Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Bison, and Mosquitoes, and Shriners, Oh My!

Lost Lake
Day 14
Yellowstone National Park
Miles Hiked: 10 (80.7 overall)


Nearing the completion of their Master’s theses, two young, wild women struck out on the adventure of a lifetime. Meridith and Rachel’s 2012 Besties National Park Roadtrip was a transformative journey around the Western US National Parks. 10 states. 9 National Parks and 1 National Monument. One summer of fun!


Ecologist in action
After a day of full on touristing, it was time to get serious.  Our alarms went off at 4am, and we slithered out of our sleeping bags.  We dressed and washed up in a bleary haze before piling in the car with blankets and binoculars.  As per the recommendations of Jim and Dot (the adorable park ranger couple), we drove the 35 miles from Bay Bridge to Tower Falls and hung a left.  Along the stretch of road between Tower-Roosevelt and Mammoth, we found a pull off parking spot and were in position just as dawn broke over the sagebrush and meadows.  Wolf watching.  The wolves of Yellowstone get my scientists imagination running.  During the mid-90s the National Fish and Wildlife Service reintroduced wolves (mostly from the Canadian population) to Yellowstone, and the ecological impacts we are seeing appear to be profound.  For an excellent look at why top predators are important, check out this piece by Estes and colleagues.  Beyond the science, I think the mythos of these top predators really plays on some of our most basic, primal thoughts.  What I really want to say, is I’m a stereotypical, hippie wolf-lover.  Seriously, wolves, wolves, wolves.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Joining the Ranks of Tourists and Fangirls in Yellowstone

Obligatory "NP Sign" Photo
Day 13
Yellowstone National Park
Total Miles Hiked: 3.5ish (70.7 overall)

After the rain
Nearing the completion of their Master’s theses, two young, wild women struck out on the adventure of a lifetime. Meridith and Rachel’s 2012 Besties National Park Roadtrip was a transformative journey around the Western US National Parks. 10 states. 9 National Parks and 1 National Monument. One summer of fun!

Yellowstone, the Disney of U.S. National Parks. America’s first national park welcomes over three million people each year, and Rachel and I were certain we wanted to be part of the excitement during our adventures. When we were first planning our trip (which was a very exciting and motivating time during that spring semester) we knew we wanted to take our time exploring this particular gem. Three days seemed adequate, but I’m sure we also could have spent the entire summer there hiking and learning. Even after all of the hiking we had just completed at Rocky Mountain NP, plus arriving at Bridge Bay Campground at 2 am, we couldn’t wait to explore this national treasure!

Right on time!
I hope we don’t need to remind you folks, but on our Awesome Besties National Park Roadtrip we weren’t messing around. We went on an early morning jog along the Natural Bridge Trail (this was when we were being extra amazing...I don’t think it lasted all summer), which was both invigorating and a prime opportunity to try and spot a moose!  Post-jog and granola hoovering, we struck out toward the epicenter of all that is Yellowstone: Old Faithful. And wow, the crowd here couldn’t have been more different from others we’d seen at the previous parks. People of all ages, itty little dogs on leashes, bikers, hikers, photographers, families, and us were all milling around until the next eruption time. Conveniently, eruption timers were plastered all over the viewing area. Old Faithful really did live up to it’s hype and was spectacular to view.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Day in the Life: Summer Field Work

Restored marsh area.

Despite what Starbucks is trying to tell you, fall doesn’t officially start in the Northern Hemisphere until September 22nd at 10:29 pm (equinox party anyone?).  And yet I felt now might be a great time to reflect on the summer.  At this point, if you’re a semi-regular reader you probably know a bit about my interests, but today I want to share a peek inside my summer work.  It was fun, it was muddy, and it was also just a ton of work!

I'm just for scale, look at the height on that hybrid Spartina!

But before I can really tell you what I did, I need to tell you why I did it.  As a PhD student, I’m nurturing a little research agenda that I hope will mature over time.  Right now, it’s at that horrible tween stage where it wants to be a grown up research agenda, but I keep driving it to the mall and embarrassing it in front of its friends.  Regardless, when people ask about my work at parties or family functions, I tell them I study the impacts of invasive plants in tidal wetlands.  Tidal wetlands are hugely important in terms of impacts to biodiversity (nursery habitat for many organisms) and ecosystem services (carbon storage, flood abatement, water filtration, and the list goes on…).  Ironically, in California, only about 10% of our historic tidal wetland area remains, and to add insult to injury wetlands are one of the ecosystem most impacted by invasion.  

But, why invasive plants?  Plants are primary producers, hanging out at the base of the food web, and when they change, other things change in really interesting ways.  My master’s research focused on the impacts of an invasive plant on songbird food webs.  I found the plant impacted the insects, which the birds ate, thus impacting the birds.  I was intrigued!  That’s how I knew a PhD was right for me, after my MS, I have about 1,000 more questions.  In my current research, I try to understand:  How do changes in invasive plant density impact the effects these plants have on ecosystems?  How does restoration approach impact ecosystem recovery after the removal of an invasive plant?  How does understanding the function of invaders in ecosystems impact management choices?  I have approximately a billion other small questions that I try to address, but those are the biggies.



Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Share a Science Documentary Day

Science documentaries. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that you love them. You’ve watched both iterations of Cosmos; you’ve joined Stephan Hawkings on an exploration of the universe; you’ve learned about the rovers, landers, orbiters, and space stations exploring our solar system; you’ve experience Sr. David full-on gushing over a hedgehog. If I were to write a blog post trying to convince you to check out some of Sweet Tea Science’s favorite science documentaries, you would scoff because you are so on top of that. And that’s awesome! Seriously, let’s take a moment to appreciate our collective thirst for knowledge!

However, let’s not get so ahead of ourselves that we forget to share this excitement, enthusiasm, and thirst with others!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Winning Your First Professional Conference

If you're in Portland for a conference, you should
probably go hike at Mt. St. Helen's
Hello September!  Can you believe it?  I know I can’t.  Classes are ringing back into session all over the country, and most people are gearing back up after the summer.  For me, September is going to be a month of getting things back in order after a really intense stretch in July and August.  I wouldn’t say I’m gearing down, but without vacation, 8+ hours of manual labor, or time sensitive lab samples to deal with, I’m hoping I can refocus and reorganize.  One project I’m giving special attention this month is updating the analysis of chapter two of my Master’s Thesis, which I will be presenting at a conference in October (and submitting for publication before the end of 2014...I think I can...I think I can…). (Editor’s note: I know she can!) Professional conferences are very helpful as benchmarks for your research.  They give you something to work toward in the short term, and they also provide a great forum for research in progress (either in progress of collecting data or analysing it).  Aside from this, professional conferences are great opportunities for loads of other reasons, which are completely applicable for those who don’t have research to present yet.  If you are gearing up for your first conference this fall, or if you are on the fence about the usefulness of attending, here are my thoughts on how to get the most out of your first academic conference.    

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...