Today was another non-hiking day, mostly because Thursdays are the colloquium day at AMK Ranch. The colloquium starts at 5:30 and we would hardly have been able to hike out and back in that amount of time, let alone do much sampling. Instead, Kyleen attempted again to get in contact with the GTNP ecologist to discuss alterations to the sampling permit and the location of other potential populations of white bark pine in the area. I worked on some other stuff I brought with me, particularly a peer-review I was asked to do, and beginning a manuscript on nitrogen analysis of tree rings.
Our prep for tomorrow is well on its way. We have coordinates of the lake ready for our off-trail adventure. We borrowed bear spray and a space blanket from Shannon, the AMK ranch intern (just in case!).
And I changed packs. There’s a bit of a story behind this. Before we left Kansas, I was talking with Anthony (my husband), who has done lots of back country hiking for personal enjoyment as well as field work. He loaned me his giant hiking backpack in case we decided to camp nearer our site and needed to carry a lot of gear. He recommended I use it on our day hikes too, but I thought it was too big and bulky. Anthony argued that even if the pack is a little heavier, it allows you to portion a lot of the weight on your hips (via a waist strap) and save the stress on your shoulders. I disagreed and on our first hike on Monday used my regular bag. Look at how the weight just HANGS down my back – no wonder my shoulders hurt so bad by the end!
So, yesterday I got out Anthony’s big pack, took off all of the removable pockets and sections and wouldn’t you know, it’s almost as light as my regular backpack. And with it’s giant waist strap, most of the weight will be on my hips and not my shoulders. It took me like 20 minutes of fiddling with straps to get it adjusted to my size, but it looks like it will work really well. It seems (grumble grumble grumble) that Anthony may be right 🙂 I will fully test this theory tomorrow on our hike.
Anyway, this evening, we also attended the previously-mentioned colloquium. Today’s speaker was Dr. Arthur Middleton, a post-doc at Yale working on elk migration. He gave an excellent talk on the differences between reproductive rates in resident (non-migrating) vs migrating elk populations. The normal theory is that migration allows populations to access better forage and escape predators, and so they should be ‘better off’ than non-migrating populations. In this case, non-migrating elk can access agricultural fields with high-quality forage, and are protected from predators (like bears and wolves) that are actively removed from human-inhabited areas. Elk that migrate into Yellowstone however, have none of these advantages and are showing reduced reproductive rates. That was an over-simplification of all of his awesome research 🙂 It was a great talk and a lovely evening!