yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Mary Bay

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My field partner and I had fantastic luck this year with finding the unfindable. Seriously. Just like the salamanders hanging out in the Observation wetland, Mary Bay was even more of an unexpected surprise. There are only a handful of wetlands in the Park that have all four amphibian species and we were able to add Mary Bay to that list…it took us a few tries though.

The bottom portion of Mary Bay is filled with small thermal pools that dry up quickly and one very large pond that is so mucky around the edge that you can barely survey it. It’s actually pretty gross in there because it’s all filled with animal poo. The geese (as you can see in the photo above) and swans fill the wetland up. In fact, everything likes to poo in there. I’ve never seen so much tadpole poo in my life. I was scooping up large clumps of it. Heck, I even had to take a station break and go in the trees nearby. That never happens. Hailey’s Comet is more common.There’s just something very bowel releasing about the place. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that one scientist in the Park is convinced that if Yellowstone erupts, Mary Bay will be ground zero. Coincidence? I think not!

This is our annual July 4th survey. It’s usually scheduled for a half day and always takes a full day. Oh Mary Bay… The smaller sites were finished quickly because most had already dried up. The puddle-sized ones were bursting forth with tadpoles, adults still calling and attempting to lay even more eggs and metamorphs pouring out onto the dry ground. It was glorious. By the time we hit the Bay of Poo, the sky opened up and completely drenched us. Not the best way to begin an 1.5 hour survey! Because of the quicksand shoreline we were both only able to survey a small portion of the wetland. Despite this, we were convinced that we had seen spotted frog tadpoles, a load of chorus frog tadpoles, two fleeting salamander larvae and no toad tadpoles.

Later on, I spoke to Deb about what we’d seen and she mentioned being surprised that toad tadpoles are never found there because it’s thermal and they dig that scene. I began to question my amphibian identification skills at that point because, in retrospect, the thousands of small, dark tads clumped together along the shoreline seemed like they could have been toads. Toad tadpoles love to hang out in large congregations and are very curious. They won’t swim away when you approach them. In fact, they’ll usually swim right over to see what’s up. Other species definitely don’t act this way. At the time, we just couldn’t get that close to really tell for sure. So since we were returning in a few days to survey the dreaded upper sites, I agreed to give Poo Bay another looksee. Well, low-and-behold after much heated debate, we determined that the clumps of spotted frog tads were in fact, toads. By the hundreds! Thus, we were able to add Poo Bay to our small list of sites containing every amphibian species in the Park.

Surveying in Yellowstone is definitely like a box of chocolates…just not as tasty.

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Blacktail Plateau Drive

Blacktail Plateau 1

Welcome to Disneyland people! This site was another first for me and I certainly hope it’s not my last. Honestly, as soon as we parked our car and started hiking, we had elk bounding across our path and birds were perched on our shoulders singing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah. I felt like I was in a cartoon. We followed a great horned owl flying from tree to tree along with its tubby two fledglings. This blew me away because I’ve never encountered an owl in the daytime before and a great horned at that!

Our first wetland was occupied by a bison herd so we had to work around them as best we could. They were less than thrilled so they begrudgingly decided to move on about halfway through my survey. This was a bummer for me because everything is better with bison, including field work. As the mass migration was taking place, a few folks on horseback came down into the valley to chat with us while we surveyed. We must really be a site for people to behold. Here they are in the backcountry taking in the beautiful rolling hills of Yellowstone, never expecting to see another human soul, and two little girls with nets and waders pop out from the middle of a bison herd grazing in a wetland. Surprise!!!

Not only was the hiking and the wildlife viewing spectacular, the surveying wasn’t too shabby either. A few of the wetlands were absolutely filled to the brim with salamanders. No complaints there. The last wetland was an extremely large wet meadow comprised of tall, sharp grass which sliced my skin with every net swipe. Not cool. That’s a lot of pain just to find nothing but that’s how the job goes sometimes. The one rather neat thing about that meadow was that the substrate was comprised of itty-bitty fresh water clams. I kid you not. I’ve never seen anything like it in Yellowstone. Until further inspection, they looked like small pebbles. I told my field partner to examine the substrate and she agreed that I wasn’t totally out of my mind. Later, I told my supervisor what I’d seen and in all of her decades working in the area she’s never heard of anything like it. Thus, I’m not sure if someone slipped me some crack or not but at least my field partner was right there with me.

