Luckily after we finished the transplant work, I was so exhausted that not thinking about the experiment throughout the winter was a welcome break. I buried concerns about plant mortality deep in the recesses of my mind, ignoring reports that the life-giving snowfall in Colorado was at a near 50-year low.
When I returned in May, enough time had passed that I was ready to accept my fate, good or bad. I walked the familiar path to my lowest experimental site on the mountain. The ground was brown and hard under my feet, still compacted from the heavy snow that had just melted. Once I reached the first transplant, I kneeled on the ground and smiled at plants no taller than my fingertip sprouting from within. It was an encouraging sign.
|Meadow rue (Thalictrum fendleri) making its spring debut|
The research station required us to cover the transplants with nets to prevent pollination from our experimental plants to the surrounding plants. As a result, our research sites became oddly charismatic tent cities. We crawled into the tents throughout the summer to count flowers and collect leaves. The familiar flow of the work was comforting and the banter and laughter with field techs was a joy. Trying to control everything in the field in order to conduct an experiment is futile, but we found the humor in our attempts. We felt giddy over tiny strawberries growing in our plots and took breaks to gasp at the continual beauty of the mountain-filled horizon.
|Nets covering the transplants|