Let's pack up!

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The last time we stood in the lab we weighted our leaves, if you remember. Now, shortly before the experiments actually start, we have to pack the leaves into our litter bags.

Just to quickly remind you what we do: we take leaf litter, put it in litter bags - which consist of nylon mesh of varying mesh size - put the bags with the leaves into a stream for a certain amount of time, take the samples out again and analyse what happened to the leaves by determining how mach of the leaf mass we put in initially is decomposed. Simple but effective to find out how a stream ecosystem functions.

Ok, let's pack!

First we have to moisten our leaves. This we do because the dried leaves are of course very brittle and
would break quickly if pushed into our litter bags. But if we wet them before, the leaves get soft and    
flexible again and can be handled much more easily. That's what you see on the left: Andy wetting         
leaves with a spray bottle. On the right we see how he then puts both leaves and the label into a litter  
bag. We use three types of bags: fine ones (meshsize 0.25mm) where only fungal spores and other       
microorganisms get through, medium sized ones (1mm) which allow acces to very smal leaf eating       
animals such as stonefly and caddisfly larvae, and finally coarse bags (5mm mesh) wich allows even big
critters to get to the leaves and eat them. Like this we can find out who is actually responsible for how
much of the decomposition which is taking place in our experimental stream. Neat, eh?                        

We close the bags using different techniques: the coarse ones are sewn close with nylon thread, the medium and fine ones glued with     
hot glue. To the left you see such a bag being pressed close while the glue cools down,a nd the right picture shows the tools for that: a   
shovel and a de-barking tool we "borrowed" somewhere. To make the glue cool quicker the tools are regularly put into the freezer from   
time to time.                                                                                                                                                                                     

Eventually we needed a break so we went for lunch in the centre of  
Kourou (which is tricky as this town doesn not really have a centre).
The car in the middle of the pic is the Berlingo we hired for an        
exorbitant ammount of money. Not a cheap place, French Guiana!  

No, we're not imprisoned on Île du Diable like          
Papillon, but simply sit in the garden of a               
vietnamese resaturant...                                      

After more glueing in the afternoon the South American sky treated us with this pitturesque view and we relax by the pool during the by  
now already traditional apéro from the work hundreds o litter bags can give you.                                                                                    

Stephan again cooked for us, which resulted in this lovely avocado   

…and some delicious fish.                                     

The fish reminded me of trout, but the name starts withj a "P". I forgot the rest of the name though, sorry, but I'm sure it was not Piranha. or maybe I remember the "P" because of the parsley on top? Hm, I dunno...

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