Volunteer’s experience at lake coring in Jamaica

Coring trip to Wallywash Great Pond with 2 volunteers! Check out photos

We (Mike and Suzanne) recently revisited Wallywash Great Pond, St Elizabeth to carry out further sediment coring and monthly water sample collection. The fieldwork is part of a broader regional collaborative project to improve our understanding of changing natural rainfall and drought patterns in Jamaica over the last 1000 years.

This fieldtrip we were fortunate enough to get two volunteers to assist with coring: David Walters an undergraduate student in the Department of Geography and Geology, UWI and Yannique Ewers a recent graduate from the Department of Life Sciences, UWI. They formed the coring team for the weekend and proved excellent field assistants! We had an extremely successful weekend with early starts to avoid getting blown to the other end of the lake by late morning winds.

Scroll down for photos from the trip – click to enlarge.

Here is what David thought of his experience:

Most people dread getting out of bed for work, especially on weekends; but not Dr. Mike Burn and Dr. Suzanne Palmer. They live for the experience of trekking through ankle deep mud and setting up equipment at 7 am on a Saturday – all in the name of science.

The purpose of this particular expedition was to retrieve water and sediment samples from Wallywash Great Pond in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica. Understandably, taking water and “dirt” from a lake doesn’t seem very intriguing but with a bit of perspective and context you will soon fathom the enthusiasm of a young undergraduate being given the opportunity to be a part of science in action. These scientists are innovators in recreating past Caribbean environments. This is the same line of work that is responsible for programs on the Discovery Channel showing what a particular place looked like 1000 years ago. The material brought up from the lake will be very useful in putting together the picture. “Great! We’ll know what a pond looked like 1000 years ago” cue sarcasm from skeptical reader. This work however, is actually quite practical. Putting together this puzzle will help us to understand better the natural and human factors affecting rainfall in the Caribbean. This information then enables us to make accurate predictions about Caribbean rainfall in the future.

The textbooks began to make a lot more sense through the aid of this practical experience. As I assembled equipment out on the lake I thought many times “Oh, so that’s how it works!” This line of work is great if you are the adventurous type. It had a “National Geographic expedition” type feeling. So the wading through mud, pro rowing across a lake and working through the blistering sun is all to unravel the enigma that is past Caribbean environments. That makes it worthwhile and immensely exciting.

I must extend thanks to Dr. Mike Burn and Dr. Suzanne Palmer for giving me the opportunity to learn practically, to observe and make my miniscule contribution to science.