Post by Kyle Sherbine
After almost a week of touring Peru, the field work was finally going to begin. To get from the lodge to the bofedal, it took over an hour. The trip would have been much shorter, but in order to access the bofedal, we needed permission from the president of the community. Once Edwin found him, the president came with us to the bofedal to watch us take samples to ensure that we were not harming the land. We drove to the bofedal, and it became surreal that we were finally there. The semester before this trip, we spent weeks preparing and as a part of the preparation, we saw many pictures. Seeing the bofedal in person made all of the preparation worthwhile. At last, we were standing on the road, looking down into the valley, ready to begin another adventure on this trip.
The hike down wasn’t too bad. It took a decent amount of energy, but nobody had to stop to take a break. The bofedal is 14,000 feet above sea level, and at this point, nobody showed any signs of altitude sickness. When we reached the bottom, we began to break up into our sampling pairs and set up the methane chambers. As we did this, the president watched us and eventually saw we were not doing any harm to his land. After an hour or so, he became bored with us and left.
The methane chambers were placed and then left to equilibrate for 30 minutes. Everyone began preparing to take samples from their chambers while Evan and I worked on our own research projects. Evan and I each received grants to fund our own projects that we designed. My project involves characterizing the microbial communities in the water surrounding each of the methane chambers. I did not encounter too many challenges the first day, and it was a relief.
Around the time when each pair was taking their second to last sample, it began to rain. After a couple minutes, it began to pour. While Evan and I were finishing our samples and everyone else was eating lunch, it began to hail. The hail and rain persisted for so long that we decided to call it a day. As a group, we accomplished half of what we wanted to, but the weather would not allow us to continue. We packed up all of our equipment and slowly climbed out the bofedal. During the climb, we stopped many times to catch our breath as altitude sickness started to set in. Every time the group stopped, I would look up and it seemed like the bus wasn’t getting any closer, maybe even farther away. Eventually, we made it back to the bus and then the lodge. We spent maybe four hours in the bofedal, leaving the rest of the day for us to relax and play cards.