Chizé - Happy Times!

So here we go, after almost two months of training contract in Chizé (West of France). It was a good occasion for us to prepare ourselves for our stay in the French Antarctic and Southern Lands (TAAF in French) - Chizé is even called the fifth base of the TAAF because it's quite isolated too! At the end of the day, I may say we were pretty happy here!  This contract was a way for us to start belonging to the team of volunteers (our exact title is VSC for Volontaires de Service Civique) and the researchers we'll be working for in the field. I'm gonna introduce my colleagues (and friends!) right away, 'cause I'll probably speak about them quite a lot: Agnès is going to Terre Adélie (this really is in Antarctica), Maxime and Thibaut leave with me for Kerguelen, and Franck is going to Crozet (another subantarctic island). There is also a sixth person, Jérémie, going to Amsterdam (the forth French subantarctic island with Saint-Paul), who will unfortunately begin his contract later since he'll leave on another rotation, later in the season. What did we do here for almost two months? Well, first of all we learned how to use the devices that will be deployed on some species in the field, especially Time-Depth Recorders, GPS, and Platform Terminal Transmitters (for satellite tracking). It was also important for us to learn about the biology of the species we'll be working with, and for that, we had to read articles. Not the funniest part, I've got to say, but well, we have to go through that to go have fun in the field! We also had a bunch of presentations about the Institut Polaire Paul-Emile Victor (IPEV, which is the institution hiring us), about the French Antarctic and Southern Lands, about the research carried out there, about the devices we'll use... On top of that, we had a one-day-long seminar, a climbing session, a few quiz games on species identification, and a demonstration and practice of blood sampling on birds. You think that was a lot? Well, we also had to fill paperwork and take care of the logistics. A journey to the other end of the world is definitely not something you can improvise! We could send up to three big metallic boxes for a total weight of up to 260 pounds (I have to say, my colleagues are lucky enough to leave for more than a year, so they definitely needed that much stuff!). We had to be careful not to forget anything because of course, in our respective bases there will be no shops (just a few very limited supplies); we also had to do the inventories and all that. And we had to take care of boxes of scientific gear, too. With all that, time went by real fast!! After about 3000 dollars worth of equipment and everyday products (and again, leaving to the other world of the end has a cost, even if the IPEV is providing us with some field equipment!), tons of paperworks and two months of training - also a week-long seminar in Brest, Britanny, coming up- we'll all set to go. But so far, I've only told you about work, but we had fun in Chizé, too! I'll particularly remember the ornithological field trips to count Little Bustards and Eurasian Thick-knee (I'll let you google it if you wanna know how those birds look like!), the bat field trips (special thanks to Emilie, Anthony and Miches! it was lovely to have a close look at those mammals (yes, they’re not birds!)), the volley-ball games (except the injured, Thibaut and I ;-(....), the card games, the crossword puzzles, the film viewing and go-away parties (special thanks to Maxime for injecting enthusiasm into them! And to all our dancers who really shook it up), and the boat ride in the Marais Poitevin (a place in France with a lot of canals where boating is very pleasant!) for Franck, some friends and I. I especially wanna thank our "friends from the lab" who put up with us all the time when we kept talking about one thing - the Antarctic and Southern Lands!! So thank you guys for those encounters and moments! You'll be remembered! And I truly hope we’ll stay in touch as much as possible! And finally, despite all that, we also all had time to go back to our families during the week-ends to pack up everything and spend last moments to say good-bye to friends and family. I'm taking this chance to thank mine, and especially my parents, who help me prepare everything (financially but also practically and emotionally!). That was much appreciated!

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 2011-2012 prom'

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Thibaut, Agnès, Franck, me and Maxime (from top to bottom and left to right) at our go-away party

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Birdwatching

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Bat field trip

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Our go-away party - people are on fire!

Chizé preparation Kerguelen

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