Greetings from the land where there is still snow! Fairbanks is still covered with the white stuff so botanizing and wildlife-ing will have to wait until the green emerges. Temperatures had been on an upward trend but a week of -30 harshly reminded us what Mother Nature is capable of.
We are gearing up for a busy and exciting field season. In addition to the projects I mentioned in my last post (raptor surveys, bat monitoring, invasive species reconnaissance) I will also be planning and teaching some Invasive Plant Species Identification classes—should be a good chance to practice my public speaking and presentation skills, not to mention wax poetic about botany.
As of late I have mostly been researching, researching, researching for our little brown bat project (Myotis lucifungus). I am used to monitoring things that don’t move (or don’t move fast) i.e. plants so these batty guys are new to me. I’ve been reading a lot about bats, wildlife monitoring study design, echolocation, occupancy modeling etc. and chatting with many bat experts. Hopefully all this information will be put to good use this summer.
There are a few opportunities for field work before “break-up” and one of those is moose surveys. This Friday I will be taking off to go to Bettles, AK for the week. There we will be flying transects over Gates of the Arctic National Park looking for moose. The survey uses what is called the Geospatial Population Estimator (GSPE) method. Basically, GSPE uses spatial correlation in moose populations to increase precision and flexibility in survey methods. A certain number of sample grids from a study area are selected and transects are flown over them. The spatial correlation among these samples is calculated and this relationship is modeled as a function of distance. This model can them be used to predict moose densities in un-sampled areas.
Usually, less intensive stratification flights are done before the actual survey to identify areas of high and low moose density. More survey effort is then dedicated to the high moose density stratum.
Here is a dizzying depiction of contour transects flown in mountainous terrain.
In other news, snow in Fairbanks allowed for two delightful winter activities these past weeks. First, a lovely ski trip to Tolovana Hot Springs with Anchorage friends including CLM counterpart Charlotte and former CLM counterpart Bonnie! And secondly, the IDITAROD! Moved to Fairbanks for only the second time in history due to lack of snow in Anchorage. A few choice pictures of both below.