Over the last couple of weeks I have visited 5 separate lakes in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, the purpose of these visits was to conduct surveys for Elodea canadensis. Elodea is a commonly used aquarium plant and is used in many school science lab settings as its leaves are very thin and cells within the plant are easy to view with a microscope. It is thought elodea was originally introduced to lakes in Alaska through dumping of aquariums into lakes. Elodea is capable of asexually reproducing from small cuttings, and due to its brittle nature, even very small parts that break off from the mother plant are able to establish themselves. Float planes transporting the plant on rudders from infested lakes to clean lakes is a growing concern.
Elodea can quickly overtake lakes, blanketing the sun from reaching over native aquatic plants. The entire ecosystem of infested lakes can be greatly impacted in a relatively short period of time. Large changes in aquatic habitat can then create problems for fish species that are relied upon by many people, such as Alaskan salmon.
To ensure Elodea does not enter waterways within the park, we have begun to conduct surveys of lake commonly visited by float planes. This year we went to Grizzly Lake, Copper Lake, Tolsona Lake, Long Lake, and Twin Lakes. Luckily no Elodea specimens were found.
Identifying native plants for collection
Dryas seed. This is a very common plant along the Kennicott glacier. It likes alpine climates.
This past week I was in charge of organizing the Need for Seed in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. I led a group of volunteers around Kennecott National Historic Site collecting seeds that will be used in the park for restoration work. This was the second year for this event and we greatly increased our seed bank for the park, which I was super excited about.
We had a great group of volunteers. They were all very interested in learning more about the plants in the park and I enjoyed telling them the interesting things about the plants I have learned about while here in Alaska.
On July 12th the Exotic Plant Management team helped in hosting the Weed Smack down, which is a one day event to get people in the Copper Basin involved in the effort to control invasive plants. This event is aimed to control White Sweet Clover, which a very aggressive invasive in Alaska, below is the press release for the event.
Thanks to all of the fabulous Weed Warriors who showed up, the 2nd Annual Glennallen Weed SmackDown was a smacking success! On Saturday, July 12, more than 40 community members pulled and bagged 2,032 pounds of White Sweetclover from 35,458 square feet (0.82 acres) of heavily infested areas near the intersection of the Richardson and Glenn Highways, where many travelers pass. This year saw a 4-fold increase in participation in the Copper Basin Cooperative Weed Management Area (CWMA) led SmackDown over last year with a 15 month old as the youngest Weed Warrior. Research shows that White Sweetclover (and its relative, Yellow Sweetclover) competes with our native berry crops for pollinator attention and binds gravel soils along streams and rivers, impacting the quality of spawning areas. White Sweetclover is one of the most common weeds found within the Copper Basin CWMA and has been further spread by the recent road construction in the Glennallen area. The SmackDown achieved its goal of removing the plants before they go to seed and spread further. The event was topped off with a Thai lunch, and participants received t-shirts. Thanks to all who helped!
To learn more about the Copper Basin CWMA and how you and your organization can become involved go to the website or look for our new logo (above), designed by Cordova High School Junior Cadi Moffitt, at cooperator booths at the upcoming Kenny Lake Fair. The Copper Basin CWMA is comprised of 13 public, private, and nonprofit parties in the region. Of those partners, the following key members organized the SmackDown: Laurie Thorpe, Bureau of Land Management Glennallen Field Office; Danielle Verna, Don Hofstetter, and Kate Morse, Copper River Watershed Project; Megan Weidman, Conservation Land Management Intern with the Chicago Botanic Gardens; Ann Biddle, Kenny Lake Soil and Water Conservation District; Robin Underwood, Wrangell Institute for Science and the Environment; and Peter Frank and Miranda Terwilliger, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve. The US Fish & Wildlife Service and the Alaska Association of Conservation Districts provided additional support. We’d also like to recognize the Student Conservation Association and the Southeast Alaska Guidance Association students and the National Park Service trail crew for their participation. The Alaska Department of Transportation signed the shoulders and allowed us to work in the right of way. Thanks also to several private land owners who allowed us to pull on their properties.
I just spent the past week along the Nabesna road. This is one of two roads that snakes itself into the park and it is located about an hour and a half north of the visitor center. My work consisted of driving along the road and pulling off at all of the parking areas and trail-head along the road and doing surveys of the invasive plants. When we find invasives we pull them up if it is manageable, there are some cases where there are just too many of a plant to be able to control it properly. We ended up being able to hit all of the areas along the 48 miles road and pulled about 75 lbs of invasive plants.
This was at 12:07am after the sunset. It stays like dusk then until about 3am.
This past Sunday was also the summer solstice which means the longest day of the year. Never having been to Alaska was not aware of the celebration solstice can sometimes entail. Everyone was wishing me a happy solstice and there were many activities in the towns close nearby, like local bands playing and free food. Mainly the events are meant to hang out with friends while you all wait to watch the sun set, for my area that time was 11:36pm.
Collecting monitoring points of invasive species that were found along the road
As for this week, I will be helping the park’s fishery biologist with a fish survey in Grizzly Lake. I get to take my first float plane ride to the site and will be spending my time on the water collecting, tagging, and taking samples from the fish. I am really excited to get this opportunity to help out, and I am sure it will be a lot of fun.
With Alaska being a 67 hour drive from South West Michigan and only 4 days available after I graduated, I opted to fly into Anchorage. Upon arrival on that Friday I bought a car and got everything sorted to arrive all spic and span for training at 8am on Monday. My first week was dedicated to the various training sessions that are required for NPS staff, things like information sessions about the park, how to talk to guests, and defensive driving. (My favorite line in the online driving course was…”Physics does not know who you and your family are so wear a seat-belt.” Thank you driving course, it is true physics does not know who you are because it is not a living thing. But seriously guys wear your seat-belt, you don’t need a bad line to know that).
My second week was dedicated to training for the Alaska Exotic Plant Management Team (EPMT) that I will be a part of. Alaska is a unique state for so many reasons, including the scale of invasive weeds. For one, the amount and variety are relatively low compared to the lower 48. This allows for the National Parks in the state to keep, document, monitor, and control infestations. This past week I journeyed to Anchorage for training on the GPS devices we will be using and the proper protocols for the project. I am pretty excited to get to work monitoring and killing some weeds.