During this trip we have participated in a wide array of data collection. The protocol that we use at each of our 104 plots collects several pieces of data. First, each plot consists of a 4 x 8 m area which we delineate with two measuring tapes and we use a staff with a laser pointer to record the heights of everything at 100 laser points! This includes vascular plants, mosses and lichens. This is the “point intercept” portion. Through this type of data collection each species which is hit by the laser is given an automatic 1% cover, the heights of each can help us get an idea of general biomass and health of the site. Second, I or the other lichenologist, Peter Neitlich go through and do a visual “additional species” check. Here we record any species of lichens that were not hit by the laser as well as collect any unknown species which we will take back to the lab for further identification.
At this point, either Kali of Beth have been collecting the general plot info, this includes, slope, aspect, vegetation type, disturbance amount, and percent cover of several vegetation groups (forbs, shrubs, small shrubs, sedges, mosses, lichens and much more). The last part of the plot includes the measurement of 5 samples of 5 species of lichen randomly selected from within the plot: Cetraria cucullata, Cetraria laevigata, Cladina stygia, Thamnolia vermicularis and Cladina arbuscular/mitis. Finally once this is compiled, photos are taken of the plot and samples of the moss of interest: Hylocomium splendens are collected using care not to contaminate the sample which will later be analyzed for metal content to get an idea of what each area is exposed to. With that, one plot is concluded. Whew!
Other than work, there is the second task of logistics. As Peter said “we are getting the authentic Alaskan runaround”. The primary task seems to be arranging to get out of the mine. Due to a summer project of repaving the runway, flights to and from red dog are only permitted on Wednesdays and Saturdays. This doesn’t seem so bad, except that, what if the day you planned to leave and had arranged to have a pilot come before 11 am which is the window for a private plane to land, the weather is bad? Well, then you don’t leave for another 4 days, possibly lose your bed, possibly lose the equipment room where you have stored all your gear and have to re-plan the private flight and the flight from Kotzebue back to Oregon. So the conclusion we have reached, is that we sure hope we get good weather next Wednesday when we try and leave!