#WYSE2017 Day 3: Friends of the Rappahannock Field Visit & Simulation!

Hola! Whew, I’m caught up on my blog posts! Here’s why I say that: my day started in panic. Last night I set my alarm for 5:30 AM. What time did I wake up? 7:15 AM. Obviously, that is way later than I wanted to! My plan was to wake up at that time and finish yesterday’s post, but life decided that wasn’t gonna happen today. Not only was it later than I wanted to wake up, it was way later than I was supposed to! I had to be with my group with my field visit by 7 AM this morning. Here’s a fun fact about me: I absolutely HATE making people wait for me. Hate it. One of my biggest pet peeves. Obviously I wasn’t happy with myself, nevertheless I made it to my group and went on my way to my field visit on schedule.


Field visit!

The Rappahannock is apparently considered a smaller river to all the people here on the East coast, but it’s one of three rivers I’ve ever seen in my life, so obviously kind of a bigger deal to this western girl. The field visit day unfortunately wasn’t the greatest for pictures due to my panic wake up call for the day, but here’s some pretty pictures from the forest and river!

The river itself was very clear and running. It is apparently one of the only undammed rivers in Virginia!


The first activity while at our field visit was called “the kick.” Essentially, someone stands up stream from two other people standing downstream with a net. The upstream person kicks to lodge any creatures hiding under the multitude of rocks that make up the river bed. Anything that is kicked up is caught by the net the two people are holding downstream. Then, the net is hoisted out of the river, brought back to the table, and examined for any live larvae or small creatures we found! I would’ve kicked if I could, but we weren’t allowed to take our shoes off, and I didn’t want wet feet all day.

I didn’t get many pictures here, but the second, third, and last activity at this particular spot was all water chemistry. We broke into 3 groups, and each group measured a different parameter of the river’s water! I started off with dissolved oxygen, which is essentially how much oxygen is usable by living things in the river, and we got a measure of about 4 1/2 ppm (parts per million.) In this condition, fish would be extremely stressed. However, we learned that the D.O. readings vary depending on what part of the river you’re sampling. We chose a shallow, non-running area of the river. Due to there being no movement in the water, most of the oxygen is depleted. This can also happen if the river eutrophicates. Eutrophication is essentially oxygen being depleted when there are too many nutrients in the river bed. We also were told that phosphorous is one of the hardest nutrients to get out of the river.

The next group did pH. The pH reading was about 7-7.5, which is exactly neutral or just barely basic. to my surprise, the trees near the river are somewhat acidic, and to the guide’s surprise, this acidity didn’t effect the river’s pH! However, he said that the acidity is usually transferred by leaves, so he asked: “what season do you think the river would be most acidic?” Answer: Fall! It totally shocked me because I completely forgot that water is not the only natural substance with a pH! I also didn’t know that the acidity in the soil somehow runs through a tree and is deposited in the tree’s leaves.

Last things were temperature and clarity. The water’s temperature was around 78-79 degrees Fahrenheit and the clarity was an astounding 120 cm. (Like I said, that river was clear.) We were also reminded that all these factors play a part in what can and can’t survive in the river. Oxygen, obviously, is necessary, pH and temperature matter specifically because they directly effect enzyme activity and efficiency. (Enzyme are those little creatures in your body that get things going! For a simple explanation. Pls don’t yell at me if you’re a scientist.) Anyway, all of these factors fluctuate and that’s why some species are seen in the river in specific seasons only!


Since I for one like my phone, I unfortunately did not take it with me on the canoe in fear that it’d somehow end up in the river bed. I think I forgot that canoeing is a rather calm activity….at least if you’re on a calm water body. Anyway, I didn’t get much documentation for the activity, but that didn’t stop it from being fun! We were partnered up by experience, most experienced in the back of the canoe for steering, and least experienced in the front. (I think I also forgot that canoeing is literally like paddle boarding but the boat is hollow and you’re sitting. I totally should’ve said I was experienced, right Suzanne?)

While canoeing, we passed under two train bridges. The first bridge actually had a train coming, so my partner Erin and I tried to get everyone to attract the conductor’s attention. I am proud to say that all 20 or something of us in that area got a wave and a HONK HONK! Awesome.

After the Rappahannock, we came back to Mason. We had two hours of down time, and then there was dinner and the simulation. The simulation was something I hadn’t known about prior to coming to the summit, but that didn’t stop it from being so much fun and so engaging. The basics were that we were all simulating different country’s representatives for their view in the Paris Accord. My partner, again Erin, and I were representing Canada (or as I call it – Canadia) and we had to state our country’s POV on three things:

-What are the consequences if a country doesn’t meet it’s CO2 reduction goals, if any?

-What will the meeting do if a party asks to leave the agreement?

-And should there be any incentives for a country to meet or exceed its goals?

In the end, it was a very engaging and civilized topic. Despite the few disruptions to focus, we all came out knowing more about the country we were assigned and about what it’s like being in the actual Paris Accord and having to work these things out. I mean wow, 195 countries simultaneously discussing their views on climate change and how they are going to fix it? I truly see now why the Paris Accord is considered a landmark for modern history.

In all, the day started with a slight panic but ended with complete joy and satisfaction. Another successful day of learning here at WYSE2017. Until tomorrow!

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