The Nationaal Park Zuid-Kennemerland is a unique place in the Netherlands. It consists of an expansive dune complex, is home to the only bison herd in the Netherlands, and it was touched by World War II (there is a cemetery for resistance fighters and ruins of old bunkers within the park).
Jiefei and Koen are interested in the hydrophobic properties of soil. I learned yesterday that some mineral soils contain compounds that repel water. We usually found these water-repellent soils in vegetated areas, as opposed to areas with bare soil. It was so fun to see beads of water remain on top of the soil for such a long time (we waited 30 minutes for the drops to incorporate into the soil, but many didn’t incorporate even after 30 minutes).
With my training as a botanist, it was hard for me not to be distracted by the beautiful dune flora. I grew up exploring the sand dunes near the Great Lakes in the United States, so it was fun to see analogous dune species in a superficially similar habitat. My favorite plants were the tiny flowering species that were thriving despite the harsh conditions.
Of course we had a job to do while we were at the Nationaal Park yesterday, but part of doing fieldwork is also having fun and enjoying the nature around us. While we were waiting for some water drops to incorporate into a soil core, thirsty ants and beetles kept drinking from the drops. We had to restart the timer each time an insect decided to take a drink. This happened several times – the insects must’ve been really thirsty! We also had a pinecone-throwing contest in a pine stand where we were testing soil properties. Jeifei was the champion with her superior pinecone throwing abilities.
I’m so happy I was able to go help Jiefei and Koen collect their data. I could have easily read the user manual for the soil moisture meter, but there is no substitution for spending a day in the field with colleagues. The next time a colleague is going into the field and your schedule allows you to accompany them, I highly recommend doing it. The discussions we had and the knowledge we shared yesterday was refreshing and inspiring!