LabOratory Podcast

Lab Entry #12: Dr. Richard Merrick Part 1

May 09, 2020 Laboratory Podcast Season 1 Episode 12
LabOratory Podcast
Lab Entry #12: Dr. Richard Merrick Part 1
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode we begin to interview Dr. Richard Merrick, a Scientist Emeritus with NOAA  whose past research focused on technology development and marine mammals, including radio tagging and tracking Steller Sea Lions. We talk about how Richard pivoted from a career in architecture into being a scientist, how his scientific journey has taught him about how to camp and cope with long bouts of isolation, his thoughts on the importance of social scientists to communicate imminent information with the public in today's world, and his highly engaging story of the time he was stranded while doing field research in the Aleutian Islands.

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spk_0:   0:00
Hi. I'm Renee. Hi, I'm Sam and this is laboratory podcast. I see you're being in the air like that extraordinary opportunity. See things you would never see from research with the same thing. Welcome to laboratory podcast. Exploring the human side of science with recorded interviews of emeritus and retired scientists on the evolution and history of scientific research throughout their careers. Welcome back to lab oratory. Podcast. This is now Episode 12. We are in week eight of quarantining here in Orleans. We are in week 82 months. Oh, boy. Yeah. I feel like March was slow and painful, and if roll seemed to have not existed and it happened really quickly if anything, all of the means coming out about how bad each month has been I'm living for all of that. That those are the best. Sam, What have you been doing? What have we been up, Teoh? We've been up to a bunch of things. Um, we have been helping out around the house. There's been a bunch of outdoor projects. Renee has been sanding away at thes homemade, fantastically crafted benches that her father whipped up along with some help along the way. Sam has turned into a stone worker and woodworker, creating stone paths and new leads for garbage can covers. We've been taking a lot of walks around the Orleans water areas, and bike rides, bike rides and kayak rides were very lucky and fortunate to have all of these things. So I've been enjoying some outside time, and now we are enjoying doing some podcast work as well. Yeah, for this episode, we have a great new interview to present to all featuring Dr Richard Merrick, the chief scientist for NOAA Fisheries. Renee, how did we meet Richard? So this interview came about because while I was tryingto figure out who was around the foul myth area that we could talk to, I thought that a good person to ask was our local barista. There is one main coffee shop in woods hole shadow to coffee obsession who I am obsessed with double shot. Shout out your so good on you. And I went upto one of their Brea stas Ryan Merrick, and I was like, You must know a lot of people. You grew up here. You serve everybody coffee. Who might be a good retired scientist that I should talk to. And he gave me this look of Rene. Um, you see that guy right over there? And he literally was sitting there in the middle of a meeting like, you should talk to him. I was like, Okay, he's like, he's my dad was like, Oh, and then he was like, he was the chief scientist for NOAA Fisheries is like, Oh, shit. And so I pursued to email Ryan, who forward it to Richard. And it resulted in this amazing interview and conversation and continued relationship we've had since November. Yes, he's been a very, very good interviewee and a wonderful storyteller. We can't wait to show you what he's got. So here he is, in his own words.

