Field School Day 4

Four days down, one to go.  I am both elated and depressed over this fact.  I’ve really enjoyed being here and learning all that I’ve learned, but I’m growing tired of all the complaining about various things, specifically having assignments to do out here.  Anyway, I digress.

This morning opened with the sound of someone hacking up a lung many times over, a sound which reverberated throughout the dorm.  Breakfast consisted of a mediocre cheddar cheese “omlette” (some egg folded over with cheddar cheese inside), as well as bananas with orange pieces, yogurt, shredded potatos, and ham steaks.  This was my least favourite breakfast so far this week.

After breakfast my half of the class headed out to the woods to complete our vegetation sampling and do some wildlife habitat assessment.  We started out by using the point-quarter method to estimate tree density and distribution on one side of the road (the other side was completed by the other half of the class in the afternoon).  This was a rather easy and fast exercise, which was good as the temperature bottomed out around -1 °C, making it rather chilly for doing non-energetic work.

With the tree density exercise completed, we proceeded to examine our transect for evidence of wildlife using the area.  My partners and I were perhaps the most thorough of any group as we used sticks and our feet to move debris out of the way as we attempted to find animal scat (poo).  This search was conducted in a 5-m radius of each sample point along our transect; sample points were located at 0, 2, 5, 10, 15, and 35 metres from the centre of the logging road.  The frustrating part was that we started at zero and did not find any scat until we searched the area around the 15-metre sample point.  There we found evidence of black bear activity, though we have no idea how old it was – the most important thing is that it was not steaming, which is very good.  Around the  35-metre point we located two piles of deer scat, probably from different deer, but it is very difficult to be 100% sure which species without more thorough investigation.  Other teams found more bear scat, some chipmunk scat, deer, and possibly wolf (we cannot be 100% sure without more thorough investigation).  Colin, the instructor, said there was also a red squirrel midden on the other side of the road from where my team was working, so after we were finished I went to find it.  Very cool when you know what it is.

Lunch came next and consisted of burritos/tacos, which was one of the best lunches so far.  After that we went out to the Beaver Ponds to collect water quality data for use in our statistics class.  Four groups collected and tested a total of four surface water samples: three from the shore of three different but connected ponds, and one using the swing sampler in the largest pond which we visited last.  The swing sampler allows us to collect a sample 16 feet from shore using a telescopic pole with a sample bottle on one end.  This gives a total of 16 sets of data, but each half of the class did the work, so we actually have a total of 32 sets of pH, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity measurements.  That is a lot of numbers, which we will analyze statistically to try to identify some correlation with the birth rates of beavers (this is a contrived situation, but the birth rate of  beavers in some ponds has actually exploded in the past few years, for unknown reasons).

We were supposed to go on a traditional knowledge hike with an Elder from the Stony Nation, but he was unfortunately unable to make it.  This gave us an extra hour of free time, but I was a little disappointed that the hike didn’t happen.  I was really looking forward to it.  Oh well.  Maybe next time.

For dinner we had a curried chicken breast, potatoes, veggies, and salad, with orange sherbet for dessert.

Tomorrow we will be collecting the sondes which have been collecting data on pH, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen, and turbidity since Monday September 27, 2010.  This is to be followed by a brief lecture and walk to examine steep slopes.  Then we come back for lunch, do some clean up, and head back home.

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