Glen MacDonald to head White Mountain Research Center
By Karen A. Lefkowitz
Moving to the front lines of climate change, UCLA professor Glen MacDonald recently accepted a position as director of the White Mountain Research Center. The multi-station center is situated among diverse ecosystems ranging from high alpine to arid deserts east of the Sierra Nevada, 270 miles north of Los Angeles.
“This is an amazing setting to explore and contemplate the interplay between human cultures and nature, the environment and art, and environmental communications,” MacDonald said.
In operation since 1948, the center supports research, field classes, workshops and conferences for a range of disciplines, from astronomy to ecology. Management of the center was transferred to UCLA from the University of California, San Diego in 2012. MacDonald takes over for Tony Orme, a geography professor who oversaw the transition. The center has been modernized and refurbished and now includes two high-elevation stations running on off-grid solar power. But not everything is new—the center’s Crooked Creek Station is close to a 5,065 year-old bristlecone pine that’s believed to be the oldest living tree in the world.
MacDonald is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, former director of the Institute for the Environment and Sustainability, and the John Muir Memorial Chair of Geography. His research focuses on climate change, water resources in arid locations and biogeography. MacDonald said he looks forward to educating the next generation of environmental scientists and expanding the facility’s ability to track the impacts of climate change.
BARCROFT STATION: OPEN GATE DAYS - Open Gate days will be held on Sunday, July 27 and Sunday, August 31. The gate will open at approximately 6:30 AM and close at about 7:30 PM. View flyer for more information. Hikers wishing to climb White Mountain Peak will be allowed to drive beyond the locked gate and park at Barcroft Station to begin their hike.
In Memoriam Hal Klieforth
We mourn the passing of meteorologist Hal Klieforth, a longtime friend of WMRS/WMRC. After graduating from UCLA Hal came to Bishop for the Sierra Wave project in 1951. When not soaring high above Owens Valley on record-setting glider flights, he befriended WMRS staff who had just constructed Barcroft Station. Hal thus had the distinction of having been one of the earliest visitors to Barcroft, having dined there just before its temporary abandonment during the winter of 1951-52.
He maintained his interest in WMRS throughout his life, and was honored at the 2008 WMRS CEREC Conference, along with his friend Derham Giuliani, for contributions to science and natural history of the Eastern Sierra. His knowledge, energy, and unfailing courtesy will be missed.
WMRC staff recently installed 12 solar panels on the roof of Crooked Creek Station along with the necessary inverters to convert the solar energy. More panels will be installed early next spring allowing Crooked Creek Station to operate off grid.
This field station is located in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest at an elevation of 10,200’ in the White Mountains. It is an ideal facility in which to teach field classes, conduct research, and to hold workshops and retreats. Crooked Creek Station offers meals and accomodations for up to 45 people. There is high speed internet access, four dry lab spaces and a classroom. The station is open from about June 1 to about October 31.
In Memoriam: Raymond Gray
WMRC mourns the passing of Raymond Gray on September 14, 2013. Ray, a retired geologist at the Pine Creek tungsten mine, had participated in WMRC activities for many years. He was one of the founders of the "Friends of White Mountain Research Station;" a volunteer organization which supports many WMRC activities. His enthusiasm, love of the sciences and friendship will be missed.
Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grants
The Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grant Program is now open to all Graduate Students currently enrolled at any of the University of California campuses who wish to work at a UC Natural Reserve System site, including WMRC. There are no restrictions on the research topic, and students from all academic disciplines are strongly encouraged to apply. The maximum individual grant is $3,000, and the limit on total awards is $38,000.
WMRC welcomes new Operations Manager
Jeremiah Eanes has been hired to be the WMRC Operations Manager. Jeremiah will oversee day-to-day operations and also be responsible for maintaining and improving WMRC facilities. Having previously worked as a solar contractor and also for the U.S. Forest Service, he is well-qualified for this demanding job.
UCLA and WMRC go tobacco-free
UCLA recently announced announced a new policy prohibiting use of tobacco on university properties effective April 22, 2013 (Earth Day). This policy covers WMRC. Smoking at WMRC had previously been allowed only in certain outdoor areas.
2013 WMRC Minigrants awarded
WMRC congratulates eight graduate-student researchers who recently recieved WMRC grants: Christine Barszewski, U. Wisconsin - Madison; Marissa Caringella, UCLA; Christopher Kopp, UCSD; Julie Lynn, Fordham University; Ishai Rubin, UCSB; Brian Smithers, UCD; Jon Suen, UCSB; Rachelle Warren, Central Washington U. The grants will help defray room and board expenses for use of WMRC facilities. The students' research will be conducted in the disciplines of astrophysics, geology, ecology, and physiology.
White Mountain Research Center 2013 Minigrants
The White Mountain Research Center (WMRC) is pleased to announce the introduction of modest minigrants in support of original graduate student research during 2013. Grants of between $500 and $1000 will be awarded to individuals on a competitive basis to offset the cost of meals and lodging at one or more of the WMRC research stations (Owens Valley, Crooked Creek, Barcroft, and Summit). No travel funds are available. Click here for further details contained on the two-page application form. Application deadline is February 1, 2013.
Position Open: Operations Manager
Applications are now being accepted for the position of WMRC Operations manager. Click here for details (job #18303).
Applications are now being accepted for the 2012 Mary DeDecker Botanical Grants funded by the Bristlecone Chapter of the California Native Plant Society. The application deadline is December 10, 2012. Click here for details
Early storm at Barcroft
October storms make operations at WMRC upper elevation stations challenging but provide wonderful photographic opportunities. Below are a few photos taken after a recent October storm at Barcroft Station.