As you will discover from my blog, we survey a lot of Blacktail sites: Blacktail Pond, Blacktail Plateau, Blacktail something-or-other. These areas are in the northern part of the Park which includes a harrowing, pants-pooping trip over Dunraven Pass to get to. Usually, I’m frazzled and in need of medication and new pair of undies by the time we arrive at our destination. It’s certainly worth the trip though.

In all seriousness, this is where the rubber meets the road for climate change. Here, wetland loss is measurable and can be witnessed from year to year. People can argue the causes all they want but unless they have their head completely in the sand, they can’t deny that climate change is happening. This year Andy, Kenda and crew installed some data loggers in a few Blacktail wetlands to measure how rapidly this is all taking place. Time will tell but for now the future remains uncertain for the amphibians in this area. If only it was as easy as gathering them all into a large knapsack and releasing them somewhere safe. One can dream…

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The adult great horned owl in the trees.
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A garter snake sunning and eating all my tadpoles…jerk!
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This fawn and its mama were hanging out on the road as we drove to the site. Look at it scamper. So darn cute! I just want to pinch it! Pinch…Pinch.
yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Dunraven

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Dunraven is another favorite of mine. It has beautiful old-growth forest with lots of small, manageable wetlands to survey. Even better, the hike is super majestic and downright enjoyable. You honestly expect trolls and fairies to pop right out and strike up a conversation. Despite its awesomeness, this year was a bit of a mess when it comes to Dunraven. It was intended to be a one-day survey that turned into a two-day depressing event. To make matters worse, all this went down on my field partner’s birthday. Not good.

All was smooth sailing and we were more than halfway through our survey sites when we happened upon my absolute favorite wetland. I was so psyched to get there and I was telling my field partner all about how awesome it is and how it’s usually packed with tadpoles and such. As I approached the wetland, I was surprised to see that it had shrunk in size compared to previous years. I mean, it was half the size. This was a bit unusual, especially since this year was considered to be fairly wet. I was disappointed but not too floored by this because I have a theory about Dunraven being extremely dynamic and that it’s becoming thermal (no one seems to agree with me on this though). So I was bummed to see my favorite wetland had shrunk but not totally shocked.

Another thing I noticed as I approached was that the water was moving and hundreds of little tails were breaking through the surface and splashing about. This is the kind of stuff that makes a herper jump for joy. So although the wetland had shrunk, the frogs didn’t get the memo and they were still doing their thing. Aces! Just in my first few net swipes I had more spotted frog tadpoles than I could count. This was going to be a fantastic survey! Well, you can guess what’s coming next…

About five minutes into my survey I began to discover that something was very wrong. I netted a dead adult frog, and then another. I stopped and took a good look at the water around me and I saw many dead or dying tadpoles. They were swimming in circles, sometimes upside down, and then just dying. It was extremely eerie. I abandoned my survey, told my field partner that we had ourselves a problem, and then instead of counting the living, we began counting the dead. We searched that wetland with a fine-tooth comb and found two dead adult spotted frogs and about thirty dead spotted frog tadpoles. This is of course not accounting for the hundreds of tads whirling around the surface doing strange stuff.

We both agreed to cut the day short instead of contaminating the other wetlands with our equipment. Being the amphibian lovers we are, all we could feel was dread. Any creature that even so much as walked through that wetland could be spreading something awful throughout the ecosystem.

That night I was able to contact my supervisor, who then contacted the disease specialists for the Park. That crew went out to take samples and either they went to the wrong location or they need eye exams because they couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

A few days later we resumed our surveys of Dunraven and on our way out we collected samples for the disease crew. We needed to collect a dozen dead tadpoles, slice their bellies open and place them in vials of alcohol. Since I love blood and guts, I was the slicer and my field partner was the wrangler. She had no problem finding dead things, to the point where I couldn’t keep up with her and we had our dozen within minutes.  The place was certainly in worse shape than we had left it the first time.

I am sad to report that as of right now, months later, we still don’t have any answers. It could be chytrid or it could be something new for all we know. Amphibian die-offs are not a priority in the Park. And even though they are considered species of special concern, that seems to be just on paper. It’s extremely frustrating. You risk life and limb to gather data for absolutely nothing. It all seems so futile at times. As with any job, you have to find your own meaning for doing it or you’ll be miserable and in this case I’ve found it, thankfully.

