Thursday, October 18, 2012

In the field with my wife

My wife is so awesome that she insisted on using two of her floating holidays to help me out in the field in my southern New Hampshire sites this past September. It was great to have Gina in the field for multiple reasons. First, not to get too cheesy, but I really enjoy hanging out with her.  Second, field work goes so much faster with another person. Third, it was interesting to get some new ideas about doing field work from someone who isn't as tied up in the project as myself.
Gina, ready to measure some plants!
One of the best ideas Gina had for me was to draw a rough map for each of my quadrats, showing the general position of each tagged plant in the plot.  At first, this seemed like an awful lot of work, but thinking about it a bit further, and failing to find a few of last seasons marked plants, made me reconsider.  If you have ever tried to find tagged plants you know that sometimes it's very hard.  A year's worth of debris has accumulated, often times hiding tags under a layer of compost.  Some researchers employ tricks and tools such as using a metal detector.  I have not gotten to this point - partly because I cant afford a metal detector.  So, lacking a metal detector, I'll dig around in the duff for upwards of 30 minutes looking for a single tag.  Here's what I imagine a quadrat map might look like.
An example of a 'quadrat map'
The numbers indicate the tag number for each plant.  Clumps of plants with sequential tags might be listed together with a general shape of the clump.  Distinguishing characteristics, such as the presence of a particularly large tree would be noted.  Etcetera.  I really like this idea, and I don't think it will take much time to sketch out such maps in the field when tagging plants.  Next season, as I prepare to make some of my sites longer term monitoring plots (i.e. places to go back to after I finish my PhD) I think I'll start making these quadrat maps.
Happy field workers at the end of the day!