Clem Nelson Peak
On August 25, 2012 an un-named peak in the White Mountains was named "Clem Nelson Peak" by the US Geological Survey. The peak is just north of the Schulman Grove Visitor Center and has spectacular views of Deep Springs Valley, the Sierra Nevada, and the White and Inyo Ranges. Dr. Nelson, a former geology professor at UCLA, had been affiliated with WMRC for many years. The peak was named due to the efforts of several other WMRC-affiliated geologists.
Applications are now being accepted for 2012 Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grants. Grants may be awarded to any graduate student currently enrolled at a UC campus who uses a unit of the UC Natural Reserve System for research. Application deadline is October 8, 2012. Click here for details.
Tribal Environmental Youth Camp
WMRC was proud to host the eleventh annual Owens Valley Tribal Environmental Youth Camp at Crooked Creek Station in late July. Fifty-six students and adults stayed at the facility over a five-day period. Some of the participants made a video to commemorate the event.
Fall 2011 UC Davis Odyssey field trip offsets carbon footprint by contributing to WMRC energy projec for the third year in a row! details
Fall 2011 The Mildred Matthias Graduate Student Research Grant Program is seeking applications. Grants may be awarded to any graduate student currently enrolled at any general campus in the UC system who is using one or more of the NRS reserves, including WMRC. There are no restrictions on the research topic, and students from all academic disciplines are strongly encouraged to apply. Details
The Effects of Warming and Shading on Alpine Cushion Plants in the White Mountains.
Chris Kopp, phD student, UC San Diego.
This past summer (2011) was my second field season at WMRC. In 2010, I arrived in the White Mountains as a newly minted Ph.D. student at UC San Diego who was enthusiastic about working in the mountains, but in need of a focused dissertation project. The best way for me to become familiar with the Whites, and its diverse plant communities, was to get out and explore the landscape. This exploration took the form of a resurvey of work done by Harold Mooney back in 1961. In Dr. Mooney’s original survey, he and his associates described the distribution and abundance of several plant species that were recorded along line transects between 2,900 m (9,500 ft) and 3,950 m (13,000 ft) of elevation. In the summer of 2010, I set out to replicate this survey to find out if there had been shifts in species distributions and abundances in the past 49-years. I found that sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula) advanced its upper elevational range margin on granitic soils as much as 150 m (500 ft) from the original 1961 survey. This upward range expansion coincided with significant declines in abundance of three alpine cushion plants: Anderson’s Clover (Trifolium andersonii), condensed phlox(Phlox condensata), andoval-leaved buckwheat(Eriogonum ovalifolium). There were, however, smaller, but significant, declines in these species at higher elevations and on soil types wheresagebrushhad already become abundant in 1961. These changes occurred during a period of increasing temperatures in the White Mountains.Together, these results suggest that rising temperatures may be negatively impacting these alpine plant communities via both direct and indirect mechanisms, increasing the likelihood these communities will be lost. Based on these results I have established an experiment that tests the effects of warming and shading by sagebrush on alpine plant cushion plants in the White Mountains.
Warming chambers deployed at Barcroft Field Station
(photo Daren Eiri)
Closeup of chamber with Sagebrush (Artemisia arbuscula) inside. (photo Daren Eiri)
During the 2011 field season, I established these experiments at two sites near Crooked Creek and Barcroft. At each site I constructed passive warming chambers and shading structures. The warming chamber will examine the response of the species described earlier to temperatures increased 1-3 °C above ambient. The shading experiment employs shade cloth mounted over cushion plants to test their response to simulated shading by sagebrush. My expectation is that warming will enhance fitness (growth, flower and seed production, etc.) of sagebrush but decrease fitness of cushion plants. I expect shading will decrease fitness of cushion plants indicating their inability to withstand encroachment by sagebrush. These experiments will continue through the 2013 field season and I am excited to see what results are yielded.
My first two years in the White Mountains have been a great success thanks to the tremendous help, hospitality and cooking of the WMRC staff. I am looking forward to continuing my research here and interacting with all the great friends and scientists I have met thus far!
The 2011 Open House at Barcroft on Sunday August 7th was a tremendous success. Beautiful weather and an outstanding crew of volunteers (thank you Friends of WMRC!!) provided a unique and enjoyable summer outing for over 450 guests! Talks, video presentations, building tours and tours of the energy system were available all day, and over 120 dozen homemade cookies were provided by our cooks. Thanks to our scheduling coordinator Denise Waterbury for organizing all this, and special thanks to Olin Beall and the USFS engineers who graded the washed out White Mountain Road just in time for the event. See photos!
Barcroft Field Station opens July 7. The warm weather permitted WMRC staff to open the road to Barcroft, and we plan to open the station later this week. Currently we recommend 4wd only because of muddy spots in the road.
The Physiological Ecology meetings were cancelled this year. These are normally held every June at the WMRC Owens Valley Laboratory.
May 18 snow at Crooked Creek. See photos and movie from snow cat trip to Crooked Creek, to replace computer switch and plough snow on White Mountain Road.
Barcroft Snows Deep snows have isolated Barcroft Field Station since late December. On April 28 WMRC staff John Smiley and Daniel Pritchett hike in through deep snow for maintenance check. Photos
New compilation of long-term data from Barcroft shows warming trends of .5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius. See Long-term Weather page for analysis, data, graphs & other information.