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yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Winter Creek

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I’m all geared up a ready to go. This was still at the beginning of the hike, when I wasn’t tired and grumpy!
Campsite at Grizzly Lakes Winter Creek
Our deluxe accommodations! It actually was the nicest place I’ve ever backcountry camped.
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One of the many toads my field partner whispered to.

Welcome to Winter Creek, just past Grizzly Lake! This site was a first for me. I’m not sure how after all these years I’ve managed to avoid it but I finally got a taste. It was a little more than a three mile hike to our campsite but it felt more like ten with our packs on. Nevertheless, it was beautiful! And just like the area promises, we saw some grizzly footprints and some wolf footprints on the way in. That never sets me at ease when it comes to backcountry camping (especially after Gibbon Meadows).

Our campsite was glorious! Deluxe, four-star, glorious. It was the nicest backcountry site I’ve ever been lucky enough to camp in. We had a great view of Trilobite Peak which I found to be a little slice of home because we’re all about the trilobites in New York. There was a stream with crystal clear water running nearby, elk grazing in the valley and a trail leading to an old tiny Forest Service cabin. And I of course took a zillion photos of the adorable tiny structure and proceeded to lose them. Sorry, lovers of all things small and quaint, I let you down.

We quickly set up camp and then hiked to our first survey site so we could take some of the burden off the next day’s workload. The hike was AWESOME! The “trail” started literally right at our tents and it consisted of walking up a dry streambed between two mountains. It was like hiking in the Ithaca gorges but uphill and dry. This kind of terrain is in my DNA. This was my jam.

We surveyed this enormous lake and halfway through it began to storm. I was in such a frenzy to finish that I ended up blowing past my field partner who started 20 minutes before me. And right at the beginning and the very end of my survey I apparently found the one and only salamander in the entire lake. It was right where I had left it from a few hours back so I was able to count it. Then we decided to cut our day short and head back to camp because the weather was threatening to get even worse. It’s a good thing we did because we were hit with a hail storm as soon as we entered our tents.

We started early the next day because we had a lot of bushwhacking and sites to hit and then we had to hike all the way back out before dark. We utilized our trail again and found most of our sites to be small and easy to survey with abundant tads. However, there were a few remote sites that were absolutely treacherous to get to. The, it-took-us-more-than-an-hour-to-walk-a-quarter-of-a-mile, kinda crap. This was even using every dry, semi-clear stream channel we could find but it was still rough going. This several-hour-long walk between wetlands was when I discovered my partner to be the toad whisperer. It seemed like every second she was finding one at her feet and I never discovered a single one. They were absolutely flocking to her. That’s okay though, I didn’t take it personally, I’m the salamander whisperer so we’ve all got our gifts. There’s actually more truth to this than one would expect. Each field biologist seems to be more adept at finding one specific species. It may be that our eyes are better at seeing certain movements or color patterns. There’s something to it though…there’s a master’s thesis hidden in all this somewhere.

When we arrived at the remote sites, they were bone dry, of course. These moments test your patience and acting skills. You’re mad at this point because you’ve gone all that way, through hell, for nothing. On the other hand, you’re also relieved because you’re exhausted and the last thing you want to do is trudge through a wetland with your heavy waders for an hour. So you have to slap on your best game face and pretend to be absolutley devastated.

The hike back to camp was a bitch which involved sliding down the side of a steep mountain on our butts and then realizing it was totally unnecessary after the fact. Oh well, you live, you learn. The hike back out to the car was easy and long but beautiful. We met three girls who were staying at our site and while we were crouched down looking at fresh grizzly tracks, a group of hikers snuck up behind us and scared the absolute crap out of us. We thought they were bears so we screamed bloody murder and jumped into each other’s arms. Needless to say, they got a kick out of us. Adding to that, there was a stream crossing and I was so tired that I didn’t even bother changing into my waders. I just plowed through the water with my sneaks and long pants on. Well, the hikers probably thought I was out of my mind but at least I was memorable…maybe.

