Monday, July 1, 2013

A glorious week with the GLORIA project

Telescope Peak rises to 11,042 ft
This past weekend I had the opportunity to participate in a global monitoring project in Death Valley National Park. The project is called GLORIA (global observation research initiative in alpine environments) and is a worldwide coordinated effort to monitor climate change and its effects on alpine plants on the top of the world’s highest mountains. I have been aware of this project for sometime, so I was really excited when I learned it was going to be set up for the first time in the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley National Park. I joined the GLORIA botany team from June 24-27 to help with plant identification and gathering data in the vegetation plots. When I told my friends and co-workers that I was headed to Death Valley National Park in late June, everyone thought I was crazy! People immediately thought of the extreme heat in the low valleys and I realized that not many people are aware that there is a large mountain range called the Panamint Mountains that towers above the valley floor. Telescope Peak is the tallest summit in the Panamint Range and rises to 11,042 ft. The peak was our ultimate destination for the project, and on the final day I was able to summit the mountain and enjoy the view
Calochortus panamintensis
On the trip I learned a lot about more about GLORIA. The GLORIA project was first initiated at the University of Vienna in Austria in 2001. The goal of the project is to create a network of monitoring stations that use a standardized and universal protocol to detect changes in vegetation that are due to changes in climate. The project is now being implemented around the world with GLORIA plots in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. California was the first to established sites in the western hemisphere with GLORIA plots established in 2004 in the White Mountains and in Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada. There are now seven areas set up in California that will be resurveyed every five years. One of my goals in helping out with the GLORIA project was to find out how we can apply these methods to our high alpine summits in southern California. San Gorgonio Mountain in the San Bernardino Mountains rises just over 11,500 ft. This is our most significant alpine area in southern California with several species known only from the highest elevations and other species that have their southern most populations here. Having a GLORIA site in southern California will not only give us the tools to understand how climate change is affecting our local alpine species, but will also allow us to learn how changes here compare with changes around the world. To learn more about the GLORIA project in California you can visit this website, and to learn more about the GLORIA project globally you can visit this site. To see more pictures of my trip go here and here!

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