Rain, Invasive Species, More Rain

Hello my lovely fellow interns,

Since we last virtually spoke (as in I post and you maybe read), I have been doing a lot more work with invasive and rare plants.  I’ve familiarized myself with NISIMS and conning ArcMap/ArcPad into doing what I want and have been out to Chicken, AK (tiny town southwest of Fairbanks) and Coldfoot, AK (even tinier town (10 people at last census) north of the Arctic Circle) collecting NISIMS data.  Mostly we are focusing on white sweetclover and bird vetch so I’ve gotten really good at identifying white and purple blurs along the roadside as we cruise by in the trucks in the rain.  White sweetclover and bird vetch are both marching quite steadily up the Dalton Highway, which leads way north up to Deadhorse, the northernmost city in Alaska accessible by car (about 8 miles from the Arctic Ocean).  This is obviously bad news.  White sweetclover grows pretty much continuously from Fairbanks (Dalton Highway milepost 0) to Coldfoot (milepost 175) and beyond.  Bird vetch is less continuous so we were focusing on that—recording where it is and how dense it is.  We found it as far north as milepost 196, yikes!  After we gather data the hope is to develop a management plan to figure out how to handle this problem.  The Dalton is used mostly by the oil industry to haul supplies to and from Deadhorse and the oil infrastructure on the North Slope (in fact it used to be called the Haul Road) so you can probably see how invasive plant species might be abundant there.


Dalton Highway leading north into the Brooks Range

The rare plant front is progressing a little more slowly.  We learned that the GIS rare plant data that we have is fuzzed and thus not very useful for navigating to sites to monitor rare plants.  Now it seems we have resolved the problem so I will soon be able to get out to the field, hopefully tracking down some of these populations to monitor them and scouting areas where new populations might be hiding.

For the month of August I will also be working with another wildlife biologist in the office to re-visit some plots that were monitored pre-2004 fire to see what they look like post-fire.  Said biologist had been noticing that spruce forests are not regenerating post-fire as they used to and instead earlier succession environments are persisting.  Hopefully the data we collect here will help shed some light on this situation.

The latest adventure I’ve taken part in was a 38 mile float/raft trip down the Fortymile River, southwest of Fairbanks.  I tagged along with the office realty specialist and his intern and learned how to conduct mining compliance inspections at long term mining campsites along the river.  I also used this time to do invasive species inventories at these campsites.  I was surprised (but encouraged!) to find no invasive species at any of the 14 sites that we visited.  Despite some rain and cold, the raft trip was one of my favorite thus far—floating down the river was obviously lovely, I was able to learn how to raft from some experienced mentors and our three person team took part in several adventures such as rescuing a sunken hovercraft and helping guide a suction dredge down a series of rapids.


Beautiful view down the Fortymile


Doing mining compliance inspections


Suction dredge floating in the river

No invasives but plenty of gorgeous native plants…

Labrador Tea-Ledum palustre ssp groenlandieum

Labrador Tea, Ledum palstre ssp groenlandieum (among many other taxonomic synonyms)

Cloudberry,Salmonberry-Rubus chamaemorus

Cloudberry/Salmonberry, Rubus chamaemorus

Bog Blueberry-Vaccinium vliginosum

Bog Blueberry, Vaccinium vliginosum
And most delicious!

Bluebells-Mertensia paniculata (1)

Bluebells, Mertensia paniculata

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.