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For reference, we surveyed and camped in the top center area of the map.
yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Gardner River

Gardiner River with Electric Peak Gardiner River 1 Gardiner River 2 Gardiner River- Electric Peak Gardiner River 4This outing took two teams to accomplish because of the five mile walk to the wetlands and the potential for sketchy wildlife encounters. A few years ago, my field partner was almost attacked by a grizzly mother with two cubs during the hike in. The mother literally swam across the river, with her cubs in tow, to charge the crew. Luckily, she was a good mother and swam over to save her little ones from being swept away instead of continuing her pursuit. Despite frequent bear sightings in the area just days before, no bears were seen on our trip…just tracks. However, we did see a lot of elk, which is always a welcome treat.

It was a glorious day and hike, with beautiful views of Electric Peak and the surrounding mountains. I’ve always wanted to climb Electric Peak (and Avalanche Peak) but I’ve never felt fit enough. Maybe next year (fingers, toes and eyes crossed). During our surveys, a few not-so-lovely storms missed us by a mere few feet. I’m not even joking. I was sitting on the edge of the wetland, completely dry, and it was raining in the wetland. There’s nothing worse than being in a severe rainstorm five miles from shelter. That’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from hypothermia. Luck was certainly with us on this trip.

The wetlands were full of chorus frogs (including adorable little metamorphs), adult toads and salamanders which remained just out of my reach. Salamanders enjoy deeper waters and I’m just too short to get to them, even with my telescoping net. Because of this, they tend to make me feel like my surveys lack in accuracy. Yes, yes, basically salamanders make me feel inadequate (paging Dr. Freud) but I forgive them just on the basis of their awesomeness. Luckily, Dr. Andy Long Legs was with me to easily wade into the depths so I could rest easy knowing all bases were covered.

This trip also marked the downward slide between me, my field partner and the other field crew. I will not go into details on this here blog, but let’s just say that the relationship began to sour due to misunderstandings originating from this trip. Sad but true. Things happen and field work is inherently stressful which can bring out the very best and worst in people. I will say for the record, despite all of our differences, I enjoyed each and every person I worked with (and met) this field season and wouldn’t change a thing. It was just a shame that some things went down the way they did.

The hike out was arduous and bloody. I took some bad advice from someone who told me that the entire hike was on-trail so I wore shorts. Big mistake! Either that person clearly wasn’t remembering correctly, or they hated me (probably both). It was 80% off-trail through sagebrush which sliced up my legs with every step. By the end, my legs were on fire from being rubbed raw, whipped and repeatedly stabbed. To make matters worse, I had a few bloody slices across them that were taking the brunt of it all. Every stream crossing was an absolute blessing because I could find relief in the cool water. I didn’t make one peep of complaint though until we got to the car and my co-workers were able to get a good look at me. They were a bit horrified and I was embarrassed that I had made such a rookie mistake. Shorts and field work are not a winning combo. Everyone knows that…except for me…but I certainly do now.

 

From the pictures above, I wanted to point out the beautiful gentian plant being admired. That particular gentian takes 40 years to reach maturity and flower. Wow! That plant is older than me! That seems like an extremely daring life strategy.

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Blacktail Pond

Blacktail Pond

Surveying the periphery of Blacktail Pond (aka. Shaky Lakes) is like surveying the moon. It feels very much like you’re bopping around on unknown, untested terrain. It takes hours of navigating through quicksand shorelines, animal bones (some sun-bleached and some too fresh for comfort), a bounty of sunning snakes, aggressive nesting birds, thousands of trout fry and the occasional large adult, tons of fluorescent blue and green shrimp tooling around, only to find two tadpoles! However, it’s more than crews have found in previous years. The shoreline is such a perilous mess that a few years ago a field crew member got sucked into the muck and sprained his ankle trying to get back out. We now have to wear ropes so that we can be rescued if the awful need arises.

Blacktail Pond moonscape

Since the site is right next to the road, we had to wear bright orange vests so all of our foibles were on full public display. I’m sure many tourists have great photos of me taking a header into the wetland.

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My field partner rated this site as her absolute least favorite. It’s beautiful to look at but it’s scary terrain if you’re not accustomed to walking on unsteady ground. I was cool with it until about half way through when my legs started to buckle from the stress of trying to not punch through the floating mats. Then, I grew a bit testy.

