Weblog: Dr. Jon Ranson in Siberia

Thursday, August 9, 2007

From Evenkiyskiy Region, 10:48 p.m. Siberia (10:48 a.m. EDT)

From Jon Ranson

Tonight I’m calling in from my sleeping bag! It’s late already, and I am tired, so I snuggled in before I called. My impressions from here: the ground is stony, but better than farther north. This beach has a bit of gravel between the rocks, and the stones are smaller than other beaches we’ve been on. I’ll sleep just fine.

Also, the mosquitoes aren’t as bad here as upriver. It’s a habit now each morning to check the net on my tent to see how many mosquitoes wait for me to “come out and play.” There are definitely many less hanging on that net now. Before sometimes I saw a carpet of them. Here, just handfuls. I guess you could say I have plenty of friends in Siberia.

We still have about 200 kilometers to go to arrive in Tura and to end the expedition. Let me put that another way. When we were in our lab in Maryland, we identified 35 GLAS points of interest on the river, places we would investigate if we could. They are measured from north to south. The most northerly was #1. Today we made it to site 19. So you can see that there is a long way to go yet. We won’t measure much more on this trip, but we still need to pass by all those points before we reach Tura.


We spent all day making our tree measurements. We were able to complete 10 GLAS plots today—over 600 trees. This area is one of the best we could hope for in terms of allowing us to understand the satellite data. Most of the plots are on an east-facing hill, with similar slopes. The tree density varies a great deal. We had areas that were almost barren with only a few very large trees in them, and we had areas with a dense growth of younger trees, and there were areas in between those with various tree density and tree sizes.

We make very careful notes of each GLAS footprint so we know exactly what we’ll remember exactly what we were looking at when are back at the lab. There we can study the satellite data and correlate the way the satellite measures and presents this data with what we know is on the ground. This is a fantastic opportunity to really understand how the satellite sees the data in a variety of forests that all have a similar ground slope and type. It was a very good day.

Fishing is poor—we haven’t caught fish in many days. We do still try, though. It turns out Guoqing is quite skilled with fishing nets. It surprised everyone that he was so good at that. It turns out that where Guoqing was born and raised in China, the fish the family caught themselves were an important part of their diet. So when he was small, every morning before breakfast and every afternoon he would help his family set their nets in the water by their house. He hasn’t forgotten at all. He has taught us how to fold them so they are very easy to put out the next time, which helps a lot. He works the nets so easily that it’s almost as if by watching him, we connect a bit to a life in a small village in China many miles away and many years ago.