Monday, February 26, 2007

Finally - a post!

Hi all -
Massive apologies for not posting sooner. We just got our internet hooked up today.

So far, everything is going very very well. We have a great research team: Safak (Turkish grad student), Alice (American/New Zealander botanist), Laura (Scottish zoologist), and Ben (English behavioral ecologist/modeler). We also have a fantastic local guide, Cumali, and more Turkish collaborators who are in Ankara at the moment (Nuri, a professor, and his graduate students Duygu, Asra, and Mert).

So far, we already have two males with transmitters. Unfortunately, the day we caught and released the second animal, the army said we couldn't go into those fields - our permits hadn't come through. So we haven't been able to track the animals or set up cameras at their burrows. Hopefully, tomorrow we can go out. Today Alice, Laura, and Cumali went into fields for which we don't need permits, but didn't find any hamsters. Why do they only live in the "forbidden zone"??

Yesterday, Ben, Alice, Laura, Safak, and I had a brainstorming session - and came up with some good research ideas. I am really looking forward to working with this group - they are smart, energetic, and fun. If the hamsters cooperate, we should get some good data.

On the non-scientific side, everyone seems to be quite happy - the food is very good and we've eaten way too much; and consumed enough tea to sink the Titanic (though it's already sunk, I guess...). We've also eaten way too much baklava. Gaziantep (the city that's about 1 hour away) is the baklava capital of Turkey - and that says something so the baklava is to DIE for - I'm going to weight 8,000 pounds if I'm not careful!

I'm trying to learn Turkish, and feel I'm doing an ok job - but I should be working harder at it. Alice and Laura have notebooks for Turkish words and actually study! They are putting me to shame. Last night the Mayor's assistant came over after dinner for beer and I was able to participate (in a very minor way) in the conversation. He, Safak, and Cumali were teaching us bad words in Turkish; and we reciprocated in English. I actually learned some British words I didn't know. We were all in stitches!

The weather has been on the wet, chilly side (I don't know temperatures, though). When we first arrived it was quite pleasant, but I don't know if that was compared to what I was used to in Ithaca. In the evening, I was comfortable in a fleece and jeans and during the day is was actually warm. It has gotten colder and wetter, however, so now we tend to spend a lot of time inside with our space heaters. Yesterday was so rainy that we couldn't go outside much, though we managed a short run in the afternoon.

In addition to all of the good news from Turkey, the best news came from Arkansas. Dad emailed to say that his doctor looked at his throat and didn't see any cancer!!! whoo hoo!!!

Love to you all!


yoga girl said...

Hi there!

I am so glad you made it safely and things are going well! The tortoise is in good hands with your friend (she had to borrow the key-hers didn't work) We miss you at yoga already =o( I'll try to send the hamsters some brainwave signals to go into the non-forbidden zone. Peace

Leora said...

Things seem to be going very well over there! Hope the hammies give you a break and dare to venture away from the forbidden zone soon. The research team seems to be awesome and it sounds like you have a very diverse bunch of research assistants working with you. Glad to hear that things are A-ok so far :-)
The Other Side Of The Fence

Nic McPhee said...

Sorry to be slow on responding here - things got busy and I just forgot to check :-(. Lots of cool posts, though, so I'm really excited to visit!

At the risk of sounding obvious, do the hamsters like the forbidden zone because it's forbidden? Not knowing much about the lay of the land, does the forbidden zone have less human disturbance, and is therefore more appealing for the little fellows?

I'm definitely jealous about the baklava, and am very impressed with your efforts to learn Turkish. You'll have to take the British swear words up with Sue - she's obviously not doing an appropriate job of educating the family on the fine points of her culture.

Love to you from all of us here in the frozen north!

MEM said...

I wish there were patterns that were that obvious, but no... it seems to be purely coincidence that they like the Forbidden Zone. The FZ is on the Syrian side of town, so we can't go there without permits from the Turkish Army - and those permits are going to come through any minute (ha!). In terms of landscape, the FZ is very similar to the areas of north of town that have no hamsters. One of the things we'd like to do is to characterize the two habitats and see if there are subtle differences that might explain it.