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The strangest thing we saw, besides the freshly dismembered bison carcass nearby (fresh meat = carnivores coming in droves), was a coyote that had just given birth. My field partner had heard strange baby noises coming from a nearby rocky den but was understandably way too freaked to investigate. Soon after, a very fatigued coyote appeared looking for food. The coyote circled around the wetland to meet up with a bunch of hikers on a trail. They had no idea she was there until they got to a small bridge and they discovered that she meant to pass them. Well, they freaked. As she breezed by, they all froze and just started shouting that it was a wolf. At this point, my field partner and I climbed to higher ground so we could watch it all unfold. It was too amusing to not savor. The hikers finally let her pass, after basically peeing themselves and tripping over one another. It was classic. Once free, she climbed up next to us and began hunting a ground squirrel a few feet away. It was so cool to see her spring into action so close up. She was so fast…but the squirrel was even faster and she ended up empty handed in the exchange. After catching her breath for a second, she gave us a knowing little nod, turned away and pranced right by the freaked out hikers again and went about her business elsewhere. It was a fantastic little moment.

 

Blacktail Pond bison death 1

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Blacktail Plateau

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This is my view when I write blog posts. Not too shabby. Usually there is a book and a beer on the side table next to me in my rocking chair on the front porch of the Lake Lodge.

Week two consisted of surveying Blacktail Plateau, Fern Cascade and Gull Point. There were spotted frogs, chorus frogs and lots of salamanders seen and enjoyed. Severe storms just missed us on several occasions until our luck ran out yesterday when we had to postpone our surveys due to rain. I think that worked out for the best though because the place we were headed has at least ten grizzlies hanging around and the rangers were concerned. This coming week we’ll have more helpers to hike in with us–safety in numbers.

Double sun dog at Blacktail
A double sundog at Blacktail Plateau.

Blacktail Plateau was beautiful and I remembered most of the sites from 2006, which astounded my field partner. I told her that I have the memory of a turtle: I see and remember things in terms of the micro-landscape. I easily forget where I put my keys yet I remember the smallest backcountry puddle from several years ago. I had one very close call when I was walking around the perimeter of a wetland and slipped on some logs. I contorted my body in such a way that I managed to miss landing on all of the pointed stakes sticking out from the mass of dead trees. I seriously have no idea how I made it out unharmed. My field partner and I were both freaked. The last lake-sized wetland we surveyed at Blacktail was full of sallies (I counted around 300+ during my survey) and loads of animal carcasses. And there was a lone bull bison nearby that had three birds perching on his back and they’d fly around his head sometimes when he moved about. The whole scenario was rather adorable, right out of a cartoon. Sometimes I feel sad for those lone bulls but clearly this guy had more company than he probably bargained for. On the harrowing drive over Dunraven Pass to and from Blacktail we were lucky enough to see a mother black bear with two cubs by the road. I felt for her. She clearly had spent the entire day being harassed by people doing completely unsafe, stupid things just to get a photo of her and her cubs. By the time we saw her on the way home she looked completely exhausted from trying to keep her babies safe. People can be so thoughtless sometimes.

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yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Nez Perce off the Mary Mountain Trail

The glorious view from the Mary Mountain trailhead.
The glorious view from the Mary Mountain trailhead.
A boreal chorus frog.
A boreal chorus frog.
Elk antlers
Elk antlers
An adult spotted frog.
An adult spotted frog.
Black bear print
Bear tracks.
A very large wolf print.
A very large wolf print.
Big sky country.
Big sky country.

If you don’t remember the disaster that is Nez Perce, just note that it was by far the worst site of last year that nearly crippled both Andrew and I. It’s a 7.5 mile hike each way on flat terrain (a few miles are sandy so imagine hiking in sand all geared up) and two to three miles between the wetlands. So in total it’s about 18 miles. Not to shabby. Plus, there’s usually unpredictable weather, stream crossings and wild predators involved. It rained on us last year during our surveys making the hike out in wet shoes and socks bloody, painful and cold.

So you can imagine my delight when we were scheduled to survey sweet little Nezzie Perce on Friday of our first week. And if we didn’t finish our surveys all in one day, we’d have to hike back out there on Saturday. Admittedly, I’m in a lot worse shape than last year, plus I’m super sick with a cold so I didn’t have much hope for this ending well. However, as lady luck would have it, we had a huge team of extremely capable USGS employees on hand to help us knock it all out. Compare this to last year when we had a huge team of complete idiots who only held us up. Andy, the coordinator for this project, took one team and I took the other and we made magic happen! As you can see from the photos, the amphibians flocked to us like the salmon of Capistrano. We saw eggs, we saw tadpoles, we saw adults…. It was great and the weather held out.

