Thursday, July 9, 2009

Damn technology...

First and foremost, let me apologize for the long absence in my blog writing. I'm confident that your powers of deduction told you that I've been really busy.

On another note, I'm really annoyed at the moment because I spent a couple of hours a few nights ago collaborating all the photos I was to post on here, only to discover when I got to the computer this evening that my USB is not compatible with the work computer. So I can't access any of those photos. Instead, I will post the few I have from work and some I managed to steal from Kate, Michela and Hilary.
So, a month has passed since my last entry. I have played with a lot of fish in that time, and done a bit of hiking (currently past the 100-mile goal). This past week of work has been AWESOME. We collected OVER 1,000 fish in two days, and sent the bulk of that number via helicopter to High Lake of Northwest Yellowstone. These fish, caught through the electrofishing method, are transported to High Lake to increase cutthroat numbers.
There's the helicopter carrying the bucket (more commonly used to drop water over fires) to hold fish.

Since the helitack crew has to abide by all of these safety rules, Kate and I couldn't be the ones standing directly under the copter to drop the fish. These two guys transferred the fish from one of our buckets into the big yellow one. The guy on the right is holding the net of fish.
Just another day at the office. Not a bad place to work, huh? I'm the third from the left. Here's our crew hiking to the spot where the fish were held in live cars.Drumroll please! ...And here's the star(s) of the show! All the little cutthroats, wishing they weren't stuck in a wire cage.And that's how it's done. Kate's holding the probe, which sends an electrical current throughout the water. The rest of us are carrying dipnets to catch fish.
Beyond work, I've been having a blast hiking in and around the park. For the Fourth of July weekend, Kate, several of my dormmates and I camped in Grand Teton National Park and spent a couple of days in Jackson. Unfortunately, since I don't have my photos, I can't share the absolutely stunning sights we witnessed on one of our hikes. Kate, Hilary and I made a 10-mile trek up 18 switchbacks and 4,000 feet of elevation to be rewarded with a breathtaking view of two alpine lakes surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains. We were somewhere below 10,000 ft - the highest I've hiked yet. And for all those football fans out there - we also happened across the path of Peyton Manning on our way up to the first lake. During the chance meeting, Kate and Hilary were exchanging excited glances while I stood in confusion - until they revealed at a more appropriate time that Manning is apparently a very good (HOT!) player in a family of awesome football players. The things you learn on the trail, seriously.
Below is our tent city. Our campsite provided a beautiful view of Jenny lake just beyond the trees.
The group of us in front of the Tetons. From left: the foreigners Michela (Italian) and Agnes (French), then Kate, the two Hilarys, Derek, me, and Andrea (the other Italian). What a great group.

Agnes and Michela. What more is there to say?
The most epic spin-around playground event ever. I'm pretty sure we had 9 people spinning at one point. Kate, Michela and I just flew off. The rest were still hanging on. On the afternoon of the fourth, all of us met some people we knew at a park in Jackson and had a BBQ. Some unmitigated buffoonery might have occurred.The fireworks! This was probably the longest, best firework show I have ever experienced. Being in Jackson with awesome people might also have something to do with it. Oh, for all of those wondering: sadly, I did not get to go in a hot air balloon. For the slight chance we might have had, the group of us would have had to wake up at the ungodly hour of 3 AM to do it. I was all for it, but I think the rest appreciated their beauty sleep a bit more.

The next string of photos are from various hikes I've done the past month. The photos below are from Pine Creek trail. This hike was a hardy 12 miles long that lead up through the Absaroka mountain range to a valley between two peaks, where a glacial lake lay. This hike was outside the park, closer to Bozeman.

Kate, being the BAMF that she really is, me, and Hilary in front of the trailhead. Take special note of the status of our clothing.

