Wednesday, July 27, 2011

week 5 and 6 update

Hi Everyone,

We are officially six weeks in to our Hi Mountain
internship, and as Dr. V says “still on a learning curve” (which is a good
thing). We have gotten our hands on so much more knowledge this week!

As many of you know, we took our intern trip to Pinnacles
National Monument last Thursday to practice telemetry, see their “cool condor
equipment,” drill the senior field tech with every condor question imaginable
and hopefully see a REAL LIVE CONDOR. Well, all of these things happened (and I
will leave the condor story for Andrew to tell…he is planning on emailing
everyone about this experience as well as adding a photo to the facebook

This week, our Sunday through Wednesday group trapped in the
chaparral for the first time. What a cool spot (once the trails are made and
the GPS points are found)! We had some great diversity in our plot this week:
Neotoma lepida, Neotoma macrotis, Peromyscus truei, Peromyscus californicus,
Chaeotodipus californicus, Dipodomes heermanni (potentially) and Dipodomes
venustus. We were all very excited to get a potential Dipodomes heermanii
because it would greatly increase the range of the species.

We also obtained camera equipment from Kevin Cooper as well
as my bio-geek dad (who has wildlife cameras installed all over our 3 acre back
yard in Atascadero) who was generous enough to let us borrow one of his
precious toys. We installed one of the cameras in a rocky outcrop bordering a
riparian area about a mile or so up the road from the fire station. Last night
we baited the camera with canned cat food and checked it in the morning to make
sure it was functioning properly. We pulled out the memory card and found some
lovely shots of ourselves crawling in front of the camera imitating ring-tailed
cats. So far there have not been any wildlife sightings in the camera, but we
know it is working! The Thursday through Sunday group will be in charge of the
other camera, so we will have double-duty wildlife monitoring 24-7!

Thanks to Marcelle, we have found the adapter for the
headphones that fit the telonics equipment. If any of you receive the telemetry
data, you may have noticed that our group picked up about twice as many signals
as we usually do. This is most likely due to our now-functioning headphones
(and our new-found inspiration to track condors after seeing one last week),
thanks again Marcelle!

Yet another adventure that I must mention here is our trip
to the burned chaparral plot. We purposely decided to sample an area that had
recently burned to see if small mammal species in this area differ from
non-burn areas. We had some lovely directions from Dr. V “hmmm…..well, it is
about 2-3 miles down the ridge road on the left.” So we got in the jeep on
Monday and simply drove around looking for a “burned chaparral” area, not
really knowing what to expect. Once we saw it, it was obvious…at exactly 2.3
miles down the ridge road was a wasteland of what one could only discern as
Manzanita skeletons. Their charred, grotesque appearance stood out against the
shades of yellow, wispy, annual grasses that now dominate the scene. What a
cool sight! We took a gps coordinate and then began plotting out the areas
where we would set small mammal traps….it will be interesting to see what we
find there next week.

I think I have covered just about everything.

Thanks for listening,

Hannah Tillmann

P.S. below is the week 5 update incase you did not get a chance to see it!
Hi Everyone,

We just completed our fifth week up at Hi Mountain, wohoo! At this halfway
milestone we are finally getting in the groove of the "rugged mountain life" and
have learned to appreciate the "simple pleasures" such as traveling to gas up
the USFS Jeep in Santa Margarita and purchasing a diet coke and potato chips
(hits the spot)!

As of this week, both of our studly field teams have braved the horrors of the
chaparral ecosystem as we attempt to find GPS points and trap there. What a
crazy bunch of shrubs! I don't think I have ever experienced such feelings of
claustrophobia/adventure/accomplishment as we successfully bushwacked through
thick clumps of Ceanothus cuneatus, Adenostoma fasciculatum and Arctostaphylos
spp. (for several hours at a time) to the pot of gold that we call a GPS point.
In this ecosystem we are hoping to see some of those super cute Dipodomes!

Update on the P. boylii count: We now have eight out of 10 specimens! It is sad
to have to bring the little guys home, but it is also extremely exciting. Today
all of the interns checked out the Cal Poly Peromyscus collection to find out
that there were just a few, rag-tag P. boylii specimines, it is nice to make the
collection a little more representative of the area.

We are all headed up to Pinnacles for a day trip tomorrow. We will be traveling
in style (in Graces bright blue VW bug) and hopefully will return home with some
new condor knowledge to impress our friends with as well as pictures of us being
science nerds to post on facebook!

Highlights of the week:

(1) Andrew and Grace both tracked their first condors this weekend (data sheets
coming soon!)
(2) Finding one of our Sherman traps completely annihilated by an unknown
trouble maker (Dr. V says it is most likely a black bear). Maybe Andrew will
sent out a picture, it is rumored that he is bringing the trap home to hang up
in his bedroom (most likely to remind himself of how hard core his job is).
(3) Answering the question of "Do hummingbirds really drink out of hummingbird
sage (Salvia spathacea)?" when we caught an Anna's fly by and take a sip while
we were hiking in Trout Creek.

That is all for now!