Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall 2010

Out in the park for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem meeting. Will be talking about the Gardiner Basin invasive species vegetation restoration project. A talk that wouldn't be possible without the great efforts of the students that have traveled to YNP in the spring and worked in the lab. Things are looking good in GB. They had enough water this year for the barley and wheat to hold back the Alyssum. Eric Hellquist and I will be sampling tomorrow and Thursday (attending meeting M night T and W). I went into the park this afternoon to check out the status of ALDE at the site near the Lamar river at Specimen Ridge. Well I couldn't get to the site. Two grizzlies were hanging around. I got a good look at a tagged male headed toward Specimen Ridge and could see the other one near the Lamar. No photos. Just in my synapses.
Then on the way back I saw a Black bear sow with 2 cubs in the Yellowstone River. And then on the way back to Gardiner for dinner at the Rusty Rail I saw a bull elk bugling with a harem of cows in front of the Mammoth Lodge. Not a bad first day. YNP never ceases to amaze me. Tomorrow a quck trip to look for wildlife pre-dawn and then we will go to GB to sample.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Glad to be back, but must return soon!

I must say I am glad to be back, but I most certainly must return soon! The lack of high speed internet essentially eliminated my online activity because it frustrated me- so when the internet went inactive for the last couple of days, I had no problem adjusting; where as I watched Cozy get the shakes while she detoxed from streaming scrubs.
I will miss Yellowstone National Park and the the fun we had in Montana. The last few days went by quickly, and before we knew it we were back in Lexington. The last few days were marked with one major field experiment which used potassium nitrate and ammonium sulfate labeled with the stable isotope 15-N. This experiment was designed to measure nitrification and denitrification in field. We performed the experiment in our Remnant field site and Cinnabar field site, collecting soil cores and injecting them with our labeled salts. We collected a total of 48 samples, 16 at Remnant (8 for each salt) and 32 at Cinnabar (8 for each salt both inside and outside the exclosure). Each set had samples that were brought back to the lab for immediate procedures, and also had samples allowed to incubate in the field for 24 hours. Upon our return to the labge, we extracted each sample with potassium chloride. The following day we returned to the each field site, acquired our incubated tubes, and extracted them with KCL back at the labge. Our plethora of soils was shipped the following morning so that it would hopefully arrive by Monday for class.
On Thursday during our final week, Dr. Hamilton gave a presentation to members of the National Park Service who are working on the restoration project in the Gardiner Basin. Discussion followed the presentation and then we enjoyed a lunch at a new restaurant in town- I believe the name of the place was the cowboy lounge.
We saw most of the parks unique geological features during the final days. We hiked around mammoth hot springs, visited the mud volcanoes, stood on the shore of Yellowstone Lake, pushed Wilson into the Grand Prismatic Spring, and of course, we joined hundred of people to watch Old Faithful erupt. My favorite site was Grand Prismatic Spring, not because we pushed Wilson in, but because of the motley rings formed by extremophilic archaea. Unfortunately, the best place to view these rings is not next to it but above it; nevertheless I did enjoy!
Saturday was spent traveling from Bozeman back to Lexington. We went from a cold, dry desert region to a place where the humidity was palpable. On the ride from Roanoke airport to Lexington we all relaxed listening to the radio show House of Hair. It looked like we would coast up highway 81 without an issue when all of a sudden a mad truck driver started playing slalom with the median. We got away from that truck, ASAP!
Unfortunately on Monday our samples had not arrived, and so we came up with a game plan for the week:
Tuesday- prep samples for assays
Wednesday- Conduct assays, collect data, prepare poster
Thursday- Prepare presentation
Friday- Presentation

It will be a busy week, but well worth it, and we will let everyone know exactly what we did while we were in Yellowstone.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pictures everywhere

The suburban that faithfully took us everywhere. This pic was taken on the first day at YNP. I assure you, it did not look this clean after two weeks of serious work.

Working hard or hardly working? Dr. Hamilton had to spend a while trying to explain what we were to do on this first day of soil sampling. Everyone went, "huh?" He is a patient man.