October 1, 2010 Read about WMRC-GLORIA in High Country News feature article "Dancing with Climate Change." Writer Madeleine Nash and photographer Tom Nash joined us for the 2010 GLORIA field week and put together a wonderful overview of the project including a spectacular cover photo of our own Jeff Holmquist sweeping bugs in front of White Mountain Peak!
September 2010Bighorn Sheep Exclusion Fence In recent years the Barcroft Domestic Sheep Facility has been undergoing major renovation in order to eliinate any possible contact between the domestic sheep and the wild Desert Bighorn sheep that roam the Whites. Along with WMRC assistance and under the direction Ben Gonzales, Department of Fish and Game, staff from the Loma Linda University Animal Care facility completed the final stage of these improvements. A 10' high gated pen now surrounds the domestic sheep dung trailer. The fence also surrounds the rest of the sheep facility (see photo-click on photo to enlarge).With this final improvement, dung collected from the sheep pens is directly deposited inside the trailer. Runoff control barriers prevent dung or dung-laden water from escaping the fenced area. When full, the trailer is covered with a tight-fitting canvas tarp and driven down to Bishop for disposal.
This sheep facility supports one of WMRC' flagship projects, a long-term, multi-million dollar effort to understand how low oxygen harms pregnancy and fetal development. In 2009 this project was rated as one of the nation's top health science projects by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Holding pens at Crooked Creek. Used temporarily when snow blocks access to Barcroft. rear view.
Front view. 10-26-10
Barcroft update, September 1, 2010: WMRC staff re-install 68 solar panels on the roof of the Pace lab. After a major effort including about 25 person days of work, all the solar panels but one were re-installed by gluing them directly to the roof surface using many gallons of EPDM adhesive. As of today all 68 of the panels are connected to the battery bank and are generating 6 KW of electricity at mid-day. The solar-battery installation is so effective that it is seldom necessary to run the backup generator, saving thousands of gallons of fossil fuel every summer. see WMEP web site for more information see also carbon offsets page.
New opportunity for UC GRADUATE STUDENTS working at WMRC! The Mildred E. Mathias Graduate Student Research Grant Program is now open to all Graduate Students currently enrolled at any of the University of California campuses. There are no restrictions on the research topic, and students from all academic disciplines are strongly encouraged to apply.
The maximum individual grant is $3,000, and the limit on total awards is $38,000. The deadline for submitting an application is 8:00 am on October 18, 2010. Letters of recommendation and permissions to use reserve(s), are due no later than 8:00 am on October 27, 2010. See Matthias grant flyer for details. Please note that the WMRC minigrant program (open to all graduate students from all institutions) will probably also be announced in November or December.
July 28-30, 2010 WMRC hosts Review Committee from the UCNRS. In June 2010, WMRC submitted an application to join the UC Natural Reserve System. In July a Review Committee, chaired by UCLA Professor Tony Orme, made a site visit to the station. They were favorably impressed with the scope and breadth of station activities, and are preparing a report which should move the process along. Although there are questions which need to be answered and details to be worked out, joining the UCNRS would bring more resources and expertise to WMRC. It would also give us a new administrative home within the Office of Research.
Annual Open House at Barcroft, Sunday August 1, 2010 between 6:30 am to 6 pm. Beautiful weather brings a large crowd for an inside look at one of North America's most unique scientific facilities. . Highlights included the Road Kill Museum, lectures by faculty, staff and graduate students, tours of the energy and astrophysics labs, souvenir sales, unlimited free cookies baked by WMRC cooks and, of course, the unparalleled high altitude scenery at 12,500 feet elevation.
July 2, 2010: WMRC staff re-install 33 solar panels and revive battery-inverter system: hope for a full recovery. Once the road opened WMRC staff began a top-priority scramble to recover the solar electrical system (see below for details). The fallen solar panels were straightenend and cleaned, and tested for generating capacity. Remarkably, the 60 panels retained 60-100% of their power (mostly 100%), enough to justify their re-installation. The new mounting system glues the panels directly to the roof. The dead batteries were also revived by a multi-step process which has resulted in at least a partial recovery. On June 30, the generator was shut off after running continuously for 6 days, and the station returned to partial solar/battery power. We plan to remount the remaining solar panels next week and to complete the re-installation over the next few weeks. We are hoping for a full system recovery but this can only be determined by actual performance.
Trek to Barcroft, May 28, 2010: Winter storm sweeps away Barcoft solar panels. The heavy snows and delayed spring snowmelt in 2010 prevented WMRC staff from reaching Barcroft in winter/spring 2010. We knew via remote monitoring that the main power sytem had shut down, but we didn't know why. Getting up to Crooked Creek has been delayed by large snow drifts, and once the way was open the snow was too soft for easy passage. Finally, on May 28, WMRC Associate Director John Smiley was able to drive the snow cat to the base of Sheep Pass; close enough to enable a 6-mile hike up to the station. See full story for what he found, with details and photos.
Major Budget Cuts at the University of California are forcing reductions in the level of service WMRC offers researchers and classes. We have cut staff hours from their already minimal levels, and the entire staff is currently taking unpaid furloughs. The most visible effect will be felt at Crooked Creek. There, in 2010, we plan to offer meal service only to groups larger than 10 persons. Individuals, couples and smaller groups will have to purchase, transport and cook their own meals while at Crooked Creek, except when they overlap with a larger group for which meals are being prepared. It is very important that visitors plan their trips to Crooked Creek (and the other stations) well in advance (at least 2 weeks and preferably a month or more). We ask our station users to be patient through these difficult times, and please know that our primary concern is to support you, the station users, in safety and as much comfort as our field conditions allow.
