Winter Fieldwork in the Yukon

The winter! the brightness that blinds you,
The white land locked tight as a drum,
The cold fear that follows and finds you,
The silence that bludgeons you dumb.
The snows that are older than history,
The woods where the weird shadows slant;
The stillness, the moonlight, the mystery,
I’ve bade ’em good-by—but I can’t.
– Robert Service, “The Spell of the Yukon”

Field assistant Bailey, Kluane resident Peter Upton, and Bubba the dog snowshoe across the ice on Kluane Lake.

I spent January of this year in the boreal forests of Kluane, Yukon. My goal was to collect pictures, fur samples, and tracks of Canada lynx in order to estimate density of lynx in the Kluane area. My Master’s project compares methods of density estimation to improve lynx research and management. Every few months I head to my field site in Kluane. I have experienced every season of the year in the Yukon, from the midnight sun in summer to the deep dark and cold of winter. No time of the year is quite like January. 

Most of my time in Kluane, regardless of season, is spent hiking. This becomes particularly challenging in winter. This year, temperatures dipped to -35 Celsius and snow was thigh-deep in many places. Bailey (my field assistant/ hiking buddy) and I looked to lynx for advice on how to traverse long distances in deep snow. Lynx have disproportionately large feet, making them look funny in summer but helping them keep up with their prey in winter. Their feet function as snowshoes to distribute their weight and help them float on top of the snow. So, Bailey and I got some snowshoes. Not just any snowshoes; modern, lightweight snowshoes were ineffective in snow that deep. In order to make it to all our remote cameras and fur snag sites, we had to borrow extra-large, old-school snowshoes from a local outdoorsman. After a steep learning curve where we learned to walk without tripping (sometimes), the snowshoes became indispensable to our everyday hikes. 

Bailey and I in our snowshoes, on a long hike through a frozen creek bed. We set out this day to collect lynx fur samples from a snag. (Photo by Lindsay Potts)

Cold temperatures were less easily dealt with. Lynx grow big fur coats every winter, with a beard around their neck for a scarf and thick fur between their toes for boots. All Bailey and I could do was outfit ourselves in the human-made substitutes. No matter how much we layered up, we still lost heat throughout the day and had to manage it as best we could. When temperatures were low, lunch breaks to eat our (frozen) sandwiches were limited at five or ten minutes, or until the cold caught up to us. Taking off our mittens even briefly to check cameras or to make a note was painful. Camera screens wouldn’t work, handheld GPSs would turn off mid-hike, and even pen ink would freeze. The Yukon cold did not make our fieldwork easy.

A Canada lynx notices a remote camera set atop a ridge in Kluane.

Despite the deep snow and the deep cold, Bailey and I headed outside each day to take advantage of every hour of daylight available. A key lesson that I learned this field season is that tough conditions are not as tough when you have a friend by your side to experience it all with you. Long sunrises and sunsets, Northern Lights to light up the night, and expansive white landscapes can help counter the extreme conditions with extreme beauty. And the real reward for the tough times was a lot of data. We collected about 250 pictures of lynx and 100 fur samples for analysis in that month. Every successful camera or fur snag and every lynx track in the snow is another piece of the puzzle to understanding lynx populations and improving our management of an ecologically, economically, and culturally important wildlife species.

The sun rises at 10 AM and lights up the sky above the Alaska Highway.

I will return to Kluane for the last time in June. I look forward to experiencing yet another side of the North. By June, everything will have turned from bright white to bright green. The winter challenges of cold and snow will be exchanged for mosquitoes and mud. Long days will keep me outside for hours on end, and I look forward to returning to camp every day tired and happy. But I will certainly miss the Kluane winter and everything it offers. Again in the words of Robert Service:

There are hardships that nobody reckons;
There are valleys unpeopled and still;
There’s a land – oh it beckons and beckons,
And I want to go back- and I will.
– “The Spell of the Yukon”

Dream team.

Darcy Doran-Myers

Fighting fire with bikes: University of Alberta researchers use fat bikes to study birds in the wake of the Fort McMurray wildfire

Among the many impacts of the Fort McMurray wildfire this past spring, one of the less discussed is the disruption of research in northeastern Alberta. Although not devastating the way the loss of homes and businesses was, the 600,000 ha wildfire was a major wrench in planning for many research programs. There is a lot environmental and biological research in northeastern Alberta, due in part to the industrial development in the area. Not only did the wildfire burn many research study areas, it destroyed field houses and research equipment, rendered field sites inaccessible during critical times, and created logistical difficulties in an area of the province that is already challenging to work in.

