Lisa Colville, '07, Tracks Treelines in California
Geology major Lisa Colville, '07, uses a Global Positioning System (GPS) device to record the location of a dwarf sagebrush in California's White Mountains. All photos by Molly Palmer, Stanford University
Life at the Crooked Creek White Mountain Research Station is something to get used to! It's the end of July, and every morning our breakfast is prepared by a master chef, who is also a very knowledgeable naturalist.
After packing our sack lunch, doing dishes, and cleaning the kitchen, we begin our daily expedition into the field. The field is very different from Albion indeed—between 9,000’ and 12,500' in the White Mountains of east-central California.
Our mission is to find the upper limit of dwarf sagebrush, Mountain Mahogany, and Pinyon Pine growth, which is achieved only by hiking up and down slopes and recording the diameter, height and location of each plant that we come across. The elevation of our hikes reached 12,500’ when we found the highest sagebrush in our field area ever recorded. Hiking at 12,500 feet can be quite exhausting, so when we come across a scenic spot we grab a snack and catch the view for a bit.
While in the field, my FURSCA advisor Dr. Chris Van de Ven and I, along with our collaborators, are outfitted with global positioning system (GPS), notebooks, calibrated ropes (for measuring the diameter and height of the plants), rain gear, and, most importantly, our lunch.
the upper limit of growth is important because we can compare it to
previous data to observe how the plants are responding to climate
change. We expect to see the smaller (younger) plants establishing
themselves at higher elevations than their larger (older) relatives as
a response to the approximate 0.6°C increase in global temperature over
the last century.
Conducting field research out in the White Mountains has been extremely rewarding and educational. I developed the observational and organizational skills required to be a field scientist, gain an appreciation for hiking at high altitudes; as well as work with well known and respected ecologists and geologists. My summer FURSCA project has certainly enhanced my exceptional Albion College experience.
| From the White Mountains, Colville looks west at the Sierra Nevada range.
Colville and Van de Ven explore an old mine shaft.