Summer 2009 monitoring data reveals surprisingly high concentrations of atmospheric ozone at White Mountain summit and Barcroft. Constancy of readings at about 50 ppb indicate that these sites are excellent for measuring the "background" concentration of ozone for North America. New, more sophisticated measurements are planned for 2010. See story for details.
November 2009 Ralph Kellogg, pioneering high altitude physiologist who worked at Barcroft from 1955 to 1965, dies at age 90. more information
October 2009 Announcing 2009 Mary Dedecker Botanical Grant details
October 2009 In cooperation with the USGS Western Ecological Research Center (WERC), WMRC has recently completed an 1800 square foot, climate-controlled greenhouse at the Owens Valley Laboratories. The greenhouse will initially be used to germinate soil samples (looking at seed banks in desert plant communities), but may be used for other compatible research as space becomes available. The construction of the greenhouse is part of WERC's recent expansion of their Yosemite Field Station to include an office in Bishop, as well as their two offices in Yosemite. In addition to the plant restoration work involving the greenhouse, WERC has also received funding to conduct assessments of wildlife in the high altitude Sierra Nevada and White Mountain ranges. This involves monitoring transects across the Sierra Crest in several locations, counting Bighorn Sheep, Pika, Marmots, Belding and Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, and then modeling the effects of climate change to predict future range shifts for these species. WERC researchers are collaborating with students and faculty from UC Merced, UC Davis and Cal Poly San Lius Obispo on these and other projects in our region.
Research team potting up soil samples
for germination study. The greenhouse multi-stage control system is center right. 11-4-09
Many many pots planted, many more to go! The samples are monitored for 6-8 months. The huge evaporative cooling system is along the south wall. 11-4-09
Science Teacher at
Sir Francis Drake High School, and his students have designed, built and installed a cold frame greenhouse at Barcroft.
They are still perfecting the design, but this summer they harvested potatoes, radishes and salad greens from this elevation; probably a North American record.as the highest cultivated ground on this continent.
Michael and students plan to continue to refine this project next year, which is part of a larger effort to figure out how to support humans in extreme environments (including Mars!).
October 13, 2009 Surprise snowfall closes roads in White Mountains! details
Open House at Barcroft, Sunday August 2! Nearly 300 attend; "perfect
weather" all day. details
2009. Major lighting storm damages some equipment at Barcroft, but main
power system OK. Barcroft Report from Dori Cann:
7 pm a squall was happening over Piute mtn.I was out in the sheep pens
feeding them their evening meal.Looking over at Piute I could see alot
of hail and graupel was covering the ground.A few lightnings were striking
over there.I finished up with the sheep quickly and ran back over to main
building to tell everyone(there were 9 of us here) to check out the good
lightning show.So we all stood in the office oohing and ahhing.After 15
mins or so it was obvious that the storm was moving our way.Lightnings
quickly fallowed by thunder.Amazing strikes with parts branching off left
and right.So bright we would be blinded for a moment .Then a close one
with sparks coming out of the outlets.And a few minutes a lightning that
seemed to hit the back(west end )of the building and a loud crack and
the power was out.Wow,as we are generating our own power that might mean
we were struck!We let some more time go by and then went out to look (not
touch ) the mian electric panel to see if there was any obvious sign of
why power was out.I was walking back in front of shop bench to get flashlight
and another crack and bright blue sparks flew out of the outlets on work
bench.And that happened with power out.by now it was 8 pm and things were
settling down.Went to check what I could and was able to fire up diesel
generator and get power to building. Decided to look for any damage in
visited the area in a big way last Thursday, and we now are troubleshooting
various problems: the T1 connection to Barcroft is down, even though the
dome Wi-Lan radio is working. Electric power is also off at the observatory
dome - there seems to be short or some other problem. The Starband satellite
connection is working at Barcroft, as is the T1 to Crooked Creek. We also
just installed a new, higher bandwidth (2 Mb/s download, 500 Kb/s upload,
with 5 static IP addresses) "Hughes Net" satellite internet
service at Crooked Creek - details on how to access this later. The Crooked
Creek Starband has been disconnected.
7/30/09 The lightning
event destroyed or damaged at least nine devices, including internet switches,
media converters, and digital pressure gauges. There is also damage to
the dome power supply, either in the transformers or in the buried line.
JTS is working on a write-up of the event.
2009.The 26th Annual Physiological Ecology Conference, was held at OVL on June 5-7, 2009. 13
presentations, including one by featured speaker John Harrison of
Arizona State University, were given to the audience of 50 attendees..
See phys-eco web site for registration information and other details.
Minigrant Awards WMRC awarded 16 fellowships supporting graduate
student research at the station, totalling over $20,000. See 2009
list of recipients. Recipients included 9 researchers from 5 UC campuses,
in additon to 7 from other Universities.
2009. The 7th and final lecture of the Winter 2009 lecture series was held at the station on East Line Street on April 16. We had a very
well-attended and successful 2009 seminar series. Our thanks go to organizer
Denise Waterbury, the Friends of the White Mountain Reseach Station and
the lecturers who donate their time. Details on WMRC
public lectures web site.
