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Beware of hail storms (and pitfalls)!

Even though the year is already coming to an end soon - the leaves are turning yellow and red and the annually reoccurring scent of senescence impregnates the air - some motivated ConFoBi students are still to be seen in the depths of the black forest. The target: ground invertebrates. The pitfall traps that were set at the end of September are smart constructions of roofed plastic cups, buried in the humus and soil and thus inconspicuous to the ground-dwelling insects, which ideally fall in the traps and are then subject to classification and further analysis. Assessing the community composition of forest insects is an important part of the ConFoBi project, not only by itself but also because it can help to explain the population dynamics of birds and bats, which prey on those insects. This helps to investigate patterns of biodiversity in general.

After the contents of the traps were assessed weekly, it was then time to do a final collection of the catch and retrieve the traps from the ConFoBi plots. For this purpose, Joao (B6), Nolan (B3) and I (B2) went to two plots in different locations: one on top of the Feldberg and the other one near Schauinsland. Already prepared for a wet matter, we entered the first plot in astonishment at the beautiful and the mystic sight of the colourful forest. Wafts of mist let the green of the mossy forest become even lusher and little streams and puddles accompanied us on our way. While we searched for the traps, we came across deadwood in any shape or form, colonized with all sorts of diverse organisms. After we finished the work, not without taking tons of photos and whooping with glee about all the life in the forest, we continued to another plot. Things were looking good, the sky started to clear up and a fresh breeze welcomed us when we got out of the car. We started our ascent on the steep site, as all of a sudden it got dark and even windier. We felt we should hurry. Before we knew it, there was hail and thunder and lighting. We finished our work carefully, but when we reached the car, we were soaked, yet happy about the shiny Carabidae (ground beetles) we collected from the traps (especially Nolan, who can identify them down to family with one eye closed). Moral of the story:  this is also part of fieldwork. Being exposed to weather is the daily life of a field ecologist. But if you take it easy and make the best out of it, even a wet day in the field can harbour beautiful memories and great data.

by Sara Klingenfuß (B2)