Activity 8: Field Exploration

Here is the peice I wrote for my Alaska History class. I thought folks might enjoy this.

IMG_5673.JPG I went on a walk in the frozen tundra that surrounds Bethel. My dog Nolan and my husband Tom went with me. It was a cold October day. The wet mossy surface of the tundra had frozen in irregular bumps. There was a thin dusting of snow covering half the surface. A thick hoar frost clung to every plant. The tundra stretched on for miles and miles to the North and West. Gentle slops often dip onto the surface of a frozen tundra pond. To my right I could see the city of Bethel. The large radar ball and radio tower suck out on the flat land. To the south I saw the airport which I knew was about a 1/2 a mile from the Kuskokwim River.

IMG_5695.JPGThe snow was broken by shrubs and grass. I recognized Willows and Alders as the most common brush along the trail and stream edges. As the trail opened up, frozen grass stalks became more common. Underneath the snow where the tough plants that I had learned from the months of walks on this trail. Lousewort, Blueberries and Salmonberries had receded into the frozen ground and lay dormant for another year. Tundra Tea, Red Berries, and tundra birch are tougher plants and could be seen poking through the frost and snow. Their leathery leaves still holding a bit of color and form. You could even see a shriveled berry here and there. In the snow there where signs of animal activity. Voles and Snow Shoe Hare tracks broke the trail. Every few meters, my dog would follow these track and bury his nose in the snow to get a better sniff. Hoping that he would find a Ptarmigan he saw here the week before. We saw one set of fox tracks as a half mile into our walk.

DSC_8687.JPGThe infamous Ravens of Bethel were our only wild companion on this day. I noticed that there was a Raven nest tucked into the base of the radio tower. There are Raven nests tucked in many of the man made structures of Bethel. The Raven is an example of a bird that has adapted to living with people. They take advantage of the high structures humans build to nest in. They feast on village garbage. They even played with my dog. Teasing him as they landed in front of him on the ground. Letting him get close, but flying off over his head, close enough that I could feel and hear the beats of their wings. Each walk I take in the tundra adds to my knowledge of this unique ecosystem. I have seen Moose tracks, Plovers, White Fronted Geese, Snipe, and many other birds on this trail. I have seen carnivorous plants such as the sundew and the butterwort growing in the moss. I could spend hours studying the plants and photographing them.? These are experiences that I can draw from as I teach Ecology. I can point out plant adaptations and use local examples. I can show my students that I know about the ecosystem we live in and can make connections between their subsistence lifestyles and the western concepts of Ecology.

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