This past spring was a stressful time in Dr. Erin Bayne’s lab at the University of Alberta. Our research group, the Bioacoustic Unit, conducts a large proportion of our research in northeastern Alberta. During the peak of the Fort McMurray wildfire in early May, at least five of Dr. Bayne’s graduate students, myself included, scrambled to develop contingency plans for our research, which we had carefully planned over the previous 9 months as if they were our babies. Our lab sat glued to the news and the live-updating fire layer in Google Earth, as Dr. Bayne updated us on how many of the lab’s acoustic recording units had burnt to a crisp. All told, our lab lost over $30,000 in field equipment, in addition to the countless time and money spent contingency planning.

A crispy acoustic recording unit (ARU) retrieved after the Fort McMurray wildfire

A crispy acoustic recording unit (ARU) retrieved after the Fort McMurray wildfire

Ironically, I study a bird that thrives in post-fire boreal habitat, and my study area is a five-year old wildfire. My study species is the Common Nighthawk—a highly understudied nocturnal bird that is listed as Threatened under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. I chose to study Common Nighthawks near McClelland Lake in northeastern Alberta because the burned, sandy jack pine forest there is home to one of the densest populations of Common Nighthawks on the planet. The McClelland Lake area is the southern extent of the Richardson burn, which was even larger than the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire, burning 700,000 ha of sandy jack pine forest and threatening Fort McMurray from the north in 2011. In addition to the nighthawks, the area is a haven for otherwise rare species; there are Canadian toads calling from every puddle, Olive-sided Flycatchers practically grow on trees, and Yellow Rails abound in the spectacular patterned fen that covers half of McClelland Lake itself.

Male Common Nighthawk roosting during the day. Photo: Emily Upham-Mills

Male Common Nighthawk roosting during the day. Photo: Emily Upham-Mills

An aerial view of the McClelland Lake patterned fen and the burned jack pine forest surrounding it.

An aerial view of the McClelland Lake patterned fen and the burned jack pine forest surrounding it.

During the first couple days of the Fort McMurray fire, I overhead someone ask Dr. Bayne how our lab was impacted; he said we were okay, except “she’s totally screwed,” pointing his finger at me. Yikes. My study area at McClelland Lake is at the very end of Highway 63. The only way to get to there is through Fort McMurray, which at the time was threatened by a massive, raging wildfire nicknamed “The Beast.” This created two major problems for my research: first, I wasn’t sure I could get to my study area at all! Highway 63 is the only access point to the McClelland area, and it was closed for much of May with an advisory that it could be closed again at any time due to the ongoing active fire in the area. The second problem was that even if we could get to the McClelland area, we could no longer rely on Fort McMurray for supplies and emergency support, and there simply was no alternative up there.

As any graduate student can attest, I was hyper-invested in my PhD thesis and determined to collect data. In the spirit of “Alberta Strong,” I buckled down for some creative contingency planning. Field ecology is a logistical nightmare on a good day, and this was one of the greatest logistical challenges I’d faced in my 10+ years as a field ornithologist. During May, I planned three different field seasons: one at my original study area near McClelland Lake, one north of Lac La Biche, and one in the Bruderheim area northeast of Edmonton. For McClelland (if we could get there), we would have to bring everything with us for four people for at least a month in case the highway closed again. So at the end of May, we rented a 400 L slip tank for gas, bought enough blue jugs to hold 500 L of water, cleared out a grocery store, gathered together the penultimate first aid kit, wrote a new safety protocol, and loaded up a truck and utility trailer with research equipment.

Truck and trailer with everything four biologists need for a month.

Truck and trailer with everything four biologists need for a month.

But there was also a third challenge: even if we could get to one of our three potential study areas, we had no way of getting around that study area because there was an ATV ban in place. ATVs pose a substantial fire risk because their mufflers can ignite fires, and Alberta was under extreme wildfire risk in May. Like other boreal researchers, our lab has traditionally used gas-powered ATVs to slog through the challenging terrain of Alberta’s boreal forest. Additionally, walking was not going to be effective for studying Common Nighthawks because these highly aerial birds can quickly travel large distances. As an avid cyclist, I joked offhand to Dr. Bayne about using bikes for field work. And then I remembered that some of the earliest fat bikes, those bikes with wide tires that Albertans ride in the winter, were actually designed for sand and all three of my planned field sites were sandy. I took a borrowed fat bike to a site in Bruderheim and was immediately convinced that fat bikes would be an effective, and fun, way to get around our study areas. Fat bikes would also reduce our carbon footprint, our fire hazard, and were sure to be a good workout. Above all else, fat bikes would ensure we could go wherever we needed to go without relying on ATVs.

