Tuesday, April 27, 2010

YNP Spring 2010

BIOL332 Plant Functional Ecology goes to Yellowstone National Park.
The Blog begins.
We are getting ready to ship out the lab. This year we are focusing on decompositon of plant tissue and Nitrogen mineralization (the tranformation of organic matter into inorganic NH4+ and NO3-). We need to get tubes ready for the N-mineralization experiment and make litter bags for the decomposition experiment. Below Peter is cutting the bottom off of 50 plastic centrifuge tubes, Will is cutting screening for the litter bags, and Wilson and Cozy are stapling the fiberglass screening together to make pouches to put dead plant tissue into.

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  1. Greetings to my audience- conscious of the fact that prior to this I have zero blogging experience, I apologize to all of you in advance for any deviations from blogging etiquette.
    Tomorrow at 3:30 a.m. Cozy, Will, Wilson, Dr. Hamilton and I will meet on the top floor of the parking garage in order to depart for Yellow Stone National Park (Lexington, VA to Gardiner, MT). I am early anticipating my visitation to one of the most beautiful and inspiring areas in the world. Complementing this truly epic experience is the opportunity to conduct research within the park. As a true snurp (i.e. egghead or highbrow) I feel confident in saying I must be in heaven, because I still do not believe I will be in a paradisiacal place with wonderful people doing something I love.
    In YNP we will be working with an invasive plant species known as Alyssum desertorum. It is a grass from the mustard family, and is indigenous to Eurasia. We will be investigating the effect A. desertorum has on the nitrogen cycle by comparing how prokaryotic communities residing in A. desertorum’s rhizosphere effect N-mineralization versus the native flora’s rhizospheric prokaryotes. The reason we are investigating this is because A. desertorum has colonized in the Gardiner Basin of YNP, creating near monocultures of itself. This is a problem for herbivorous, ungulate species like pronghorn and bison because it removed a large foraging area.
    In YNP we will also explore the litter decomposition rates of A. desertorum versus the native flora’s rates; and the effect geothermal features have on soil prokaryotes, more specifically, investigating variance within population dynamics relative to distance from the geothermal feature.
    With only a short period of time to perform several experiments things might become hectic (maybe even out of control)- no matter what I look forward to getting out there tomorrow, and starting up right away. I’ll keep everyone posted with anecdotes and updates.

  2. I dont know whether or not I should be excited about this trip. I love science, so I should be...but I hate being cold, so I cant be. Oh well, l hope the love of science will prevail since I packed all my winter clothes and bought brand new microwaveable mittens and booties :)

    I've heard and read a lot about this place, so I cant wait to finally experience it. My updates may not be as long and as interesting as Peter's but hey you gotta get different perspectives. Watch this space...

  3. It is approaching 2 am, and I'm counting down the time to meet at the parking deck: we will be leaving at 3:45 from the deck. I am excited to get the opportunity to do field work in one of the most awesome landmarks in North America. YNP is rich in history, and the beauty of the park will undoubtedly have a strong power over me when I have the opportunity to work there.

    In YNP, we will be doing lots of research working closely with the rhizosphere and the different forms of nitrogen in the soil. This will be very interesting research, comparing invasive species of plant with the local species and their nutrient levels.

    I love the outdoors, and YNP has always been one of the places on the top of my list to visit. Here, I get the opportunity to visit the park in a unique way. I will be more than just a spectator of the awesome beauty of this park, but I will also have the opportunity to do research there. This is really a neat privilege!

    I can't wait to get to YNP (even with 3 different flights and a car drive to get there).

  4. Twenty-five hours after leaving Lexington, we arrived at our lodge. The entire time I kept thinking that if we had taken a different route, given it a few more hours...BAM we would have been at Kruger Nation Park in South Africa or the Serengeti in Tanzania. But hey, both can wait because the great adventures of Yellowstone National Park are beckoning.

    Today I took my very first picture of bison and their babies. Someone smiled and said, "bison babies mean we will see wolves." Natural selection (sigh).
    But back at the lodge, we are about to unpack so we can attack the field sites tomorrow...EXCITEMENT!!!

    To all my friends at Washington and Lee who laughed when I told them I was taking this class...I WILL have the last laugh. I WILL brave the cold, I WILL go hiking, I WILL be seen walking in the woods and I WILL spray the grizzly with pepper spray if it comes after me (praying the last part never happens).

    Watch what happens...

  5. 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.