August 5th: Field Day #3 and a Surprise Visitor

Courtney Rome

August 5th did not start like any other normal day. For starters, I and the rest of Team 3 had to wake up early to make breakfast for everyone while Mike and Denice were picking up Kiya, our honorary grad student guest, at the airport. When I descended the spiral staircase I noticed an unfamiliar figure laying on the large sofa, facing the back cushions so their face was hidden. Trying not to awaken whoever was sleeping there, I quietly tiptoed towards Zach who was journaling and softly inquired if he knew who it was. He couldn’t identify the person either and I slowly justified in my mind why it was Mike, our professor, and decided to get started with breakfast.

Well apparently the breakfast clamor awoke our guest, who later told us he couldn’t find his cabin. This stranger though, turned out to be a truly inspiring human. He happens to be in an executive position with a group that mentors young adults to transform communities. The whole ordeal was all a little surreal and our guest seemed ecstatic to inform 12 young adults of his mission. Feeling satisfied and confident our paths crossed for a reason, we had bright eyes for our last day of field work.

This picture illustrates the vegetation found on the site. Many “mud pits” are also visible. It is easy to imagine the difficulty Marj and I had in trying to accurately map transects in straight lines. Probing may be tiring, but the view is motivational.

Once we got settled in at our field site called Chocolate Lab, presumably named after all of the dark shallow mud pits, Denice had a check in with us. She reminded all of us why CAUSE was here in Alaska and how important our research is and will be. She explained again the differences between the field sites in Peru and Alaska, their geographic disposition, the importance of water in both regions, and their carbon sinking potential. This little chat put all of the beautiful pieces of the CAUSE puzzle together and we were ready to begin.

For most of the group today was the last day for methane chambers. Marjorie and I decided we wanted to probe transects again. Pushing and pulling a 3 meter stick in and out of the ground every 10 meters over a total of at least 100 meters is not as delightful as it sounds! Tree trunks and plant debris get in the way of accurate peat depth measurements thus hitting the rocky under layer was unlikely on the first probe. Despite our weakening muscles and spirits, Marj and I continued trekking over the saturated land, avoiding mud puddles and patches of trees. Everyone else had finished their methane chambers while we were probing so luckily for us Bree and Paige were feeling eager to probe and finished up the transect!

Me (Courtney, Left) and Marj recording the peat depth. We used a 3 meter probing stick. If you look closely, between us the probing stick is just barely visible in the sun, the black handle seen right below my Rite in the Rain and above Marj’s arm. Noting the handle of the measuring tape, it appears we were recording the last point of this specific transect.

The hike out of Chocolate Lab seemed longer than the hike in, bushwhacking and creek crossing becoming a new normal for our daily hikes, testing our hungry stomachs. To our pleasure the day got even more exciting when Kiya revealed it was her birthday! We celebrated with a delicious dinner and cake at the lodge. It was a perfect ending to our last day in the field.

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