Another Summer, Another Field Season

First new blog post in over a month!  My 6th round of grad school-related summer field work started on July 1st and I feel like June was sucked into some sort of field work preparation black hole.  For the last two weeks of June, I spent pretty much every waking minute preparing for one of the most involved projects that I have worked on thus far.  Usually the data collection needs on my projects require one or two protocols and a few weeks of work.  My latest project, however, requires 6 separate data collection techniques and since I will be leaving a (very capable) field crew up there for two months to take care of most of the data collection I had to be extremely organized this year.   But I will try to not complain about all the work too much – really I should feel privileged that I’ll get to travel to Grand Teton National Park every other week.

The Teton Range from Heron Lake (Coulter Bay area).

The Teton Range from Heron Lake (Coulter Bay area).

Another thing that is slightly different about this project is that it is a tad “high profile”. Many people in the communities around Grand Teton National Park are very vested in how the park will use our results and how our data will influence park management decisions.  As such, I am not comfortable giving specific details about what I am doing this summer in my blog.  But here is an official press release put out by Grand Teton National Park announcing the beginning of our data collection along the Moose-Wilson Road.  The day after the press release went out, we had people stop by and visit with us during data collections saying “we read about you in the paper!” followed by their opinion of what exactly the park should do about the Moose-Wilson Road cooridor.

Instead of talking about data collection (which is pretty boring anyhow) I will talk about some of the perks of this project and working in Grand Teton National Park.

1) The wildlife

Grand Teton National Park is home to a ton of wildlife and wildlife that is easily seen from the road (which is convenient since our field site is basically a road).  During my first week in the field I saw 5 grizzlies, 3 moose, a handful of pronghorn, a ton of elk, a beaver, nesting osprey, a couple of foxes, trumpeter swans, sandhill cranes, too many Canada geese, mountain bluebirds, and a very noisy ground squirrel (he did not like me working near his home).

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Osprey at their nest – they provided me with hours of entertainment while collecting data.

2) The wildflowers

I love wildflowers and they were blooming everywhere this week in Grand Teton! Every time I go to a new field site the first thing I learn is the trail system in the area and the second thing I learn is the wildflowers. Lucky for me, many of the wildflowers in Grand Teton are the same as the wildflowers in the mountains of Colorado and Utah. There were a few new ones that I needed to learn and a few I needed to refresh my memory on but by the end of the first week I pretty much knew all the flowers that were blooming in the valleys.  Hopefully I can get up to slightly higher elevations on my next trip and see what is blooming up there.

Indian paintbrush, maybe the easiest wildflower to learn?

Indian paintbrush, maybe the easiest wildflower to learn?

3) Jackson, Wyoming

My housing in Grand Teton National Park is located about an hour away from Jackson. So trips into town are not frequent but Jackson provides a nice respite from field work on the few days we have off.  Jackson has everything a field researcher needs on their day off: groceries, gas, coffee shops with free wi-fi, chocolate shops, a brew pub and most importantly – a yarn store!  Unfortunately, my first trip to the local yarn store (LYS) was poorly timed – it was 4th of July and they had closed early for the day. However, I will come prepared for my next trip to Knit on Pearl with a project in mind.

Knit of Pearl (it's actually on Gill Street...) in Jackson, Wyoming.

Knit of Pearl (it’s actually on Gill Street…) in Jackson, Wyoming.

4) Awesome field crew!

This project was a tad last-minute, the park needed data collection and needed it right away.  So in April I was scrambling to find a field crew (most undergraduates I had worked with before already had summer jobs lined up).  However, I was able to put together a rock star field crew led by Annie – the field tech that has been working for me for almost 6 years now. They learn quickly, are eager to help, and enthusiastic. Also, they all get along great and are fun to be around.  I am really looking forward to working with them this summer and hopefully they have an enjoyable time working on the project.

Annie working hard and being as awesome as always.

Annie working hard and being as awesome as always.

Hanging out in Jackson with the field crew on our day off (Annie was in West Yellowstone with family).

Hanging out in Jackson with the field crew on our day off (Annie was in West Yellowstone with family).

Freddie, gift from a couple of my techs, after the first week of work.  They wanted to get me a squirrel (I have been having a war with them at my house in Logan) but a chipmunk was the closest thing they could find. :)

Freddie, gift from a couple of my techs after the first week of work. They wanted to get me a squirrel (I have been having a war with the squirrels at my house in Logan) but a chipmunk was the closest small mammal they could find. 🙂

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