Time-lapse test of a fat bike on the sand dunes of Bruderheim, AB. Photo: Jonathan DeMoor

The next step was to find fat bikes for the summer, and the Edmonton bike community had our backs! The University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability was excited about the low-carbon aspect of our initiative, and lent a helping hand by approaching local bike shops and pushing the project forward. We eventually teamed up with two local shops—United Cycle and Hardcore Bikes—to put the plan into action. Fat bikes are expensive because of their specialized components and both community-minded bike shops saw that fat bikes would make our research possible, so they generously loaned us two bikes each! Our team of four would now be able to get around and do the research we had planned.

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-Fat bikes to the rescue! On loan from United Cycle and Hardcore Bikes.

So our team loaded the fat bikes into our utility trailer with the rest of our gear and started driving north in late May. To our great pleasure and my fortune, the brave folks fighting the Fort McMurray wildfire had battled it down enough for us to get through town and to the McClelland area just in time for the nighthawks to arrive. And the nighthawks did not disappoint! These nocturnal creatures were back again in large numbers, and we were able to carry out one of the most intensive studies of the species to date. My thesis objective is to study the variation in the sounds that Common Nighthawks use to learn more about their habitat use. This year, we tagged and tracked several dozen birds within grids of acoustic recording units (ARUs) to determine whether their acoustic behaviour varies between activities.

Elly Knight and Matt Timpf attaching a miniature radio transmitter to the tail of a male Common Nighthawk. Photo: Azim Shariff

Elly Knight and Matt Timpf attaching a miniature radio transmitter to the tail of a male Common Nighthawk. Photo: Azim Shariff

A male Common Nighthawk prior to release. Photo: Matt Timpf

A male Common Nighthawk prior to release. Photo: Matt Timpf

The fat bikes also did not disappoint. They allowed our team to get everywhere, including down roads that would otherwise be inaccessible because of fallen burnt trees. We travelled to study sites by bike, tracked birds from bikes, and deployed acoustic recording units by bike. Often we biked at night, because Common Nighthawks are nocturnal, which made for Go-Pro videos with a very “Blair Witch Project” feel to them. We had so much fun on the fat bikes that when the ATV ban was lifted mid-season, we continued to use the fat bikes and left the ATVs in Edmonton. At an average fuel consumption of 2.5 L/day, we estimate our team saved over 400 L of gas this summer by using fat bikes instead of ATVs.

Fat bike in the field. Taking a break during acoustic recording unit deployment.

Fat bike in the field. Taking a break during acoustic recording unit deployment.

The team of 4 with fat bikes. From left to right: Elly Knight, Matt Timpf, Azim Shariff, Orla Osborne. Photo: Hedwig Lankau

The team of 4 with fat bikes. From left to right: Elly Knight, Matt Timpf, Azim Shariff, Orla Osborne. Photo: Hedwig Lankau

Looking forward to next year, I plan to head back to the McClelland Lake area to study Common Nighthawks and I’d like to take fat bikes again. Regardless of whether there’s an ATV ban in place, fat bikes are more sustainable, not to mention easier to maintain, safer, and more fun. Within Dr. Bayne’s lab, we’d like to explore using fat bikes in other study areas too. They won’t work everywhere because there’s too many wetlands in northern Alberta, but we think they might be a realistic alternative in some of our lab’s forested study areas. As for the Fort McMurray wildfire, the aftermath provides a wide range of ecology research opportunities, and our lab is excited to get out there and study the animals that live in post-burn areas. There is a whole community of animals that rely on wildfire to create habitat for them in the boreal forest, including my study species, the Common Nighthawk.

Here’s to future adventures with fat bikes & birds!

A good omen: rainbow over the McClelland Lake study area at dusk.

A good omen: rainbow over the McClelland Lake study area at dusk.

