, mangrove saltmarsh (blue carbon) wetlands, respectively, in Temperate Australia.

About six months ago, the team at Blue Carbon Lab deployed its first set of tea bags in both freshwater and coastal wetlands in Australia for the TeaComposition H2O initiative. Starting a year early allowed us not only to join in on the parent initiative TeaComposition (mostly terrestrial sites), but was also a good opportunity to trial the ins and outs of burying and retrieving tea bags in soft and often inundated sediments:

Pro-tip #1: Plan for flash floods. The freshwater wetlands had some heavy rains right before the 3-month sampling time point. What was originally 15 cm of water turned in to 1 m of water, so next time we will have a backup plan to snorkel in black water among the methane ebullition bubbles.

Pro-tip #2: The local fauna may like your plots. Our saltmarsh plots attracted interest as we noticed wallabies had nested in and around our plots (or else we happened to make the plots in their living room!). Fortunately, they didn’t take offence by ripping out our marker flags. We simply had to work around the occasional poo droppings.

Pro-tip #3: The power of touch. Our sense of touch is often underrated. Trying to find buried tea bags in shallow but inundated sediments was a challenge. As soon as we disturbed the silt, we lost all visual. We wore gloves to avoid contaminating the tea with our own microbes, which further reduced our tactility. It’s amazing how much seagrass root mass feels like tea bags.

As I type, our colleagues in the Northern Hemisphere are having their own experiences with deploying and retrieving tea samples, I hope to share some of their ‘insites’ on TeaComposition H2O next time. ~Cheers!

 

Stacey Trevathan-Tackett
Stacey Trevathan-Tackett Blue Carbon Lab, Melbourne, Australia

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