by Julie Kray
Recently, I evicted some squatters from a datalogger box at the Prairie Heating and CO2 Enrichment (PHACE) site near Cheyenne, WY. I’m not a big fan of confrontation, but I knew if I didn’t muster up my courage right then, I would return to find the wires chewed to pieces, leaving me with bad data or no data at all, and that’s just plain unacceptable.
By the looks of them, there would be no reasoning with these intruders. It was clear they’d been living there for quite some time, and they were starting to act like they owned the place. There were four of them, and only one of me, so I had to think quickly. I charged at them with a stick, swinging and poking aggressively, but they were unmoved. Still, I was persistent, and eventually, one by one, they vacated the premises. I chased the last one round and round for a solid half hour before he finally crawled out the back door.
This was not the first time I’d seen interlopers move in on a field experiment left unattended. Particularly as temperatures start to dip below freezing, a datalogger box can look mighty cozy to warm-blooded types—protection from the elements, and plenty of stuff to chew on? All the place needs is a little interior decorating, and a good nest. You can try to deter uninvited guests like these in all kinds of ways, sealing up your containers with duct tape and putty, but those sorts of measures are just no match for the most determined critters.
Ultimately, the adventure reaffirmed the first law of field experiments: expect the unexpected (and carry a big stick).