TRAYLS- Jumping into the Field Season!

This year's TRAYLS crew: Gabriella Comolli, Dylan Johnson, and Ted Elliott, led by Arianna Lapke

On June 1st the 2020 TRAYLS crew started their first week of the season, and it’s hard to believe it’s already been three weeks! In that time we’ve managed to accomplish a wide range of activities, including blue mussel monitoring, conducting interviews to assess the cultural values of cedar, helped maintain recreation sites with the Forest Service, and more! I guess it’s true what they say: time really does fly when you’re having fun.

Meeting our tree coring partners from around the world!


Training Week

Our first week together was filled with zoom meetings, team building activities, zoom meetings, Wilderness First Aid certifications, and more zoom meetings. Did I mention we had a lot of zoom meetings? We had to substitute our usual in-person training week in Kake with many zoom meetings because of COVID-19, and the crew did a great job adapting to the new (albeit less exciting) training week. This way we were still able to gain all kinds of great insight from our project partners and others. Here are some of the workshops we were lucky to attend virtually:

Ted and Dylan learning how to make a proper splint

Working with the Coastal Program

We went out to Shaman Point with Sean Williams to observe the blue mussel bed population there, specifically their distribution and abundance. We set several transects and randomly placed quads along them to assess the blue mussel density there and took some samples. Afterwards, we counted and measured our samples from each quad. Helping Sean set-up a long term study using blue mussels as bioindicators of oceanic climate change was a lot of fun!

Collecting samples and making observations
Laying out a transect line









Not only that, but we got to help deploy invasive species monitoring plates to look for invasive species in Hoonah’s harbor. After a couple months we can pull the plates and see if we have any species here that shouldn’t be!

Invasive species monitoring
Preparing the invasive species monitoring plates


Wood Products for Culture & Heritage 

Dylan leads an interview with Gordan Greenwald to learn about how he values cedar for his carving

The TRAYLS crew is helping Adelaide (Di) Johnson, a hydrologist at the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, identify the value of cedar products for cultural and heritage practices. To do so, the crew has been conducting interviews with people around town to gain insights from multiple perspectives. This way we can attempt to create a comprehensive idea of what value cedar offers to those in Hoonah. We also got a taste of jam-making with Kassie Johnson as “thank you” gifts to interviewees! Once Di has the results, she will use our community’s crucial data to help inform management decisions around cedar so that they can persist for cultural and heritage practices like carving and weaving for generations to come.

The crew makes cranberry jam for the first time!

Community Garden

The boys hard at work

Summer time is the perfect time to do some gardening! It’s also the perfect time to build a fence around the garden so deer don’t reap the benefits. We spent hours digging holes for fence posts, putting in the posts, and laying out fencing. Our accomplishments with this project weren’t limited to the fence, but also included getting out the huge rocks that sat in our way!

Next, we built a new garden bed for some Tlingit potatoes! It sure does feel good to do good work.

The crew plants Tlingit potatoes in the garden bed they just built

Forest Service Work

Gabby lops some unwanted alders

The TRAYLS crew is very lucky for many reasons, and working with the Forest Service is certainly one of them! We got to help maintain the community’s recreation sites at Freshwater Bay, Whitestone Harbor, False Bay, Pavlov Marsh Trail, Suntaheen Fish Passage and Suntaheen Trail head. By “maintain” I mean lop overgrowing brush and young alders, remove invasive oxe-eye daisies, clean and fix fire rings, and pick up trash from the site. We’ve had a lot of fun and learned a lot so far, so thankfully we’ll be working with them more this summer!


Maintaining the Pavlov Marsh Trail with Marlene Duvall

Tree Coring

Ted checks to see if he’s at the center of the tree while coring it

One of the most exciting parts of our work this summer is tree coring! The TRAYLS crew has partnered with UAF and the College of Wooster in Ohio to core trees in Alaska in order to get a better understanding of Alaska’s past climates. How do tree cores tell us about the climates of the past? Well, each year when a tree grows it creates a ring with a dark and light section. The light section is usually thicker because it represents the tree’s growth during the summer. The darker section is what you see as the actual ring, and represents the tree’s growth during winter (it’s thin because trees don’t do much growing during the winter here! It’s hard to grow without much sunlight when you’re a tree). So every ring represents one year, and you can actually see how much they grew from the year they were born! This can be used to indicate the climatic conditions of each year- they’re living archives! We’re excited to see how the trees around Hoonah have grown in the past and compare them with how they’re growing recently, especially considering last year’s drought.

Measuring the DBH (Diameter at Breast Height)
The final product! Wider gaps between rings indicates a more productive summer










And this is only the beginning…

These past three weeks have absolutely flown by, and I’m really proud of the TRAYLS crew for everything they’ve accomplished so far. It’s been great watching the crew get to know each other (and themselves) better, too. I know we’re all excited for what’s to come with the remainder of our season; if they’re as fun as these past few weeks have been, I bet they’ll go by in the blink of an eye.

Estimating the age of an old spruce with Ian Johnson
Having fun is part of the job!








Written by Arianna Lapke
TRAYLS Coordinator

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.