Collecting Seeds in the Rain and Alaska Adventures

Collecting seeds in the rain is just as fun as I thought it would be! Even though August has been the wettest month in Alaska it has also been a month full of adventures.

During the first Week of August I got to Visit Denali National Park. There was a landslide that made it so you could only get to the 45th mile point. Unfortunately you can’t really see Mt. Denali from there but we still got to ride the bus all the up to where the landslide happened and see more of the park. We even got to see some Caribou!

On our next adventure our Mentor sent Katie and I on a ferry to Cordova, Alaska to collect seeds from another part of the Chugach National Forest that is only accessible by boat or plane. Cordova was very wet and rainy. It rained every day we were there except for our last day. We got to see one of the most beautiful sunsets I’ve ever seen and even got to see tiny sea otters just hanging out in the water. Collecting seeds in the rain wasn’t very fun but all the things I got to see made up for getting so wet.

The bunkhouse that we live in is off of Kenai Lake. We used to have 17 people living in our bunkhouse and we would often have campfires by the lake. Most of the people we live with here at the bunkhouse were doing internships that ended in August and now there are only 6 of us here. The picture of me in my hammock below was taken at our last group campfire by the lake. The second photo is a really cool looking mushroom that I found outside of our office building. I thought it would be cool to share a close up photo of a cut test that Katie and I performed on Bluejoint reedgrass which is one of our smallest seeds that we have collected. The last picture below was taken in front of a beautiful sunset in Anchorage by my parents who came to Alaska to visit me.

This month Katie and I collected seeds from many of the sites that we had been monitoring for collection. In total we have collected from 22 populations a total of 1,562,248 seeds from 12 different species at 12 different locations.

July in the Chugach: Plants, Mushrooms and Scenic Hikes

It feels as if it was just yesterday when we arrived in Alaska. It’s crazy to think that we have already reached our halfway point and that we will be leaving 2 months from now.

Over our time here, we have hiked more than 15 different trails throughout the Chugach National Forest while we continue scouting for priority plant species, collecting voucher specimens, and creating population polygons for flowering and fruiting species. One of our main objectives for this month was to return to previously scouted sites to check on plant phenology. While most plants are still just starting to flower some species such as Lupinus nootkatensis, Calamagrostis canadensis, and Luzula parviflora are currently fruiting and will soon begin seeding.

In preparation for seed collection, we have been conducting research on the number of seeds per fruits, and fruits per plant, to determine whether or not our population polygons are large enough to produce our goal of 30,000 seeds per collection. By the looks of it, we will definitely be able to achieve this goal for these 3 species.

July has proved to be a fruitful month for the fungi of the Chugach National forest. Mushrooms are beginning to pop out of the ground along many of the trails. I even got to see my first Amanita mushroom! From what I have heard these beautiful red mushrooms will start popping up everywhere like weeds very soon.

At the beginning of this month I went on my first backpacking trip where we hiked about 30 miles in total. We started at Devils Creek trailhead and hiked out to Swan Lake (about 15 miles) where we stayed in a cabin overnight and then hiked out to Resurrection Pass North trailhead. It was such an amazing experience!

The weather this month has been unlike anything I have ever experienced. Earlier this morning it was so foggy that I could not see more than 100ft in front of me. Then as I am driving North, I drove out of the fog and into the sunlight and I could immediately see all of the mountains. The Chugach always seems to surprise you with sunshine when you least expect it, and it’s wonderful.

Saving Ducks, Treating Invasives and Making Plant Observations in the Chugach National Forest

It has been a month now since we arrived in Moose Pass, Alaska for the Conservation Land Management internship with the USFS. There has been constant on-and-off rain due to the monsoon this year and the flowers are just starting to bloom making it very difficult for us to begin collecting seeds. One of the first projects our mentor had us work on was to create a field reference guide of our priority plant species list for native seed collection.

During our first few weeks here, we have been assisting the USFS with other projects including putting up fencing along the shore of the Russian River to protect the vegetation from people who come for sport fishing season and treatment of an invasive plant species called Prunus Padas commonly known as European Bird Cherries.

European Bird Cherry, Prunus padas, is a highly invasive, rhizomatous plant that was planted as an ornamental years ago in Hope. Now certain remnants of it remain in the forest and have been visited over the last ~5 years by workers of the Forest Service to eradicate it from the area to prevent it from overtaking the native plants.

One day when we were out in Hope, Alaska searching for European Bird Cherries, our mentor discovered a Harlequin duck with a fishing line caught around its neck and attached to a log along the shore of the river. My mentor picked up the duck, I cut the line off of the duck’s neck, and we returned the duck back to the river.

Rescuing a Harlequin duck

We have also been using iNaturalist to make plant observations on any plant species we find while we are out scouting for possible seed collection sites along the many trails of the Kenai Peninsula. Additionally, we created 3 project pages on iNaturalist. One for users to make and share observations of plants and fungi throughout the Chugach National Forest, and two of which are for specific wildflower viewing areas where we have asked users to upload photos and information on plant phenology.

Below I have provided the links to our Three projects for anyone interested:

When we are not out in the field, we are usually in the office practicing keying out and pressing plant species that we have collected.

June in the Chugach National Forest has been a difficult time for seed collection since most plants are still in early stages of phenology. Hopefully more plants begin to flower in July!