spk_2:   3:40
So I'm Richard Merrick. And currently I'm a scientist emeritus with Noah, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Um, so I get to do whatever you want to do right now. I'm coming off of five years in D. C. At the end of the Obama administration. Retired rate the end of that. So I'm very happy, right? Him, not the d. C. Unlike a lot of people within Noah fisheries, which is the core of no I worked in. Most of my research was with protected species. So when I was in Alaska for about 20 years, that focused largely on Steller sea lions with some work with humpback whales and killer whales for seals I seals on. Then I moved from their background 97 to its hole to take our position here. A to know a lab mayor. I ran. They were protected species programme for another 10 years or so, I built that program that was largely focused on right whales. In the last five years of my career, I spent in D. C, where I was chief scientist for NOAA Fisheries. Aside from being in the field, the most important valuable part of my job has always been talking with non scientists about science from little kids, preschool up to people my age. Now this is a lot of what I was doing and lit on deep when I was in D. C. Was trying to get the hill to understand the climate change effects, and it was really interesting talking to legislators about this because we talked about the science, the eyes would glaze over, over you talk to them about what's happening in their town. So if you talked to Shelly Pingree, representative from Portland, Maine, and talk to her about what's gonna happen to Downeast, Maine, and how it's changing ocean temperature in the Gulf of Maine, where it's when the warmest place is now in the world for ocean warming, we've done work there to suggest that lobster is gonna have problems coming. And you have all these coastal communities in Maine. They're relying on lobster and explain to her and showed her how these different towns, they're gonna be effect. That's where the impact really came. On the Hill thing. They could see our constituents would be affected. How do you explain after somebody in Iowa? I'm not sure, And it's It's different worry, or you can live on the ocean, but different different parts of country. Different impact. So if you're in, if your congressional for the Gulf of Mexico from Alabama or Mississippi, the effects that are gonna be really different there it's It's not so much a real sea level rise. It's a warming issue, and here clearly is warming and sea level rise and storm surge. So trying to explain to somebody down there what's going to go. You gotta tell a different story. That's why storytelling so important. If you can't tell good stories, you can't can't really talk to you feeling going to explain. But but my research never prepared me for

spk_0:   6:34
given all his experience communicating complicated issues with a wide variety of audiences, we asked his thoughts on communicating science and how this could be improved. Richard calls for more social scientists to be involved in this process, and he threw out examples of social scientists to be anthropologists, sociologists and political scientists, those who focus on studying human behaviour and their reactions, which is pretty neat because it makes me think of how artists and storytellers are also social scientists in a way due to their craft, intensely exploring human nature and discussing it through their work. The famous Shakespearian phrase toe hold a mirror to nature, referencing how theater is reflective of how we act as humans come to mind. So let's take a listen on Richard's thoughts on this topic.

spk_2:   7:26
This is the importance of having more social scientists involved in this discussion, and we don't have enough. It is way too many biologists with role for biologists with but should be much bigger role for social scientists and economists. And we didn't know almost all social scientists are in fisheries. That's despite the weather service really having a social mission of trying to explain to people you know, When should you be pulling out of it of your home when there's a tornado coming? That's communications issue and social sciences convertible that better than meteorologist Ken, And they taste. They don't haven't quite bought into the need to actually bring these people on changing, but it's still a big lag. So that the one of the big discussions we had within the weather services with, with respect her emergency response, How do you do that? How do you tell people that something's gonna happen if you tell them too soon? They get okay if you're gonna have a tornado's gonna come through in 1/2 an hour. Oh, that's okay. I can go down the store and I can buy some things and I'll come back home and go on my shoulder, but you don't want them to do that. Vs how weak? How long can you wait to tell them you want to make sure people have some idea what's going on and flood response is another or fires or the way you pass the message on the people. And that's a lot of what you're talking about is how to communicate this to people who get the response you want. It's an emergent emerging art and people in social science to do much better. Job of that, people in the hard sciences and we mean there's efforts. So the t spy all just have it, speak better and tell better stories. But there are people out there who are already good at it. There are lots of calms people that know how to do this. I would rather bring hiring. This is our positions. That headquarters was to hire calms people to do this rather than trying to retrain a biologist to do it.

spk_0:   9:22
After getting caught up talking about communications with Richard, we backtracked and asked to learn about his journey to becoming a scientist. He has a very compelling story, one that had him pursuing a different career prior to diving into the sciences later in life, and when he did, he was reconnecting with his childhood passion for the water. He discusses the pivot in his career and how his studies led him to research the Marine life off the coast of Alaska, including radio tagging Stell Er's. We needed some clarification on what he was referring to when he said that word stellar. And it is a species of sea lion that lives on the West Coast that are much larger than the California sea lion and lighter in color.

