|The Barn Swallow Project||
Well, we made it. We’ve been in China for a week now, and it simultaneously feels like we just got here and we’ve been here forever. So far, the field season has been a whirlwind of food, buses, taxis, hotels, and, of course, barn swallows. We began our work in Haikou, the main city on the island of Hainan, off China’s far southern coast. Our primary collaborator in China, Dr. Wei Liang, is a professor at Hainan Normal University, and has helped us organize the logistics for this trip. He and his students study interactions between cuckoos and swallows, and they offered to take us to their study sites on Hainan to capture birds. Hainan’s tropical climate means that barn swallows breed early there, so it worked out perfectly for Hainan to be the first stop on our trip.
Well, it’s been nearly 9 months since we returned from Russia. We ended our field season on a triumphant note: standing ankle-deep in the Sea of Japan, 5,600 miles from where we’d started in Moscow. We made it overland the whole way, caught more birds than we’d hoped for, ate more ramen noodles than any healthy person ever should, and met some fantastic people. When we reached Vladivostok we had a celebratory feast at a restaurant called Pyongyang, which was sponsored by the North Korean government, staffed by recent (young female) immigrants, and featured amazing food and karaoke. It may or may not also be involved in espionage and money laundering, but that’s neither here nor there.
We enjoyed two days of rest and some rainy sightseeing in Vladivostok before making our respective ways home: Matt straight back to Boulder for a conference; Georgy on a flight back to Krasnoyarsk, with his trusty car following a week later on a truck; and me back home via Moscow, where I spent a day at the Natural History Museum, checking out the collections for clues about what barn swallows look like in Mongolia and China.
So then what? What do scientists do when the fieldwork ends? The answer: we keep working. A lot. And it’s not very glamorous or photogenic.