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> July 13, sampling transects
post Jul 17 2005, 07:32 AM
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TREC Teacher

Group: TREC Team
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Joined: 27-April 05
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July 13, 2005

Today is bright and sunny, totally blue sky and absolutely gorgeous outside. Itís maybe in the low 40ís, at least warmer than yesterday. We had a leisurely breakfast of coffee and oatmeal (with craisins). Our camp is pretty simple. We each have our own tent and our kitchen (about 20 yards away) consists of a cooler, a few boxes of food, and a backpacking stove. We get our water from the small pond to the east of us. I didnít bring a camp chair but the seats from the shredded kayak work nicely!

After breakfast, I worked on my journal and trying to upload while Brian laid out a plan for todayís work. Ultimately, we need to sample 20 kilometer-long transect lines, five on each of four islands. The transect lines are to be laid out across the islands parallel to the each other at different latitudes, so going from west to east. On each transect line ten samples will be taken between 50 and 100 meter intervals, depending on landscape features. We are hoping to complete the sampling on the island that we are camping on over the next two days.

As we were getting ready to go, we had visitors. I never expected to see any other people out here besides us! But yesterday, after we had been dropped off, a plane landed to the west of us on another island and dropped off some biologists that would be surveying snow goose nests for nesting fate. Nesting fate is the outcome of the incubation period, or whether or not the eggs hatched or were destroyed by predators before hatching. Looking at nests and deciding how many shells are from hatched eggs gives biologists an idea of how successful the breeding season was this June.

So, today the biologists from ABR, Inc. Environmental Research and Services (a company that contracts out biological work) are surveying our island. They crossed the slough with a little rubber kayak, making two trips to get all three of them over, and were walking in our direction. Brian knew two of them, Tim Obritschkewitsch who heís worked with in the past, and John Shook who is collaborating with the North Slope Boroughís Department of Wildlife Management on snow geese. We also met Andrew Cyr who is doing field work for ABR. (Andrew also knows Helen from ARCUS in Fairbanks. Alaska is a small state when it comes to the human population, so itís easy to run into people you know, even in the Ikpikpuk!) We talked for a little while and exchanged satellite phone numbers in case of emergency, and they went on their way to begin searching for snow goose nests. I guess weíll see John again on the snow goose banding project in August.

[Had to run out and start the generator, my computer battery is getting low! I write this in my tent because I wouldnít be able to see the computer screen with the glare from the sun.]
We got ourselves packed and headed out as well. Our first transect line was south of our camp just past the southern extent of the snow goose nests. We set the first point near the west side of the island and planned to head easterly for one kilometer. That sounds easy enough but we have lots of water in the way, including tiny ponds, small lakes, and sloughs.

Brian used a GPS to mark the locations of our sampling sites and also to measure our distances between points, and to try to keep us on or near the same latitude bearing. Moving around ponds and marshy areas made more lots of stopping and checking with the GPS. At each site we tossed a small 10-cm quadrat (a wooden frame with a 10-cm square space in the middle) to pick a random sampling location. Then, a large one-meter square quadrat was placed with the small quadrat in one corner.

Hereís a picture of the large quadrat, one square meter.
Attached Image

The first thing that we did was write down the GPS coordinates and the elevation reading. We counted the number of goose feces that we could see in the large quadrat and then Brian determined the habitat type. Yesterday, we sampled either dry graminoid or wet graminoid habitat types, some ungrazed and some moderately grazed. Graminoids are grasses and sedges and a graminoid habitat is dominated by grasses, but thatís not all that is present. There were willows, mosses, and other small herbaceous plants (non-grasslike, non-woody plants).

After taking down that data, we collected samples. A soil sample was taken with a soil-sampling tube which is a metal tube with a cut-out in the side for removing the soil core. Samples were taken randomly from inside the large quadrat and the top 8 cm was put in a plastic bag to bring back to camp to be weighed for wet weight. These soil samples would be brought back to Barrow for measurement of dry weight and soil salinity. Soil nitrogen and carbon content will be measured pending funding. We also took vegetation samples using the small quadrat. We clipped all of the standing vegetation (excluding moss) inside of the 10-cm quadrat down to the soil level and placed the clippings in a paper bag. These samples will be processed in Barrow. We will separate the clippings by species and a dry weight will be taken.

Brian clips above-ground vegetation in small quadrat.
Attached Image

We ended up walking around the slough, which was too deep for us to cross in hip waders, a few times and walking around lots of other ponds and lakes, so by the time we got back to camp we had been gone for six hours. Wow, we didnít get much done today, only one transect. But, Brian says that the first transect is a learning experience, figuring out how to navigate the waterways and teaching me how to collect samples, so the next ones should go much quicker. Weíll see how tomorrow goes!
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