spk_2:   10:07
I actually had another profession for this and my undergraduate degrees and architecture. My master masters of city planning and I went out worked for seven years as a consultant. I was making lots of money. I was young, my wife and I were living in D. C, having a great time. And I decided this doesn't really what I wanted to do, spending all my times doing computational science, of doing a lot of Meiling work. It's not a lot of time in computer centers on Thing wasn't really what I wanted to do, and then there was there were no PC's, but I could program in lots of languages, and I was a wizened four time an assembler. But this is not where one of my future to be. So we decided to start over again and back to school, and we just sold everything moved to the West Coast. Fortunately, got a partner who is an excellent artist, and she could move her to the studio. One place to another network about Fine went back and started over again. So I had to learn all the basic biology that biology major has to learn because I want to get a degree in biological oceanography and came in as a nontraditional student. I was at least 10 years older than everybody else in my class and came in a biological oceanographer. So I got a couple decrease in Oregon State and eventually PhD from USC, Washington and, uh, started off with Noah at the very beginning, as the Fish reasons River in Alaska in the winter, in one of the worst places in Alaska to be in the winter in the Shell, Call Street next to Kodiak and which is for career and and Noah. That's ground zero. It's great to start there if you're gonna work with fisheries, that's a place to learn about fisheries. Part of it was, I looked at the people who are say, 10 10 years down the road, and that was not the kind of person I want to be. They were going all the time, and they're chewed up attention on their smoking. 23 backs, cigarettes a day, making less money. You have really big houses, and they're doing really well in it. There there most most were divorced. And so there's lifestyle issues there that I didn't like. Um, I was I grown up on the water coastal, coastal southern New Jersey, and I decided I just idealized vision of going back to being on the water. So I went up doing, but But originally I thought I was tired of being on the Warriors. That's what went architecture, the other thing. And, uh, that was an interesting decision to do that. I learned a lot there that I probably never would have learned as a biologist, so I basically a liberal arts background to start off with, which was really good. It's very rare to find biologists who write a lot or had social science courses. I'm so in architecture. They expect you to do these social things, so you take courses in social science and economics in art history. It's a great background for biologists, but you don't get that. I think that I was a better communicator. I think that I did better with staff. Um, I started late. I was behind everybody else, basically, and I wound up being the chief scientist. James E. So something must have been right about that path and starting office. An observer was really a wise thing, though. Listen, there is no plan to all this. It's like people say should make a planet where you were going to life. This sort of thinking, grabbing an opportunity came along just look like something that was really interesting. And so I spent three or four months at sea and I'll ask in the winner on foreign fishing boats. I was teaching calculus to most of my class, and I think I I came in with were not the nontraditional group I started off in a program called Marine Resource Management, because I could make they could accept that idea. You know that there is a person nontraditional student coming in by going to buy a large Jewish anarchy to start off with. They probably sit on, and so I started off in that program that those were all nontraditional, various sorts. A lot of Peace Corps folks coming in on. Then eventually, if you got that degree switched over to buy biological oceanography. But but, no, I never really had any significant issues. Maybe else has done nothing but knowing calculus compared everybody else. That's really cool on because I do have a program. So I paid for my research assistant ship by programming, and that was back with tear STD.

spk_0:   14:35
What is that

spk_2:   14:39
you Have you heard of RadioShack? Yes. Okay, they're back. In the beginning, when Apple was first beginning, the two to the biggest sources of what was become personal computers were apple and Radio Shack and Apple then was expensive to RadioShack. Had somebody could afford. And so the first lab I worked in, they had one they didn't want to do with it. So I wrote a program, a package of programs and basic to help analyze telemetry data. So she talked about there were no computers over. The mainframe is back then. And these are the very first PCs. There were no tablets that, you know, there are no laptops. Everything was a desktop And when I got actually became a full full vaginal employees, I had Alaska Science Center place with 800 employees. I was I was in the first shipment of IBM PC's had won the very first I had X t