29 article "Tufa, Sagebrush, Fire and Flood;" in-depth reporting
on the CEREC conference!
overnight trip to Barcroft and test of logistics (1-21-09)...see story
January 2009 In
December the Willow Beetle Project was awarded a 5-year,
$800,000 grant from the National Science Foundation,
for the research proposal entitled "Ecological and evolutionary
responses to environmental change in Sierra Nevada populations
of a montane willow beetle." See beetle
project web pages for more information about this long-running
from OVL....Christine Goedhart March 1, 2009
1– Measuring salt grass (Distichlis spicata) photosynthesis
in particular I am amazed at the change of seasons in the Owens
Valley, and it gives me special admiration for the vegetation and
wildlife that live here. I’ve been working in Owens Valley
for three years now, but this is the first time that I’ve
had field work during the winter. I didn’t think it was possible
to miss the sweltering heat of the summer, but as I recently woke
up to temperatures in the teens, I caught myself dreaming of long
summer days under the scorching sun.
My dissertation project
involves studying the effects of differing water and nutrient availabilities
on vegetation in Owens Valley. In general, grass abundance is usually
explained by water availability. However, at any given depth to
watertable there is considerable variation in plant cover, suggesting
that nutrient limitation may also play an important role. Indeed,
we found that sites with greater grass cover had more soil nitrogen,
and that grass photosynthesis was closely related to nitrogen availability.
These results indicate that controls on nitrogen cycling may be
an important determinant of grass distribution in this region.
Figure 2– Collecting
leaves from an Ericameria nauseosa shrub
depths change radically throughout the valley, and lately I’ve
been looking at how this difference in water availability affects
the water transport system of dominant shrub and grass species.
Surprisingly, although leaf carbon isotopes of the shrub species Ericameria nauseosa (Rubber rabbitbrush) showed increased
plant water stress with increasing site watertable depth, there
was no indication that the more water stressed plants had an altered
water transport system to make them more water stress resistant.
This pattern was also true for the shrub species Atriplex torreyi (Torrey’s saltbush) and the grass species Distichlis spicata (Saltgrass), where plants in sites with deeper watertables were
not more water stress resistant. Currently, I’m focusing on
how depth to watertable and soil nutrient availability affect plant
chemical and nutrient composition.
What a wonderful opportunity
it has been to work in such a beautiful location! While in the field
I sometimes take breaks to gaze at the snow-capped mountains and
reflect on how lucky I am to be out here this time of year. Although
I might not think so when I first wake up, being able to see Owens
Valley in the winter is definitely worth having to pile on the extra
jackets in the morning.
5th White Mountain Research Station regional research symposium: "Climate, Ecosystems and Resources in Eastern California" was held on November 5-8, 2008, at the Tri-County Fairgrounds in
Bishop. Over 200 scientists, resource managers, and members of the
public attended nearly 100 talks and presentations. One highlight
was a public lecture by LADWP General Manager David Nahai, on Thursday
November 6 at 7:30 pm. Many participants commented on the breadth
and quality of the presentations, and on the opportunities for networking
and collaboration. See CEREC web pages
for photos and other details, including program, list of speakers,
presentation abstracts, and powerpoint presentations.
24, 2008 story in Sacramento Bee newspaper highlights climate change research in the Sierras and White
Mountains, and features local naturalist Derham Giuliani. See
complete story on-line.
from Crooked Creek....Adelia Barber August 31, 2008
This week, I returned
to Crooked Creek after a few weeks away, and the chilly weather
of fall has arrived in full force! The wind outside is blowing so
hard that the metal roof at the station is making strange howling
noises. I spent most of the early summer up here as well, and with
the help of a few dramatic thunderstorms it’s been an idyllic
season in the White Mountains. This is my third season at Crooked
Creek working on my dissertation research, which is focused on the
population dynamics of bristlecone pine trees in several groves
around the station. For this trip, I’m joined by some excellent
field assistants, some of whom are designing their own projects
on seed predation and seedling survival.
Picture 1: Five small
bristlecone pine seedlings emerging under a log near Patriarch Grove
we’ve discovered some exciting things. First, of about 10,000
seeds that we placed out in protected cages over the winter, about
30 tiny seedlings germinated and a few are still alive after the hot,
dry summer. We also spent a week of the early summer on our hands
and knees, looking carefully under every rock in an attempt to find
naturally germinating seedlings. After searching in many different
areas, we had found only 9 trees total. Interestingly, 5 of these
trees are all germinating together under a piece of wood near Patriarch
Grove, suggesting that a small mammal or bird may have cached some
seed and forgotten about it over the winter. All told, we’re
discovering that bristlecone seedlings are very, very rare, despite
the fact that millions of seeds are produced each year. However, our
calculations of population growth rate indicate that the total numbers
of trees are actually increasing (despite the low success rate of
the seedlings) simply because these trees live for so long.
Picture 2: Team Bristlecone
posing near a spectacular tree we call the “old sucker”
Myself, and the rest of
“Team Bristlecone” are now settling nicely back into the
routines of research station life. Every morning we hike out into
the bristlecone groves, we wave “hi” to Campito the wild
horse and begin a long, fun day of looking for seedlings, counting
cones, and mapping trees. We hike back at the end of day, completely
exhausted, and are treated to the wonderful creations of our two chefs
Tim and Lisa.
I am back at Barcroft
Station for a third summer season. I spend summers here collecting
data for my four year PhD thesis research project. My study is on
the social behavior of yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris).
