June 22, 2012 Caribou, Marmot, and another Beautiful Research Site
It's not a requirement for all of our field sites to be located in beautiful settings, but all three are! We set out 100 pitfall traps on a 10 X 10 meter grid at Imnavait Creek Research site, a 13 mile drive up the Haul road. Imnavait Creek is named after Imnavait Mountain. Imnavait is an Inupiat word for sheep, in reference to the Dall sheep often found on this mountain. The scenery is amazing, and we were even welcomed by a caribou as we parked the truck! Most caribou have moved further north already, so it was exciting to see one so close to camp.
We are conducting this spider sampling 20 days after snow melt at Imnavait, much like the sampling we did at Atigun on June 13. Even though it's only 13 miles away, the snow melt at Imnavait occurs weeks after it does at Toolik. Many of the flowers blooming at Toolik have yet to bloom at Imnavait. The majority of female spiders at Toolik are carrying egg sacs, while virtually no egg sacs were found at Imnavait. I was anxious to find out what we would see when we went back out to collect our pitfall traps this afternoon.
Fellow PolarTREC teacher Susan Steiner and I took a couple of mountain bikes out to look for the marmots after dinner. We went back to the same place I went looking on Monday. Upon returning to the site we surprised a bright orange fox who took off bounding through the tundra. The ravens weren't happy to see me return either as we passed their nest. Finally just off the pipeline road Susan spotted what we were looking for. It was really a great find because even with binoculars it looked a bit like a rock at first. I approached cautiously hoping to hear the famous alarm whistle that marmots are known for, but our furry friend just jumped down to take refuge in the scree field instead.
We didn't leave camp until 8:00 PM and returned at 10:30. Just another incredible outing thanks to the 24 hour daylight!