Notes from the Field

As part of our field work to measure carbon emissions in burned areas, we often have to hike through an obstacle course of fallen trees to reach our research sites. I took some video with a GoPro to give a sense of what this is like, as well as how we extract soil to take measurements and how we find the perfect sites.


Elizabeth Wiggins is a PhD student in the department of Earth System Science at the University of California, Irvine.

ABoVE: Burned boreal forest — Site-seeking struggles

June 14th, 2016 by Jocelyne Laflamme

In the field, collecting the data is a big job – but our work starts long before we start taking measurements, with the task of finding desired sites within the landscape.

Jocelyne coring a tree to determine the age of the forest (Credit: Sander Veraverbeke)

Jocelyne coring a tree to determine the age of the forest (Credit: Sander Veraverbeke)

As our time in Saskatchewan progresses, choosing and finding the right places to collect data becomes progressively more difficult. We are looking for a wide range of forest ages and species composition. This becomes more and more challenging as the time passes, since we now need to find sites with the particular characteristics that we are missing. To find these places, we look at maps that show when and where fires have occurred, and combine this information with maps from logging companies that show location and dates of timber projects.

Every day, we head out to several sites that we identified the night before. We usually drive an hour or so on gravel roads, and hike several hundred meters into the forest. We check for the right species composition at the site, and use a tool called a tree borer to extract a thin cylinder from a nearby tree trunk. From this tree core, we can count the number of rings and determine the approximate age of the forest. If the forest age and species composition meet our expectations, we finally begin our data collection. If not, we return to the car and attempt another location.

It can be challenging when we don’t find what we expected, which can result from inaccuracies in the map layers we use. At times this can be frustrating, but thanks to our team’s stamina, we always eventually manage to find what we need. With only a couple days left in the field, all the gaps in our data will soon be filled.

Jocelyne Laflamme is an undergraduate student in Wildlife Biology and Conservation at the University of Guelph in Canada.

Clear Skies & Forest Sites

June 15th, 2012 by Brian Campbell

Eni Njoku
Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Mariko Burgin
University of Michigan

Today the skies are clear. PALS is flying again today, and also flew on June 12th. So this is the third PALS flight day. There is hardly a cloud in sight anywhere as PALS takes off. The soil moisture sampling crews are out.

Location of the forest sites (red) and cropland fields (blue) where access for sampling was granted. Fields where the AAFC long term in situ stations are installed are identified in orange.


Pasture just outside F2 has to be crossed to enter the site. Approximate distance from car to entrance of site is about 300 meters (Day 1: 6/7/2012).


F2 S1: Mariko at easternmost point. Very clay-rich soil in marshy vegetation (6/7/2012).


To read more and see more images, visit the SMAP Blogs from the Field site.