Part 1: Finding Samples
Last September, I travelled as a tourist for two weeks with my brother Russell in Ireland, visiting both the beautiful Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
As a volunteer since 2013 for the Canadian Museum of Nature, working for Paul Hamilton with freshwater diatoms, I felt this trip was also an opportunity to collect Irish diatom samples from rivers, lakes, streams and ponds for the museum. I was successful, obtaining 21 samples from around the island.
Although we were on an excellent bus tour, getting at freshwater samples was a bit of a challenge (unlike travelling by car at your own pace): I was limited to towns and cities on the itinerary, which were mainly along the coast. Our periodic stops were for an hour or so.
Rivers flowing through coastal towns tended to be tidal (with salt water), so it was necessary to find fresh water flowing from upstream. Also, rivers through cities and towns were often walled off with little or no public access; in rural areas, they were sometimes fenced off. Some were fast flowing, or the water was too deep. Nevertheless, I still had many good opportunities to find accessible lakes, streams and ponds on the tour.
To obtain and process a sample, mud from the bottom—which contains diatoms—was collected using a turkey baster and put into small bottles. Photos of the collection area were taken and a local tourist map obtained to mark the exact location of the sample.
Back at the hotel, samples were filtered using a funnel and special filter paper and then dried overnight. Once dry, the samples were sealed in labelled baggies for the trip home. Latitude and longitude were determined later using Google Maps, which worked well.
Paul and I are looking forward to processing and photographing more of these Irish samples. They will provide the museum with a taste for what Irish diatoms are like and what further research may be done.