I am specifically looking at marmot social structure and how behavior
is distributed among group members. I am focusing on four types
of behaviors. These include positive and negative social interactions,
alarm calling (antipredator defense) and the first marmot to emerge
from the burrow in the morning. I have individually marked marmots
from six different colonies around Barcroft Station. I use small
metal ear tags for long-term identification and black fur dye for
long distance identification. Interestingly, I have trapped marmots
that already have ear tags. These are probably from Bette Stallman’s
previous marmot project on marmot foraging preferences that concluded
in 2001. Marmots can live for up to 17 years so it is not that surprising
that I found them.
So far this year at
Barcroft has been a little different from the previous two. I still
have a field assistant and I still have Dori the cook but this year
the road is blocked with snow and we had to ride in the snow cat
to the station. Even with the snow, most of the marmots are above
ground and not hibernating. The first few days up here were pretty
slow as the weather was cold and windy and not much was happening.
But now it is balmy with temperatures in the 50s and there is tons
of marmot action for us to observe. There are other animals around
including ground squirrels, chipmunks, birds and hares but no pikas
yet. My field assistant and I have started a routine that will be
the same for the rest of the season… waking up before the
marmots (around 5 AM), taking marmot behavioral observations and
trapping for the rest of the day.
*Thea is a graduate student
in the UCLA Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
The 25th annual Physiological Ecology Meeting, was held at WMRC in
Bishop June 6-8, 2008. See
web site for details. As always, the meeting emphasized an enjoyably
informal exchange of ideas and research.
project based at the Owens Valley lab, including a new 30' met tower:
Quantifying feedbacks between groundwater decline, wind erosion, and ecological
change in desert vegetation. for
details and photos see news story
Late May snowstorm
buries Barcroft in snow! The winter-like storm of May 22-27
settled in over Barcroft and snowed for several consecutive days.
The photo indicates substantial depth, at least a foot and maybe
more. (click to enlarge)
WMRC annual butterfly
count sets North American record!Plebejus shasta,
the Shasta Blue (photo at right) was super-abundant at 12,700' elevation
and above during the 2007 summer butterfly count. Our team of 4
counters recorded 875 individuals in about 30 minutes of counting.
Large numbers of these butterflies were also seen in August of 2006
at the 13,000' level. This record eclispes the previous record of
230 in 24 hours by a wide margin. This result, after only three
years of counting, suggests some unique characteristics of the high
alpine habitat surrounding the Barcroft Field Station. It also illustrates
the value of targeting the high alpine habitat for sampling. For more information
about the annual butterfly count, see WMRC 4th of July butterfly count pages. (photo
about 6' deep just above Sierra View on the White Mountain Road. Feb. 6, 2008 (click to enlarge)
2007. New Astonomy Dome rises at Barcroft! The astrophysics
team from U.C. Santa Barbara have just completed a new dome at the
WMRC Barcroft Field Station. This portable structure will soon house
a new millimeter-wave telescope for detecting and analyzing radiation
from the early universe. See
photos of the construction process.
2007. See "The Power of 10" - a new color brochure highlighting
University of California research at WMRC! pdf
2007. White Mountain Research Station hosted the 24th annual Physiological
Ecology Meeting June 1-3, 2007 at the Owens Valley Lab (OVL). As always, the meeting format
emphasized an enjoyably informal exchange of ideas and research, and a
comfortable venue to discuss topics of interest. 60 people attended.
astronomer George Smoot wins Nobel Prize for his work on the origins of
the universe! Using
extraordinarily sensitive instruments developed and tested in the dry air
at WMRC Barcroft Field Station, in balloon flights, at the South Pole, and in the COBE (Cosmic Background Explorer) satellite, UC Berkeley Professor
George Smoot and coworkers (see Smoot
Group web site) discovered tiny ripples in the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB).
The brightness and pattern of these ripples have helped define modern
theories about the age, composition and origin of the universe. Dr. Smoot's work built on a long history of cosmology research carried out at WMRC facilities, particularly Barcroft.
Some of the early measurements of the CMB were made at Barcroft in 1966 by UC Berkeley radio astronomers Jack Welch, David Cudaback and colleagues. In 1967 the MIT group headed by Bernard Burke, and independently, the Princeton group with cosmology pioneer David T. Wilkinson came to Barcroft and made crucial measurement of the CMB spectrum. In 1969 and 1971 research teams from the Aerospace Corporation and UC Berkeley (led by Paul Richards and including Dr. Smoot's co-Nobel laureate John Mather) made a set of crucial observations confirming the blackbody spectrum of the CMB. These findings led to a major program involving balloon flights and rocket-borne instruments. Dr. Smoot's team began working at Barcroft in 1980 and returned most summers throughout the 80's, testing and refining instruments and taking measurements. For a more complete story, read "The
spectrum of cosmic background radiation: early and recent measurements
from the White Mountain Research Station" by George Smoot, and "25
Years of High Altitude Research" written by WMRC' founder Nello Pace.
Shortly after the Penzias and Wilson discovery and
initial estimate of the CMB temperature, there were a
number of observations and determinations or estimations
of the temperature at various wavelengths which
were the beginnings of the effort to establish that the
CMB spectrum was blackbody. David T. Wilkinson and Peter
Roll were pioneers in radiometric observations
beginning on the roof of Jadwin Hall at Princeton.
