Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's snowing again....

We finished setting up our lab simulated bovine urine (SBU) experiment by adding the SBU and inhibitor to the samples. They will incubate for 24 h and then we will quantify the amount of carbon dioxide produced. This will provide a comparison to the field SBU experiment we started today in the driving snow, once again. One of our soil incubation tubes was pulled out of the ground and crushed with obvious human footprints around it. Dissapointing and puzzling since this area of the park doesn't see many visitors and the cores are not visible from the road.

After getting the experiment started we headed into Mammoth to see if the Canyon wolf pack was around. No luck, but on our way back out we saw 2 doe Bighorn Sheep crossing the road. The picture below is of one of them.

Tomorrow we plan to get up early and go looking for wildlife, we still need to see grizzly and black bears. Then we will finish sampling our lab SBU experiment and then count fungal plates. The bacterial plate counts were actually too successfull. Most of the plates had too many colonies to count. We will repeat this experiment when we return to W&L. But our control plates are still clear as day, not a single colony, so it is possible to perform sterile microbiology at 6,300 feet in a lodge.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Today we went to a native remnant site to collect soil samples and that went well, but then the weather went south quickly. More photos tomorrow. The video below sums up the change while we were sampling soils to determine the seed bank of A. desertorum and annual wheatgrass.
After returning at 2PM we warmed up and set up an experiment that will investigate the effects of simulated bovine urine (SBU) on microbial biomass in soils collected from the 4 species of interest. By using inhibitors of urease (the enzyme that breaks down urea into CO2 and NH3)and bacteria we will be able to quantify the response of soil bacteria to SBU and the effects of invasive species on soil urease levels. Urease is an extracellular enzyme produced by plants, fungi and bacteria that is functional in the soil matrix but is also excreted in response to urea addition to the soil.
Colonies are beginning to grow on the bacterial petri plates that we poured yesterday (Tuesday) and we will count them in the morning. We plan to get out in the field tomorrow to do a companion SBU application in the field (we had planned to do this today but the snow and low temps made it impossible).

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Snowed in

We woke up to 3-4 inches of powder with plenty still falling maye 6 inches total. It is starting to clear now at 2:40PM and the snow is melting. Up to now we have been making bacterial and fungal petri plates and then plating soil extracts containing microbes from Gardiner Basin soils. We are testing for effects of the A. desertorum on microbial growth. A total of 90 plates were prepared and innoculated in 5 hours. A bunch of work and now we wait. We are going to head out looking for wildlife this afternoon and have a late stir fry dinner. The video below sums up the morning. Hopefully we can update later with some grizzly and wolf pics.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Getting field science started

Today began with light snow and 20F temperatures.
I had a meeting with Mary Hektner. Mary works for at the Yellowstone Center for Resources-National Park Service and is the coordinator of the restoration project in the Gardiner Basin. We scheduled our coffee break presentation to YCR staff for May 7 at 10:30 where we will present the data we have collected and our plans for follow up experiments after we return to campus. While I was in the meeting everyone else went to the Albright Visitors center at Mammoth Hot Springs and watched a movie about the park (still 2 more to watch, they let you choose). We then returned to the lodge to finish our soil incubation tubes. This method is based on a paper published in 1940 in which soil bacteria and fungi (collectively called soil microbes) are collected by burying a glass tube that has thousands of small holes and is filled with nutrient agar. After a period of time the tube is removed and the agar is removed for the determination of diversity and abundance. We modified this method by cutting out channels in plastic centrifuge tubes and gluing on a 37 micron nylon mesh through which fungal hyphae and bacteria could pass but most, if not all, roots cannot. We filled them with agar and an extract of soil collected from one of the four species of interest (A. desertorum, P. secunda, E. triticeum, or, A. cristatum) . This will allow us to investigate changes in soil organic matter quality and any possible anti-microbial properties of the soils. In the video below Becca, Camden and Brittany are pouring agar into the soil incubation tubes. While we don't have a sterile lab to do this work in we do have an alcohol lamp, low humdity and low temperature on our side.

Becca, Camden and Maya installing the soil incubation tubes.

David, Brittany and Mackenzie installing tubes.
The tubes installed (we put in 36 total)

Not a bad view for a lab.

Tomorrow we will be plating out soil bacteria and fungi for most probable number counts (a measure of abundance) and collecting soils from a reminant native grassland in the Gardiner Basin and surface soils in the GB to determine the seed banks of the 4 species of interest. We may take a dusk trip out to look for wildlife. Still need to see a grizz from a safe distance. Today we saw a coyote try to take down a yearling Elk. It wasn't going to happen, but fun to watch nonetheless.