Peter O'Donnell, trying to get the perfect picture. We took a lot of pictures, and Peter made sure they were all taken at the right angle :)

Now that we are back we can say we went, we followed all park regulations, we did science and cannot wait for you to hear all about it this coming Friday at the W & L gymnasium. Be there between noon and 2pm!

First day of school in Lex

I thought leaving Yellowstone would be bittersweet but I was wrong. Keep the bitter, cancel the sweet. I miss the place, the lodge, the food and the great atmosphere the group created. Oh how could I forget the suburban?

The last day in Yellowstone spent as a tourist (after saying goodbye to Mary and Mr. Klaptosvky) went fantastic. Seeing the mild volcanoes was pretty awesome, but I have to say that this experience didnt top seeing wolves right behind a grizzly bear. Dr. Hamilton did a great job at explaining that we were right above a supervolcano and what would happen if it erupted. ScArY!

Thankfully it didnt erupt and we are back safe and sound. There were a few glitches here and there but we are fired up to do some lab work. We discovered more ALDE germinations in some of the soils. Man, that thing is stubborn!

Most of the soil samples hadnt arrived by class time today so tomorrow is the big day.Watch this space...

Last days in yellowstone

It feels rather strange to be back in Lexington. The weather Saturday night was the same as when we left for Yellowstone, hot and humid. I had almost forgotten what that felt like after two weeks in the cold and dry Montana air. Also strange to have to wake up and go to class again.

During the last couple days of our stay in Yellowstone, we were kept busy packing, cleaning and being tourists. The entire lab and all soil samples were packed into boxes and shipped out to arrive in Lexington. Not an easy task to say the least, and there were some minor mishaps (aka some forgotten soil that required rearrangement of luggage), but we were ultimately victorious. When we left the Bear Lair, it was as thought there had never been any people there conducting experiments with soil.

On Friday, we did a full tour of the park. It is a day which I will certainly never forget. On our tour, we saw the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Dragon's Mouth Spring, Old Faithful, Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone Lake etc. I particularly enjoyed looking out over the iced and snow covered Yellowstone Lake. It was very calming staring into the distance at the snow covered mountains beyond the snow covered lake. Ate ramen while watching Old Faithful go off, bet not too many people can say that. Watched a mildly successful ambush by Thomas III with a bow and arrow on his father. Saw some epic bridge building.

Despite the cold, I have grown to love Yellowstone. I can now confidently say that I see why people had wanted to preserve the park. Between the long hike up Specimen Ridge and losing myself while staring at the mountains in the horizon, waking up at 4 AM to catch glimpses of wolves and grizzles, meeting and listening to the people for whom the park is more than just a patch of land and a collection of animals, or a spot on Google Maps, I will truly miss being in Yellowstone. Hopefully, someday I will be back.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Back in Lex

No problems with our flight from Bozeman to O'Hare. Will and I don't remember take off. Our quick layover of 1.5 h got extended. Another plane at our gate then a delay for customer service and we took off at 6:52 instead of 6:10 and arrived at 9:15 instead of 8:46. Headed over to Enterprise and they were closed, so much for giving them flight information and calling them from O'Hare to say we were delayed. Thankfully Hertz had a Kia Sportage (a little smaller than the Suburban) and we made it back to Lexington by 10:50. I will try to get more pictures up later today.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Touring the Park

Pictures uploaded in reverse order of visiting. Just about done at the lodge. Headed to Bozeman in the next 1/2 h. Old Faithful
Grand Prismatic Springs

Dragons mouth

Upper Falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Friday, May 14, 2010

Catching Up

Between being busy with science, packing up the lab, presenting to the NPS Yellowstone Center for Resources staff and a patchy/nonexistent connection to the internet we have been slow to post.

Wednesday we collected our 15N labeled soil core tubes and in between sampling at the Mudslide Creek remnant and the Stephens Creek exclosure we had 1.5h to wait so we went up to Mammoth Hot Springs. I haven't walked the whole area like we did Wednesday since 2005. It's amazing, but not surprising, how much it has changed. I'll upload a video when we get better internet access.

After we returned to the Lodge we extracted the samples with 2M Potassium Chloride to extract NH4+ and NO3- from the soil. These samples were then shaken, decanted then frozen and will be analyzed back at W&L. We then packed up the equipment and soils we would need in the lab in Lex ready to ship back for a Thursday departure. The rest of the lab ships out Friday.

