Last Trip to the Desert

Last week we made our last excursion to the Loonse en Drunense Duinen for the time being, but we will return in a few weeks. Our goal was to put greater focus into planning for our future days working in the lab at Avans and to prepare how to present the data that we find.

At the start of the week, we arrived to the park on an unusually warmer day. We have taken all of our samples from more local points, so we were forced to make a longer IMG_6610journey towards the centre of the park. On this sunny day it began to feel like an actual desert, especially with our thick layers of clothing. The warmer weather also brought in many more visitors too. Many people were curious about our equipment and the drone and asked questions. We are thrilled to see so many people who are interested in work done in the park.

IMG_6736Later in the week we made a quick trip to the lab at Avans University. There we tested for Total Nitrogen in the surface and ground water. We did this by first preparing the sample and adding indicators to the water. After heating the sample for about an hour, we then read the results using the Hach Lange Spectrophotometer. This is a device that sends a specific wavelength through a water sample, and reads the changes of the wavelength on the receiving end. These changes can then be translated into the amount of what you are testing for.

At the end of the week, Lars had to leave for a planned minor surgery. We all hope that he will have a smooth painless recovery!

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Gathering Samples

Windy. Rainy. Frosty. As the months change, we’ve noticed a shift in weather this week compared to the previous. However, this didn’t stop the locals and students from visiting the park and breaking routine. When we arrived for our first day this week, we found ourselves walking past different school groups teaching their students about the park and the values of nature.

IMG_6559After we walked for a few minutes, we located our first sampling location and began drilling. While Phill and Lars were drilling, Magda and Emese began to set up the drone for aerial photographs. However, shortly after take-off, it was apparent that the drone would not be able to fly in the high winds that day. The drone returned just in time, because as it landed the rain began. If the drone is exposed to too much water, it could experience electrical problems.

On our second visit the park this week, the wind and rain subsided enough for us to make our first launch with IMG_6592the drone! The drone works for about 20 minutes with one battery to cover an area roughly 30 hectares. Before the battery is completely drained, we return the drone home to replace it with a new battery. While landing it, a curious dog came running over to see what the strange machine was. Dogs will often attack a drone, but thankfully this pupper only remained as a spectator.

IMG_6591Whenever someone is operating the drone, there is another counterpart drilling for soil and groundwater being done. If we are lucky, the water table is less than two metres deep. However, in some cases, we have to drill over three metres until we reach groundwater. Lars is our tallest member of the team, but even he needs help from someone else sometimes.

After we collect our samples, we store them in refrigerators in Avans University to preserve them until testing. While returning returned one day, we met with another student named Yoko. Yoko is working on another project independently, but used some of our samples in her own research. Her results benefit us too because her findings save us time in the lab! We hope to process some of our results soon and will share with you what we discover!

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First Day in the Desert

This past week the team made our first visit to the desert. Here we met our clients and even got a tour of the dunes! Over the tour we saw a lot of action happening around the park from bikers on trails, to families exploring the dunes, to horseback riders wondering the desert.


After the tour we quickly began to collect our soil and groundwater samples. We drilled a borehole over two metres until we reached the water table. Along the way we laid out the soil to see the changes over depth. The uppermost soil was a darker brown, indicating that it contained a lot of organic matter to sustain plant growth. This bad news, as vegetation prevents the natural drifting of the sands and threatens different species, such as the rare European Nightjar. Fortunately, after drilling a few more centimetres we reached the healthy layer of sand.


Half way through our sampling we were ambushed by friendly sheep grazing on the native heather. The sheep were introduced years ago by Natuurmonumenten to help control the spreading of the vegetation. With less vegetation the native species can thrive in their sandy home.


IMG_6408After our visitors continued through the park, we began our next task to collect the groundwater. To do this we inserted a hollow, sieved pole into the borehole we made. When the pole reached the water table, the water entered the centre of the pole but the sand could not fit through the sieves. We then inserted a pump that drew out the water for collection.



As the sun began to set, we made our way back home and stored our samples in our lab back at Avans University. Next week we will begin our tests to see the health of the samples and will also be collecting more from different locations throughout the park. I am excited to return next week and cannot wait to explore more areas of the desert!

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Week of 16/10

This is a blog about the group of Emese Orosz, Magdalena Gorska, Lars van Kleef & Phillip Worster. We have taken on the project to work with Natuurmonumenten, Province Noord-Brabant, and RIVM. Our mission is to investigate the area of Loonse en Drunense Duinen, and to see why vegetation is taking over the protected sandy desert and how to manage it for the future.

During our first days, we met with the representatives from each of our clients. We discussed the requests and needs for this project. Over the next week, our group divided the work into four roles for each member. Emese takes the role of our Laboratory Specialist and the needs around it. Lars will take the role of our GIS specialist and will supervise the map making process. Phill will take the role of the Secretary and will focus on taking minutes and supervises promotional activities. Last but not least, Magda will take the role of out trusted leader and will focus on the schedules, leading meetings, and will act as the contact between our group and our clients. We have also made our Plan of Approach towards this project, as well as other necessary form.

We have only just begun our project but we plan to visit our site with a photography drone next week. Check out next weeks post for more information!