spk_0:   15:44
What was that like? It was cool. Nobody had anything like this,

spk_2:   15:49
you know? And you could keep your data there. Yeah, but I was also a field biologists on, and I had this. I was coming behind this generation who knew nothing about computers and what I did most of my fieldwork with the binoculars and a field book, and it was great. But time runs to writing stuff down and still my field books and never got everywhere because there's no place entered at that time. And we went from that to what you see here now. And there were no radio tags for her animals. There were no satellite tags. We develop those so that all if you're familiar with satellite telemetry, But like when Greg Scoble is tracking his white sharks around, he's using a set with a form of satellite telemetry. Back then, there was none. When my very first research projects was working with gray whales in Baja, attempting to come up with a way to attach a tag that would communicate to a satellite just to get a location for the animals. We tracked them once I started working. Stellar is we really were trying to stand. While population declined by 90% in Alaska and we don't know anything to speak of about these animals, we just We've been counting him. That was about all. But, you know, there's something wrong, And so we started trying to figure out where they went to the feed, thought maybe there's an interaction of commercial fisheries. So we had a company way to track him, and you could put a radio regular radio tag on it. But you had to fall out with the airplane or ship, which is really tough. So a satellite tag works a lot better, but they had him for bears, but they never they didn't have them free mammals. So we developed very first ones, and I had to figure out a way to put him on the animals, and these for then, this is an expensive tool. Each one costs about $4000 and I got we had a special appropriation from Congress to try to figure out what was going on there. Worried about what's gonna happen with fisheries in Alaska. So I $100,000 a tags I put out one summer. None of them got I got no them back. You they re glued on, which is great attachment technique doesn't hurt the animal you don't between school on it described onto their for. But when they mold, it falls off, you know, and all we want to do is just know where they went. We weren't really concerned about getting back the tags, but then trying to explain to our purchasing people what happened to the $100,000 worth of equipment they all had property tags, they're all accountable property. And try and explain to them that we're not gonna get thes back, you know, But stuff gonna find that's really important. They never got the latter port. They just knew they were gonna get him back. So real ties used to be like this. Now the even smaller, but about the size of a cigarette pack, and you could just do them right on the head of a seal and eventually they fall off. But it didn't hurt the animal, so it wasn't really noninvasive. Were there other techniques? We had other instruments. We put on animals that we, um we we thought that should be glued to put it another way. So one way, use a harness. And we found that by comparing animals at a harmless harnessed or with glue that the hardest animals frequent never came back or they did come back. They're treating trips were twice as long as the animals with Luton tag because of the resistance, we did flume tank work. It was clear there was an incredible resistance from this seemingly minerd harness who went around the animal. So we moved away from those. We tried implantable tags, but then he then he had surgery. We're putting inside the animal. You still have to get the end antenna outside the animal. So your source of infection. So the glue was really a great technique, and going problem is when they molt. If all off that's so you could time your research recognizing that you knew when they're gonna mold. So if you if you put a tag on, say, a steller sea lion in August. That's post mold. It could stay on for a whole year. You put it on July, you probably lose really quickly, which is something we learned in that first year we start.

