Friday, March 30, 2007

a couple more photos from our hike

Again, these are courtesy of Laura -

Thursday, March 29, 2007

29 March

Hi all,

Sorry I've been so remiss in posting. The past week has been very full - of fun and stress. The brief version:
* We've captured a few more animals, but the cool part is we've recaptured some animals from before.
* We took a short hike near here that was full of floral and faunal surprises - wonderful.
* We took a trip to Nemrut, a cool mountain in Eastern Anatolia where some egomaniacal king in 64 BC had various statues built of himself and his god "relatives." When we arrived, the road to the top was covered in snow, so we hiked up - the views were absolutely stunning! I'll leave the pictures to tell the story.

Our hike:

the view; Laura and a tortoise

Our trip to Nemrut:

Here we are heading away from the car to the top of Nemrut (photo by Ben); the further we went, the steeper it got.

Laura and Safak working their way up; and a view from the road up - that is the Euphrates in the background.

The final steep snowy bit just before the top. I have to admit, I didn't have the nerve to traverse this stretch - so the photos of the statues were taken by others who actually saw them. (Photo by Ben)

Statue heads in the snow and Dietmar with the statues - the heads have fallen off, so they are on the ground in front of the bodies (photos by Ben).

Erica next to a head (photo by Ben) and Alice on top (photo by ? - it was on Alice's camera)

Here are a few more pictures of daily life here in Elbeyli and beyond.

Our house - taken from the street (photo by Alice); Cumalil and me in the field (photo by Erica).

Elbeyli as viewed from our field site (photo by Erica).

Street in Gaziantep and the women of Team Hamster with their new rugs (photos by Erica).

Friday, March 23, 2007

Additions to my earlier post

I forgot to mention a couple of fun things from the last couple of days.

1. Two days ago, Team Hamster went for a run. (Yes, that's what we're calling ourselves - we even have T-shirts! photos forthcoming.) When we came back, Alice and I practiced some yoga in the courtyard to cool down. I think Peter and Dietmar thought they had wandered into the twighlight zone.

2. Yesterday in Kilis we were standing on the sidewalk when a small truck drove by blaring music, its horn... everything. It was followed by a parade of 10 or more brand new big red tractors, followed by a police car with lights flashing. It was the craziest thing! Obviously Kilis just received a shipment of new tractors - and it was a VERY big deal. And we were there to witness it.

Update - 23 March

Sorry it's been so long - Where does the time go?? In general things have been very good and intersting on this end. I'll give some highlights.

Monday (19 Mar) we pulled an all-day watch of one of the female burrows. We broke the day into four shifts, beginning at 5:15am. We didn't see anything but it's still important information (
although it's a bit boring).

Tuesday (20 Mar) we gave ourselves a much-needed day off. We went into Gaziantep and wandered the shops and just explored. We found a very cool little courtyard that had some rug shops. Erica, Alice, Laura, and I each bought a rug (or two). They are not the fancy Turkish rugs that you pay 1000 YTL for in Istanbul - these are marvelous throws that are about 6 square meters and only cost 15 YTL. After lunch, Alice, Laura, and I went to have another bath. Oh how we love a good Turkish bath! This time the women recognized us and took marvelous care of us. After our bath, we met up with the men, went out for Baklava, and then came home in time to set up cameras in the field and have dinner. Because the men's bath didn't open until 5pm, Ben and Safak skipped dinner went back to Antep for their bath. And the women had a delightfully quiet evening!

Wednesday (21 Mar) was supposed to be our work/organize day because our German collaborators, Peter and Dietmar, were going to land in Gaziantep Thurs at 1:00am. Well, guess what. At 1:30am on Wed, Cumali comes over to get Safak because the Germans were waiting at the airport! So we weren't quite ready for the Germans, but it turned out to be ok because they were exhausted and had a fair bit of prep work before they could get their stuff up and running. In the afternoon, we all went out to set traps and Peter and Dietmar put their activity sensor rings in various burrows.

Thursday (22 Mar) was a great day. I don't know why, but everybody was in a darn giddy mood. We went into the field at 7am to check traps - and got one animal, a female that we transmittered. After breakfast Peter and Dietmar needed to go do their obligatory permit thing with the police in Kilis and we desperately needed to do some grocery shopping, so everyone but Benjamin trapsed into Kilis for a morning's adventure. We actually got to wander around Kilis and had a marvelous time. Yesterday evening was more trap- and camera-setting; and some burrow ring checking.

