We started day 2 of fieldwork early and to our delight were greeted with breakfast sandwiches. After loading the car with everything and everyone, we left to go back to Douglass Island. We met up with Dave, the soil scientist and his trusty assistant “Bear” the coon dog. We bushwhacked into a deer trail, which at some points wasn’t really a trail at all. It was more like a small break in vegetation that happened to be in the same direction as our desired wetland. We arrived at our first site: Fish Creek PFO. It was a forested wetland with densely packed vegetation. Digging out our first pit came with many difficulties; we unearthed a log that happened to be directly in the center of our pit. The log didn’t slow anything down but definitely got in the way. We characterized the soil for Dave by listing the soil types, color, root thickness and variability, fiber amount and plasticity. All of which were classifications I didn’t even know could be applied to soil. We used these descriptions of the general characteristics of the soil as a representation for the entire wetland. Once we finished the pit, most of the group began to collect methane samples and peat depths, but Zach, Kyle, and I followed Dave out of Fish Creek and traveled to our next site. This next site is known as FAA bog. We hiked into a less packed, but definitely soggier, wetland and got a head start on the second pit. We jumped right in and quickly realized that it would be faster to manually remove the soil with our hands. Surprisingly, we finished early and got to eat lunch with Dave before the rest of the group came to FAA bog. Dave opened up to us about his life and shared his unique journey in to the world of Forest Service. We were surprised to learn that he actually got his undergraduate degree in political affairs and joined the Peace Corp to pursue his passion of helping people. He then went on to tell us how the 4 years that he spent with the Peace Corp working in forests in Malawi sparked his interest in the study of soils. After realizing his love for forestry and soils, he decided to go to graduate school and received his Master’s Degree in Soil Science and Doctorate in Forest soils. His knowledge and passion were apparent in the small amount of time we spent with him in the field. Dave’s stories of his past and hands-on teaching style inspired us to ponder the endless possibilities ahead of us.
On the right: Students standing next to our completed soil pit with Dave for his research!