spk_0:   20:16
Thing is not No, no, no, but

spk_2:   20:21
it's def con up life in of the Hoxie. The same stuff. You could go down the Harbor story and get which was great. You know, this is not coming up with simple solutions to things. Yeah, and it worked great. And it's cheap way there became then a science of glue because, okay, something Instruments were so big. And we had something. Sentiments like this that you have to put so much grew on you could burn the animal. So you want something? It was slower curing, but in the summer time, that was great. In the winter time, it would never said it was too cold, so that no one time, he had to use the hotter glue. These things you don't know, you know, but But when you're starting, you don't know what's gonna happen. It's it's and a lot of the things that people take for granted. Now, with telemetry that that was back trying to figure out. How do you turn it on and off when the animal services? Because if we're the radio tag of his transmitting underwater, it never gets out. So you don't want to turn it on to have animal gets about the water because most of that pack is battery great, and the the actual little computer in there is about like this. But you've got It's like somebody's were back in those days, a kilo for weight and of that, the tag it's the circuitry is probably 100 grams. Everything else was either the batteries of the pressure case. So you're every time you transferred to the satellite. That's a lot of power. So we had to come from all these different ways of conserving power, and one of those was making sure you weren't transmitting when the animal was underwater. Mostly sandals spent most of your time underwater, so coming up with switch that would recognize when it's about the water was an artful thing as well. In the end, it came up to be, you know, basically there was a certain you'd have a circuit could go over top of the pack from one point to another. And when there is water there, the Reno circuit. So when it dried out and didn't take long, took milliseconds with me driving right enough. That circuit will be completed and you could start transmitting. But figuring that out and getting to work right was a challenge. Way tried loss. We tried fresher switches. So zero pressure. Okay, the else about the water. But most of person switches were never that foreign scale resolution. Half the time you still be little of the water, and there was there is an R or wasn't our is today a group of biologists who really more into the inflammatory than air into the science. You got to steer them away from that saying, That's great. You can do this stuff, but what do you do with it? How do we use this? What's the point of this putting tags on animals? Let's figure out a study designed for that where you deploy, how often do you avoid what sex city deployment? And initially it was just Can we do it once you knew you could do it? Then it's trying to design science of that really uses the tour and the same thing for everything, for going from that up through different ways of doing food habits. Analysis. Doing to environmental D DNA. You know what, What? How do you use that? Now we know how to use that. Have tool that we employ, what's the best way to use it and how you design your sampling.

spk_0:   23:39
While working in Alaska on as PhD studies on the decline of the sea lion population, Richard became involved with the Noah Fisheries Observer program. A fisheries observer was a new term for me, so I asked Richard to expand on the topic. And this is what he said.

spk_2:   23:56
Well, there is actually a big Fish Reese observer program here, and the basic goal is to understand what fishermen are catching. There's what they bring back to shore may not be what they actually catch.

spk_0:   24:08
So in like mean it would be lobster for here. It was cod, and then is now something

