Surprisingly often I am get to travel around to collect creepy crawlies. It is a fantastic perk of my job. Nothing beats experiencing unfamiliar critters, natural areas, people with different perspectives, and new foods. Below are some pictures from my travels.
Europe - Summer 2016
My fieldwork in Europe was pleasantly varied. I started by flying into Warsaw, Poland to meet a colleague before we headed to Finnish Lapland. This was my first time in the Arctic Circle. On mountaintops and in northeastern Canada I have been to more northerly feeling places, but this was the furthest north I have ever been. The forests were evergreen and birch, regularly broken up by large expanses of moist fields, bogs, and fens. We spent our days looking for worms on salmonid fish. My colleague is an expert fly fisherman, and was able to catch many fish despite windy conditions. Then it was on to Germany and the Netherlands to look for crayfish worms with another colleague. Unlike the remote north, here I visited small preserves and reservoirs often in or just outside of villages. This made for some cushy fieldwork with lots of great food along the way. Overall, this was one of my favorite trips.
Northwest Arkansas - Spring 2016
This is a beautiful place to explore. The mountains, forests, and streams around the Ozarks are absolutely great, and there is a ton of locally produced food at expansive farmers markets and creative restaurants. I was lucky enough to spend some time off here with my friend and photographer Stephen Ironside. While relaxing was fun, I couldn't help but spend time catching leeches and crayfish worms (leeches' closest relatives). All the notably awesome pictures here are courtesy of Ironside Photography! Thanks Stephen.
Northern Maine - spring 2016
Some great, but cold (snowing when we arrived), fieldwork with Stuart Gelder, the world expert on branchiobdellidans (crayfish worms). My hands were frozen for most of the trip, as our hands were always in the water trying to catch crayfish. I've spent time collecting many organisms, and catching crayfish is probably my favorite! This was my first searching for branchiobdellidans. I've spent considerable time reading about these fascinating worms, but I hadn't seen them in the flesh before this trip. They are most likely the closest relatives of leeches. They pretty much only live on crayfish, and some, depending on circumstance, transition from mutualistic to parasitic relationships with their hosts. Stuart was an amazing host and great fun to learn from. He also unknowingly showed me just how ignorant I am about how north you can go in Maine; check it out on a map, you'll probably be surprised as well! Also thanks to University of Maine at Presque Isle for hosting us.
southern chile - winter 2016
This place is great - you should go. There is so much natural beauty everywhere, the people are friendly, and the food is tasty (you can even eat giant barnacles, which taste like other crustaceans). I spent time here with Sebastian Kvist looking for unusual leeches. Mainly we were after Americobdella valdiviana (a huge earthworm eating semi-terrestrial leech) and Mesobdella gemmata (a bloodfeeding terrestrial leech). We were exceptionally lucky to find them with the help of guidance of José Nuñez, who mostly researches frogs but knows a ton about leeches and has collected more A. valdiviana than anyone else I am aware of.