That's the affectionate term used for Pennsylvania at work, but it's all in good fun. I've been working on some wetland permits for a large site out there, but had never been to the site. So a coworker and I headed out there last week. I happened to check a national news website the night before and clicked on a story "Body parts found along I-80." I was thinking that would be a very slim chance that this unspeakable crime had taken place in an area that I frequent/or had frequented in the past. But sure enough, it was very close to my site! There was a ton of police activity that day along Route 80. There were numerous state troopers walking along the highway, atvs, and a helicoptor flying above. On the ride home, we saw three cops in one spot. One on a cell phone and standing over what appeared to be a plastic bag. Creepy. This is the type of thing I hope never to encounter in my field work. I have a hard enough time dealing with dead animals in the woods. You can smell them way before you see them....and then you get frantic trying to locate the carcass at a reasonable distance. I just checked the local news site and the victim has been identified, so at least there will be some leads in the case. Clearly, the killer wanted to be noticed and I'm hoping they get what they deserve. If you want to read more, check out www.poconorecord.com
This reminded me of a story that I heard from a professor back in graduate school. He takes a yearly field trip to this remote canyon. It's a 1.5 hour hike over boulders just to get there and it's covered in poison oak. Once you get there, you almost need mountain climbing gear to get up the side slopes. I smartly volunteered for the stream team. This field trip is notorious and it's great that previous students warn the current ones, because the professor makes it seem like no sweat. Students have stayed there after sunset, so people bring flashlights just in case. But something like 8 years before my year, the students had found a human skeleton. They collected the bones and when they got back to civilization, they called the cops. The cops were mad that they ruined the crime scene, but they were unable to find more bones at the scene. It turns out if was a 1960's biker who had been executed with a bullet to the head. Did I mention this is all mountain lion territory? On our hike back to the van, we were fairly certain that something or someone was trailing us in the woods. Mountain lion, perhaps? But we all made it back safe and left our notes and cheap equipment (measuring tape, clipboards, etc.) on the dash of the professor's van. Even though this place is pretty remote, our notes and equipment were missing by the time the others came back.
Anyhoo, back to Pennsyl-tucky. Most everything was covered with hard snow covered with ice. It made walking a challenge and I thought the whole day would be a bust until our last stop. The stream was unfrozen and pretty. Woohoo! We started our aquatic bug sampling. For some reason, I'm a lot less squeamish about touching aquatic bugs as compared to the regular kind. I won't even mention how cold the water was and my hands. I'm fairly certain my co-worker had the beginning stages of frost bite, but he was in denial about it. There was also a surprise of salamander larvae! Enjoy my super blurry shot. Still not sure which kind it is. I have two possibilities and depending on the hour and the day I change my mind about which species. I almost wanted to take some home and try to raise them with Cashew, but I think they would hate it and probably die.