Sunday, May 22, 2011

Yellowstone Reflections

Now that our class is over, it's both sad and exciting to look back at all of the things we have accomplished. We hiked, we wolfed, we soil core'd, we root picked, and we learned to work together as one big group. No single group had been able to collect as much data as we have in the past, if not purely because of our numbers. We can only hope that all of our hard work will come to fruition in a solution to the invasive species problem that Yellowstone has been fighting for years. Until then, we have our memories and our pictures to remind us of all the hard work and good times we had in Yellowstone.


Friday, May 20, 2011

Last Day!

The last day of spring term is upon us, and looking around the lab, it is incredible the amount of work we have accomplished in only a few short weeks! Not only have we collected nearly 300 samples, we have begun the process of determining the pH, basal respiration rate, root biomass, Nitrogen content, and ammonia content. Since we have finished the seed bank samples, looking at the amount of Alyssum seeds inside and outside of each exclosure, we have determined that the Cinnabar and Stephen's Creek exclosures have less seeds than that of the seed bank samples we collected outside of the exclosures, as well as Reese Creek. This is certainly promising, as these are the two exclosures that have experienced the longest time period of treatments, and our treatments seem to be on the right path! Reese Creek is the newest exclosure, so it only makes sense that we would find more Alyssum seeds in that area.
Also, we have all now written our reflection papers on the trip to the park, and I'm sure I can speak for everyone when I say, wow! This trip not only helped us to realize the true importance of Dr. Hamilton's work, we also were exposed to some of the greatest and most majestic sights in the entire world! Now that we are working on our lab reports, many key concepts have come together, and the bigger picture of the project is beginning to take hold.
A big thank you to Dr. Hamilton and Mr. Huffnagle for making this truly amazing trip possible! It was a great year!


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Starting in the Lexington Lab tomorrow

Now that we are all back in Lexington, unpacked, and settled, we are ready to formally begin working with our samples in the lab tomorrow morning. After sorting and weighing samples, we can now complete a full workup on each sample. It will be a little strange to work in a real lab again (as opposed to the lodge kitchen).
In the week since we've been back I've reflected on the trip and found there are some things I am missing, such as our fantastic meals and sitting a
round the table together (we al
most fit).
I miss being outside in the mountains. The picture below is from an impromtu pre-dinner walk near the lodge.
Finally, I absolutely miss the scenery. Waking up before dawn was absolutely bearable when we were greeted by this view of the Lamar valley:

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hiking Trips

This Yellowstone experience has not only allowed us to learn about plant ecology and the importance of restoration, but has also given us the opportunity to explore the unique landscape and wildlife this area offers.

Hiking through the woods of Montana we’ve encountered several feet of snow, animal remains, and even a black bear (unfortunately no photo evidence).

One of the many incredible views during a hike near our lodge

The picture shows the depth the snow would reach in some locations and Luke holding bear mace, a necessary deterrent when hiking

An example of the animal remains we discovered throughout the hikes (this is the skull of a pronghorn)

Sunday, May 8, 2011

More About the Trip

Although I have enjoyed the beautiful scenery in Yellowstone National Park, I have also appreciated the interactions with various members of the National Park Service. John Klaptosky has been an instrumental part of the trip, assisting with much of the field work. He shares Dr. Hamilton’s concern with alyssum weed invasion of native vegetation and recently helped our group with the identification of alyssum boundaries using GPS markers. Mr. Klaptosky has some great stories from his time in Yellowstone, and it is worth meeting him to hear his encounter of six wolves in one afternoon!

Speaking of wolves, Rick McIntyre has met with our group during several early morning wolf excursions. As a volunteer for the Yellowstone wolf project, Ranger McIntyre has worked with the wolves for over 8 years. He taught our group about tracking wolves using howls and radio frequency collars. So far, we have met with Ranger McIntyre at about four of our wolf sightings!

