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