Diatoms help explain a changing climate
Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation has mobilized their athletes in the pursuit of new discoveries, new data, and even new species in the high mountain wildernesses of the Northwest. Dr. Loren Bahls curates the Montana Diatom Collection and is utilizing ASC volunteers ranging from serious trekkers to casual day hikers in his pursuit of information on these important single-celled organisms. Diatoms, which are located in nearly every aquatic environment imaginable, are photosynthetic microbes possessing cell walls made of silica dioxide (glass). Information about diatoms is extremely useful to scientists attempting to glean information on environmental conditions on global as well as local levels.
Andrew Schleif, an engineer from Oregon is in the middle of the trip of a life time. He quit his day job and is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Washington. Along the way he is looking for signs of Pika for ASC researcher, April Craighead. The Pika is an important indicator species for climate change, and the data recorded by Andrew will contribute to an important body of knowledge.
We kicked off our time here in Peru with a high-altitude punch of three gargantuan passes over a five-day circuit around the powerful Ausangate peak. On the third day as we embarked up the circuit's daunting Palomani Pass (peaking at over 17,000 feet), we exclaimed the proverb aloud as if to say, "we will make it over this darn pass!" Almost simultaneously, we were overcome with a serendipitous feeling of being so fortunate to experience the pass on that day. As we looked ahead to the multiple false peaks of the pass, we sensed the hanging glacier falling over the black cliffs to our left, the soft lines of the dune-like mountains to our right... and when we stopped to catch our breath, control our heartbeat, or regain our balance, we'd peer backward at a lone red mountain with another mountain's sharp black spires peaking out from behind it. In this sense, the proverb evolved to, "always remember feeling this alive".
We first heard of the 3 de Mayo festival when we were in Uyuni. Warnings of mass brawls, fights to the death and human sacrifices had swayed our decision to steer clear of the main cities (i.e. Macha) but we hadn't realized how widespread the celebration is in rural Bolivia. Ocurí was just getting ready for the crowds! Our hostal-of-sorts Señora didn't understand how we could leave the day before the festival began, we headed back on the road. According to our undetailed map (a photo of a wall map from Potosí), Surumi was in line north for our next destination. Surrounded by endless mountains and an abundance of trails, and with unreliable maps on the GPS, we now depended entirely on the friendly locals for guidance. Our new "roadblock"- the first language of rural Bolivia is Quechua. Upon leaving Potosí, we only knew how to say "house" (huasi) and "water" (yaku). After a few failed attempts at conversations, we started to preface them with "Quechua no, pérdon. Castellaño?" but the locals still tended to gave us a toothless grin and chat away in their native tongue all the same.
We've already enjoyed a wonderful three weeks in Bolivia - time is flying! I'm going to cover the first half of our Bolivian adventure thus far in this blog post and Shelley is going to cover the second half in an upcoming blog post.
What we love about Bolivia.
ASC's most recent citizen science excursion took us far into the Elk Horn Mountain Range in the Helena National Forrest. We partnered with 12 veterans from the Fort Harrison VA to search for signs of the elusive lynx and contribute to an important body of research to understand the biodiversity present in the Helena National Forrest. We spend two days deep in the woods searching for the big cat's distinctive tracks, for tufts of fur caught on tree bark, and for the holy grail of tracking...a sighting of a lynx.
High Mountains and Low Valleys Posted by Trinity on Friday, December 23, 2011Imagine hiking uphill over several false peaks of boulderfields in 90+ degree weather with no breeze and in direct sunlight. It's tough work. Now imagine being constantly swarmed with large, biting horseflies. This was our first day on the trail into Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo. The three of us were absolutely miserable - we were brushing handfuls of horseflies off our arms, nausious from the heat, and cussing the world. We couldn't even take a worthwhile break because we'd have to drape ourselves in our hot, clammy rain gear for horsefly protection. However, with extreme lows also come extreme highs because we woke up to this the following morning:
After brushing up and learning a few new skills, like hair identification and scat ID, we were off to the field to put them into practice. Scouring fence posts, tree rubs, barbed wire and berry patched, we fine-tuned the difference between black cow hair and black bear hair, elk hair and grizzly hair. What a skill!! Hiking in the woods will never be the same.
With our GPS’s fired up, each team set out for their daily hiking mission. Our team was to hike up to Baldy Mountain and follow a drainage route down searching for Grizz signs. Reaching nearly 10,000 ft in elevation, we followed elk trails, more like an elk highway, up to the peak. Branching into two groups, we followed the ridgeline West. Whitebark pine was in abundance and producing cones, a fantastic find as it is a grizzly food source. Elks bugling and swarms of magpies socializing on the mountaintops, we made our way across the ridge enjoying the stunning landscape before us.
After mild adjustments and a bit of quality control, I managed a sleeping bag bunged to the handlebars, a red duffel bag strapped to the rack, and my blue day pack secured to my waste. I was off to track grizzly bears in the Centennial Mountain Range.
Ten of us met up in town, a crew who had just introduced themselves. We had an EMT, a second year MSU geologist, a bartender, wildlife gurus, and adventurers of every sort. After loading up the trucks, we drove off into the sunset excited for the adventure ahead.
Trumpeting swans greeted the morning sunrise and I stretched out of my cozy hammock, marveling at what adventures lye ahead. The scenery couldn’t have been more spectacular. We were camped at Red Rock Lake, towered over by the peaks of the Centennial Range: Baldy, Taylor, and Sheep Mountain.
A quick breakfast and some coffee, to get the buzz on, and we jumped right into navigation, tracking, GPS skills, and Grizzly encounters. What do you NOT do if you see a bear… any bear? RUN, that is DO NOT RUN. See a black bear, ya get big, as big Big Foot, and make a lot of noise @#)$&$ $!%&!^*!!!!!!
That should do the trick… unless it’s the big boy, the Grizzly. He’s not so easily convinced by such nonsense. Rather, treat him like the school principal after you got caught doing something wrong. Avoid eye contact, talk in a calm and soothing voice, and slowly back away as if unnoticed.
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