Friday, June 21, 2013

紅樹 (the mangroves)

My last trip with the grad students. So the other day we traveled along the Dansui river towards the mangroves! We were on a mission to survey some more trees, and these labeled trees were at different sites along the river, and also in the mangrove forest.  We first made our way to the river greenway where there are miles and miles of biking trails and walkways to enjoy! There were a total of seven of us in our group, some other grad students as well as some undergrad volunteers. We all rented some bikes from a shop along the river; in order for us to finish the "land" surveying before noon (when the tide goes down, so the mangroves are accessible). It was so nice to be back on a bike, that's what I'm missing here for sure because usually the summer is my biking season! But we made our way to 3 separate areas along the river, where there were trees that had a number. We had to find the labeled trees and measure the circumference, which was then recorded. Below is what we were searching for!
We finished this task, then made our way back to the start to return the bikes, and then hoped into the car to go to the mangroves! We parked near the site, and got out to change into the appropriate attire. This included a sort of overalls, which had built in knee-high boots, and plastic fabric. There were draw strings that rested on your shoulders to hold up the whole suit. The mangrove forest was so unique. We had to climb over a fence to reach the forest "floor" which was actually a think layer of mud. So these trees are rooted in a river bed, and when the tide goes down, we can go trudge through the muddy bottom. There were so many crabs! Even more crabs then when I went to the tide pools in California! They scurried around our feet, and burrowed down into the mud whenever we were coming. It was so cool! The trees were very low, so we had to watch where we moved our heads. Mangrove in Chinese means literally red bark, and its true! All of the mangrove tree's bark on the inside is a deep red color. It was so hard to walk around though; I think I know what quick sand would feel like. It was pretty much like that. If you stood in one place too long, or if you happened to step in a soft point, you would just sink, and your boot would get sucked down into the mud. Many of us got stuck, including me (3 times haha). It was a workout trying to get out once your boot got stuck! We used sticks and the support of each other's arms to try and hoist ourselves up and out.
 At the very end of the day, I actually did get heat stroke! never felt that before! it was 91 degrees, but the 'humid-est' day ever! I think because we were wearing heavy plastic suits, and trudging through knee deep mud (and the fact that I had a lot of trouble not getting stuck lol), the heat got to me. It was okay, just felt dizzy for a little bit, but after we got out of the mangroves, it was all good. Everybody got some sport drinks to help refuel their system and the shade was our best friend, haha :)
So below I posted a picture of the mangrove forest! As you can see all of the muddy ground cover! And here are some of the volunteer students in our wonderful outfits.

Oh, and I found this guy on one of the mangrove trees! It is called the Asian Long-Horned Beetle, or celestial cows (天牛) in Chinese. It is found in the mangrove forests because it likes to burrow and makes holes in the mangrove's bark in order to provide a place for their larvae to stay. The larvae actually eat the tree, and as a result, the tree eventually dies. So they are an infestation here in Taiwan. The females can actually get up to around 1.5 inches! They are huge in my book! So interesting to see; I've never seen anything like this guy before!

So this mini trip was in the middle of the week. But the last day of work was bittersweet, we all grabbed lunch as one of the last things we would do together. We found an Indian restaurant not far from the university, and it was delicious! I was definitely craving some curry! the rice that came with it was shaped like a heart, which I thought was adorable! Afterwards, we went back to the lab to cool off (it was at the heat peak of the day) and wait until the sun gets a little lower in the sky. We then borrowed bikes and made our way to NTU's animal farm to see some of the cows and others. So after seeing the cows and some vet students, we went to a shop on campus where they only sell products that come from the university's farm! So there was homemade ice-cream and milk from the cows we saw not too long ago.  I love the fact that NTU sells their own products to the students. But after we had our snack, we headed back to finish up our work. It was hard saying goodbye to these guys, they have helped me beyond words. Showing me around, teaching me about their work, explaining the culture and customs here in Taiwan, ect... I couldn't ask for a better group of guys to welcome me 4 weeks ago. Still, I can't believe that I am officially done with part 1, now I'm anxiously awaiting all the other students to arrive in Taipei!!! The BACT program starts tomorrow! Update you guys soon!

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