Rocky Start to ‘Rootine’ Work

Greetings blog browsers. So our week of sampling at scenic Glacier National park is just starting up! The end of our entire trip is starting to come into sight, only 2 parks left. Glacier National Park is absolutely great, from the pristine cold fresh running rivers, the diverse habitats at our disposal for sampling, and the great mountain views. Our campsite was in my opinion is the best we have had thus far.

Collecting dragonflies beside a small pond, atop a mountain at Meadow in the Sky.
Collecting dragonflies beside a small pond, atop a mountain at Meadow in the Sky.

A river was running through the back of our campsite and I got to fall asleep every night to the sound of rushing water from the fast flowing Illecillewaet River which was also very close by.

We were fortunate to have access to an old growth rainforest, with giant Red Cedars and Hemlock, some of the biggest I have ever seen on my life. The forest floor was covered with knee-high ferns and some nasty thorn plants. I will be taking some of those thorns with me in my hands and arms from digging the 20 pitfalls, where I also had to battle with a complex root network, not so routine. Being an old growth forest I suspect that we are going to find some interesting specimens when we get back to our lab. I have been lead to believe that old growth forests have a unique species composition, as much of the vegetation is different from secondary growth and also has slower vegetative growth rates making it a unique habitat. One of our other sites was in what I would call is an old glacier run-off valley. The shape of the valley and exposed rocks everywhere hinted to this conclusion. There must have been a heavy flow of running water pass through it at one point before the glacier receded to the point where is it currently located much farther back away from the valley. The low part of the valley where we set our standardized traps was peppered with small rocks, to the point where there was almost more rock then soil. This made for a rocky start as it was the first set of 20 pitfalls that I had to dig.

One of the varieties of caddisfly larvae inside their case.
One of the varieties of caddisfly larvae inside their case.

The team and I also had a great day collecting at a location known as Meadow in the Sky in Mount Revelstoke National Park. This is a great opportunity for people of all ages to get what is commonly their first mountain top view as there is a road leading to the summit. The road is 26 km long with 16 switch backs, which are sharp turns going along the mountain side so your are not driving straight up. At the summit we were almost at an elevation of 2000 m so once again we had some great high elevation collecting. We caught a vast array of flying insects, a lot of flies and wasps, which I think we can attribute to the high elevation, where insect congregated for a better chance for finding a mate. Collecting at elevations like this is known as “hill-topping”. There were also some small ponds at a plateau near the summit, where there were a lot of dragonflies. I was lucky enough to catch one; it was a nice emerald red with a white face mask. I also caught some very large, ornately coloured Darners in Mount Revelstoke National Park at Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk. It was very amusing to observe these dragonflies compete for preferable perches and what it seemed like territories. You could hear them come into contact with each other and do a little acrobatic dance before buzzing away from each other.  There was also a lot of locked mating pairs flying around, probably another reason they were fighting.  We also had some great aquatic sampling, once again thanks to the pristine rivers here in British Columbia. My most memorable aquatic catch of the day was caddisfly larvae. I found a little side stream where I could grab the larvae in their cases by the hand full. I was able to watch them crawl towards the shore to get ready to metamorphose into adults. I also found teneral adults, which are adults that are newly emerged from their larval form, which in this case they come from the water as they prepare for their short lived life as mating adults.

One of the many ornately coloured Darners caught at Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk.
One of the many ornately coloured Darners caught at Skunk Cabbage Boardwalk.

Lastly I wanted to mention our off day activity. We decided to go white water rafting!!! We went 22 km down the Kicking Horse River, which goes through a gorgeous canyon. The rapids were not quite as much as what I had hoped for but the fact that we got to raft through a canyon, and awesome rafting guides made it more then worthwhile. The layers of rock that formed the canyon walls were vertical, my guess is the layers of rock were pushed vertically up when massive glaciers sculpted this area. We also got to see some big horn sheep, happily scampering around on the steep canyon walls perfectly at home, all while we were rafting. I also really enjoyed the fact that we were allowed to swim a bit in the river in slow areas. The water was cold, about 7 degrees Celsius but they gave us wet suits so it was fine. So far it’s been a great start, all rocks and roots aside.

-Nate

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