Picture post

Quick post of a link to pictures: We will update them each day.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Early morning = No wolves or grizzlies

Our early start began on schedule but with snow falling. We pulled out of the driveway at 5:20AM. On our way out to Lamar we passed a kill at Specimen which had obviously been an active sight in the past couple of days. Cones were up and one lone photographer was still hanging out. But nothing to see but ravens. At Slough Creek we saw a very new bison calf, still quite wobbly in the legs. Lot's of snow covered bison in the road.

In picture above from left to right: Becca, Brittany, Maya, Mackenzie, Camden and David

The lab at the lodge.

Back to the lodge by 9:45AM and then back to working on making soil culture tubes and making soil extracts for bacterial and fungal counts.

Snow has stopped now (4:15PM) but the forecast looks tough for the rest of the week, but we have plenty to do. Tomorrow we will install the soil culture tubes in Gardiner Basin and collect soils in the exclosure in Gardiner Basin that is the site of the restoration project. Barley seeds will be planted this week in the exclosure to act as a cover crop, stablizing the soil and increasing soil organic matter in preparation for future seeding with native grass species.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First full day and we got a wolf (on film).

The day started with 12F temps but blue skies. The birds were still quite active near the lodge and David is giving us all a tutorial.
We went to Gardiner Basin to start our field work. After an introduction to the area and plants we took soil cores from the native grass Poa secunda (Sandberg's Bluegrass) and 3 invasives: Alyssum desertorum (desert alysum/madwort), Eremopyrum triticeum (annual wheat grass) and Agropyron cristatum (crested wheatgrass). The invasive species in Gardiner Basin have sigificantly reduced grassland productivity and we will be investigating their impacts on soil nitrogen cycling and organic matter decomposition. After collecting at GB we heade to Mammoth Hot Springs to look for Centaurea stoebe (aka maculosa) (spotted knapweed), we found very few, but on the way we spotted a lone wolf.

There was a kill (probably an elk) nearby that the park rangers were "guarding" and we figure this wolf was trying to get a meal. We spent a good 20 minutes using David's spotting scope and the 400 mm lens on my camera taking pictures and letting other interested passers by take a look. There are many more pictures (I took over 100 myself) and the video below is taken with a Flip MinoHD through David's scope, not easy to do, but when it is lined up the picture is awesome.

We also saw Bighorn sheep from a distance and plenty of elk, bison and pronghorn antelope.

Tomorrow we are getting up at 5AM to go "Wolfing/Grizzing". It's a 45 minute drive to the best wolf territory and we need to be there by sunrise for the best chance to see wolves or grizzlies.

It was a great first day, we all worked well together, got our research going and got to see a wolf.

Time for bed.

Friday, April 24, 2009

We've landed

After a successfull departure at 3:45AM from the parking deck and prompt arrival at 4:40AM (Thanks John) we cleared check in and security before the early AM airport rush. Three uneventful flights later we landed in Bozeman at 1:15PM MST. After receiving our not so "Large" Dodge Dorango from Enterprise we jammed in the luggage and made our way to Walmart. We bought a tarp and some bungees and managed to get the groceries in the Doray.

Then after a blue sky ride to Gardiner we then made it to the Bear Lair Lodge in Jardine (More on this great lodge later).

After settling in we took a quick trip into the park. We had a quick look at a juvenille bald eagle, rocky mountain bluebirds, and a pronghorn antelope.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Lab all packed and on it's way.

We packed up the lab supplies today, six boxes filled with all kinds of good research stuff.
We are ready for just about anything the soil can throw at us. Hopefully I got it right. The mobile lab should be waiting for us when we arrive in
View Larger Map'>Jardine Friday evening. Next step is to pack the right mix of clothing for teens to hopefully 70 degree weather. We will be getting there in time for a below average temperature swing after an above average week prior to our arrival. Cany you say Climate change? Or is that how you get the monthly average temperature to work out right?
Back to menu planning. Need to be ready for Wally world when we land.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Getting ready for YNP

We will be blogging our trip experiences from the moment we get on the van at 4AM on April 24 until we are done analyzing the data at the end of Spring term. I'm new to this and if anyone has experience I could use a hand. Otherwise we will learn together. I want to use photos and video as well as personal updates about our experiences in YNP beyond the research we will be doing. Each time I go to YNP I amazed by something new that either I hadn't seen before or hadn't been there previously. I'm looking forward to the trip. Good luck on exams and have safe travels to and from break.