Working in the Dalton Management Area and Making New Friends in Alaska

Here is a picture I took while going a wonderful hike around the Marion Creek camping grounds with new friends. This picture was taken at around 10:00 PM; it doesn't get dark at night out here in Alaska during the summer!!

I just started my new internship in Fairbanks, Alaska about a week and a half ago.  So far it has been an eye-opening and wonderful experience.  I’m originally from North Eastern Illinois, so this is such a huge change in scenery and a huge change in my life.  I’m working with the BLM along with my mentor and wildlife Biologist Ruth Gronquist to help monitor and control invasive non-native plant species inside the Dalton Management Area.  After collecting enough data and analyzing it, I will then help to devise a strategic plan to control or eradicate those pesky alien plant invaders.   

Its been a whirlwind of adventure and learning so far.  I’ve already learned a lot  about Alaska,  non-native invasive plant (NIP) species, and how to monitor specific areas of infestation.  We are mainly concentrating on river and stream crossings right now as these are pathways for non-native invasive plant (NIP) species to spread and travel.  Many have seeds that can float, like the main NIP species we have been working on so far:  Melilotus alba, or White Sweet Clover.  I’ve already learned how to use the GPS Trimble equipment pretty well and we’ve collected a good amount of monitoring data on the spread and infestations of Melilotus alba near stream and river crossings this past week.                                                                                                                              

This is just one of the many river/stream crossings we monitored and worked on. Now how beautiful is that?!

This past week was my first full week in Alaska and I was already out in the field doing field work.  We stayed at Coldfoot Creek, its about a 6-7 hour drive up the Dalton highway (the “haul” road). It is a beautiful and slightly challenging trip, but its very rewarding when you get to see these places most people will never get to see in their lifetime.   Most of our work is done along the “haul” road because that is the main pathway for the (NIP) species to travel.  The haul road was initially created to transport much needed materials for the construction of the Alaska pipeline and is now also used for recreation.  Now NIP species are hitching a ride down the Dalton and they’re quickly causing very serious negative effects on Alaska’s pristine native ecosystem.  Something needs to be done immediately, so we are working hard to prevent the pesky alien plant invaders from spreading more northward and devising a strategic plan to control or eradicate them.  

This is the bridge that crosses the Yukon River. It's part of the very long and slightly challenging Dalton Highway. What a fun bridge to cross!

My leadership skills have been put to the test and they have improved since I had the opportunity to help coordinate volunteer weed pulls at certain locations along the Dalton Highway.  We had excellent help from the Friends of Alaska National Wildlife Refuges.  They were all really nice and wonderful people and they lended a very helping hand to our cause.  It was my first time coordinating and leading anything since I’ve come out to this strange new place.  They made it very easy for me and they were wonderful to work with.  We need more people like them in this world!  I feel that we got a lot done this last week and I’m very proud of them and myself for the accomplishments we made.   

What good friends!!

 I’m writing this blog while sitting in the Phoenix Skyharbor Airport, awaiting my shuttle to our CLM workshop.  I’m super excited to see the Grand Canyon for my first time and to meet new people that are also learning a whole lot and going through major changes in their lives.  It should be awesome!  Well friends, that’s all I’ve got for now. Until next time…   Enjoy all  the pictures I took and you all will hear from me again soon!