I was lucky enough to spend the past few days in Yosemite Valley (and a bit in Tuolumne Meadows) to scope out my field sites for the summer and to meet with resources managers from NPS. I feel really fortunate that this is the summer that I will be conducting field work in Yosemite NP since the Sierra Nevadas had an intense winter with near record snowfall. All of the melting snow is causing conditions in the valley and along Tioga road to be quite unique. The Merced River peaked while we were in Yosemite Valley and half of my potential field sites, meadows along the Merced, are under water. The flooding occurring in the Yosemite Valley also caused the access bridge to the walk-in, backpackers campsite that we were staying in to be inundated. My major professor and I had a lovely, unanticipated, 1 mile detour walk from car to campsite (in the dark) on our first night. The mass amount of water running into the valley is not all bad; the runoff from the snow melting in the mountains is causing the many waterfalls along the valley walls to be spectacular this year. Yosemite Falls (the highest waterfall in North America) is the largest that it has been in recent memory for many of the managers at the park.
The purpose of the trip to California was to examine a few of the meadows in Yosemite Valley and identify specific meadows that can be used as field sites for a GPS-tracking study. Managers at Yosemite National Park are interested in understanding visitor behavior and visitor movement in a few of the 8 meadows located in Yosemite Valley. Most of the meadows do not contain park designated trails, yet visitors frequently leave the trails or roads bordering the meadows and wander into these sensitive ecosystems. The GPS-tracking study will allow us to understand where visitors are accessing the meadows, how long the visitors are hanging out in the meadows, where they are stopping in the meadows, and their overall movement pattern in the meadows. From there, resource managers can make more informed decisions about how to manage undesirable resource change caused by visitors in the Merced River watershed.
For more information on Yosemite National Park: http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm