4 reasons why it's easier to run the circadian experiment here than in the lab at Berkeley:
1. Kitchen's right here, so I don't have to prepare 3-5 meals in advance and cart them in with me.
2. Bed's right here, so I can sleep in a real bed without an added commute.
3. We are collecting the crickets in the evening and then running the experiment the following day. While we hold them, we're giving them water, but no food. So I don't have to arrange to take away food several hours before the experiment. This means I won't have to get up early to take away food on any days where I run the noon timepoint.
4. Our schedules are consistently night-shifted, so sleep is much more consistent.
Main reason why it's harder: Very, very few long-winged crickets with pink flight muscle so far. But L pointed out that it's still worthwhile to run the oodles of short-winged crickets to get at least some sense as to metabolism in lab vs. field. And while we're getting some exercise, it's in smoke-filled air (Whittier fire), and it isn't rowing. Also, it's unsurprisingly hard to find any quiet space whatsoever to gather my thoughts.
Cool things observed during last night's circadian trial (9 pm timepoint): one female with a spermatophore, two short-winged females with underdeveloped ovaries, which means they're on the younger side, which is good. The 5x Granny Lamp works decently well for field dissections, which is great.
Yesterday during the day: hiked 11 miles, north up the main road to Gate 2 along Figueroa Mountain Road, then back down along Lisque Valley road, pausing to listen for daytime crickets every so often. Figueroa Mountain Road gave us better views of the Whittier Fire, which grew a lot bigger yesterday. It appears to be a favorite among local cyclists (argh should have brought my bike for multiple reasons). The others learned about how stupid it is to hike in the middle of the day in the summer in a climate like this (I knew but participated anyway because I'm stupid and was curious about the terrain). Lots of spots along Lisque Valley Road looked like decent cricket habitat, but we didn't hear anything. It appears that even the most desperate of males stop chirping during the middle of the day, from around 11 am to 3 pm, perhaps due to the heat. We confirmed this by listening near the fields where we've been doing our nighttime surveys towards the end of the day. Still, I feel like we learned a lot, and it also looks like our trip could add a lot of info to Open StreetMaps.
Speaking of which - at the last minute we got a GPS at REI, right as we were heading out of town. Based on scrottie
's recommendation, we got a Garmin etrex 20x hiking GPS. (also, I've used his GPS before, so I had some familiarity with how to operate it). I am SO GLAD we got it. Totally worthwhile, and now I'm tempted to keep it instead of passing it over to the lab and getting a reimbursement for it.
Double nighttime surveys last night. Nighttime temperatures have been on the low side, compared to what I remember from last year. Yesterday I finally had the presence of mind to put an iButton outside near the crickets we're holding, so we'll have more information about daytime and nighttime temperatures in the shade, at least. We have been able to collect around 80 crickets within an hour, among 4 people. We saw much less activity during our second survey, from 11 pm - midnight, but part of that may have to do with the fact that we still had all the crickets from the earlier survey in captivity. We're having reasonably good luck with mark-recapture within our two survey plots so far - "classroom" and "garden." They're maybe 1/8 of a mile apart, and there isn't any evidence of movement across that scale yet. Collections are female-biased, because the females are running around, looking for males, while the males establish territories at the openings to burrows, to amplify their songs. When we get too close, they will abruptly stop chirping and dive into their holes.
As we add more people to the team, we'll keep adding to our survey areas, which will hopefully help with getting more crickets for my experiments, too. We're also keeping all of the last-instar crickets we collect, so we can wait until they emerge as adults and see what ratio of long-winged to short-winged crickets we get. That should tell us more about why we're getting an extreme short-winged bias again (same pattern as last year) - whether it's because the long-winged crickets are off flying somewhere where we aren't catching them, or whether there just aren't all that many long-winged crickets out there under the current conditions.
Other interesting wildlife: one rattlesnake (of course B pestered it more so he could get video of it rattling), a couple of big frogs, a tree frog, a mouse (eating a cricket!!), lots of large spiders (maybe tarantulas, but not all that hairy??), lots of black widows, lots of darkling beetles. We hear coyotes a lot at night.
Pitfall traps have been highly unsuccessful so far (1 male out of 5 traps). I think they're going to require a bunch of tweaking.
A lot of the long-winged males I've checked for flight muscle status also have a whole bunch of parasites glommed on to their armpits.
Today we'll take it easier than yesterday, probably with another trip into town for groceries and such.