Thursday AM was spent preparing for the lunch time presentation to the YCR staff and taping up the boxes for shipping. The presentation went well and it was followed by an hour of discussion about how to get rid of Alyssum most effectively so that the cover crops (barley and wheat) can get planted and eventually the native species. We went to lunch with Mary Hektner (she is in charge of the restoration) at a new restaurant in Gardiner the Cowboy Lodge. Good interior and so so barbeque. After lunch we headed back up towards Mammoth to Joffee Lake, which is a secluded little lake behind the vehicle maintenance building and near on of my old field sites. It is also a source of water for the park to fight fires.

We got a picture of the crew at the 45th parallel. See the sunshine and blue sky!

The Food Farm's phone was down so no credit cards or cash. So we went to the Rusty Rail to play pool and eat free popcorn and chex mix. After an hour we went back to the Food Farm and got dinner fixins.

This AM the final boxes are just about packed and we will be heading out for our tour of the park. Mud Volcanoes, Sulfur cauldron, Upper and Lower falls, Grand Canyon (of YNP),Lake, Old Faithful, and the Norris Geyser basin. Then back to clean up the lodge tonight.


The first one up today just to make sure I got some time to try to see if the internet working. It is :)
Today is our last full day here in Gardiner and we will make the best of it by being tourists. Yah yah thats not exactly why we came here for but it is still a chance to learn (and take loads of cool pics).

Going back to W and L is definitely a bittersweet feeling. Being here has meant doing a lot of science related work, including chemistry (sigh). We now have reason to believe that restoration projects have to take moisture into consideration which, of course, is difficult to implement given the ever-changing weather.

However, I found something totally unexpected; a renewed relationship with God. This place is so amazing that sometimes it seems surreal. We can explain it in different and probably legitimate ways. I believe the science, I believe in evolution (the edge of Mammoth hot springs has literally moved in the past 2 years), but I also believe that there is someone behind it all, and the encounter with Him has been amazing.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

yay fleeting internet

Posting just because I can. Internet has been screwy at best, or nonfunctioning.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Monday afternoon we started the Alyssum germination counts. As I type (10AM Wed) the crew is finishing counts on a total of 44 plates some of which have had up to 365 little Alyssum seedlings on them. I'll update the data later.

Above: Counting Alyssum

Below: Two Alyssum seedlings

Tuesday was a day of science. We spent the morning calculating the amount of 15N (stable isotope of nitrogen 14N) we would be adding the in the form of 15N-Ammonium sulfate or 15N-Potassium Nitrate. Ammonium is the initial substrate that is produced by soil prokaryotes (bacteria and archaea) that break down organic matter which contains primarily carbon and nitrogen. After the initial step of prokaryotic decomposition takes place ammonium (NH4+) is produced and this is a plant available source of nitrogen. But there are other prokaryotes that utilize ammonium as a nitrogen source and therefore compete with plants for nitrogen. There are ammonia oxidizing bacteria and archaea that produce and release nitrite (NO2-) which in functioning soils is rapidly utilized by nitrite oxidizing bacteria to produce nitrate (NO3-) which is also a plant avaiable source of nitrogen. The process of denitrification has nitrite as the middle point as bacteria reduce NO3- and NO2- as energy sources which produces NO, N2O, and N2. We detected NO production in the invaded Cinnabar site last week but not in the Mudslide Creek undisturbed native remnant.

So back to our experiment. By using 15N-NH4 we will be able to quantify potential nitrification rates and by using 15N-NO3 we will be able to quantify potential mineralization rates. Back in the lab next week and continuing this summer we will perform laboratory incubations under controlled conditions. But this field experiment is the best way to approximate in situ conditions.

In this picture Will and Cozy (it was cold and very windy) are injecting the 15N solution into a soil core that was collected by pounding a plastic centrifuge tube that had the bottom cut off into the soil. This method gives an intact core that we can apply the 15N label to and then put back in the ground for incubation (See purple caps in the soil below).

