eDNA sampling for great crested newts in Newcastle-upon-Tyne (2015)

A fair chunk of my business comes from friends and former colleagues and most of the time it starts with a random text message or voicemail saying, er, could you possibly go to Newcastle tomorrow, I need someone to pick newts out of buckets.  Or take water samples.  Or identify plants in January (as long as it’s not snowing, I’m game).  I tend not to worry about what I’m doing next week until it gets to at least Thursday lunchtime, as something always comes up…… and this time it was the aforementioned trip to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.This project was the epitome of freelance life.  Out looking at bryophytes in the rain.  Receive urgent phone call asking could I help with a project.  Yes.  Get up early.  Drive to client office in Leeds.  Convince security to let me in at 8am.  Mooch into reception and ask for box addressed to client which arrived the day before.  Provide no ID whatsoever and look positively scurrilous in ripped fieldwork trousers.  Receptionist gives me the box anyway.  Box is huge and will only just fit through van doors.  Head out to Newcastle.  Meet random stranger at a PremierInn.  Hit it off immediately and spend the next two days together taking water samples out of ponds using a convoluted method involving an awful lot of disposable gloves and industrial alcohol.  Get stared at by dog walkers whilst perusing ponds on new housing estate but no-one dares to approach us as we are wearing hi viz and are therefore invincible (!)  Work 12 hour days as if this is completely normal.  Van is now full of white shoeboxes containing lots of little samples tubes of a cocktail of pond water and alcohol.  Drive to secret location near Huddersfield and drop off new colleague.  Take white boxes home and pray there is enough room in the fridge for all of them.  Not for the first time feel grateful that I convinced my husband we needed one of those massive American-style fridges.  Move ageing kale and bryophyte samples about to make space…….

samples waiting for courier

Babysit white boxes all weekend until courier comes on Monday to take them away to the lab for analysis.

If that sounds completely and utterly random, I assure you it is totally normal by my standards.  This is what it’s like being self-employed, folks.  Personally, I love it 🙂  I like meeting new people and going new places and learning new techniques.  I hadn’t used eDNA sampling kits before this project, so it was good to get some practice in.  Long may it continue!


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