-Post by Elly Knight

 

An Ode to the Boreal Forest

This week, PhD student Julia Shonfield wrote a blog post for Dispatches from the Field about her experience doing field work over multiple seasons in the boreal forest. The boreal forest covers a huge area in Canada, yet many Canadians don’t really know too much about how incredibly varied this ecosystem is or what it’s like to work there. Check it out on Dispatches from the Field. Each week you can tune in to that website to find out what field work is really like.

The Joys of Winter Fieldwork

Over the past couple weeks a number of students in the Bayne lab have headed out to deploy some autonomous recording units as part of bioacoustic monitoring for several projects this year in northern Alberta and the Northwest Territories. Although it really feels like spring has arrived in Edmonton, it is still very wintery further north. For many of them it was their first experience with winter field work, and there were some pretty challenging snow and weather conditions. I’ve done several years of winter field work myself, first with the Kluane Red Squirrel project for my master’s, and most recently conducting acoustic surveys for owls for my PhD work. Winter field work can be extremely challenging, but can also be really enjoyable, so here are some of my favourite joys of winter field work:

 

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The incredible stillness of walking through a forest in the winter.

Winter 2

That wonderful feeling of floating on top of the snow when there’s a solid crust.

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Hoarfrost coating everything on a chilly morning.

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Eerie winter sunlight straining through the clouds.

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Seeing exactly where an animal walked: coyote tracks in the snow.

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When the local residents follow you around, gray jays will often do this.

Photos and text by Julia Shonfield.

It’s all fen and games – field ecology adventures in and around McClelland Lake fen

As an incoming PhD student in Erin Bayne’s lab, I was fortunate to spend the summer before grad school north of Ft. McMurray, AB studying yellow rails and common nighthawks for the Bayne lab. I was struck by the patterns and contrasts of the boreal landscape in the oil sands area, which are well worth sharing as a photo essay.

 

Figure01Our 2015 field season started with a helicopter reconnaissance of the three large graminoid fens where we planned to deploy autonomous recording units (ARUs) to survey yellow rails. There was much banking and loop-de-looping involved; Tim Hortons breakfast burritos were not a good choice.

 

ARUs are an obvious choice for monitoring yellow rails for several reasons: 1) Yelow rails are highly cryptic, 2) they’re nocturnal, and 3) they live in floating graminoid fens, which are not a particularly fun place to survey in the dark. Graminoid fens are wet places, and traversing one is akin to walking across a wobbly water bed. By Elly Knight

ARUs are an obvious choice for monitoring yellow rails for several reasons: 1) Yellow rails are highly cryptic, 2) they’re nocturnal, and 3) they live in floating graminoid fens, which are not a particularly fun place to survey in the dark. Graminoid fens are wet places, and traversing one is akin to walking across a wobbly water bed.

 

Figure03Much of our work was in McClelland fen, Alberta’s best example of a patterned fen and a provincially significant environmentally sensitive area (ESA). The fen is on the southeastern side of McClelland Lake, north of Fort Mackay.

 

Figure04Patterned fens are characterized by strings and flarks. Strings are the lines of larch and bog birch. Flarks are the graminoid areas in between. Although I’ve yet to use it, I believe “flark” may be the best scrabble word ever.

 

Figure05These large fens can be difficult to access and hike through, so we deployed the ARUs via helicopter long line. Labmate Dan Yip developed a clever stand design that allowed the ARUs to be automatically dropped from the long line and still stay upright. Hooking the stands back to the long line for pick up required slogging through the fen though.

 

Figure06Slogging through fens provided the opportunity to see many unique flora and fauna. Pitcher plants are found in fens on hummocks of moss. These plants obtain nutrients by attracting insects who get caught by downward pointing hairs on the sides of the pitcher. The insects eventually drown in the water within the pitcher and the plant slowly digests them.

 

Figure07In other parts of the fen, microbes create a sheen of oil as a by-product of digestion, which catches the light and fragments when disturbed (by the slogging).

 

Figure08Our helicopter work also included aerial views of the oil sands development just south of our study area. Here, bitumen, salts, solvents, and sediment on the surface of a tailings pond creates an equally eye-catching pattern.

 

Figure09Back at camp, we set our tents up in a stand of live trees for safety measures. The area north of McClelland Lake for several hundred kilometres is a sandy jack pine forest that burned in 2011 during the Richardson fire, which was the second largest fire in Alberta’s recorded history. Also, pro tip: get your helicopter to pick you up at camp.