After labeling cores at the Mudslide Creek remnant site we headed to the Cinnabar exclosure site. We collected and labeled cores from out and inside the exclosure. The barley that was planted last year has added root biomass to the soil and this may have an effect on N-mineralization and nitrification when compared to cores from outside the exclosure which has a high density of Alyssum growing.

By this point in the day it was extremely windy and Wilson and Cozy set up in the Suburban to do the label injections. Not a bad portable lab.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quick Weather Update

It's 4:07 pm, I just watched the weather change from sunny, to rain, to snow! Very dynamic weather here.

Counting germinated alde

After returning back to the lodge after a successful morning of wolfing, where 5 grizzlies and 2.5 wolves were spotted, we took a brief break before engaging in science. After the break, we counted the number of seeds that had germinated in the germination samples that we took from the Lamar River, Cinnabar, and Reese Creek sites. The process was not easy in some cases. While samples from the Lamar site had few germinated seeds, the germination samples from the Cinnabar and Reese Creek sites had many germinated Alyssum seeds. The sample that I counted from Reese Creek had 365 little Alyssum sprouts! At first I thought I was done at about 200 but upon further inspection, and sifting of the soil, more were hidden, curled up beneath the surface. Tricky little devils. I thought I had it bad until Prof. Hamilton said that in a previous year, someone had counted 500 of the little buggers. I thought I knew how invasive Alde was, but I didn't fully appreciate the full extent until I had to pick off hundreds of them, one by one, with a tweezer.


We left the Bear Lair at 4:50AM and got to the Lamar Valley by 6:05. We spotted a herd of bison with calves running and crossing the river and knew that something was up. Immediately Will and Peter spotted the first grizz which was not that close to the bison. While that grizz lumbered up the hill two grey wolves followed it into the woods. No video of the wolves but we all got to see them before they disappeared. Then the second grizz was spotted and we watched it go up the hill and rub on a tree that the first grizz had rubbed on and then it came back down the hill. It was 24F so we got back in the Suburban and pulled over at Slough (pronounced like stew) Creek. This area is the most bio-diverse in Yellowstone and has had an active wolf pack since re-introduction of wolves. The last part of the video shows a sow with two "cubs". They are pretty big and mama will probably be sending them out on their own soon.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Last Two Days

The last two days have been busy. On Saturday denitrification experiments were performed on samples we collected from both our Remnant site and Cinnabar site. We also went out into the field to collect more core, tube, and germination samples from several sites: BLM (Bureau of Land Management), located in Yankee Jim Canyon; and Steven's Creek exclosure located in Gardiner Basin by are other sites there. After collecting many samples from several different sites, I am beginning to see a nice spectrum of soil types and properties, and seeing just how much of an effect the invasive species has in soil it colonizes.

Today the denitrification experiments were completed and CO2 analyses were performed on soil cores from Crystal Bench, Lamar River, and Cinnabar that were hopped up on glucose. After completing the experiments, we went on a four mile hike up Specimen Ridge to see a petrified forest. Unfortunately, much of the forest had been removed but we did get to see a few remnants.

Tomorrow we are going wolfing again, hopefully we will see a wolf, the only mega fauna we have not seen. Time for bed because we need to up and ready to leave by 4:30 a.m.

Food at the Lodge

Homemade chicken parm with a side of spaghetti, salad with balsamic vinagrette, and Peter's garlic cheese bread.
A Montana short stack. I thought pancakes would get our Sunday started off on the right stomach.

After our hike up Specimen Mountain we came back and had 1/4 lb bison bacon cheddar burgers, broccoli, and oven fries. Good Eats.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Saturday Science

The day started after a good nights rest (catching up from Wolfing and Grizzing yesterday) with some encouraging results from our denitrification experiment (apparatus above). We started with invaded soils from the Cinnabar site. We applied three treatments, water, Ammonium Nitrate, and Urea. Denitrification is a bacterially mediated process by which nitrogen (plant fertilizer) can be lost from soils as gaseous forms of nitrogen (NO, N2O, and N2). NO is the first step in the process and that is what we quantified using gas diffusion tubes that detect NO. By adding either ammonium nitrate or urea (simulating a urine hit from a grazer) we could determine if soils are losing N. Well the take home is yes they do. Both N treatments produced NO with ammonium nitrate producing twice as much as urea and the water treatment had no detectable production of NO. This is a great result and we can now deploy the system in the field, especially since it is finally warming up. Tonight we are setting up a run with native soils from the remnant/Landslide creek. Stay tuned.

