Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Day 49: Research in Action

Today was the BIG SPIKE! So we spiked at 8:00 and sampled, then filtered, then sampled... then filtered... then sampled... 3 times! It takes a while to get this done. And as the day went on, it got colder and wetter, which was... great! Thanks to Ema and Jessica for the great help today! We weren't able to finish the filtering because we decided to go on the Research in Action tour instead. So filter tomorrow, then another sample and another filter... deja vu? Oui!

I broke out the audio recorder and the mic that LeeAnn lent me to take with me on the Research in Action tour which is a tour that picks people up from town and drives them to some of the sites that the researchers are working at where the researchers present. We had a great turn out of around 50 to 60 people would be my estimate! The recordings turned out pretty well, but you will have to wait for the podcast for that! 

This is Ann's talk (in black on the left). She is studying
semipalmated plovers and the mismatch hypothesis. Basically,
this means that the insects, which the plovers eat, are hatching
earlier because the temperatures are higher (climate change)
earlier. So traditionally, the plovers, and other shorebirds,
timed their migration, nesting and mostly the timing of chick
hatching occurs at the same time as the peak of the insects so
there is enough food for the chicks! With climate change, and
the insects hatching earlier, the hypothesis is that the chick hatching
time will not change as quickly as the peak insect time. Bad news
for the plovers. Ann is catching the chicks and the insects so
she can see if this is in fact true!

This is Hannah's talk (in blue on the right). She is the field
team leader for Nate's project studying Hudsonian godwits
and whimbrels. These are both shorebirds, but not much is known
about them. Specifically, they don't know how they migrate,
or how they nest, or how the chicks grow, but they are pretty
amazing birds - migrating from Churchill to the lower tip
of South America, male and female share of responsibilities of
chick rearing , the dramatic physiological changes to prepare for
migration and then after the migration. So most of the work
is trying to locate the nests and then capturing the birds
to put a data logger and tags on them and to get weight and length
measurements and blood samples for DNA and disease detection.
Here, Hannah is modeling how a bird trap works with a volunteer.
The trap snaps closed when you pull the fishing line after the
bird wanders back to its nest. It doesn't hurt the bird.

This is Celia (in pink/purple)! She is
holding a zooplankton net to sample the
lake for zooplankton (found anywhere in
Churchill, if there is a lake that doesn't have
zooplankton, tell Celia... she will be super
excited)! She talked about the importance of
zooplankton in the food chain as a connection
for nutrients and energy between algae and fish.
She also talked about how there are 7-8 species
in each pond and that the community can vary
greatly even between lakes right next to each
other! The communities also vary because
the environmental changes can be severe
because the volume of water is so little.
Specifically, she is looking at how different
communities that she gathers from various lakes
 can establish under different nutrient and
 salinity conditions. She is also interested in
seeing how zooplankton can establish between
lakes - how do they get from lake to lake.
So she has windsocks set up between lakes to
try and capture these resting eggs that the zooplankton
lay to survive winter and harsh conditions
(they can survive for decades in the sediment and
can actually be hatched after 70 years! This
hatching is called resurrection ecology!)
The theory is that the resting eggs are being blown
by the wind between ponds. They could also be
transported by animals or their feces!

This is Vanya (with the yogurt container around his neck!).
He is studying yellow warblers (little droplets of sunshine!)
and is looking at geographic variation of their nest morphology.
So he is holding two different nests in his hands here. One is
a nest made in Churchill, and the other in southern Ontario. The
fluffier, bigger one is from Churchill, the shallower, more woody
one is from Ontario. And he is interested in why the same species
makes such a different type of nest depending on location.
One thing he did find was that it takes 1500 trips for the
females in Churcihll to make the nests and only 500 trips for the
Ontario females! There must be some advantage!
Does it effect the chick growth? Is it warmer or cooler for the climate?
Will it hold more water or less? Or is it even an ancestral quality
that reflects the adaptations to the little ice age? Or maybe
it's just the time investment difference because southern birds
get predated more often and have to rebuild their nests many
times over the nesting period whereas the Churchill ones will
usually build it only once or twice? Vanya thinks this one since
the temperature, the moisture, and chick survival don't seem to be
different. Another thing, Vanya goes around and switches the
nice fluffy Churchill nests with Ontario nests and vice versa down
south - moving them from mansions to shacks to experimentally
manipulate the nests and see how all these variables are
effected. I feel sorry for the ones that get the shacks, but from
the research, it doesn't seem to matter all that much... 

1 comment:

  1. A similar post can be found at http://churchillscience.blogspot.com/2011/07/research-in-action-community-bus-tour.html - recognize some photos?