Finally, today is shaping up to be a good one as well. We got another female, but she was small so we didn't transmitter her. And now we're all working on our own things - Erica: a survery for the farmers, Ben - a map of our study site, Alice and Laura - burrow records. We are so darn studious!! I will end with some photos of Lauras. Having Laura here is like having Nic around. She is a very good photographer and takes tons of photos - so I tend not to take many at all. I'm just grateful that she's willing to share!

Shots of our field site

The crew releasing a hamster

and off she goes! (isn't that the cutest butt you've ever seen?)

After a hamster release there's nothing like some friendly wrestling...
Where Cumali emerged as victor over Benjamin.

and the competitive spirit thrives even at home. Here Safak and Ben are concentrating on a serious game of tawula (backgammon). Laura is actually the major tawula fiend, but she's the photographer in this case.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nic and Thomas's fundraising event

FYI, Nic and Thomas (my brother and nephew) have organized a variety show in Morris to benefit the Lance Armstrong Foundation's work with cancer support and research. If you are interested in supporting their efforts, please check out his donation page.

Love -

Happy belated St Pat's Day!

I hope everyone had a wonderful 17 March. We went into Kilis for dinner last night as guests of Turgut (sp?). He is a friend, and handily also the Mayor's Assistant. May I just say - the food here is so good!

I was going through photos this morning, and found this one of a hamster in which I
implanted a transmitter (you can see the antenna coming out of her lower right side (i.e., the left side of the photo)). She is so cute I just had to share! She is already awake from the surgery, but is taking a little post-operative nap.

Friday, March 16, 2007

16 March

First - I can NOT believe that this weekend I will have been here an entire month. It has flown by. Which is good, I guess. But that also means we don't have much time left and need to get cracking!!!!

Today we got FIVE hamsters. Count them: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Yes five. We are getting more animals than we know what to do with! Unfortunately, we're not getting the information from them we'd like - but hopefully that will change as the season progresses. One of our 5 was a re-capture - A male we trapped and tagged on 7 March. The disappointing thing is that he managed to rid himself of the evil transmitter! Why can't they just accept our invasions peacefully?

Also, one of our really zippy cameras (which are generally really zippy) has died. The guy who built it asked me to expedite it back to him so he could fix it - we did that today to the tune of 356 YTL (that's probably around $250!).

Here are some pictures of us getting ready to go practice with our telemetry equipment; and then Alice looking very much like the biologist extra-ordinaire! (Thanks to Laura for letting me post her photos!) The first photo was taken right in front of our house - that's our wall on the left, and the nose of Safak's car.

Monday, March 12, 2007


We got two more hamsters today! A male and a female - both now have transmitters and are happily beeping away in the field. I'm a little worried about the male, though. When we released him, he wasn't so keen on re-entering the burrow at which we trapped him. So we suspect he was visiting this burrow in hopes of finding a female... so we just hope he made it back to his home in one piece (and that we can find him again). I realized I haven't talked much about our daily life. I'm really not going to do that now, but I thought I'd leave you with the fact that our shower water is heated by the sun, so if we have a cloudy day, we have no hot water. But if it is very sunny, the water is scalding. I also thought I'd leave you with a photo of our toilet. Enjoy.


As much as I love it here, I miss my bike!

Saturday, March 10, 2007


Today has been good, but exhausting. It was a very full field day - Finally! We were out by 7:30, had a break at lunch which wasn't much of a break because we ran 6K and then I worked, were back in the field from 2 until 5, then came home for dinner and worked until about 8pm. Whew. But this is what field work is all about! And we are all very excited because Safak comes back from Ankara in a couple of days and Erica arrives from the States on the 13th. For now, however, I'm going to sleep. Love to all.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Our permits are official!

The past two days have been very good. Last night we finally got the phone call from the Army saying we have permission to work!! Yeah! But yesterday, since we couldn’t work, Nuri took us on a day trip to a town called Biricek, which sits on the Euphrates River and is home to the last remaining population of bald ibis. There are only 91 pairs left. And we saw them!

The drive to Biricek was amazing. We drove on this little two-lane road that was sometimes an extremely bumpy dirt track and other times a real road. It meandered along the Syrian border (and I mean right along the Syrian border!) until it hit the Euphrates. At that point we stopped, got out, and saw the most amazing number of waterfowl I’ve ever seen: coots, shovelers, little grebes, pygmy cormorants, great crested grebes, tufted ducks, widgeon, and pochard (another duck) with chaffinches flitting about as we watched. In addition to being amazed by the birds, we were awed by standing on the Euphrates. What an incredible thing to stand on the Euphrates – to stand surrounded by all that history.

[The Euphrates and tons of amazing birds.]