Wilkinson and colleagues, first Stokes and Partridge
continued with a set of long wavelength
observations from the White Mountain Research
Station in California. This is a high altitude site operated
by the University of California and one that is a good
site for CMB observations because of its high altitude (12,000 ft, dryness, and reasonable accessibility via a road
that is open for about half the year). As mentioned
above, by 1974 Professor Paul Richards began a program
taking on graduate students, John Mather and
Dave Woody. Richards’ program developed bolometers
and a Michelson interferometer for spectrum observations
and these are the precursor for COBE FIRAS. The
FIRAS ((Far Infrared Absolute Spectrophotometer) instrument design came directly from the original
White Mountain instrument, which was then morphed
to be the Woody and Richards balloon-borne instrument.
The FIRAS team, led by John Mather, studied
the results and performance of the Woody and Richards
instrument and experiment and designed FIRAS both to
be as symmetric as possible and to operate at the same
temperature as that from the sky input. Another key
feature was the sky simulating blackbody which was
carefully designed, crafted and tested to be a very good
blackbody at a well-defined temperature.
origins research continues at WMRC to this day under the direction of
one of Professor Smoot's former students, UC Santa Barbara Professor Philip
Lubin. The Lubin group continues to design, build, test and operate instruments that look back to the early universe. See WMRC Astrophysics
web site for details.
"Master Station" at WMRC The University of California
White Mountain Research Center (WMRC) hosted a GLORIA planning workshop
at the Owens Valley Labs on May 22, 2006, and 16 scientists attended (GLORIA
stands for the Global Observation Research
Initiative in Alpine Environments). The primary outcome was a commitment
by the group and the WMRC to establish a "GLORIA Master Station"
at WMRC, dedicated to investigating the high elevation environment surrounding
the seven White Mountain GLORIA summits (see
WMRC-GLORIA web pages for details). A second outcome was a tentative
plan to host a conference and produce conference proceedings as early
as fall 2007. Finally, the group created a working plan for this summer's WMRC-GLORIA
field week, held at Crooked Creek Station during the week of July
GATE DAY SUNDAY, September 3. The
gate to the Barcroft Station will be opened for those wishing to climb
White Mountain Peak. You may drive to Barcroft, park, and hike up to the
peak. Please be advised that the Barcroft research facility will not be
opened to the public on this day, and please do not disturb staff or researchers
at the station. You will be at high altitude and if you experience
any health problems, go down immediately.
the station will be closed to visitors, there will be a team of medical
researchers asking hikers if they will volunteer to be interviewed and
monitored for symptoms of acute mountain sickness. The results are part
of an effort to understand the health implications of travel to high altitude.
6, 2006...WMRC ANNUAL OPEN HOUSE at the White Mountain Research Station
High-Altitude Facilities and the Bristlecone Pine Forest Visitor Center. Over 450 people attended a beautiful, cloudless day of hiking
and educational activities in the White Mountains on Sunday August 6,
2006. Hosted by the friends of WMRC, the program included 5 scientific
talks in the upstairs meeting room, a sales desk for WMRC T-shirts and
mugs, Kim Smiley's "Roadkill museum", a student survey of mountain
sickness for peak hikers, and questions and discussion with WMRC researchers
of Poleta Folds and Clem Nelson....CAMP NELSON CAMPOUT AND DEDICATION
CEREMONY.... About 30 people attended June 24. See web
page for details.
hosts 23rd annual Physiological Ecology meeting at OVL. On June
2-4, 70 scientists attended the two day long meeting, which included 18
presentations. Special guest speaker Hannah Carey (Univ. Wisconsin), who
studied marmots at WMRC during the 1980's, talked about her career researching
the physiological ecology of hibernation. She also emphasized the many
opportunies that have come her way to expand and broaden her perspective.
These meetings are a great way for faculty, researchers, and graduate
students to get together to discuss research directions and priorities. see
web site for details
Graduate Student Minigrant Award Announcement Over
$21,000 awarded to 16 students in 2006, including 13 new awardees! see
Research Scientist Jeff Holmquist: research highlighted on cover of Ecological
Science Foundation awards WMRC $255,000 to implement energy infrastructure
improvements at Barcroft Station. The grant, entitled "White
Mountain Energy Project: Bringing 21st Century Energy Technology to the
Barcroft Field Station" will allow WMRC to cover the roof of the
main Pace lab building at Barcroft with flexible solar photovoltaic panels,
install a hydronic heating system, rewire the station for off-grid operation,
and install a clean, reliable, efficient microturbine generator backup
system. The project is a collaboration between WMRC and the UC Irvine
School of Engineering Advanced Power and Energy Program (APEP). See WMEP
web pages for more info about the project.
hosts Terrain-induced Rotor Experiment (T-REX) at the Owens Valley Laboratories. This project uses the latest technology,
including three instrumented aircraft, to visualize and model the complex
winds that form in the Owens Valley, particularly the "rotor"
winds associated with sierra wave clouds, dust storms, and aviation hazards.
See the T-REX
pages for more information.
May 5 at 2 pm there will be a Public Lecture at the Bishop High School
Library entitled "An Up-close and Personal Look at the Humanitarian
Catastrophe in Sudan." This talk is co-presented by Annie
Smiley, anthropologist and educator at UC Davis, and Hashim Hassan, translator/interpreter
and former Sudanese refugee. Millions of people have been harmed, killed
or displaced from their homes in Sudan, and the crisis continues to this
day. Annie and Hashim will present their experiences living in Cairo,
Egypt working with refugees from Sudan. Hashim, a refugee himself, will
discuss his personal experiences as well as those of friends, family and
associates and Annie will present the results of her interviews as well
as years of teaching at a school for refugees in Cairo. This lecture will
be held in the Bishop High Library (call 873-4275 for directions)
Thursday April 6 at 7 pm, Dr. Phil Pister, retired biologist with the
California Department of Fish and Game, will speak on: "Ethical concerns
in biological conservation; Examples from the mountains and deserts of
the Eastern Sierra.." Phil is a long term resident of the
Owen Valley as well as a renowned biologist, conservationist and philosopher.