 

Figure10The regenerating post-fire landscape of the Richardson burn is beautiful. Lab mate Janet Ng and I came across this sunny patch of burned pine and grass during a morning survey for olive-sided flycatchers.

 

Figure11Turns out post-fire jack pine forest with is prime habitat for common nighthawks, which we spent the second half of the field season studying. Lab mate Daniel Yip found this nest in a stand of burned pine. Common nighthawks don’t make nests – they simply lay two eggs on bare ground. This bird has pulled out all the stops and even cleared a few pine needles.

 

Figure12By night, labmate Janet Ng taught me how to catch common nighthawks, my PhD study species. We worked at night because nighthawks are crepuscular (i.e., active at dusk and dawn).

 

Figure13Here, Janet contemplates the coming evening’s work with Maurice, our handsome nighthawk decoy, who helps lure the real birds in. This is Janet’s “science face”.

 

Figure14With the help of Maurice, we caught male nighthawks and fitted each bird with a satellite transmitter for a migration study by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. You can read more about the project on Janet’s blog post here. Photo credit Janet Ng.

 

Figure15Doing common nighthawk work in northern Alberta meant staying up real late to wait for dusk, but the slow sunsets through burned pine were spectacular.

 

Needless to say, I’m excited to get back up north next summer to continue studying common nighthawks!

 

Post by Elly Knight.

A Day in the Life of a Wildlife Ecologist – Small mammal live-trapping

In an earlier blog post, Anjolene Hunt detailed the daily routine of her and her field assistants tracking the movements of Canada warblers. I thought I’d do the same for the small mammal trapping I conducted with my crew this summer. As part of my research on the effects of industrial noise on owls in the boreal forest of northeastern Alberta, I’m also interested in finding out if those same sources of industrial noise have an impact on the abundance of small mammals, the main food source of owls. This year we set out 64 live traps at each of 23 different sites (each just over a hectare in size) and trapped each site for four days in a row.

Here’s what the daily routine for small mammal live-trapping is like:

 

5:30 am – We’re up out of our tents, dressed for the field and eating breakfast. In July it was already light out at this time, but by the last couple weeks at the end of August we needed our headlamps to get ready.

View of one of our campsites from across a small lake. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

View of one of our campsites from across a small lake. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

 

6 am – We leave our camp and drive to our sites.

On our way in to one our sites. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

On our way in to one our sites. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

 

6:30 am – We arrive at the first of three sites and start checking the traps. At each trap, we check if the door is open and if it is we lock it open so that no animals get caught in there during the day. If the door is closed, we find a comfy spot on the forest floor and take out our trapping kit. We open up the trap into a mesh bag. Once we get the animal in there we can take a closer look to see what species it is. Deer mice and red-backed voles were our most commonly captured species, but we also caught a few meadow voles, a chipmunk, a weasel, and a flying squirrel. Every animal caught gets weighed with a spring scale, checked if they’re male or female, and ear tagged with a small metal ear tag, each with a unique number. After all that, we open up the bag and let them go, and watch them disappear into the underbrush. There’s a good chance we’ll catch that same guy in the next couple days, sometimes in the same trap or in one of the other ones nearby.

Usually we only get animal per trap, but in this case there were 3 very young red-back voles, likely siblings born this summer. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

Usually we only get animal per trap, but in this case there were 3 very young red-back voles, likely siblings born this summer. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

The first step is to get the animal out of the trap and into the mesh bag. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

The first step is to get the animal out of the trap and into the mesh bag. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

This deer mouse is a recapture, he’s already got a shiny metal ear tag. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

This deer mouse is a recapture, he’s already got a shiny metal ear tag. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

A chipmunk flies out of the bag in a blur when released. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

A chipmunk flies out of the bag in a blur when released. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

 

11 am – By this time we’ve usually finished checking all the traps we set out and head back to camp for lunch.

 

12 to 3 pm – We use this time in the middle of the day to catch up on data entry, but also to catch up on sleep, go swimming in a local lake, pick berries or some other relaxing activity.

An afternoon spent relaxing in a hammock at one of our campsites. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

An afternoon spent relaxing in a hammock at one of our campsites. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

 

3:30 pm – Dinner time! The four of us would each take a turn cooking dinner, and we had some excellent camp food over the summer.