We then drove north along the river. We stopped a couple more times on the way to bird watch, but eventually reached Biricek and went straight to the bald ibis viewing spot. They have a protected area where they nest on a cliff. The area is blocked off with an interpreter (who of course interpreted in Turkish). I could have stayed there all day. But Nuri is not the most patient of tour guides, so off we went back into town. He and Cumali bought fresh fish at a fish market and then we had fish for lunch at a restaurant in the market – Dad you would have loved it!

[A bald ibis on a nest box!]

[An open air market on the water (the water is behind me) with the town and an amazing, very old, fort ruin behind it.]

[Cumali and Nuri buying fish (they are on the ones in the blue baseball caps - Cumali's on the left. The caps say Anakara University and Nuri gave each of us one.)]

We got home about 3:00 and Mert (a Turkish grad student) and I rushed out to the field because I wanted to observe a burrow that we think has a female in it, set up cameras, and set traps. We got the cameras set, and I got an hour’s observation in (though I never saw an animal) – but when we started to set traps, the Army told us that we couldn’t because the permits hadn’t come through yet. Good lordy! One day we have them, the next we don’t…

So we trundled back to the house – to find a fabulous meal waiting for us. Zeliha (Cumali’s wife and our cook) made dolma that was to die for (stuffed vegetables) and cooked the fish Cumali and Nuri bought in Biricek. I think it was some of the best fish I’ve ever had (next to yours, of course, Dad!).

After dinner we sat around while Nuri played the oud (a Turkish guitar) and Cumali sang. It was delightful!

[Mom, you said you wanted pictures of me, so here you go: Me playing the oud, with Laura in the background concentrating on an important backgammon match with Ben.]

During this musical interlude, Cumali got a phone call from the Army saying that our official permits have arrived. YEAH!!! We all cheered!
So today, we (or various subsets of “we”) were in the field all day. I can’t believe it. And now I know our permission is official because today there were two Army guys out there with us. What a job, eh? To sit and watch people watch hamsters. Last year, we only had one Army guy, but he brought his 3-yr old son with him; and he brought us tea while we sat in the field. We’ll see if these guys are as friendly.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow – and another full day in the field!

Thursday, March 8, 2007

a bit of home

Today has been interesting, fun, and pissy all in one. I'll write more about it later. In the meantime, my friend Kay sent me these photos of Ithaca. I miss home. Love, M

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Busy Busy Busy...

Monday was rainy rainy rainy. No field work.
But yesterday and today have been beautiful and sunny - and we got the documentation for our permits! Therefore, the last couple of days have been very long and busy.

Yesterday morning Alice and I went to track our two males – but found that one is no longer of this world. We think he was eaten by a fox because we found his transmitter in a pile of fox poop. What do you think?

Then after breakfast we went for a 6K run, and after lunch we went into the field to map our study area, look for burrows, and take vegetation data.

Today we got another hamster who now has his own transmitter and various other accoutrements. We also took a lot of vegetation data and worked on our sampling method.

But guess what. Yes. The Army came and said that even though we have documents IN HAND that say we have permission to work in these fields – because they haven’t received their own copies of the documents, we can’t work. So once again, we have a transmittered animal that we can’t track or observe. I’m exhausted and I'm going to throttle somebody very soon.

My mood, however, was much improved this evening because I talked to Mom and Dad (Skype is just damn amazing) and we found some great hamster footage from one of the cameras we set out last night.

Sunday, March 4, 2007


If anyone has skype or instant messaging, we actually have wireless here instead of a phone line, so I am online a LOT more than I thought I would be, so look me up - and we can chat!

3 March - Our Gaziantep adventure

So we still can’t go into the Forbidden Zone, and yesterday it was crappy and rainy, so we took the afternoon off and played in Gaziantep. We drove in after lunch and went to the Gaziantep Museum. The museum was fantastic. It had a lot of artifacts from various Turkish sites dating as far back as 3000 B.C. But they had a huge collection of tile mosaics from the ancient city of Zuegama (about 2nd century AD; that were absolutely stunning. We weren’t allowed to use flash in the museum, but I took some flashless (and therefore with bad color) photos. I’ve attached a couple here.

These two photos are overall shots of the museum's main room.

On the left is a mosaic of Poseiden. I am standing a floor above it - it is huge! The mosaic on the right is the symbol of Zeugma - it is not very large compared to the others (2x1 meters?) - but she is stunning.

Alice took this one. Mom, I included it for you - several of the mosaics looked like beautiful quilts.

