Footprints In The Sand

English is a funny language. I always feel bad for those trying to navigate something I was lucky to be taught as a child. But even I make mistakes. Especially while abroad.

We have a schedule that lays out what we are doing each day while we are here, kind of. It is very basic and I am used to having to figure things out in confusing English while traveling. Monday and Tuesday were listed as “Investigate Fishing Cat Footprint”.  So I thought oh, we are investigating the ecological footprint of the catfish industry. Ah good. Since I have an interest in aquaculture I was looking forward to it. I spent the entire first week believing that was what we were doing, especially since it was mentioned that we were going to the sea.

Monday morning we prepared for our adventure. Our driver was an interesting guy. He blatantly took a selfie of himself with me in the background in the car. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to smile, so I just ended up making a very awkward face. Which, to be fair, is how I look most of the time. I was very curious what he would caption it as on Facebook.

After a dose of awkward, we started the journey with a quick stop for soft serve along the way. During this stop I learned that a “fishing cat” was exactly that. A wild cat who eats a lot of fish. What? Look it up, they are adorable. So then I realized that I should not have doubted the schedule. It was “fishing cat conservation” after all. Whoops. I swear I am a doctor..

After a few hours we arrived at the national park, and popular summer area on the beach. It was beautiful. I love the sound of crashing waves and the smell of salty air. For an Atlantic Canadian, the ocean always feels like home. But there was no time for beach fun, there was science to do.

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We gathered traps and went off to try and trap a fishing cat. We were going to help with a project looking at disease transmission between local cats/dogs to and from the fishing cats due to close contact. They use live traps, and release them after sample collection.

After the traps were set, our work was done for the night. We had to wait until the early hours of the morning to see if we were successful. We went back to the beach to get settled for the night, and have a ‘seafood party’. Which sounded great.

I wasn’t exactly sure what that would involve, but was not disappointed. We sat on the back of a pick-up watching fish cook over the fire with a cold beer in hand. It just happened to be Brett’s birthday as well. Not a bad way to start a new year if you ask me. The fish was delicious, and the view wasn’t bad either. Squid fishing boats lit up the horizon with powerful lights to attract their prey. Some of my favourite nights have been spent around a crackling fire. The 80s music playing in the background added a certain something to the atmosphere.

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The accommodations were minimal, but all we needed. It was a short night, as we had to get up early and check our traps. We were unsuccessful in our trapping efforts. But we spent some time walking around looking for any signs of fishing cats. Or.. INVESTIGATING FISHING CAT FOOTPRINTS. The schedule didn’t lie. I have to admit that I was impressed.

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After a quick breakfast, we gathered our things and starting making our way back to the campus. I’ll admit to falling asleep on the ride back. I enjoy travelling this way. From one adventure to the next; always full of surprises. It can be exhausting at times, but a little whimsy never hurt anyone.

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