WILDLIFE Hitch 10
For our last hitch, we co-lead in order to wrap up the Aspen-Inventory project. Data-management was our focus; first we had to finish uploading GPS points and aspen stand photos from previous hitches, as well as organize these files. This was slightly confusing, as there was some data in a different office, but we worked with what we had.
After the first snowfall, we were grateful to be inside (and have indoor-housing versus camping), but when the weather cleared up, we were excited to participate in a short inventorying project. From the facilities at the Hughes Creek Field Station, we headed up the Idaho-Montana border to survey for lynx habitat along the Continental Divide Trail. At 20 random plots, we took 4 photos (one in each cardinal direction) of a red-and-white checkerboard banner to indicate horizontal vegetation coverage (a major factor for snowshoe hare, prey for the lynx). It kind of looks like we played a game of “Where’s Waldo?” in the woods!
The second part of the hitch, we practically camped at was the office! There, we had a list of objectives to accomplish including: returning equipment, editing electronic GPS files and hard-copy aspen inventory sheets, making a template for and printing out several hundred photos of the aspen stands, which we then organized into several binders. Data was collated for reporting totals (we inventoried 267 stands or 228 acres this season!); then the files were compiled into various GIS layers for the numerous maps we made of our project areas, which will help the Forest Service strategize for land management.
Overall, it was great to finish up the project. There are/were some missing pieces (at least spread out over several computers) because our project spanned two zones of the Salmon-Challis, but seeing the maps of the areas we surveyed (with “at risk” stands highlighted), really gave us perspective for how much work we accomplished throughout the season. And as we organized all those photos, we were glad that we had the opportunity to see so much of this wild country. It was really rewarding to know that our surveys can help the wildlife dependent on aspen stands!