spk_2:   24:14
usually in Maine lobstermen or a pure fishery. So you don't worry so much about what they're catching. It's more for ground fisher like cod, and so there's a big groundfish fishery. Often, New England cod is just one part of it and every one of groundfish stocks. And it's cod. Had it Yellowtail, flounder, winter flounder under 20 different stocks in the groundfish fisheries management plan. All those have a quota, how much they're allowed not to catch in a single year. And that's based on biological advice or getting from the science center. What I I deserve A usually does. Is there recording what's being caught? They make it depending on the fishery, and here it's small. It's so they can actually count almost every fish that's caught. What's kept caught is a combination of what's landed but also what's discarded. And for some stocks, like cod. Now, um, there are very low quotas. Caught has been overfishing. They've been effective, our environmental changes. So what we want to make sure is that the combination of the two that discarded fish in the landed fish don't exceed the quota. And unless you know what's being caught at sea, you can't really estimate that there are other things that are caught, and this is relaxed. The reason I was there in Alaska there was an issue with still are sea lions that we were hearing that lots of star sealer answer being caught in the fisheries. So they want to put observers up there basically to watch that. So I work with a traditional fishery observer doing that, their work, but also observing what's happening when you see lines are being caught and because they're all dead. Come on board revitalise. Um, lie. But that doesn't happen. So you need to know with a male female, How big were they adult with and what was association gear Along the way from when I first started working on the animal in which my major professor at Oregon State picked because nobody cared off steller sea lions, nobody was starting them. Um, people realize the population crashed in Alaska so that we listed them Noah. US Government listed them first is threatened with the Danger Species Act and then later on is endangered. So but we don't understand why. And remember we wanted to understand that so we could come up with mitigation measures to try to allow the population recover. And the decline was astounding. There were You're a sight, my main major study site in the illusions. We first survey that in the fifties I had something like 15,000 animals on it. By the time I started doing my original research, there was down 1500. By the time that was in the early eighties, by the late eighties, it was down to about 200 is pretty drastic. And I was happening all throughout the evolutions, more so in that area, the allusions where there was additional core, the range that elsewhere. But there were kinds occurring further west and further east, and one of the things we suspected was it was because of something to do with food. We didn't know much about what what they're feeding on. So a lot of my research was that I was looking at food and developing techniques there, and one of the things we found was it okay? We can't keep shooting, see lines to find what they're feeding on because we've now listen. Them is a dangerous. So we had to come up with other ways to deal with this. So I spent a lot of time going through from on the summertime in particular. But then later on, the winner going to place of receipt lines were in collecting fecal material and then analyzing that we start off originally that we just We just just looked at what it called your bones olis, which is nice. But we knew there were biases in that. So from that, we then went on to develop catalogs to identify species based on other bones, which is cool. There also be found that they were feeding on other things than what we're seeing from the oldest. Then from that, we went on to looking at other ways analyzed I diet. So we did some ivory first work with stable isotopes. Then we looked of fatty acids and then to reason. We started looking at DNA, and after I left, they carry that on a lot further, and that was in the very early work for any of those. But basically there was a lot of money people. Ted Stevens, who was the senior senator from Alaska, was really concerned. This was shut down the fisheries, so we had big, big appropriations from Congress to do this so we could develop new techniques. Population stabilized. We don't know why, and that's fine. I was stable. There's a story there, too, but what we know we put we puts from conservation measures in place not knowing for sure whether they will have any effect. So maybe they did. Or maybe that this may be My hypothesis was that this is the ecosystem been so disrupted from all the years of commercial fishing. There wasn't necessarily that fishermen were taking food away from science is just the system. Was this so different? And the things that they would only feed on to the young animals just weren't there anymore. So the population could not be sustained at the historical levels, even though his enormous biomass a fish there, they weren't the right ones and went right sizes. That was my apostle is I propose a couple tests for this which would not have affected sea lions very much, but it was by a politically it would be really difficult to implement. But it was it was I convened a panel of knowledgeable scientists help me design the research, and we came up with a pretty good research plan. But it just wouldn't go over with the managers because they were okay. The political fallout would have been enormous from the environmental community. What I proposed to do was we would have a place where the population would appear to be stable. And the the hypothesis was some people propose was that it was because personal fisheries were over harvesting Pollock near them. My hypothesis was that it wasn't that it was that there was too much pollock there that there Pollack were competing because they're they're big fish and they're eating the same things will see lines were feeding on. So I proposed that Okay, lets over harvest that this to strip mine the polic there and see what happens. If it's because the fishermen are overharvesting, you should see the population go down. If it's because it's too much. Polly, you should see the population go up.

spk_0:   30:43
After hearing Richard discussed the process of how he did his PhD studies, we were super curious to learn more about what the reality of daily life was in the back country of Alaska. Richard entertained our request for stories of his adventures, and they did not disappoint. In one particular instance, we ask Richard if he ever encountered any irate sea lions who are not taking kindly to his being there. And he exclaimed, That was my job! As he often dealt with angry sea lion mama's while trying to count their pups.

