“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” – Carl Sagan
In the dim light of Tuesday morning, our research team has finally begun sampling after months of preparation! At around 9:30 a.m., an affable Bolivian driver, Norman, took us and Rebecca, one of our Teaching Assistants, to the first sampling site – Market Rodriguez in La Paz.
On our way to the market, Rebecca kindly provided the team a short, but efficient lecture on some basic Spanish expressions required for purchasing fish and salt, as well as for acquiring the information needed for data analysis.Fortunately, we were able to find all five fish species on our target list, i.e. Trucha (Trout), Pejerrey (King fish), Sabalo, Surubi, and Corvina, and decided to buy two samples from each species.
With the help from Rebecca and Norman, we also managed to get a huge salt block that seemed to be less manufactured than any other brands, and is very likely to have a lead concentration exceeding its safety level.
After dropping Rebecca off at the lab and a quick lunch at a cozy restaurant nearby the hotel, we started our next journey to the fish market in Los Andes, a town that is approximately 30 minutes away from La Paz. Although the team nervously felt Rebecca’s absence, we were accompanied by Norman, and luckily found three target fish species (Trucha, Pejerrey, and Sabalo), and two new ones, Mauri and Carachi; however, salt samples were not available for selling in this fair.
On the trip back to La Paz and our hotel, we eventually got the chance to enjoy the breathtaking sight of unique mountain ranges of various colors, shapes, and compositions embracing the bowl-shaped city after an entire day of sampling.
Thanks to Arjun and Noor, we were able to cut and prepare testable fish samples in their room with a small kitchen. Each raw fish has been weighed, and its length been measured before three fillets were taken and put into a Ziploc bag. It then goes into a larger bag with an index card containing all the information regarding the fish, including its name, weight, length, the date and the place we purchased the sample, as well as the site it has been caught.
Though we will be helping with other groups’ research both in the field and lab tomorrow, the Mercury team is more than excited about our journey to Lake Titicaca on Thursday and Friday right before the Easter weekend!
Stay tuned to hear more about our adventure to a town that has been heavily affected by mining, as well as the very first experience of fishing on the lake with a local fisherman! Ciao!
Written by Wanyue ‘Rainie’ Li