CEDaR Lab Field Diaries: Updates from Kananaskis Country

Hello CEDaR Labbers, loyal blog followers (there must be a few of you out there), friends, and family!

Today marked our third field day in Kananaskis, AB. This week we’ve seen a lot of what fall in Alberta has to offer, from blue to snowy skies, and quite a few trees in between. We arrived on Saturday, and after setting up our campsite took a bit of time to tour around.

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Views of Lower Kananaskis Lake near our campsite in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park.

Best intentions aside, we did not get to work on Sunday as planned due to a large amount of rain and snow that fell overnight onto our tents and, possibly more pressing, onto our research sites. A tricky thing about working in the mountains this time of year is that when it rains in the valley it often means snow is falling at higher elevations. After escaping from our snowy cocoons, we drove to Canmore in search of public buildings with heat to share.

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This is a picture of two sad tents. We are happy to report that Canmore has a beautiful community centre.

Much to our delight, the past three days have been remarkably beautiful and we’ve gotten lots of our work done. During this trip we’re resurveying existing seed addition plots, collecting soil samples, measuring soil temperatures, and making a genuine effort to better learn and inventory the very diverse plant life growing at our field sites.

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Beth pictured above doing an excellent job of note-taking while simultaneously not falling down the mountain (harder than it sounds).

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The view from our field site at Fortress Mountain in Kananaskis. All that sun is melting the snow, and that is good news for fieldworkers! 

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Herbivore exclosure plots at Highwood Pass, in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park. (Note the stack of yogurt containers in the bottom right. These are the remains of a failed seed trap experiment … not a single seed was trapped, but, sadly, about 100 dead beetles were).

Over the next few days were are finishing up our work here, and heading to Kootenay National Park and then on to Jasper.

Wishing you blue sky days!

Emma and Beth

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CEDaR Lab Field Diaries: Updates from Jasper National Park

Location: Jasper, Alberta (52.8737° N, 118.0814° W)

Field Day 6

Hello from Jasper! This is Emma and Madison reporting from the free wireless zone of the Jasper Activity Centre.

Today we are taking a day off from fieldwork in town to meet with Parks Canada staff, get groceries, and have the genuine Jasper spa experience that so many travel from far and wide to experience – a shower at the Jasper Community Aquatics Centre. For the last few days we have been staying at the Beauty Creek Wilderness Hostel on Highway 93A, which is located about 100 km south of the town of Jasper, and 15 km north of our field site at Wilcox Pass. In what is sure to be a rare experience for fieldworkers everywhere, we have found ourselves with an extra day to spare and have been taking advantage of our extra time to work on our theses, manuscripts, and scrabble abilities (Current CEDaR Lab scrabble standings: Maddie – 1 win, 2 losses; Emma – 1 win, 2 losses … Will Gillam, we hope you’re ready for lunchtime Scrabble games when we get back!).

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Views from Beauty Creek Wilderness Hostel

The extra bit of flexibility in our schedule allowed us to be a choosy in selecting our field days over the weekend. This is lucky considering the unpredictable weather rolling off the Columbia Icefield for the last few days (Wilcox Pass, where our Jasper site is located, is directly across the highway from the Athabasca glacier). We heard tales of blizzards, rain, and below freezing temperatures, but squeezed in a day of relatively decent work weather yesterday and were able to finish off our field efforts. (An aside for interested readers: the purpose of the project here is to identify non-climatic controls that cause variability in how tree establishment responds to climate change. The main idea is that factors like seed availability, predation, soil characteristics, interspecies competition, etc. will constrain treeline advance as temperatures warm, causing local/regional variability in tree species range shifts. One reason why this matters is that most predictions of species distributions only consider climate as the driving force behind species range shifts. If these other factors are determined to be important, those models are unlikely to be very accurate and can be improved by considering a wider range of factors.) While we are here, we are collecting soil samples for soil bulk density measurements, surveying our already established seed addition experiment, and burying iButton temperature dataloggers to measure soil temperatures.

 

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Maddie checking out the views on the hike down from our field site at Wilcox Pass.

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A chilly but successful day at Wilcox Pass.

We will be here for another week or so, and are gearing up for our biggest “field expedition” into Goodsir Pass, in Kootenay National Park. The field site is accessed by a 12 km hike to Helmet Creek, where we’ll stay at an olden-timey Parks Canada patrol cabin. We’ll have another 4 km to go beyond that to get to our field site (a literal uphill battle; the last 1 km of the hike is uphill bushwhacking through the forest), which has some of the best mountain views of our trip. After I (Emma) graduate, someday in the future and many years from now, I plan to do the full hike of the Rockwall trail that passes through Helmet Creek and continues on to Yoho National Park. Until then it’s tree seeds, dataloggers, and dried soup mix!

Until our next update,
Emma and Maddie

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Steep slopes and predator exclosures at Fortress Mountain, Kananaskis Country, AB. 

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A germinating subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) seedling at Fortress Mountain.

 

(Important notice: All photos were taken by award winning, world-renowned nature photographer, Madison Downe)

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CEDaR Interpretive Program at Halfway Lake Provincial Park

This past weekend, CEDaR lab members Vanessa Stretch (PhD candidate) and Theresa Dinh (MSc candidate) were in Halfway Lake Provincial Park to deliver an interpretive program on tree rings. Even with a threat of rain in the skies, over 50 participants showed up to learn more about the environmental information trees store, as well as try out tree coring firsthand! Specifically, they learned about the effects of disturbance (like a fire that burned over 550 hectares of forest in Halfway Provincial Park in 2007).

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Environmental Change Affects Maple Trees

CEDaR student Laura Benakoun was featured in an at Guelph article: http://atguelph.uoguelph.ca/2014/05/environmental-change-affects-maple-trees/

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CEDaR Lab Representation at AAG 2014

Picture1At the beginning of April, Theresa Dinh (MSc candidate) and Vanessa Stretch (PhD candidate) left the cold, long, grey winter of southern Ontario to present their work on wildfire in the Alberta Rocky Mountains at the 2014 AAG annual meeting in a sunny and warm Tampa, FL. They presented in one of two paleoecological investigations of wildfire sessions organized and chaired by Vanessa and research collaborator, Emma Davis (MSc
candidate at Carleton University).

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Shameless Self Promotion

Picture1After eight years of procrastination, Marlow Pellatt (Parks Canada and Simon Fraser University) and I finally published our thoughts on Garry oak ecosystems.  The paper is open access so you can get it for free from here:

Environmental change in Garry oak (Quercus garryana) ecosystems: the evolution of an eco-cultural landscape

In it we talk about the role of Canada’s First Nations in shaping Garry oak associated ecosystems, the effects of European settlement on the landscape, and the idea that conservation targets are culturally determined but also provide an opportunity to engage in cultural outreach and restoration.  Share and enjoy!

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CEDaR Student Publications!

Hook_Kimberlite_SmCEDaR student Laura Benakoun and CEDaR affiliate Benjamin Hook both published papers in the the journal Tree Ring Research. Laura’s paper came out of work that she did at the 2012 North American Dendroecological Field week. Benjamin’s paper describes a method of preparing mummified wood for tree-ring analysis, which he is undertaking as part of his doctoral research in Jochen Halfar’s lab at the University of Toronto.

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