Kate in front of the falls. After about 2-3 miles, the hike leads you to these gorgeous falls. Most people hike to this point and then go on their merry way back to their cars. The four of us (or at least I did) huffed and puffed our way on.After hiking through miles of snow, constantly in the search of a marked trail, we came to this talus slope, knowing we had just a bit further to go before reaching the lake. After about 20 minutes of switchbacking and scrambling, a blinding flash of light pierced the sky. Right in the middle of saying "you" in my question to Kate, "Did you take a picture?" a deafening BOOM! shook us (literally) and continued rumbling down the mountains. That sound was a quick ticket out of there. The four of us quickly rushed down to lower ground to avoid being electrified. The mountains that were so clear and bright minutes before became shrouded in a mist of sleet. This was not the first time I had been hailed on while hiking.

Note the stark change between the first photo? Still in happy spirits, though!

The next hike was a 5-mile stroll that ended at Lonestar Geyser. The group of us were lucky enough to catch it erupting.

A closeup of me and Kate, and a better view of the geyser. I got this great photo of it from the other side revealing all of these vivid greens and oranges, but sadly, like I said, I don't have my photos with me.After hiking Lonestar, we all walked a couple of the boardwalks in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone. The one below is of Sapphire Pool. The blue was unreal.This photo, compliments of Kate Olsen, is of one of the vista points seen from the trail leading to Bunsen Peak. This mountain is just behind my dorm. I think one of the photos from a previous entry gives you a good view of it. If not, I'll have to post a photo of it later. In the valley below this view lays the town of Mammoth.You know, doing the usual on top of a mountain. What an incredible view of Swan Lake Flats and the surrounding Gallatin mountain range. We could also see the Tetons far off in the distance.

Well, those are all the photos I managed to steal for now. Next time, I'll be more prepared. Rodeo photos are a guarantee.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Thar she blows!

Yesterday, Kate yet again obliged in letting me be a tourist for a day and drove around the park, stopping whenever the urge came upon us. We stopped at various pullouts to take photos of geysers, SNOW, and the occasional buffalo.

We visited Norris Geyser Basin, which contains some of the several hundred geysers and thermal features that make up the park. Photos never do justice, but at least they give you some glimpse of such magnificence.

This is a coyote we saw en route to Old Faithful. He was quickly behind another coyote that was crossing the road. We visited the Old Faithful Inn, a revered historic monument that is over 100 years old. People still stay at the Inn, but at a hefty price. It's completely made of wood and logs that stands over seven stories high...a pretty rare view of amazing craftmanship. Saw this cool sign (also made of wood) within the hotel.

View of the outside.And there she is! Old Faithful being her reliable constant self. The sound and height at which the water shot up was brilliant.A tourist was kind enough to take our picture in front of Old Faithful erupting. From left, that's Chelsea (certified geologist oh yeah), Kate, Hilary, and me. I was crouching, I swear. Old Faithful needed all the room and glory it could get.This photo is of Steamboat geyser. One of the park employees wondered why it wasn't even more famous than Old Faithful, as it shoots way higher and more spectacularly than the legend. However, it is not nearly as predictable as Old Faithful, and does not have major eruptions regularly. The last one shot over 115 feet in 2005.

The next string of photos are of various geysers within the Norris Geyser Basin.

This one is appropriately named "Pearl pool." Of course the glowing azure blue does not appear as brilliant as it did in real life.

It's snowing! I was ridiculously happy and probably acting rather silly.

Picturesque photo of a bison grazing in the snow.

Hilary making a snow angel.

Hilary, Kate, and Chelsea trying to catch snowflakes.

That's it for now! I hope 3 blog posts will satisy your appetite for now. Hopefully it won't be so long until the next update. Until then, update after I've rampaged on a lake trout killing spree!

Get in the boat, FISH! FISH! Get in the boat...

So I figured I would include some photos of me hard at work. I think many of you aren't really clear what I do besides the all-encompassing term of fisheries, so I'll go into a bit more detail. The Yellowstone Westslope subspecies of cutthroat trout are native to many of the creeks and lakes within the park, and this is the species of fish the restoration part of the fisheries program here at YNP is working towards saving.

