By Elizabeth Kennett
3:40am my alarm goes off. I adorn my headlamp, throw on some field clothes, tuck my pants into my socks, and climb into my mentor Ally Degrassi's truck. We're going trapping.
The afternoon before this we had been out to the Ridge block, one of our two. Each block consists of four hemlock forest treatments. The first two treatments are one plot that was logged out five years ago and is now full of young vegetation and the second is a plot in which the hemlocks within it have been girdled; killing the trees but leaving them standing, this was done to mimic the affect of the Wooly Adelgid, a parasite that is killing Hemlocks. The third plot is known as the Hemlock control plot and contains at least 70% Hemlocks in terms of the hardwood trees present, and the final plot consists of various hardwoods including hemlocks. The plots were set up this way so that we may observe the changes in the forest due to the hemlocks. Rodents and insectivores are very important in these changes because they have a have a large affect on seed dispersal.
So back to 4am, Ally and I start in the logged plot, move on to the girdled and so forth. We use live Sherman traps to capture our specimens. Once a specimen is captured we usher it out of the trap and into a plastic bag where we weigh and mark it with nontoxic sharpy, and release them. The next morning we will do the same thing and see if we have any recaptures which will allow us to gain an estimate as to the overall species population in the plots.
So far we have caught a variety of mammals which include, the white-footed mouse, Gapper's Red-backed Vole, Northern Short-tailed Shrew, Eastern Chipmunk, the Smoky Shrew, Southern Flying Squirrel, and the Woodland Jumping Mouse.
We are determined to avoid biasing our data and looking for trends until our trapping session has been completed but so far we have caught and released over 400 specimens.