Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Update on transplant experiment

My field season at the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado is coming to a close. It has been an intense four months of fieldwork in order to start my first graduate-level experiment.

As predicted, this season has been full of the problem solving that comes with starting a field experiment. Last I wrote in June, I was just beginning to learn to extract square sections of land (which we call turfs) in order to transplant them down a mountain to study the effects of climate change.

After determining that the land wouldn't completely fall apart when extracted, we searched high and low for better tools for the job. When asking understandably skeptical hardware store employees about tools, I liked to describe the project as digging holes without disturbing the holes! It took months of turf extraction trial and error, but eventually we bought or invented all of the tools, boards, lifting mechanisms, etc that we needed to successfully extract a turf.

Framing the turf to make sure we cut it to the right size

Another major part of the summer was determining which locations to transplant turfs to and from. I listed my ideal site criteria and then relearned the lesson that fieldwork is never perfect! But my search did lead me to a brand new site where no one else at the research station is working, so we were fortunate enough to be able to name it ourselves after the strikingly beautiful Frasera speciosa or Monument plant.
Our "Monument" site, named after the tall and striking Frasera speciosa

Now the aspens are turning yellow and I am happy to write that I have collected ample baseline data on all of the turfs and successfully transplanted 30 (so far)! See the video below for a timelapse of the turf extraction and transplant process.

Turf successfully extracted and ready to be carried to its new home!
Carrying the very heavy turfs requires special equipment!

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