In My Element at Jug Bay
by Susan Wheatley
Wading through thick mud, I couldn’t help giggling at the squeals of my friends behind me. I had convinced them to come on a fish survey and, as I scooped up a fish with my net, I wondered if they’d still be friends with me after this. We had expected to catch, identify and measure fish, but we hadn’t expected to be chest high in water and knee deep in mud.
I have been volunteering at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary for about five years, but my friends’ experience there was not an easy introduction.
It was an early September day when I piled into the car with four friends and drove the 40 minutes from Annapolis to Lothian. We joked excitedly, substituting fish fry for fish survey. I told them we would use nets to catch fish, then put the fish into specimen cases to identify them. We’d have identification charts so that we knew what we were doing.
After identification, we would set a ruler alongside each fish to measure its size, recording all the information before we returned the fish to its home. Yet all of this preparation seemed irrelevant when we discovered an unconsidered aspect of our day: the location of the fish fry.
On earlier surveys, I’d needed only a change of shoes and pants.
At Beaver Pond, we would need more dry clothes than we had counted on. At 5'2", I am fairly short, and sloughing through the deep mud was difficult for me. My friend Lisa, who is about 4'11", found it harder still. The other four of us took turns half-carrying, half-dragging her through this beaver pond.
We must have looked pretty silly, struggling through the beaver dens with our little nets and specimen cases. Still, we made it through and took new information about fish and beavers, as well as a whole lot of mud, with us.
The other volunteers in the Beaver Pond that day helped us while teaching us about the fish we had caught and the animals we had seen as well as about the Bay and environmental issues.
All our clothes were wet, and none of us had thought to bring towels, so the car ride home was not as comfortable as the ride there. Yet it was just as cheerful. I did not lose any friends because of this experience, but my friends all vowed never to volunteer with me again.
Even though my friends claim they’ll never come with me again, Jug Bay remains part of my life. Every time I go there, I know I will come home with new knowledge, new experiences and the satisfaction of sharing my time. And liklely some more mud.
Susan Wheatley, a freshman at Boston University, interned for Bay Weekly during her senior year at Annapolis High School.