spk_2:   31:17
One of difficulties in working in the allusions is there is really no place to take a plane to. There's there's a runway at one end Dutch Harbor. There's a runway at the other. End it Shemya. That's about its 1000 miles. So it's not like you could just fly around and go visit every place you want to go to. And through that area there were 100 plus sea lion sites that we want to visit. We do all that with ships. It's it's not a great place to operate a ship. These storms, a couple roll through and you had to get going. Hide. So are typical summer cruises, and we'd be out for 90 days trying to sample each one. These places me while returning to his go in where all the pumps there was one. The research questions was whether UPS were smaller than they used to be. County adults take fecal matter and then go on to the next place, and everyone those places you had to land a swan boat, get in there, which was never very easy, and we wound up because the weather in the fog and all. It's basically 40 days and 40 days that we would go to one place and then go hide and that place done. Then we go hide someplace else and it's continue doing this trying, take advantage of the weather and we got to visit some really cool places. Nobody other other values have never been to. But it was very slow. That was that was my jobs. I was the big guy and I'd have a field team that would usually have, like three or four people work with me. I will get through and clear all the adults off the rookery and then they come through. They recount the pumps and then we go back and start weighing the pups. But we were cleared. All we try to clear everybody. All didn't always work because he's a big, enormous rocks and animals could hide behind them. And hopefully you get him all outside. But every once a while, wanted come bounding out right on top. You and but they were more afraid of us that we were at them, so usually it wasn't an issue. The biggest problems with you with adult males who were on territory that trying to get them off territory was frequent very difficult because he had to get out there. Otherwise you couldn't get to the bumps. And we we did pretty good. We got through. I did this for 10 years without any injuries, but it was It was always nip and tuck. That landing part was, the scariest part is it's your landing and surf and you learn how to do it. And it's a different kind of boat, small boat operations than the folks here do. So we would have a charter, which would be 90 to 100 foot. But like the smaller re spoke research vessel they have here on, we will launch a skip from that. When I first started off doing this stuff after three observer thing, I I spent three field seasons working with the Soviets up in the ice and chasing walrus. Their wars and I seals. And so we be up there, way for in North, and this were iced in, and then you're isolated because they're already using the only person other than the two Americans around board that could speak English. And he wanted to the scientists the Soviet scientists and then the radio operator. But after a while with vodka, didn't really matter. Everybody speaks it. Yes, but But sitting in the radio room trying to get a marine operator that on a single side band was always in it. It's an amazing thing that you could hear. There was a kind type of communication where you sent out a one band. You occurred on another band. So it wasn't like a two way communication. He had to have both of those and the band that we be sending out on everybody. Everybody out there could hear you and the one that we would get our communications in on, we could hear everybody else. It was that same one. There's a very, very limited frequencies that we worked with. So you can sit there and listen to these people calling home. You just get half the coms easily. You always wonder what out what they say. That was a different time. There was no email couldn't call home. We get back in the port. There'll be a mad rush to the one payphone. It was there. It was different. It was it was nice. It's like when I was in the Antarctic. In a small field camp. There is the same sort of thing we way could quote. We had a radio, we could call for help, but that was about it. My very first research project was on a small island in Oregon. I spent three months on this little island by myself, surrounded by sea lions. And that was it. I was there by myself, nobody else. And that was kind of weird. But then I went up to Alaska. I did the same thing up there on This is my master's work for two years to summer seasons there by myself. And that was actually really was nice having the trees. This place in in Oregon was just offshore Iraq. Basically, it's about as big as Redfield is footprint, maybe half the size. But almost all the flat surface had see lines on it. So you had one little corner. Police know, asking you walk around. You know that the Big Island is a mile long. I don't think anyone does that anymore. It was really sketchy to do that. And after that, this is my own masters work. I wasn't gonna play at that point. Once I became a cover employees who went about that we still end up in situations where I was on my feel partner and I were on an island in the allusions, and we had done three months of fieldwork there. Field season was over. The Alcott was supposed to ride to pick us up. That's where you get off the island. And we we broke camp down. We've been living in these cameras wall tents for three months and put everything away, and we're all packed up. The helicopter didn't show and we never Our radios were all broken. All we had were handheld VHF. So you know, they didn't go very far. Um, and it was a sunny day, which is really only unusual solutions. We're usually talking this summer, so we put a tent back up and pull stuff out and waited the next day, next day with somebody to no helicopter. So we want a week before we finally got taken off the island, guy came in and came up through the fog, and we were I feel partner, I would just bedded down for the night. That was only thing we do most of the time is because there was the animals were gone, and there's nothing much to do and listen to music for the sound. I had headphones often. It was a helicopter and the like. We had probably 10 or 15 feet of visibility, and this is on top of an island with cliffs all around you. And apparently what he had done was he could see the edge of the island. And he he brought supplies a bunch of times. We knew how to get there in theory. So he came up and then I could talk to on the handheld. He was stuck. He couldn't know how much farther to go. He couldn't see ahead of himself. So I had to walk out into the fog with a flare and directed to the field camp. That's crazy and bring him down. And I was there in my long johns and waving the Slayer. We were so happy to see if

