Autumnal Equinox

Yesterday was the Fall equinox for our latitude, which means our days are drastically getting shorter: approximately 5:35 minutes per day in the months of September and October. At this rate, although the day length difference does begin to decrease with a tapering effect, at the end of October we have a sunrise at 9:30 am and sunset at 6:00 pm. At the end of November, 9:44 am and 3:52 pm. Aye, winter is upon us.

The Equinox also allowed the opportunity to reflect on a productive field season; friendships made, concepts learned, surveys conducted, data collected and water conserved (who needs showers?).

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Field-family photo

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Too much time in the backcountry can make you behave quite strangely.

After a season of primarily surveys and monitoring, it was refreshing to finally do some seed collection for the Wrangell-St. Elias native seed bank. Since our focus for the seed is restoration in disturbed areas of the park, primary successors were the focus of the collections. Two weeks were spent scouting and collecting from Calamagrostis canadensis and Elymus trachycaulus and Oxytropis campestrus populations, while also finding time to obtain some smaller collections of various wildflowers and some less abundant grasses. We were lucky enough to have a lovely SCA crew working with us during this period and it dramatically increased our productivity. As it turns out, 10 individuals can collect an awesome amount of seed in 2 weeks. Thanks guys! As far as seed processing and refinement goes, we processed most of the small collections ourselves, but our larger collections will soon be sent off to a plant materials center once dry.

A seed mix was derived from a portion of this years seed, along with that from previous years. The goal was to restore vegetation with this seed mix to a series of gravel slopes in the Kennecott Historic Mining District within the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. With the help of the SCA crew that aided us in our collections, the first stage of a small restoration was conducted in the areas. Fingers crossed for successful germination!

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Native seed mix to be sown in Kennecott

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Collecting Bromus ciliatus in the Wrangell Mountains

As the field season is officially over, we start to find odds and ends things to fill our days; Preparation of voucher specimen for placement in the herbarium, seed cleaning, educational programs and so on. Without a doubt most time consuming of tasks will be writing our 2016 Summer Report. The end is near, and it certainly feels odd writing a summary report for this season.

Synced with the Equinox are many more Alaskan pleasantries. Here in Alaska, this part of the year is a wonderful time for folks to come together and celebrate with recently acquired game, particularly moose and caribou. I am not much a fan of red meat, but caribou heart just may be the most incredible muscle tissue I have ever consumed.

In other news, a winemaking project with blackcurrants and blueberries will be wrapping up soon, and we are quickly accumulating snow on the glaciers in Thompson Pass, which means backcountry ski/snowboard season is here. October will be swell.

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Delicious caribou heart.

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This candid male moose had an uncomfortably small flight zone earlier this summer. I wonder if he escaped the ravenous hunters this fall.

The summer—no sweeter was ever;
   The sunshiny woods all athrill;
The grayling aleap in the river,
   The bighorn asleep on the hill.
The strong life that never knows harness;
   The wilds where the caribou call;
The freshness, the freedom, the farness—
   O God! how I’m stuck on it all.
The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
   The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
   The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
   The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
   I’ve bade ’em good-by—but I can’t.
– Robert Service

 

I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever leave this place.

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Above Nabesna Mine with a glimpse of the Nabesna River. The Nabesna River is famously fed by Nabesna Glacier, the longest valley glacier in North America.

 

 

 

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