This is the eleventh, and possibly final, installment of our winter lecture
series. See lecture
series web page for the complete 2006 schedule, and more information.
2005 GLORIA project adds 3 new summits in 2005, in the White
Mountains. The Global Observation Research Initiative in Alpine Environments
is an effort to monitor climate effects on vegetation on mountain tops
above treeline all around the world. The seven White Mountain summits
cover a range of elevations, up to 14,060', and include two soil types,
granitic and carbonaceous. By resampling every 5 years, researchers will
measure climate-related vegetation change. (see GLORIA
web page for more details) WMRC is planning to add other types of
monitoring efforts to the network in summer 2006, including geomorphology,
animal surveys, soil science, and others.
2005 First Annual White Mountain Butterfly Count held July 29th. The First Annual 2005 White Mountain Butterfly Count was a great success.
Four counters participated, and promise to return next year with more
volunteers. The weather was not ideal, but the slow pace contributed to
more time for discussion and indentification. We surveyed six sites. The
count is part of a WMRC program to gather baseline data on the alpine
environments of the White Mountains.Details.
2005 WMRC staff packs in on horseback to repair snow cat.
2005 "OPEN GATE DAY” was hosted on Sunday, September 4, between
7 am and 6 pm. Hikers wishing to climb White Mountain Peak were
allowed to drive to the Barcroft Station to begin their ascent. Over 100
people participated, including 4 year old Tomo Suyama who walked all the
way! Our Annual Open House was hosted
at Barcroft Sunday August 7, 2005. Details on web
page, including photos of hailstorm.
2005 WMRC hosted the 22nd
Annual Physiological Ecology Conference at the Owens Valley
Labs on June 4-6. 62 particpants attended a series of about 24 talks spread
over two days, including a special presentation by U. Michigan Prof.Bill
Dawson, on the history of physiological ecology between 1925 and 1955.
For some photos of the meeting, see photos
2005 WMRC awards research grants to 13 graduate students! (see minigrant page for details)
2005 WMRC submits proposal to NSF as part of White Mountain Energy Project.
In collaboration with the UC Irvine Advanced Power and Energy Program
(APEP), WMRC has developed a strategy for upgrading utilities at Barcroft.
This effort has become known as the White Mountain Energy Project (WMEP),
and requires several steps to implement. Key analyses, simulations, and
recommendations have been produced by the APEP team, resulting in our
recent application to the National Science Foundation Field Stations and
Marine Laboratories (FSML) Improvement Program for funds to purchase and
install key equipment. The WMEP
web pages describe background, analyses and other details for the
New! Barcroft Webcam. Remotely controlled outdoor camera can
be used to pan, tilt and zoom.
closes road to Barcroft On Tuesday October 19,
2004, a surprise October storm dumped several feet of snow
on the upper elevations in the Whites. The White Mountain Road is
now closed at the Sierra View gate, and the upper stations are closed
for the winter.
2004 Undergraduate Research Symposium The WMRC Research
Experience for Undergraduates Program presented a series of short
talks highlighting the students' results from their summer research,
mentored with WMRC research scientists. The students' work may be
seen on the REU web site.
tribute to Clem Nelson, 1918-2004
Long time WMRC affiliate Clemens Nelson passed away, in Bishop,
on March 3, 2004 at the age of 85. Please see Clem
Nelson Memorial for more information.
2004 Attention hikers! Open Gate Day will
be held on Sunday, September 5. The gate at the end
of White Mountain Road will be open between 7am and 6 pm, to allow
allow hikers to drive the additional two miles and park their vehicles
at Barcroft Station. The Friends of WMRC will supervise
the parking. Please note that this is not an open house, and the
Barcroft Laboratory facilities will not be open to
the public. The annual open house is held the first Sunday in August.
2004 OPEN HOUSE Hundreds of visitors joined us for the annual WMRC Open
House at the Barcroft Station on August 1, 2004. There were refreshments,
poster displays, short talks, and demonstrations by faculty, staff
and students. The Barcroft gate was also open for hikers wishing to
ascend White Mountain Peak. Details.
Physiological Ecology Meetings The White Mountain Research
Station hosted the 21st annual Physiological Ecology Meeting at the
Owens Valley Lab (OVL). As always, the meeting format emphasized an
enjoyably informal exchange of ideas and research, and a comfortable
venue to discuss topics of interest, for students to gain experience
presenting their work in a friendly setting, and for veteran researchers
to try out new ideas with only limited heckling. Held June 5-6, 2004.Annual
Physiological Ecology Meeting
2003 Barcroft station is supporting full winter operations for the first time in many years. Two staff are in residence at the
station, taking care of animals and keeping the station open. Winter
research projects include animal physiology, growth and development
at high elevation, astrophysics, millimeter-wave astronomy, atmospheric
studies, and others. The Barcroft staff are in turn being supported
by the Bishop staff, who are making weekly sno-cat runs over the snow-drifted
roads, to bring in supplies, investigators, and staff shift changes. illustrate one such trip. Researchers who wish to ride in on the snocat
trips should call the station for details, and tentative
trip dates have been scheduled (but please note that safety and
staffing needs have priority and that the trip schedule is subject
to change without notice).