Alaska is AMAZING, but the mosquitos are NOT!

In my 24 years of living, I have maybe encountered 7 mosquitos in California. In the last month, I have probably been fed on, at least 700 times. Currently, I am simultaneously typing with one hand and scratching both feet with the other. My mistake was wearing Chacos on the drive back from Coldfoot with a healthy population of mosquitoes thriving in our car.

A month has gone by rather quickly. On my bike ride to work, I can see all sorts of wildflowers blooming-taking in the only three months of constant sunshine they will get all year. I, myself, am also trying to take in as much sun possible. I’ve spent a decent amount of time on Chena Hot Spring Road, dogsitting for a family who works in the office. Somehow, I always find myself picking up this kind of gig over the summer (flashback to Susanville). I’m extremely grateful to Chel Ethun, for allowing me to stay in her cozy house with her cozy dogs, Pickles and Anabelle. Side note: Pickles doesn’t actually eat pickles.

Pickles waiting for me to feed him in the morning.

Since AK is really big, we have a couple of field stations spread out throughout the state. Unlike the BLM office in Susanville, a lot of our sites are 7-12 hours away. So, our options are to camp, or stay at field stations. Most of my work this summer will be out of the Chicken Field Station in the small town of Chicken-it is super NICE! It is fully equipped with beds, wifi, hot water, showers, a full kitchen, a TV…the whole enchilada.

While I was in Chicken, I helped conduct wildlife and vegetation surveys at a reclaimed mine site. I worked with Casey Burns, the Wildlife Program Lead, and two contractors from the Salcha-Delta Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), Jeff Mason and Bryan Strong. We also had a UAF student, Renee Nowicki, act as our “residential entomologist.” We spent the first couple of days delineating four plots and one control, which all varied in reclamation year. The goal was to collect all of our data from small mammal traps, bird counts, line point intercept (LPI), grazing, scat count, pollinator, plot characteristics, and insect surveys. Our insect surveys entailed searching for ants and setting six bumble pots, traditionally called bee bowls, in each plot. For the ant search, I followed Renee around while we flipped rocks and searched for colonies. Then, she used an aspirator to suck them into a container through a tube! I wish I had a video of that! I spent a fair amount of time applying 100% deet all over my body, but somehow, it was not enough. However, I’m pretty sure that by the end of the summer, by body will naturally be producing deet, which will save me a lot of money for next year. On the drive back to Fairbanks, I got to see the Alaska Range for the first time! It was unlike anything I had ever seen before. It was so unbelievable. But, I didn’t take any pictures. Sorry.

The following week, I decided to join the crew for another week of surveying. This time, our site was thirty minutes south of Coldfoot, at Jubilee Mine. Unfortunately, on the morning of our second day, we had an eye injury, which required an immediate evacuation, and a stressful drive back on the Dalton. Luckily, I only hit one rough patch, and after six hours, we made it back to the ER in Fairbanks. The patient is doing well, and it was a non-life threatening accident. Enter mom rant HERE. Please be careful using bungee cords in the field. If it doesn’t reach, it’s not worth it. Eye injuries are very serious, so please be safe. End mom rant. I really wish I could have taken pictures of the drive on the way back, but the timing was, obviously, not appropriate. If I get a chance to go back north, I will definitely upload better pics. However, I was able to get a “I crossed the Arctic Circle on the Dalton Highway” tee.

Yukon River

I made it to the Arctic Circle!

Well, it’s no wonder time goes by quickly. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks moving around from Chel’s house to Chicken to Coldfoot. In the upcoming weeks, I have planned to attend an invasive species training workshop in Fairbanks and a sedge identification workshop in Anchorage. It’ll be my first time in Anchorage, so I am stoked!

On my personal time, I’ve been volunteering at the herbarium in the Museum of the North at UAF. Hopefully soon I can start volunteering at the entomology lab too! I have also been birding with a group at Creamers Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge. Later, I have a botany trip planned with the Alaska Native Plant Society (ANPS). AND…I’ll be going to Denali soon! Basically, I’m slowly settling down some roots in Fairbanks, in hopes of staying here longer.

Here is a list of common plants I’ve seen near Fairbanks, Chicken, and Coldfoot…So won’t the real plant nerds, please stand up, please stand up (Eminem).

Astragalus alpinus

Mertensia paniculata

Polemonium acutiflorum

Polemonium pulcherrimum

Polemonium pulcherrimum

Cardamine purpurea

Epilobium angustifolium

Epilobium latifolium

Vaccinium uliginosum

Hedysarum alpinum

Potentilla norvegica ssp. monspeliensis

Cerastium beeringianum

Ledum palustre ssp. Groenlandicum

Hedysarum mackenzii

Oxytropis campestris

Potentilla spp.

Vaccinium vitis-idaea

Spirae beauverdiana

Cornus canadensis

Cornus Canadensis

Eriophorum spp.?

Salix alaxensis

Salix arbusculoides

Salix scouleriana

Salix pulcha

Gallium boreale

Betula neoalaskana

I find myself overwhelmed with how much there is to see and I think my writing reflects that. I apologize if I was all over the place, but I have a hard time keeping track of my days.



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