Last weekend, 20 graduate students spent two nights camping as part of their first Forest Community Ecology (SEFS 501) field trip. The course—co-taught by Christina Restaino and Alina Cansler, who are both working toward their Ph.Ds at SEFS—focuses on gaining a deeper understanding of forest composition in the Pacific Northwest, on both the east and west sides of the Cascade Range. There’s a strong emphasis on information gathering and analysis of ecological data, as well as on scientific writing and communication.
For this initial excursion—the first of two this quarter—the class headed to Blewett Pass (elevation 4,100 feet) on the east side of the Cascades. As part of their ecosystem assessments, students walked and collected data and measurements along three 20-meter transects at different elevations. Their goal was to catalog the forest composition of the understory and overstory, and they’ll use that data in their analysis assignments later in the course.
Despite getting rained for most of the three days of research and camping, the class remained incredibly upbeat and motivated, says Restaino. “We set up a tarp city, and everybody was a trooper!”
The next field trip is coming up on October 11 and 12, when the class will head down to Pack Forest and Mount Rainier National Park (shutdown permitting). For this foray on the west side of the Cascades, students will focus more on stand structure and overstory communities. They’ll also get to stay one night at Pack Forest, where they can rely on some shelter even if weather conditions don’t cooperate!
Photos and Slideshow © Christina Restaino.