We then headed out to a native site outside of the park which used to be the post office for the area called Carbella. It is Bureau of Land Management land that during fire season in Paradise Valley is used as a fire camp. But it is as close to an intact system that does not have invasives that has comparable soils to Gardiner Basin. The one problem is that Bison do not graze the site because they don't have access (that's another story for another time).  We did find a small cluster of Alyssum by the side of the road where the road grader has disturbed the soil. We spent some time weeding what we could find.

This pic shows the native stand of grasses. They should be grazed.
Tomorrow we will check the weather and then deploy the denitrifcation chambers and start working on Nitrogen mineralization. Perhaps a Sunday hike to the Petrified forest.
Posted by Picasa

Big Horn Sheep

Bighorn sheep used to be ubiquitious in the the American west. Now they are relegated to National parks and forests. Currently YNP has about 200 in the Northern Range and management to increase the populations is currently underway. For more information see this NPS-YELL site.

Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 7, 2010

Wolfin and grizzin + some science part deux

After seeing the bison and calves we spotted 4-5 bull elk in velvet. In this pic you can see the steam rising from his nose. Just after I took this pic they all took off running. Perhaps a wolf or they were just trying to warm up it was just 20F.
Leaving Mammoth Hot Springs we spotted this Bald Eagle just hanging out on a rock.
After the morning fun, we collected bulk soils from the remnant (although invaded) never tilled site and the invaded previously tilled site. We are testing a method to quantify denitrification, the loss of soil nitrogen through the production of gaseous forms of nitrogen. In the pic below the soils (in aluminum pans) are being treated with either water, ammonium nitrate, or urea. You can also see the flasks that have soil in them for determining soil respiration and microbial biomass. The early results are interesting, stay tuned.
Below you can see the 6 inch PVC pipe chambers that we are using for the denitrification experiment. In between the tubes on the top is a "tube" that quantifies NO gas which is a by-product of denitrification. If this method works well and we have good weather we will take it to the field.
Check out all of our pics on Picasa Web
Posted by Picasa

A Friday at YNP

What better way to spend a Friday than to measure carbon dioxide in different soil samples, prepare to find microbial biomass and wind down with Montana fried foods? For the first time on the trip, a grizzly bear was spotted and wolves reported to be on the other side of the hill. My question was; why didn’t anyone run? Who knows, maybe bear spray works well on wolves too.

It is sad to realize that areas that were ALDE (invasive species) free three to five years ago are now swamped. What will it look like five years from now? We need to figure out what can be done to reduce the amount of existing invasives without wiping the natives out and creating bare patches.

On the bright side, the weather has been changing beautifully. I am hoping for blue skies pretty soon and maybe even a sunset. In the meantime, we shall continue doing what we do best…SCIENCE.

Wolfin and Grizzin + some science

This is how the day started, seeing daybreak in the park. We headed out at 5AM after I realized the GPS was not correcting for Daylight savings time when giving sunrise data. No biggie, it gave us some extra time to caffeinate and wake up. The payoff was a park full of activity. Will spotted this Grizzly on the Lamar River just west of the Lamar ranger station. We set up the scope and got the tripod out for the long lense and watched for 1/2 an hour in 14 degree temps. We didn't realize we were cold until we got back in the Suburban. While we were watching the grizz we were serenaded by a wolf pack. No wolf sitings but getting to hear them howl is a once and a lifetime opportunity for many. Video to follow tomorow.

On the way back from the Lamar we saw lots of spooked ungulates. Usually stoic bison cows and their very new calves (called red dogs around here) were running away from what we guess were predators of some sort, wolves, grizzlies, or not so dangerous but annoying coyotes.

