Home / Art / Let's go Sample Sparkling Bog!


A short comic about, well, sampling Sparkling Bog!

I already miss that summer horribly - but I'll get back out there somehow, someway.

In the summer of 2019 I was hired as an REU intern to work at a semi-remote field station in the northwoods of Wisconsin, where my job was to visit a series of bogs and lakes daily in order to sample their depth profiles and monitor how they changed throughout the summer. I woke up at 5 AM every morning and commuted up to 45 minutes away on empty country roads and took short hikes through the woods, where I'd then flip a boat into the water and then set off into the middle of the bog - just me, the water, the sky, and the thousands of mosquitos chasing me through the woods before I could make it out into the safety of the wide open bog. Rain or shine, I would sit there in that boat, slowly lowering a sonde into the water so that it could collect environmental data. And then I would pull it up, and lower a peristaltic tube into the water to take a sample of the bogwater. When it was raining, I would get completely soaked, but it was worse when it was hot - the sun would stare down at me painfully, cramped up in a tiny little metal boat. I'm awful with the heat, so on these hot days I would completely douse myself in water that I had pumped from the bottom of the bog - where it was still just 4 degrees C - to cool off. I probably permanently altered my microbiome doing that! Of course, I also ended the sampling year by completely full-on swimming in the bogs, and the visual effect of the humic-dark water was incredible. Basically everything dissappeared below a few feet, so if you dove in you were gone. You wouldn't be able to see your own feet treading under you - you'd look down and it would be deep, blood red to black in color. Spooky!

At the beginning of the summer, my higher-ups taught me to lug a huge backpack with me and slog through the water in boots, careful to not get wet, but by doing I also sustained many a mosquito bite. By the end of my time there, I was running through the bogs in shorts and sneakers with ease - and during the heat of the summer, I welcomed the feeling of cold lakewater seeping into my socks and shoes. I think there is a lesson in here about following your instinct and doing things in a way that works for you, as opposed to what there is a precedent for. But maybe the lesson is to wear shorter pants and go swimming all the time, which I think is also a really valid way to live.

I went out there every day, and so I got to watch the progression of the summer alter the landscape. Mostly, I saw a thick patch of brambles grow riper and riper. I knew that the payoff would be immense once those blackberries turned ripe - I'd surely harvest them all, and share them with everyone back at the field station. But I left before they finished growing. I promised myself I would return in the summer of 2020, but that never happened. I left a little bit of my heart back there in those woods. Maybe one day I'll go get it back.

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