Images: pilot for multi-day fieldwork

Testing WUR’s corona protocol with twenty-two people during a fieldwork weekend.
The corona protocol was tested during a weekend fieldwork trip. Photo Sven Menschel

More fieldwork is to take place in May and June. Protocols have been developed but needed testing. So, sixteen students and six staff members departed for St. Oedenrode for a fieldwork weekend Practical Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality.

A weekend marked not only by lifting traps, identifying the catch and other aquatic activities, but also by corona tests and checking whether the corona protocols for multi-day field trips live up to the expectations. This pilot is to ensure that multi-day field practicals can take place safely in period six.

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The students all volunteered to join the trip to St. Oedenrode; they had already completed the course online, and the field trip did not award extra credits. Nevertheless, it was a nice break for master’s student Environmental Sciences Judith Epping (23) after a year of online education. ‘We joined to experience outdoor education and catch up in the practicals we were unable to do last year. Finally, we were able to do things we had so far only witnessed in online videos. I think everyone had a great time.’

Euphoric and safe

Epping says some students were a little nervous about the corona protocol. ‘I felt safe throughout the weekend. Each morning, everyone took a test, the students were issued masks, gloves and disinfectant gel. We also maintained a safe distance.’

Associate professor Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Miquel Lurling calls the weekend a big success. ‘Students were very enthusiastic. There was a sense of euphoria in everyone. Last year, everyone felt regret at the multi-day field trips being cancelled. For us, too, it was great to do outdoor fieldwork with the students again. This is a course you should learn hands-on, not from a book or videos. The students would agree, deploying the traps was more challenging than they expected after having seen it done by experienced staff in an online video.’

Game of cards

In general, the corona protocol worked well, says Lurling. ‘The students adhered to the rules autonomously. During the fieldwork, they wore masks and gloves and kept their distance. The self-test every morning soon became “business as usual”. But even when playing a game of cards in the evenings, they needed no reminders to keep their distance and wear masks and gloves. In short: I feel absolutely confident that we can offer multi-day field practicals safely.’

Not everything went without a hitch, according to Lurling. A portable bathroom facility was to be set up so that we would not have to share facilities with the camping guests, but there was no possibility to connect the facility. So, we ended up using the camping facilities. The camping was well-occupied, so in spite of a protocol and hygiene measures, this remains a risk. But it is not an insurmountable challenge. I consider it a lesson, prompting us to refine protocol.

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