 Posted by Picasa

Great friday

The day started off early (4 AM) as we prepared to go wolfing. I definitely should have had caffeine this morning but did not and instead gorged myself on the delicious crumb cake that Peter made last night. As we left, I had high expectations for the morning and was not disappointed. While driving, a fox darted across the road and a grouse was spotted. Later, from quite a distance, Will spotted a grizzly bear. What amazing vision! I certainly would not have been able to spot it. While watching the grizzly bear we heard the howl of wolves somewhere in the distance. It was something quite special and I was not expecting it at all when I got up this morning.

After, we went out for breakfast, and I was able to get some caffeine, which was good, because I had been falling asleep in the front seat of the car. We then went to collect bulk samples and returned to the lab to sieve them. It was tiring work, but we gradually got better at it. CO2 levels were measured, and we started to measure denitrification.

Later, on our way to the Rusty Rail, we made a detour into the park and got to see big horned sheep at a close distance (spotted by Will again!). We even got to see them ram each other a couple of times. It amazes me how they are able to stand on sides of cliffs so steadily without falling. It looked like a couple of them slipped a little at some points, by they recovered themselves very gracefully. We then went to the Rusty Rail, played pool and returned to the lodge for some foodgasmic chorizos.

Great day, definitely.


AN EPIC DAY TO SAY THE LEAST! The day was jammed packed with so much I do not know where to begin- I suppose the best place to start is the beginning. Imagine setting an alarm to wake up extremely early to complete an assignment due that day, well that is kind of what it felt like when we went wolfing! The alarm sounded at 4:00 a.m. sharp. Will was the first out of bed, then Wilson, then me... Dr. Hamilton was up and had already brewed a spectacular pot of coffee. Just before we were about to set out at 4:30 for the Lamar river, Dr. Hamilton double checked sunrise and let us know we had a couple more minutes before heading out (kind of like an extension on a project or paper).

What I saw over a thirty-minute time scale in the park from 5:00 to 5:30 am my words cannot do justice. A sunrise in Yellowstone is majestic. The colors, the images, the sounds! One must see it to believe it.

The first animal to appear was a grouse that scampered across the road. It was followed by a sly fox crossing the road with its breakfast hanging out its mouth. We passed herds of bison, pronghorn, and elk until about a mile before the Lamar River. A herd of bison was trucking across the plain, clearly spooked by something. We hopped out of the car to take a look but didn’t spot anything. We crossed over the Lamar and headed upstream to another prime location. From the back seat of the car and about two hundred yards away, Will sniped a grizzly browsing on the other side of the river. It was the first grizzly I had ever seen in the wild, and it was awesome! We photographed and recorded the grizzly from the road, and just when things couldn’t get any cooler, the silence was broken by a pack of wolves howling behind us!

We heard several cries from wolf packs, but unfortunately did not spot any this morning. We ended our expedition with a breakfast fit for kings at a greasy spoon in town. Wilson had thick pieces of French toast, bacon, and eggs; Dr. Hamilton had a large omelet with cheese, sausage, green peppers and a side of hash browns; I had a short stack that was true to its name but were the size of a bison’s face; and Will thought he’d had a light breakfast and so he ordered biscuits and gravy... the gravy definitely was not light.

After breakfast the sun was shinning in the Gardiner Basin, and the four of us went and grabbed bulk samples from the Cinnabar site and the Remnant site. Along the way Dr. Hamilton picked up some incredibly detailed shots of two ospreys in their nest near our sites.

We returned to the labge and began sieving soil. We then performed CO2 analyses on our soil core samples collected from our first day in the field. Following this, we sieved the bulk soil we collected today from both sites and in order for another assay. We prepared three pans with soil from the Cinnabar site and added a solution of water to one, ammonium nitrate to the second, and urea to the third, and then capped them with a special device designed to measure denitrification from the soil.

The icing on the cake for the day was our delectable dinner prepared by our very own iron chef, Dr. Hamilton. Tortillas filled with bison chorizo, grilled onions, grilled green peppers, fresh homemade pico de gallo, black beans and rice. This meal hit the spot after an extremely long day. Once again, my compliments to the chef!