The most painful part is always that 7.5 mile hike back to the car and this year was no different. There were a few times that I just wanted to just drop dead but my stubborn arse kept plugging away. What helped the most, because I have super bad knees and hips, is using hiking poles (plus mega doses of hyaluronic acid and flax oil). I’ve never done this before but I cannot express to you the difference it made on my joints. Sure, you look kind of like a pretentious idiot who thinks they’re skiing but it’s worth losing some street cred over it. In fact, I wasn’t even sore the next day whereas last year I couldn’t get out of bed for a few days. Yup, I’m a well-oiled machine out here, save for my cold. But who really needs to breathe anyways? That’s so overrated. Overall, it was nearly a 17 hour day. We left the dorm at around 5am and returned a smidge before 10 pm. Yow!

Also, let me note here that I was among four other girls on this hike and it served as a great reminder that girls are way grosser than guys. All we talked about the entire day was poop. This by no means is a complaint. Poop is where I shine people. I have so many classic poop stories, I should write a book, and I broke out a few of my best during this trip. And let me tell you, the ladies were impressed. The guys were absolutely horrified but I think they need a not-so-gentle reminder every so often that we’re nowhere near as delicate as we let on.

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Week 1

View from my bedroom window
Yup, that is a mound of snow…in June.

Well, having completed my first week of the 2014 field season, I can say that it’s started out in a very unexpected way. First, I swiftly came down with a pretty severe head cold about a week ago, which has seemingly reinvigorated itself today. I think it was a combination of the dust in the air and the musty-ness of the dorm messing with my allergies and then the extreme temperature change throwing my body into a complete tailspin. I went from very warm temps in New York and all the way out here to snow. Yup, snow. That’s not at all unheard of in June but my body did not get the memo. Second, our field refresher sessions have been in the absolute worst weather. I’m talking 20 to 30º with a mix of rain, sleet, hail and snow. We had to completely bail out of Gibbon Meadows one day but not before getting completely drenched and near hypothermic. Luckily, before I ventured out into the field I bought a really awesome coat from the gift shop for super cheap. It completely saved my arse because although I brought enough warm clothes to get by, I failed to bring anything resembling a coat. Yikes!

We were actually supposed to begin surveying Crystal Bench with the other field crew on Wednesday but the weather report looked so miserable (snow, sleet, hail…) that we didn’t do it. We figured that the visibility and the conditions in the wetlands would make it hard to find anything. However, the other field crew managed to hike out there during the storm to install data loggers (they measure wetland temperature and water depth) in a few of the Crystal Bench wetlands with a bunch of helpers from USGS. While they were out there they realized that the sites were teaming with boreal toad tadpoles. They were finding them by the thousands! Compare this to last year when we saw about four toad tadpoles in that wetland complex. Now, before you freak, boreal toad tadpoles prefer thermal waters so they were fine despite the snow. Needless to say, they completed our surveys of Crystal Bench for us and me and my partner were able to scratch that site off our list without ever having to go there. It’s kind of a bummer though because it’s one of my favorite places to survey.

Our field gear.
Our field gear.
The rest of the crew stomping around the wetland trying to calibrate their equipment.
The rest of the crew stomping around the wetland trying to calibrate their equipment.
This black slick is actually zillions of what seem to be fleas. Ick!
This black slick is actually zillions of what seem to be fleas. Ick!

Speaking of boreal toads. I’m convinced they’re hitting it big this year which is fantastic news. They’ve always been found in a few thermal pockets throughout the Park, however, on a larger scale they’re being hit hard by disease. Throughout their normal range, most populations are in decline. And although an estimated 80% of Yellowstone’s frogs have the same disease responsible for mass extinctions elsewhere, the elevation and climate conditions seem to have made it so the toads can either shed or suppress it (researchers are still trying to figure out how they’re doing it). Yup, it all comes down to location, location, location. From our visit to Indian Pond on Monday, and then our brief and unpleasant trip to Gibbon Meadows on Tuesday and then the news from Crystal Bench on Wednesday, we’re seeing them in massive numbers this year. Just in Indian Pond, I’d estimate that we saw a few hundred tadpoles last year whereas we’re talking in the thousands now. The only difference I can think of is that this is a wet year compared to last years drought year but I’m not sure this is the driving force. No matter what the reason, it’s good to see them thriving somewhere.