By Maïlys Picard, PhD candidate (University of Waikato & Cawthron Institute)
Yet another field trip that feels like it’s too good to be true! I’m a PhD student, coming from the other side of the planet (France). And every time we go sampling, my eyes feel like they’re going to pop out of their socket due to the amazing places we’re going to. This time was no different, as we were based in Te Paki for this first phase, first week, of the Northland field trips.
You would think I would be used to it by now, since this one was already my third Lakes380 field trip ( lucky me!!!), but nonononono. We were based just 5 minutes away from the giant Te Paki Sand Dunes, the weather was beautiful for the entire week, and the team was composed of amazing people that I’m missing already. And the lakes….! Well, see for yourself!
We started with a knowledge sharing day with the local iwi Ngāti Kurī. We were based at Lake Ngakeketo for the day – just beside the sand dunes. These kind of days are always really interesting as we get to connect with the people that live around, who have connections and stories about the region. It really gives a new perspective to our work, knowing why someone cares about a specific lake other than for scientifical reasons! Our part comes after a preliminary sampling, showing how the history of the lake looks like at first glance by slicing a small core open. This time around we were pretty lucky to find some >100-years old kākahi (freshwater mussels) shells). I’m looking forward to what our suite of analyses will tell us about this lake… and all the others!
Then we got into the usual routine of 2-lakes-a-day. Since we started the field trips nearly a year ago, we’ve gotten really used to it, like a well-oiled machine! Access to the lakes was easy overall, though coring was sometimes difficult when the sand dunes were blown in the lakes: sand is quite hard underwater and doesn’t adhere to the tube if it’s the bottom layer…
The second sampling day led us to ake Wai Raupo in the morning, where we were joined by Penny, Scott, and Rick from the Northland Regional Council (NRC). This one was a real beauty, fringed by native bush and Manuka / Kanuka shrubs, part of the Te Paki Sand Dunes going straight in the lake, birds flying all around in the morning light… Stunning!! Lake Te Ketekete was swiftly sampled in the afternoon, a shallow lake full of the invasive weed Hornwort. The third sampling day was a bit special, we were joined by Lisa Forestier from NRC for the day and went over to Spirits Bay to sample a water body (Waitahora) that was more brackish than freshwater, so we’ll see what our analyses can tell us! Another stunning place that looks too good to be true – Pā site by the DoC campground, ocre volcanic hills revealed through the native bush on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other side… The afternoon was a bit of a miss, first time ever on a Lakes380 field trip that we did not go onto a lake! We got there pretty late after going through some interesting, wild forestry roads, and could only get some water samples from the shore of Lake Kihona. It turns out the lake level has decreased a bit recently, making the access more of a challenge that we had planned!
But our usual efficiency kicked back up, and the next day we were done with lakes Waihopo and Wakahari by 2pm. Which left us time for some well-deserved (and well-appreciated!) lake appreciation at the shore of Lake Wakahari – basically by basking in the sun, seeing the lake in a new light and not as another beast we needed to tame! Our last day of sampling in the Far North led us to lakes Morehurehu and Te Kahika, surrounded by white sand and partial pine forests. Icing on the cake, we had enough time on the very last day to make it to Cape Reinga before going back south to take the plane!
Thank you, to everyone that I meet on those trips, to everyone that is part of this crazy adventure, for making it so unforgettable. Looking forward to what’s next!