Cooking dinner in the great outdoors. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

Cooking dinner in the great outdoors. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

 

4 pm – We head out again to our sites to set the traps. Each trap gets baited with a handful of sunflower seeds and a small piece of apple. We also stuff each trap with bedding so the animals can make a nest in there overnight. Lastly, we unlock the door and put a smear of peanut butter at the entrance of the trap to entice the animals inside.

A baited Longworth trap. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

A baited Longworth trap. Photo by Julia Shonfield.

 

8 pm – By this time we were typically back at camp for the evening, enjoying hot chocolate around a campfire, playing cards or reading before heading to our tents for the night.

Post by Julia Shonfield.

A Grizzly Bear Population Inventory in the Threatened Kettle-Granby Grizzly Bear Population Unit

Between June and August of 2015, field crews led by Clayton Lamb conducted a grizzly bear population inventory in the threatened Kettle-Granby Grizzly Bear Population Unit. Crews set 124 bait sites across the ~8,000 km­2 area, which consists of rotten cow blood enclosed by barbed wire to non-invasively collect grizzly bear hair, which is then used to identify individuals through multi-locus genotyping. The bait sites were checked for hair samples at two week intervals, with most sites being checked four times throughout the summer.

A total of 1360 hair samples were collected, and field staff visually identified 29 percent of the samples as grizzly hair. The hair samples are currently at the genetics lab (Wildlife Genetics International) in Nelson, and we expect to have the genetic results back before March 2016. During fiscal year 2016-17, the genetic data will be used to generate population estimates and address questions regarding population size, composition, connectivity and the distribution of grizzly bears within the study area.

The study area for the 2015 Kettle-Granby Grizzly Bear Population Inventory, with the locations of the 124 baited hair snag sites identified by coloured circles. No grizzly bears were detected at the turquoise circles, while grizzly bears were detected during at least one check at the purple circles. While grizzly bears were detected throughout the study area, they were more commonly detected in the area in and around Granby Provincial Park. Note: Hair samples were classified as grizzly samples in the field based solely on visual indicators.

The study area for the 2015 Kettle-Granby Grizzly Bear Population Inventory, with the locations of the 124 baited hair snag sites identified by coloured circles. No grizzly bears were detected at the turquoise circles, while grizzly bears were detected during at least one check at the purple circles. While grizzly bears were detected throughout the study area, they were more commonly detected in the area in and around Granby Provincial Park. Note: Hair samples were classified as grizzly samples in the field based solely on visual indicators.

Post by Clayton Lamb.

A Day in the Life of a Wildlife Ecologist

When people ask what I do for a living and I say “I follow birds around the forest”, I often get strange looks. In reality, that is only a small part of what I do. Research in Ecology and Conservation often involves fieldwork (the running around the forest part) and/or lab work, data analysis, and writing of results. In my case, my main research goal is to investigate how a threatened forest songbird species (the Canada Warbler) selects habitat in areas affected by forestry activity. I hope to provide information on what habitat features need to be protected, and recommend best management practices to forestry companies to aid in the recovery of this species at risk.

Here is what a typical day of fieldwork looks like for a Canada Warbler researcher:

 

3 AM: We are up with the birds and taking our breakfast by the light of a headlamp.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

4 AM: We quad, hike and bushwhack through dusty, muddy, log-strewn trails, cutlines, and thick forest to reach our study sites.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

5 AM: We enjoy misty sunrises by the lake while trying to pick out the melodious song of the Canada Warbler among tens of other songbird species.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Torin Heavyside

Photo by Torin Heavyside

7 AM: We use recordings of territorial male Canada Warbler songs to lure other males into a net. We gather information such as the bird’s age, weight, and wing length. To distinguish between individual males, we attach specific combinations of tiny colour-bands to their legs.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Kiirsti Owen

Photo by Kiirsti Owen

10 AM: Armed only with our binoculars and GPS units, we follow each marked bird throughout the summer, taking GPS locations, and observing them find food, find mates, and raise their young. These tracking bouts, combined with habitat surveys, help us to determine home range sizes and gain insights into the habitat types they use.

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Evening: We enjoy the simple comforts of camp-cooked meals, guitar music, and naps in the great outdoors!

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Anjolene Hunt

Photo by Christine Kuntzemann

Photo by Christine Kuntzemann

All in all, wildlife ecology fieldwork makes for an unconventional, but unbeatable career! Stay tuned for the results of this study….

Post by Anjolene Hunt