Finally, Roy Renkin has been a major help during the permitting process for the project. He was recently appointed as the chief vegetation research scientist. I had the privilege of meeting him during Dr. Hamilton’s presentation to the Yellowstone Center for Resources, and he expressed a genuine interest in the progress inside and outside the treatment areas. Working with people like Mr. Renkin gives me a greater appreciation for the ecological research in Yellowstone.

-Luke Gergoudis

Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday, May 6, 2011

After a relaxing day enjoying the sights of Gardiner, MT and Mammoth Hot Springs, WY, we came back to the lodge to continue work on some more root biomass and ammonia analyses. The data is looking good so far; there are pretty distinct differences between some sites. Hopefully the nitrate tests and further analyses will continue to show useful information. We still have a lot of samples to work our way through, but we are definitely making progress. Outside of our science work, we had a delicious dinner of bison burgers, and are celebrating Luke's birthday with a game night, brownies, and ice cream. Tomorrow begins early with another grizzlin' trip, and hopefully an outing to Old Faithful. I hope we have good luck with animal sightings tomorrow morning! In any case, I'm always amazed at the beauty of this area, so I'll be sure to enjoy any trip we take into the park.

- Kerriann

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Today we hiked part of the perimeter of the Gardner Basin to determine the extent to which alyssum has invaded the basin. Our basic conclusion was that alyssum is everywhere! We walked all the way to the mountains on the far side of the basin and we were still seeing patches of alyssum. I guess all the wind in the basin makes it easy for the seeds to spread. On our walk we also noted the extent of crested wheat grass, another invasive species, and poa, a native grass.

After our hike, we took soil cores through poa, alyssum, and sedge in Steven's Creek and the Remnant to analyze for biomass back in the lab.


In Pursuit of the Grizzly

Above are 3 young pronghorn we saw playing in the Gardiner Basin on our way out to the field site one morning.

A bison with the stunning backdrop of the mountains: a typical sighting on the road from Jardine, where our lodges are located, to our field site in Gardiner.

As could be expected in Yellowstone, we have seen some amazing sights so far, both landscapes and wildlife. So far we have quite a list of wildlife sightings: bison, elk, pronghorn, big-horn sheep, moose, wolves, coyotes, osprey, a red-tailed hawk, a ground squirrel, and a possible marmot sighting yesterday.

We still lack one on our list: the elusive grizzly. Our morning "wolfing" excursions have been re-dubbed as "grizzing" excursions. This morning's group came up 0 for 1, but we won't be giving up easily. We will continue to take advantage of any tip-offs we can receive from our connections in the park in hopes of getting a grizzly sighting before we have to return home. Unfortunately, it may still be too cold for the grizzlies. Yesterday we drove deeper into Wyoming in search of a grizzly, near to Norris, and found the center of the park still covered in snow. However, we saw some beautiful scenery and very interesting geology: several geothermal features and an obsidian mountain.

As far as the restoration project is concerned, we have continued taking soil cores and have been measuring ammonia levels and taking biomass samples. We have a few days left in the field before the lab needs to be packed up and shipped back to VA, where more science will await our return.

More to come, as well as some more pictures when we have faster internet back in Lexington!


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Wednesday Night in Yellowstone

We are so excited to hike the perimeter of the Gardiner Basin tomorrow! We are looking for Allysum to record which sections of the Basin it has invaded. Although we had planned to hike today, we had to postpone due to weather and other unforeseen circumstances. Tomorrow is supposed to be one of the warmest and clearest days yet. Half of our group will be hiking by the Yellowstone River, and the other half will be walking the base of the ridge. None of this has ever been done in this part of the Basin. Can't wait to see which one we get to walk!

Yesterday we created a twitter - wlu_ynp. Follow us!

Caitlyn and Louisa

Geared up for more field work

In the field yesterday we collected what seemed like thousands of soil cores and brought them back to our "lab" (which conveniently converts back into the kitchen at meal times). We spent several hours prepping the collected samples for analysis. This included sieving them, de-rooting them, weighing them, and in some cases watering them. For now, they are stored in a refrigerator until we are ready to work with them again.

