September 13, 2019

The Last Day of Field Work in the Pyrenees


By Caitlin Bayliss

There was a somber mood as we were driving from the National Park back to the hotel today. Not because it was a bad day (would there ever be such a thing here?!), no, it’s the last day and none of us want to leave! Maybe our flights will be delayed? One can only hope.

It was sunny T-shirt weather, a bit different to the last couple of days where I had to wear every single piece of clothing I could find because it was snowing!! Not something this Aussie girl prepared for!

This morning, we hiked up the mountain in the National Park. The air was fresh, skies were blue, the sun warm, and the mountain peaks were still white from the snow. Breathtaking.

About an hour into walking up the mountain, we split into three groups, my group was responsible for checking tree growth, bird boxes (just to make sure they were empty for the next season) and motion-activated cameras spread out in the area. It’s certainly a fun adventure as there are no paths and the hill sides are steep, rocky, and full of shrubs!

Tree growth is important to the research scientists as they want to know how the trees are responding to increasing climate temperatures at high and low elevations. Are their growth rates increasing or decreasing? Does growth stop? We gather this data to help scientists answer these questions by checking dendrometers attached to the trunk of the trees.

The motion-activated cameras capture images as they sense movement, this helps scientists analyze animal movements in different areas of the Pyrenees. Some animals that are captured include roe deer, chamois (goat), wild boar, red fox, marmot (groundhog), cow, horse, some martens (looks like a cute fox), and birds. The cameras help scientists understand if human encroachment is affecting animal movements and abundance.

After we completed our tasks, we met with the others to help them finish catching insects and birds! A successful day out in the mountains and it’s certainly sad it’s the last for this expedition. If you’re thinking of joining Earthwatch, I can’t recommend it enough! Truly a unique and once-in-a-lifetime experience. Unforgettable and inspiring.

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Photo 1: My first snow angel from the day before! It never snows in sunny Perth!

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Photo 2: The spectacular white peaked mountains on this beautiful sunny day.

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Photo 3: Caitlin (me) checking the measurement on the Dendrometer.

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Photo 4: Manuel Alcoa Fellow from San Ciprian and Biologist Jana downloading the information from the digital Dendrometer

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