Camera and Crew

Last month I was on a two week camping trip in Glacier Bay National Park collecting data from thirty-year-old study plots. We measured and counted the same things (tree diameters, number of alder stems) that we did in 1988, 1989, or 1990. I brought home lots of new data to compare to the old data, and also brought home 1600 new photographs.

The photos are of four types: repeat photos of the study plots, natural history, scenery, and photos of the field crew trying to look like it’s not raining.

This is the crew and our gear being dropped on the beach in the rain at the start of our 14 day backcountry trip. This is the only time during the trip that I had my phone in my pocket and the only photo I took with it. The boat came back every few days to take us to another wet beach. June 15, 2021.

Repeat photos. The study plots (10 x 15 meters) are marked with corner stakes and 30 years ago I started placing a tripod over one of these stakes and taking a photo pointed at another corner stake. This makes it easy to take the same photo sometime later. I now have repeat photos from plots at all 10 of the study sites (but not at all 10 of the plots at each site).

I want to make these “before and after” photos available for viewing, but there are a lot of them and it’s a big job to make them accessible and easily viewable. Below is one nice way to display them, but that slider plugin for WordPress displays low resolution versions of the photos, fails to display on some devices, and is a bit janky.

Above: York Creek (Site 8), Plot 2, SE corner to NE corner, June 1990 and June 2021

Above: York Creek (Site 8), Plot 1, NE corner to NW corner, June 1990 and June 2021

Above: Beartrack Cove (Site 9), Plot 2, SE corner to SW corner, June 1990 and June 2021

Above: Beartrack Cove (Site 9), Plot 1, SE corner to NE corner, June 1990 and June 2021

The photo pairs above from two of the older study sites (ice-free about 1820-1840) include a 1990 Kodachrome slide (the smaller image) and this year’s version from a DSLR.

All of the photo pairs from these two sites show a similar increasing importance of blueberry shrubs (mostly Vaccinium ovalifolium) and saplings and young trees of western hemlock (Tsuga heterophylla). Our data from the 10 study plots could quantify how the understory community at these sites is changing (but I have barely started organizing the photos, much less the data).

Natural history photos. I took a lot of photos of plants and have posted several dozen at iNaturalist. I have also posted iNaturalist observations from my 2018 and 2019 trips to Glacier Bay. Depending on how “Glacier Bay” is defined, I am the number four or number one iNaturalist observer at Glacier Bay.

“Glacier Bay Wilderness” is a “place of interest” in iNaturalist defined by the community of observers. I don’t know how it is defined, but it seems to exclude Bartlett Cove (park headquarters and lodge) and the result makes me look dubiously important in a place I visit only sporadically. Live link to list.

Brian apparently holds the record for his observation in Glacier Bay of the northernmost Adiantum aleuticum (western maidenhair fern) in the (iNaturalist) world, but he is way, way down at number 20 on the list of observers in the Glacier Bay Wilderness with a paltry three observations. We might want to bring this to the attention of the big city Explorer’s Club and suggest maybe reevaluating their membership criteria.

You can browse my Glacier Bay observations at iNaturalist to learn how many of the identifications I got wrong and how many of my photos were too lousy to allow others to confirm my guesses.

iNaturalist user gwark has been really helpful identifying the plants in my photos. He decided that this was Gymnocarpium disjunctum, not what I said it was. This is also a nice illustration of isostatic rebound.

If you click on “Map” at the iNaturalist link above you can see that my observations are mostly near the 10 study sites between Muir Glacier and Bartlett Lake.

Scenery photos. I took some photos of scenery. The scenery itself is much nicer than my photos, but I keep trying. You can click or touch all the photos here to enlarge them.

Above: This is the beach one morning at York Creek (Site 8, ice-free about 1825). The peaks to the right are Mount Betty and O.O.C. Peak (named by Hank and me when we climbed the peak to the left in 1989). June 19, 2021.
Above: These are a cow and calf humpback whale spouting together in Beartrack Cove. They were so close to the beach the sound scared me but I was holding my camera and aimed and shot the mighty spouting fish with horizontal tails. June 17, 2021.
Above: The view from our campsite at Klotz Hills (ice-free about 1910). Stitched from six photos. June 22, 2021.

Field crew photos. Our field crew earned the name Team Terrific. I wrote two months ago that if we got five happy and healthy people to 50 study plots it would be a miracle. In fact, we sampled 60 plots in 15 days and I think most of us were almost as happy as I was. That works out to about 120% of a miracle.

Above, left to right: Introduction, Methods, Results, Discussion. York Creek Plot 6, June 19, 2021.
Above, left to right: Variation, Inheritance, Selection, Adaptation. Klotz Hills, June 22, 2021.
Above, left to right: Observation, Question, Hypothesis, Prediction, Test. On the beach at Klotz Hills, waiting for pickup to Goose Cove. June 23, 2021.
Above: Arriving back at the Bartlett Cove dock on June 28. Here as always during the expedition, Brian was in charge and not just because he bought all the food, packed it, and cooked every dinner. Brian’s calm and assured leadership was key to exceeding the goals of the trip (the happy, healthy part as well as the 60 plot part).
Above: Trevor washing the dinner dishes on the last night of the trip. This was the 13th day in a row that Trevor washed all of the dinner dishes. He received much acclaim and admiration for this task, and also for being a good person to have around. June 27, 2021 at the Fred beach.
Above: Charlie missed out on Trevor’s instant acclaim for dishwashing so she had to earn hers by working all day long nailing tags to trees or writing down the numbers being yelled at her by two people at once under the dripping alders. Charlie was new to this type of fieldwork and richly deserves the acclaim, admiration, and her new status as Junior Cadet Recruit Wiley Outdoorswoman Prospective Enrollee. June 19, 2021 at York Creek.
Above: Halfway through our 2019 trip to resample 30 study plots, Lewis agreed to join our crew for one more trip. Little did he know that before that agreement expired he would write down the diameter of every tree in 60 additional plots during a 15 day marathon effort. Lewis also housed and fed us in Gustavus and made his shop, vehicles, bikes, hospitality, and expertise freely available. That’s an exceptional contribution to make to someone else’s work. Thank you Lewis. Arriving at Goose Cove on June 23, 2021.
You might think we did a good job planning and executing this research trip, but we all know that it couldn’t have happened without a Shore Support Team (also known as the delightful and dedicated Shore Support Team, or Ellie). Ellie demonstrated her value by strategically and RELENTLESSLY hounding Alaska Airlines for a week until they found my missing baggage, then sorting through it and having the crucial items delivered to the wilderness so I could wear something other than the clothes I wore on the plane. Ellie made sure that our resupply of food was on the boat and even spent a day on the boat so she could visit us for a few minutes (and brought brownies and fruit, etc.). She also changed her busy schedule of house guests and other important activities to accommodate our changing plans and graciously let us invade her home while she was just trying to enjoy the short, busy summer. A trip to Glacier Bay would not be the same without Ellie. Thanks Ellie. June 14, 2021 in Gustavus.
The research staff at Glacier Bay National Park deserves much credit for the success of this trip. Thanks to our boat drivers Justin and Cheryl for their skill and flexibility in getting us where we needed to be. June 28, 2021.

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