For the last two weeks, Mike, Kate and I have been working on Geode Creek in collecting fish ready for spawning. We collect fish via the electrofishing method. Electrofishing involves using a probe that sends an electrical current throughout the water. This current periodically stuns the fish, making catching fish with dipnets seemingly easier. This is not always the case. We work in fairly fast flowing water that has vegetation, fallen trees, and other areas where fish can hide. Sometimes the current doesn't wholly stun the fish, so they often can speedily evade your grasp. When we do catch a significant number of trout, we take length and weight measurements and clip a bit of their pelvic fins for genetic sampling.
We electrofished a handful of times, and then kept the fish in live cars (plastic bins) in the creek to hold them until we were ready to spawn them. On Friday, we collected the males and females (in their own separate buckets) and extracted eggs and milt and placed them together in airtight containers. Egg extraction is simply squeezing the females until eggs jetrocket like a machine gun out of the female's ovipositor. Same thing goes for the males: just milt shoots out instead.

The picture below is from the hike Kate and I did to Specimen Creek. This is where Kate and many other fisheries folks last summer constructed a barrier to keep fish from going upstream. This area is where rotenone (poison) is injected into the water to kill gill-breathers. Such action is centered around attempting to eradicate brook trout, which is invasive.
On my pack are a pair of snoeshoes. The week before, Kate and Mike went to the barrier to check things out, and had to snoeshoe a large part of the way, as there was several feet of snow still left on the trail. As you can see from this picture, we clearly did not need them.
This was a bison jam we got in on our way to Specimen creek. You can see in the background a ranger on a horse. Yellowstone rangers actually have to periodically herd bison, as they are not protected outside of the park. If they roam outside of park borders, ranchers have the right to kill bison if they happen across their property. The culling of bison in Montana and WY is quite a controversial issue here.This photo is at Geode creek. Waders are so sexy. That is Mike on the left, and the live car in the water.

Huge elk antlers I found while hiking alongside Geode.Me hard at work. I'm clipping part of the pelvic fin of one of the many fish we worked with.

Unfortunately, you can't see the trout very well in this picture, but a better photo will soon follow.

Mike working with the spawning canisters. A better photo of a female cutthroat trout. Females are generally fatter than males...and definitely feistier.

We saw this sign on Friday, heading towards the Blacktail deer plateau drive. On the drive, we did experience rather poop driving, as rocks, muck and the like flew up everywhere as we drove down the road.

Baby elk! This is as close as I could get. The elk must have been just a few days was so awkward on its legs, but oh so cute.

The photo above is from the Osprey Falls hike (approx. 7 mi) we did last weekend. This was at the top of the canyon. This hike was pretty peculiar, as not only did you go up for 2 miles, but you also went down for another 2, switchbacking all the way down to the falls. After reaching the falls, we had to hike back up and the side of the mountain and then back down to the dorm.

This photo is right before reaching the bottom of the falls. The trees were swaying and quaking in the tremendous wind and spray that came from the cascading falls.Right at the foot of the falls. I swear it was like I was on the Maid of the Mist, without the super stylish snazzy blue ponchos. We got SOAKED. Yellow-bellied marmot we saw chilling on a rock on the side of the trail. Although it's been rainy the past week, it makes for some incredible cloud photos. This was taken at the top of the trail.Western Tanager we saw along the trail. Such a gorgeous bird.This drive leads you to Old Faithful and other amazing natural wonders. The cliffs are smack against the road and windy as ever.

Friday night was my dormmate Laura's birthday, so we all went to this resort called Chico's to celebrate and participate in a little unmitigated buffoonery. Chico's has a pool that contains water that is pumped from hot springs, and a big group of us decided to try it out. The water was amazing...not lukewarm, and not too hot. Now I can say I swam in hot spring cool is that?

Next to the pool was also a bar that featured a funk/reggae band that we all danced ridiculously to. This photo is of me, Derek (fisheries), Agnes (the French girl) and Kate.

The other night I witnessed an incredible sunset. It looked as if a painter had taken his paintbrush and made sweeping flicks of his brush from the mountain top upwards. The colors were amazing.

That's it for this post. One more covering yesterday to go.