Tuesday, May 18, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
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!
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...
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
Saturday, May 15, 2010
Friday, May 14, 2010
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.
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
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
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.
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.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Sunday, May 9, 2010
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.
Saturday, May 8, 2010
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.
Friday, May 7, 2010
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.
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.
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!
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Tomorow we are getting up at 4:30AM to go wolfing and grizzing. Hopefully we will get lucky. Stay tuned.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Here's a link to our Picasa Web album where we will post addtional pictures.