Searching for Elusive Martens on the Olympic Peninsula
Jordan Holsinger is ASC's Scientific Manager and joined the Marten Survey as a guide this year. You can read his bio here.
We rolled into the driveway at the USFS house in Hoodsport, WA at about 10:30 AM on Friday, January 17th, vehicle loaded to the brim with food and gear and all our packs tied to the roof. The previous 24 hours consisted of furiously packing for the variable winter conditions in the Pacific Northwest, flying from Bozeman to Seattle, buying groceries and supplies for 30 hungry adventurers, getting a few hours of sleep at the home of a gracious ASC supporter and driving out to the Olympic Peninsula. We were finally ready to go look for the elusive coastal Pacific Marten (Martes caurina).
Danica & Family Sail the World for Science and Adventure
Danica Cowan worked in a cancer research lab at UCLA for two years, obtained an MS in nutrition science from Tufts, and is now on academic leave from pursuing her Registered Dietician certification. She is currently on her second 10-month voyage from Maine to the Caribbean aboard her family's traditional wooden schooner. She is joined by her parents Beverly and Horatio "Ted" Cowan III, husband Isaac Brown, brother Horatio "Scott" Cowan IV, and his girlfriend Molly Segee. Danica and crew are collecting data on microplastics for the Marine Environmental Research Institute. Follow their adventures on their blog: schoonerkoukla.wordpress.com.
To say my family is into sailing is a bit of an understatement. Families that are into sailing have little 30-ft sloops and go out on the weekends when the weather is nice. We have a 60-ft gaff-rigged wooden schooner that we’ve spent decades refurbishing, not to mention a 36-ft ketch and bits of another boat that has been dismantled for parts cluttering the front yard of my parents house in Rockland, Maine. Sailing is in my blood. I come from a long line of sea captains, whalers, seafaring merchants, and the like. Some families may celebrate their heritage through traditional foods or dance or music. We go on nearly year-long voyages every decade or so. We are currently out on our second.
Twelve years ago, my parents, brother, and I set out for a 9-month voyage from Maine to the Caribbean and back. I was 16 at the time, my brother was 12. It was the experience of a lifetime. We hiked into the crater of an ancient volcano, had dolphins play in our wake, witnessed the green flash at sunset, and saw a volcanic island erupt as we sailed past. There were less pleasant aspects as well. When we left, we had no electricity, no running water, and no toilet. We had flashlights, a hand pump, and a port-o-potty. And we had our fair share of bad weather. We hit a front with hurricane-force winds and torrential rain during our offshore passage, and we were in it for three days. But despite all this, my brother and I, now in our 20’s, saw fit to not only join our parents on the family schooner, but to bring along our significant others.
Snow, Camping and Kids - Weekend in the Woods with Arrowhead Middle School
ASC guide and intern Julia Johannesen grew up in the "Natural State” of Arkansas and holds a B.S. in Human & Environmental Sciences and a Masters degree in Sustainable Communities. However, Julia found her true passions are climbing up rocks, skiing down mountains and using adventure to conserve her beloved outdoor playgrounds. Before coming to ASC Julia worked Aspen Center for Environmental Studies as a Naturalist and Certified Interpretive Guide and guided the sandstone canyons of southern Utah for Zion Mountain School. Last week she took a group of 6-8th grade student from the rural Arrowhead Middle School in Montana's Paradise Valley on an adventure science expedition in the mountains near ASC's home in Bozeman.
It’s one thing to take a group of 8th graders camping; it’s another thing to take them camping in the middle of winter in Montana. Likewise, it’s challenging to carry a heavy backpack containing everything you need to survive for a few days in the wilderness; it’s beyond tough when the backpack you have on that is bigger than you! Now combine the “me-size” backpack with the Montana winter camping, add a pair snowshoes and generous portion of deep, unconsolidated snow, and you have an unforgettable citizen-science adventure.
Ricky Munday and the South America 3 Peaks Expedition collect their first sample on Monte Pissis
Ricky Munday is a humanitarian aid worker with the Canadian Red Cross in Haiti and team leader of the South America 3 Peaks Expedition. Ricky has been on previous missions to Kenya, Sudan, Pakistan, Bangladesh and mountaineering expeditions in the European Alps, Kyrgzstan, East Africa, New Guinea, Alaska and Mexico. He is joined by Carolina Morales Aragort of Venezuela, an ultrarunner and former competitive mountain biker.
The South America 3 Peaks Project is a 4-week expedition to the High Andes in Argentina & Chile to climb the 3 highest peaks in South America (Aconcagua, Ojos del Salado, Monte Pissis). This expedition is part of a long-term "Triple 7 Summits project" to climb the three highest peaks on each of the seven continents - a feat no one has accomplished before.
Ricky and Carolina have partnered with ASC to make more of their adventure. While climbing the three highest peaks in South America they will be collecting samples of microbes on rocks to help understand the way these mountain ecosystems function, snow and ice samples to help researchers understand the rate and extent of glacial thinning, and repeat photographs of glaciers to better understand and quantify glacial retreat.
Here's a video from Ricky collecting his first rock sample on Monte Pissis:
Sage Clegg and the "Mysterious Gross Stuff"
Sage Clegg is a thru-hiker extraodinaire and wildlife biologist from Bend, OR pioneered the new Oregon Desert Trail this past summer. She worked closely with the Oregon Natural Desert Association - a wild desert advocacy non-profit that created the Oregon Desert Trail - as well as ASC participating in our pika, wildlife and diatoms projects. Along the way Sage collected a new species of diatom!
Every time I got to take slime samples I felt like I was a six year old kid playing with the mysterious gross stuff I wasn't supposed to touch. Without fail, pausing to scrape scum off of stream-side rocks or squeeze liquid from bubbly green algae helped me notice something I would never have realized existed. One spring I collected a sample from was up on the side of a steep grassy slope in the Pueblo Mountains. The spring looked unremarkable at first, but as I knelt there scraping at a rock with my spoon, I started to notice there was moss growing between rocks, as well as tiny little yellow monkey flowers. Bees and flies were buzzing by, mites and other small insects were crawling around. By the time I rolled the top of the sample bag closed a whole new universe had been revealed to me, and that didn't even include the micro-world of diatoms and algae that I had just shoved in a 2oz baggie.
One of my favorite wildlife sightings of the trip was on a hot afternoon in the Trout Creek mountains. I was slogging up a two-track with a bunch of water on my back, and I noticed a Badger running down the track. I stopped and the badger just kept cruising towards me, sniffing from side to side. I was able to grab my camera and snap a pic, but it spooked from the camera sound & vanished into the sage scrub. This was my first badger sighting during a hike, and it was such a treat to see it cruising along just being a badger.
Return to the winter prairie
"This is the place you were looking for as a kid when you went outside to explore;
there is so much space, so much to observe."
- Julia Johannesen, ASC
Posted by Mike Kautz, ASC Program Director
Just before the Christmas holiday ASC intern Julia Johannesen and I travelled to the American Prairie Reserve to continue groundwork for the Landmark survey. A native of Arkansas, this was Julia's first trip to the Northern Great Plains. Halfway through our first day of field work, as we walked a 10-mile transect, she described the experience with the quote above. Her description captures an essential feeling of traversing this vast landscape on foot. Humans have been walking these plains for over 10,000 years, yet you often feel as if you could be the first person to cross a particular coulee or climb a sage-covered hill. I too remember exploring my backyard as a child and wishing to push out the back lot and discover an expansive landscape like the Great Plains.
Read the Landmark Notes blog: