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.
After 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!