After the museum, we went to the Turkish baths! Because the men aren’t allowed in the women’s bath, we didn’t have Safak to translate for us. When we walked in, I had my camera in my hand because I had been taking photos on the street. Unfortunately, the women thought we were tourists who wanted to take photos of the bath, and they adamantly told us we couldn’t take photos – they possibly even told us to leave! Finally, we got across that we wanted to take a bath. Luckily, there was a young woman there who had just finished her bath and spoke a little English. After an interesting communication dance, we got our baths, a kese (where a woman scrubs you down to slough off all dead skin), and a massage. Heaven. When we were getting dressed, a group of women across from us offered us food, water, and yes, tea. Once everyone figured out that we really wanted to use the facilities versus just photograph it, they were extremely nice.

From there, we met the men at a food court in a nearby mall. The funny thing is, in the states I would never be excited (actually I would be the exact opposite) about a food court in a mall. But let me tell you – our food courts don’t have the dessert selection that this one had (though we didn't have any dessert, it was still a sight to behold)! Alice and Laura each got a latte, and I got a fruit smoothie. All of us, men and women, were all pink and clean. (Well, I wouldn’t call Cumali pink…)

The main discussion at the food court was, “What do we do next?” So we decided to go find food and drink. Safak made reservations for us at a restaurant that featured classical Turkish music. Then, we went to another coffee shop to hang out before our dinner. This coffee shop was very fun – everyone sat on big bean bag chairs and we had various drinks and learned Turkish.

This is everyone but Safak, who is our photographer: Alice, Ben, Cumali, Me, and Laura. This is just before dinner - so note how clean (and sober) we all are!

The dinner was incredible. The starters (mezes) alone were more than enough for a meal. There was hummous, yogurt dill dressing, and all sorts of other things that I can’t even describe. It was all delicious. Then the main course arrived – lots of kabob with salad. After that, they brought us various other savories. One was a kind of kofta (I don’t know how to explain what a kofta is) that was supposed to be eaten all at once after the eater had taken a shot of Raki (Turkish Ouzo). The food never quit coming. Luckily dessert was a huge fruit plate and not a bunch of heavy sweets!

All night long the Raki flowed freely. I had only one glass – and I’m proud of that given that I hate black licorice! Safak had more than his fair share, and needless to say, he slept the entire way home! [Chris and Meg – you’ll appreciate the fact that everyone here makes fun of me because I’m still on my first glass of Raki, or first beer, when they are well on their way to #3 or #4.]

During all of the gustatory exploits, we listened to great music. There was a vocalist, drummer (the drum looked like a small pinched jambe (sp?)), a fiddle, and a guitar-like instrument that had a very bulbous chamber made of different types of wood, so it was striped – it was absolutely beautiful. Later in the evening, Cumali requested a song that he’s been teaching me (I know one whole line!) – so that was fun to hear a song we all recognized. Alice took some movies so we would have the music (though she got some fun footage of us as well)!

Here are Ben and Safak at dinner - still looking clean (but I'll make no comment on the sober bit).

All in all, we had a fantastically fun time!

This morning, we got up a bit late, and spent a couple of hours practicing locating transmitters with the telemetry equipment. We’re still not the best, but we’re definitely getting better.

Friday, March 2, 2007

2 March - day 13

Finally, I have photos for your viewing pleasure!

1. Alice, Ben, Safak, and Laura walking the fields looking for burrows (the hole is where I should be).
2. Laura, Safak, Ben, and Alice with Elbeyli in the background.
3. The reservoir we visited today.
4. Alice and Ben examining plants by the reservoir.

The news for today is that I've decided that I actually like this running thing (though it’s not as fun as being on the bike)! Today I ran 3.5 miles without stopping – and when I got back to the house (I was the last one back) I ran into the courtyard, picked up the Frisbee, told everyone to follow, and then ran to the soccer field where we played a very minimized version of Ultimate. It was great!

We also had a chance to walk some fields today looking for hamster burrows. We were unsuccessful, but it felt good to be in the fields again. After that, Safak took us to a nearby reservoir to bird watch. We saw some unidentified ducks and several black kites.

Though I wasn’t supposed to go (we still don’t have the permits to go into the good fields), I went with Cumali this afternoon when he went to set traps. I wanted to use the telemetry equipment to locate our two males. So far, every time we’ve tried to locate them during the daylight hours, we’ve gotten strong signals in their burrows – suggesting that they are inside. Today, however, one was tucked away as normal, but the other was not. I got no signal what-so-ever from his burrow, but faintly pickup up his signal near the first hamster’s burrow! How confusing! I wish we really could go in there and do some solid tracking.