Rachel Down Under!

Kiss from a SEAL

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on February 26, 2011

Another week of fieldwork is over and I am left with fresh “mozzie” bites, dirty knees, and (hopefully?) bigger muscles. As usual, I didn’t manage to take photos of us hard at work, but when there is fun to be had, my camera is ready!

For example, earlier this week, we took time away from our experiments for a dive off of Montague Island,

a tiny island off the coast of Narooma in southern New South Wales, as you can see below.

Montague Island is home to NSW’s largest Australian fur seal population….

…and after a quick boat ride out to the island (and some ridiculous life jackets!), we were ready to get up close and personal with some seals!

And how close did we get to these lovable creatures? Extremely! Photo/video credits to Dennis and Graeme.

Check out this video- you can see that the seals were everywhere!

Here is a slideshow of some other dive photos. Do you feel like you’re underwater?

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In addition to our dive, a group of us also slipped away from our fieldwork duties for a late-afternoon wander at Pebbly Beach in Murramarang National Park.

There, we enjoyed the smooth rocks, clear tidepools, and the gorgeous views.

Find anything good ?

How about now?

Is this a princess or a frog?

As much as I enjoy fieldwork, it is always nice to have a break from the mud, sharp barnacles, and heavy lifting. One more week of fieldwork to go, and I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel. For now, though, I will go enjoy my weekend.

Feels like….

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on February 16, 2011

1. Summer!

Two weekends ago, while a “snowpocalypse” was threatening Chicago, temperatures in Sydney rose to a balmy 108 degrees Fahrenheit!

I grew up in Chester, Virginia, so I am not unaccustomed to heat; in fact the day I left for Sydney this past August, it was 105 degrees outside. However, there is something different about the heat here in Australia. The sun beats down here, as you can see in the iconic Australian photograph, The Sunbaker.

What is so different about the Australian sun? Ozone. Or lack of ozone, really. The Antarctic Ozone Hole has at times extended to Australia and portions of South America, as you can see in this video, and the ozone layer over Australia itself has been depleted by five to nine percent since the 1960s.

Depleted ozone levels, and correspondingly high UV radiation levels have led Australia to have one of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

2 in 3 Australians develop skin cancer by age 70, and each year, approximately 1850 Australians die from skin cancer, according to the national Cancer Council. Accordingly, the Cancer Council has developed an aggressive and highly successful public health campaign. For example, since the 1980s, Sid the Seagull has been informing the public of the risks of sun exposure and preventative measures. See for yourself!

….and he’s still doing his job today! Except now he’s computer-animated, and he has even more pointers!

I am even reminded about the dangers of skin cancer on my daily commute, as I pass several skin cancer clinics on my way to work.

As for me, I think I will keep my hat and sunnies on, while slopping on as much sunscreen as I can!

2. The Year of the Rabbit

I happily celebrated the new year with Sydney’s Chinese New Year Twilight Parade, the “largest Chinese New Year celebration in the Southern Hemisphere.”

It was a pretty crazy production….

….complete with innumerable rabbits….

….in addition to all of the other new year animals (can you tell that these were my favorite?)

The new year celebrations continued the following weekend with a visit to Darling Harbour to watch the Dragon Boat Races- check out these boats!

3. Field Season, again!

We have been back in the field for three weeks now (although this week I am taking a “break” to work on another experiment), and we are picking up the experiments that we put out in November.

Unfortunately, I did not take any pictures during fieldwork as I was too busy organizing plates and grabbing sediments, but I will try to take more photos in the coming weeks. We have already retrieved our experiments from Sydney Harbour, Port Hacking, Newcastle, and Port Stephens, and this week, the field team is hard at work in Botany Bay and Port Kembla.

I did manage to grab photos of a quick afternoon excursion (and swim!) to Port Stephens following fieldwork…..

Pretty beautiful, huh?

And boy, does it feel good to wash off all of that fieldwork grime!

Our group also awoke early on the last day for a sunrise breakfast on the shores of our estuary.

We may have missed the sunrise….

…but it was worth it for the company!

The past couple of weeks have been busy with work, but I’m excited to finish collecting our plates, and to see what communities have been growing on them these past three months.

Barbie Time

Posted in Australia, Sydney by rssmith218 on February 2, 2011

One benefit of having South American housemates is the opportunity to enjoy an authentic Argentinian barbeque on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

Even I, the lone vegetarian, was impressed by this assortment of meat! Look at those Argentinian cuts!

Just getting started….

Are they done yet?

How about now?

Wait, Anna, what is that?

I’ll leave it for you to guess….

….but it was pretty tasty!

Australia Day!

Posted in Uncategorized by rssmith218 on February 1, 2011

Happy Australia Day from the great city of Sydney…

….from the ferries racing in the harbour Ferrython….

….from the vintage buses taking over the streets of downtown….

….from good friends seeking shelter from the sweltering Aussie heat….

….from silly American tourists (me!) showing some Australian pride….

….from even sillier Australians showing some Australian pride….

….from the cool beers served at a hopping Australian pub…

….and finally from the shores of Australia’s most relaxing beaches…

….enjoyed with some lovely labmates!

Australia Day was hot and humid, but full of celebration none the less- boozing, beaches, and bbqs- nothin’ wrong with that!