spk_0:   38:42
Rufus Rufus is so great to see the

spk_2:   38:45
way I talk to Americans you thought were like couple of couple of mad men. We're so happy. Assuming it made him a cup of coffee for us, it was great. But what we were doing was we had been recycling or coffee way were getting well, and I have a feel. Partners need a whole lot more than anybody expected. So you may. This coffee and his very kind he never. Same about it until we get off the island. And it was horrible. Yeah.

spk_0:   39:17
What went through your head during that week, though,

spk_2:   39:19
Did you? I was just neutral. I didn't. The young guy, he was with me. I didn't want scaring. And I knew that things really got bad. You walk up the top of the hill in the handheld. I could talk to afraid or going by, and we still had food. We're down to Velveeta and Spam, but was still food. People laughed at me when I talk about that, but we always had that in the bottom of her. Our boxes that there was something that you knew would stay around for a while. The coffee was a problem. The generation before me, that was their life. There was a guy, Cliff Fiscus, that who I worked with who was a down a whale biologist in Alaska. He got his start by putting out those little USGS triangles for benchmarks. He walked all over Alaska doing that. I work for the government paces. They wanted to put these at and he just walk off into the woods, Put these things out. There was a lot of people like that. They did, you know, seeing the transition going from from where everybody just use field books in black and like imagery to suffer. Got. Now this is incredible. What is? The changes were amazing. It would be hard to explain this cliff or any of that generation the kinds of things you can do now with this little bitty samples and get from animals, the generation before us in particular. There are a lot of really wonderful artists. And there's There was a cruise that was done in the solutions, the same place where I used to work at in the Great before World War two. And there's a U. S official Wildlife Service special publication that documents that Cruz and it's full of water colors, reproduction of the world, colors that chief scientists did from that cruise. And this is beautiful, beautiful work. You don't see that much anymore, but people there are things that people do to keep themselves with alert alive. Our field camps. We, one of the chief, did this one that we had north of Kodiak. It was a tradition that you would leave furniture behind. So we used to build things and because there was wood everywhere. Because the driftwood in Alaska just this major thing and there's a lot of it is finished lumber. So I've built out houses. I've built benches I've built actually built cabins. Uh, but that's a lot of Alaska

spk_0:   41:48
thing. Clearly, there is way more to his story, but that is all we have time for today. Stay tuned for Richard Merrick, Part two, where we followed this swashbuckling science adventurer back across the United States as he continues to pursue his passion for understanding and communicating science through his work with Noah. Thanks for listening to us today. And guess what? We're still a new podcast, so please support us. Head on over to our instagram and follow us at laboratory podcast. We have a twitter at laboratory pod going and check out our Facebook page by searching for laboratory podcast. You can visit our website at laboratory dash podcast dot com or feel free to email us at laboratory podcast at gmail dot com. Thanks for listening in. Stay tuned for more super scientific swash buckling interviews. I'm Renee. This has been laboratory podcast, and this has been our latest lab notebook entry until next time Army tm going to mix the compounds together?

spk_1:   43:19
I think, uh,

spk_0:   43:48
talk for me. Our babies are super cute, and I want to see them flying soon. I heard there was a book. There's a book, It's got our babies there. Sarah, Percy and Bill. How does again? In them I will. Mama flies away while they're sleeping and they're scared. The little owl babies, they're scared. And Bill keeps being like I bet she's out doing this and one of them is like I'm hungry. And then one of them is always like, I want my mommy and all the little kids laugh when the kid now it says, I want my mommy because kids like repetition in books