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Notes from the Field

One of the best parts of a field campaign are the ‘little moments’ that sneak in while you work. They can really make your day. On that front this field campaign has been no slouch. Yesterday for example, we saw a juvenile black bear while we were traveling to a new field site. We also enjoyed a great sunset over Lake La Ronge here in Saskatchewan, and had a beaver sighting later that evening.

The great sunset the team enjoyed over Lake La Ronge on June 5. (Credit: Dieleman)

The great sunset the team enjoyed over Lake La Ronge on June 5. (Credit: Dieleman)

However, for me one of the best ‘little moments’ happened the day before… Our team is split into a number of different groups that measure different ecosystem characteristics: fire severity, tree density, species and age, as well as soil horizons and depth of burn in the soil. Liz Wiggins and myself work together to collect the soil measurements. As we measure and collect samples from every organic soil horizon, this task can take some time — often causing the soils group to finish up well after the rest of the team. Saturday though, everything came together for us soil diggers, and for the first time on this campaign our little group finished up first. We thought it was worth a victory photo. Sometimes it is the little things.

That Saturday was a particularly eventful day for the whole team. We had a great opportunity to participate in the filming of CBC’s The Nature of Things. Everyone was a pleasant combination of excited with a touch of nerves to be filmed, but generally thrilled to be sharing our science in this medium. The whole filming crew was wonderful, and eased us through the whole process. The sneak peek of the drone footage they shot seemed pretty promising to us, but we will all have to wait till 2017 to see the final footage. I guess some days in the field it is the big things too.

Catherine Dieleman is a post-doctoral researcher in Ecosystem Science at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada


Field Work in Croplands and Forests

July 13th, 2012 by Brian Campbell

Steven Chan
Jet Propulsion Laboratory

As an avid photographer, I totally agree with what Diane Arbus said, “I really believe there are things that nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.” So here in this blog I’m taking a more photojournalistic approach. Enjoy!

My work in SMAPVEX12 primarily consisted of two tasks: Vegetation sampling in crop fields and soil moisture sampling in forests. The two tasks alternated according to PALS flight schedule and weather conditions. Because I arrived in July, my observations were all about the later phase of the campaign.

Our cropland vegetation sampling involved measurements of optical parameters (e.g., LAI and NDVI) and allometric parameters (e.g., height and diameter). On a typical day we visited up to six fields to collect data and actual plant samples.

Wheat had matured quite a bit since the beginning of the campaign. Here Brian, Hida (U. Guelph), and Tracy were carrying plant samples for further analysis at the ROC.

Tracy (U. Guelph) and Brian (U. Manitoba) were making LAI and NDVI measurements, respectively, in a soybean field.

Example of a typical soil profile: Litter (not shown), then organic layer (brownish orange layer), then soil (gray-colored layer), and then groundwater.

For more information, visit the SMAP Blogs From the Field site.