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Ecology Field Trip

This past Tuesday, the Ecology elective left the comfort zone of the classroom and snowshoed to the edge of the Weminuche Wilderness. Under the “quartzite dragon” of Snowden Peak, the students explore examples of winter ecology.

The purpose of the field trip was to study the current state of snowpack, specifically for “snow water equivalent” in the Animas River Basin. Mike elaborated, “We dug snowpits, analyzed the different layers for crystal type and density, and used our measurements to calculate the water in our snowpack and compare it to historical data.”

The students also learned about how water moves through the snowpack to create “sugary” large crystals that are the causes of avalanches, and some of the other processes like wind-loading and compression that lead to the visible layers. Mike shared, “One of the coolest takeaways was how insulating the snowpack is—we measured the surface at 8 degrees F while the ground was 32!  This is great for burrowing animals and dormant seeds in the soil.  We also identified some of the trees of the subalpine zone and saw some awesome Short-tailed weasel and snowshoe hare tracks!”

Ecology student Ethan Dugas added, “It was mostly for fun, and ecology, and [I was] super excited to go because I love Mike!”

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