Greeting Burkhan of Baikal

Irkutsk State University’s cutter, the Kozhov, arriving at Listvyanka, to take us and others back to Bolshie Koty, 17 July 2012, Photo: S.L. Katz.

Steve and I left the ASLO meeting in Japan on 14 July to begin the last leg of our journey to join the Dimensions team at Bolshie Koty. We took the amazing Shinkansen (bullet train) from Kyoto to Tokyo – these trains move at great speed through a diversity of beautiful Japanese landscapes, and always on time. (I literally set my watch by the time a Shinkansen left the station on my first day in Japan.) From Tokyo, we had a quick flight to Vladivostok, where we used a 20-hour layover to walk around this historic and lovely city. After our late-night flight to Irkutsk, our Russian colleagues Kirill and Sasha met us at the hotel and helped us to do final shopping before departing to Bolshie Koty.

Kirill is a student from Irkutsk State University who is working with us this summer, with much-appreciated support from ASLO’s Outreach Committee (!). Kirill not only helped us to navigate the many aspects of our transition from Irkutsk to Bolshie Koty, but also very kindly helped to build my confidence in speaking the Russian that I am slowly learning.  (Anyone who has learned a new language knows that this first hurdle – just speaking in front of a native speaker – is a big one!) Kirill and Ted will be writing a blog post soon, about their recent visit with the Goldman Prize winner Marina Rikhvanova from the non-profit conservation organization Baikal Wave.

It is impossible to express the gratitude I felt for my good fortune as we sat on the dock catching up with each other after dinner, our bellies full of delicious (ochin vkoosna!) pirozhki and warm black tea. As Katie has said before, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Lake Baikal Dimensions team catching up on the dock at Bolshie Koty, 17 July 2012, Photo: S.E. Hampton

I told the team about the many new updates from ASLOBob Sterner’s and Chip Small’s explorations of nitrogen dynamics and primary production in Lake Superior, Hideyuki Doi’s presentation on food-chain length in ancient lakes, Bea Beisner’s new empirical analyses of niche partitioning, Mike Brett’s work on fatty acid profiles in understanding planktonic food webs, Sudeep Chandra’s recent explorations of long-term dynamics in Castle Lake, Roxane Maranger’s work on cyanobacteria toxicity… It’s hard to believe we packed so much science into one week at ASLO, but maybe it was easier with the inspiration of glorious, ancient Lake Biwa in view at all times!

Ted, Kirill and Katie set up water filtration in ISU’s Aquatic Lab at Bolshie Koty – check out those nice new Sanyo incubators! 18 July 2012, Photo: S.E. Hampton.

Marianne, Ted, Teo, Katie and Kirill told us about their new Epischura development experiments (the “eggsperiments”!), success in setting up cultures of algae to be used as zooplankton food as well as all the other experimental apparatus (with much help from Sasha!), nighttime collections of Macrohectopus…  Kirill and Ted told us what they had recently learned about Burkhan of Baikal, the lake’s main deity in the Buryat tradition, and we basked in the camaraderie for hours as the sky stayed light till well after 11pm. It’s hard to imagine a warmer welcome.

My view as I write this post from ISU’s Aquatic Lab at Bolshie Koty – Lake Baikal – 18 July 2012, Photo: S.E. Hampton.

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