Field Course 2019 – Part 2: Terrestrial Module

In the second half our 2019 Field Course, the first-year cohort shifted focus from Aquatic to Terrestrial survey techniques.

We covered bird and vegetation surveys on campus at BCIT, but on our final weekend in the field we ventured further from town, traveling out to a field site near Mission, BC.

We set out small mammal traps on two grids, one in a second growth stand and the other in a remnant patch of old growth forest.

Moving through the old growth was a particularly memorable and challenging experience. The stand had been left unlogged, likely because it lies in a steep bowl that would have made dragging out the huge trees prohibitively challenging. The difficulty of traversing the initially rugged topography was compounded by the challenge of scaling downed logs (large woody debris) and moving through understory vegetation.

It’s one thing to read about the importance of habitat complexity in old growth, developed over long time frames through as trees grow massive and fall to wind and disease. It’s another experience entirely to clamber over and under the fallen logs, and to crane your neck up towards the tops of the massive trunks.

While our weather for all previous field days had been excellent, we ran out of luck on the final weekend, with intermittent periods of heavy rain falling on us. In the old-growth, any non-waterproof surface quickly became saturated, and full head-to-toe rain gear was a definite asset. But the moss was happy, in its element in the temperate rainforest. Lush and green, it swathed almost every available surface that wasn’t taken up by liverworts or lichens.

Despite the rain, our mammal trapping was highly successful. We caught the expected Deer Mice, Douglas Squirrels, Red-backed and Oregon Voles in numbers – but also trapped two Townsend’s Chipmunks and a Southern Flying Squirrel. We were even able to release the Flying Squirrel off of a lone-standing snag, so that it launched itself off the top to glide over to a nearby tree trunk.

For amphibian sampling, we also had the chance to check the coverboards that were in place from past years, and reconstruct the pitfall arrays that had fallen into disorder (and maybe been chewed on by a bear). We also checked out the margins of a nearby wetland and using Gee/minnow traps and nets.

Finally, we attempted some radio telemetry – we’ll use the excuse of inclement weather for mixed success in actually locating the transmitters.

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