Today, we are planning on heading back to the field site to do a perimeter scan. We will walk along the tree-line leading further into the park from the basin as well as the river-bank which denotes the park boundary. A highly accurate GPS (within 3 meters!) will allow us to mark any areas of invasive species that we find. This scan will give us a general idea of the scope of the impact that allysum has made (and consequently the size of our problem).

In other news, we've yet to see a grizzly, but remain hopeful. The warmer weather and sunny days are good signs that they are out. For our next early-morning expedition we have developed a bear playlist to lure them into sight, including favorites such as "bear necessities" and "maneater". Surely the right tunes will bring us success.

I don't want to say that we are desperate yet, but if you happen to know any tips for the best sightings....we wouldn't be opposed to hearing them!


Monday, May 2, 2011

Been Busy

As you can see in this photo there is a new policy that some of us have to wear the new orange vests when doing research in view of the public. But anyway. We have had some good weather and are working our way into getting a bunch of science done. We have started collecting transect samples to quantify the density of the invasive mustard Alyssum desertorum (ALDE).

Above you can see Zach individually picking seedlings of ALDE from a 10 x 10 cm area. Each transect is 20 meters and we sample every 2 meters.

The NPS is in the process of releasing Bison that have been in a coral at Stephens Creek for several months. In this picture you can see in the distance yearlings that were quite excited to have their freedom.

After sampling yesterday we drove in to the park proper (Gardiner Basin is actually not within the gate controlled part of the park) and got to see many young Bighorn sheep playing, getting ready for adult hood.

Good group shot (Minus Dave but we'll get pics of him on here) at the mid section of the upper terrace at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Then it was time for dinner. Lasagna, sausage-beef and spinach mushroom. Kudos to Maggie, Kerriann and Haley.

This morning we went out at 6:15 to look for wolves and grizzlies. We were very fortunate to see two moose cows near Blactail plateau. Moose are quite rare in the northern range, much rarer than wolves (saw 2 or 3 this AM from the Agate pack on Specimen Ridge) and grizzlies (just waking up)

After are early start we got out into the field and got access to the interior of the Gardiner Basin exclosures. In the picture above you can see the winter wheat that has been planted as a part of the restoration project.

Lunch break in the GB. PB&J
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Saturday, April 30, 2011

First Day Video

In just the first day, we had big success in terms of wildlife sightings. Watch the video to get a peek through the eyes of the first-time Yellowstone visitors- the students of Plant Functional Ecology.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Second day success

 Bighorn sheep near Lamar River

 Yearling grey wolf from the pack in the Lamar Valley. Still need to get a name of the pack from Rick McIntyre but it is a new pack that has an alpha female that is a descendant of the original re-introduced wolves. The famous Druid pack.
 Can you find the wolf laying in the snow?
Up close and personal bull bison. We got caught in several bison jams today.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

First morning success

A bunch of us left at 6:20 this morning to go wolfing. As you can see from the black male above we had success. Many more pics to come of baby bison (aka Red dogs) and other wolf shots.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

We've landed

After uneventful flights (fortunately) we spent a couple of hours in Bozeman stocking up on supplies and groceries and headed to Jardine (a gold mining town outside of Gardiner) and the Sunny Slope/Bear Lair Lodge/ Cub's Cache . After picking our sleeping quarters a group of the crew got spaghetti and sauce with cheesy garlic bread going for dinner. A much needed quick meal after a long day of travel. Tomorrow we will head out at 6AM to look for wildlife and then head into Gardiner Basin to get oriented and begin science. Stay tuned as we gear up for a great 2 weeks.
Good night.

We're off.

Half of U's are in Charlotte wIting to board for Denver and the other half is in the air headed to Chicago. We all meet in Denver for the same flight to Bozeman. That's when the fun begins.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Dear Federal government. Please don't shut down. It will delay getting our research permit and if you stay closed after April 27, we won't be able to work on restoring Gardiner Basin.