While enjoying our morning meal of noodles, eggs, mixed meats, and vegetables we were informed by Dr. Pei that the torrential rain we had heard during the night had reduced the forest to a muddy sludge, which is dangerous due to the fact that most of the study plots are at an incline of more than 50 degrees!
The resulting task for us was to work in the laboratory sorting out leaf and forest floor litter. Not one of us had a clue what this entailed so we were relieved to get a tour of the laboratory and the different functions of each room. Adjacent to the leaf litter sorting station was a room dedicated to sorting roots from soil samples to determine the carbon content, a room for drying leaf litter samples (sometimes also used to cook sweet potatoes), as well as a room with 10 customizable environmentally controlled ovens used to monitor different growth rates of seedlings according to different settings.
We all settled down in pairs in a large room and each pair was given an envelope which we emptied onto a white sheet and, using big tweezers, settled down to the meticulous task of categorizing the contents. Mostly there were leaves and insect secretions and often we encountered seeds, bark, twigs, and the insects themselves (killed by the preheating in the drying oven). Each category was weighed and recorded on sheets.
After a brief pause during the morning, the torrential rain decided to make itself known again just after lunch, which washed away all hopes of being able to go out into the field for our last day here in Gutianshan forest. After a rest we gathered together to develop a template which we would all use when designing our presentations upon our return home. We came up with such a wealth of information that it became hard to imagine a presentation under 60 minutes-- so all our colleagues can look forward to a full-fledged, but perhaps significantly edited, presentation.
We combined our ideas with the Mandarin speaking side of our team who came up with even more topics to discuss--it will be up to each Fellow to determine what is presented. This activity was followed by a lively dinner and some relaxation time in the common room, where we swapped photos and saw possibly the largest flying beetle yet!
So, to our dismay we came to the realization that we have only one more day before our adventure ends, time has flown by all too quickly - as it often does when one is having fun!
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