Leaf-Out in April

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Year two of field work for our three year NSF funded grant exploring adaptation of Arctic grayling to climate change started in Fairbanks.  Last year we had difficulty capturing Arctic grayling early in the season because spring on the North Slope arrived exceptionally early.  Our grayling capitalized on the jump-start to spawning and left their overwintering sites before we could capture them for our research.  This year, however, we’ve arrived earlier than ever before to Alaska with hopes of beating the increasingly advanced spring thaw.  With a balmy rain falling and leaf-out already in progress in Faribanks, we’ve got fingers crossed that it’s still winter on the North Slope!

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Hoping that rain in Fairbanks somehow translates to snow on the North Slope.

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Command central at the Chena River Lodge in Fairbanks, AK.

 

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Heading north on the Daulton Highway (a.k.a. the Haul Road), rivers are already flowing.

 

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Quick stop for a selfie of the Dynamic Grayling Duo at Finger Mountain.

 

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River valleys along our route show signs of overflow but anchor ice still holds here on the South Slope of the Brooks Mountain range, giving us hope that our grayling still lay slumbering in their overwintering sites, awaiting the spring thaw.

 

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Yes!  The Kuparuk River is still rock solid!  Part 1 of Plan A remains in place:  Locate overwinter locations via snow machine and capture fish for PIT tagging, genetics and otolith microchemistry.

 

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Rock ptarmigan still sport winter plumage.  So many ptarmigan!

 

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Grazing caribou appear as dots under the trans-Alaskan oil pipeline .

 

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A lazy herd of musk ox meander the shores of the still frozen Sagavanirktok River.

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A short-eared owl perched along the road takes flight as we approach.

 

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Sun setting on the horizon provides a reminder that we’ve arrived here earlier this spring than ever before.

 

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Tomorrow’s task starts with unpacking, inventorying and organizing our field gear.

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