One thing I know that constantly occurred today was learning. Will, Wilson, Cozy, and I internalized many important, educational facts today; but also many random interesting facts were also revealed to us such as: Dr. Hamilton definitely hasn’t had ten hours of sleep since February 17, 1993; and I can’t remember any more, but please post interesting facts like the one above since I’m having trouble remembering (this is why collaboration occurs in science). Anyway, check out the videos, check out the pics! Let us know what you think!

What a Day!

Today has been absolutely wonderful! From the early 4 a.m. wake-up call to the relaxing downtime right now, each part of the day has really been a treat. While the morning came early, it was quite rewarding. The trip into the park included such sights as a ruffed grouse and a large gray fox for starters. Then, we came across a bit of luck: a grizzly was spotted. We had our first grizzly, and while viewing it, one of the most incredible things happened. The viewing of the grizzly was accompanied by a chorus of wolves howling. We knew that they were in the area from previous sightings of bison running nearby, but those calls certainly made me realize that I was experiencing something many people will not get to experience in their lifetimes. I felt quite privileged.
After finishing up with the morning scouting and a quick stop in town for breakfast, we decided to take some bulk soil samples. Back at the lodge, we set up some experiments dealing with plant respiration and gas levels. I must admit, some of the lab work was quite tedious. However, I am finally getting a good grasp of the work we have been set out to accomplish, more so than what one merely can read on a syllabus. The data will hopefully provide some important insight into the invasive/non-invasive comparisons within soil in the park and its surrounding enclosures.
The evening continued by going back into the park. The initial idea was to check out a potential kill site to see if any wolves would be present. What we came across, instead, was a close-up view of 4 big horn sheep feeding on the side of a ridge. A couple of instances had us watching some males ramming one another, and the entire experience was really neat! Of course, we finished the day with another wonderful meal of chorizo tacos made with fresh ingredients. I have had such a great time on this trip so far, and I can't wait for tomorrow to start!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Field- Day 2

After working up yesterdays soil cores for microbial biomass we waited for the snow in Gardiner Basin to melt (using this webcam) and around 2PM we headed out to sample the Remnant (never tilled or irrigated) but invaded site next to the Yellowstone river. This site still has the native grass species Poa secunda (Sandbergs bluegrass) but has been invaded by Alyssum and crested and annual wheatgrasses the former was planted by NPS in an effort to restore the grassland, it didn't work. It started snowing and blowing when we got there. In the picture above you will Devil's Slide bechind the crew.
In the foreground of this photo is a mix of P. secunda and crested wheat grass (Agropyron cristatum) the tall yellowish grass bunches, Poa is low to the ground because it has been grazed and is not easily seen in the photo.
In this picture you see Alyssum in bloom. In most sites it has yet to germinate or is just starting to germinate but in what seems to be moister sites it is already flowering.
On our way out of the GB we saw two men using big telephoto lenses aimed in the air and I was able to spot what they were shooting. But I have no idea what it is, but from this picture I would say some kind of raptor that I wouldn't want to mess with.

Tomorow we are getting up at 4:30AM to go wolfing and grizzing. Hopefully we will get lucky. Stay tuned.
Posted by Picasa

Lab morning in the lodge

Despite fearing the worst from the snow yesterday, there was no snow-in. There was no snow falling this morning when I woke up. The snow covering the pine trees was rather beautiful. We stayed in the lodge this morning rather than heading out to a field sight. It was nice and warm and I was able to stay in my pajamas all morning, so you won't here me complaining about it. We were amazingly productive. Soil cores were sieved and weighted. We are on a roll today.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Day in the Field

The crew on the Lamar River near Specimen Ridge. We found a small population of Alyssum near the river. GPS coordinates came from the Montana State invasive species survey. Today we sampled this site, Crystal Bench (across the road from this site) and the Cinnabar site in Gardiner Basin. We collected seed bank samples to test for germination of Alyssum, soil cores for microbial biomass and tube cores for Nitrogen mineralization experiments using 15N (stable isotope of N) labeled nitrogen. The germination trials are underway and we will work up the rest tomorrow during the forecasted snowstorm (I'm not convinced about that but we shall see).
Black bear
Bison jam on Yellowstone River Bridge approaching mammoth.
Newborn bison calf playing on the playground at Mammoth.

Here's a link to our Picasa Web album where we will post addtional pictures.
Posted by Picasa