The bird and the worm…

Hi! I’m Rachael! I’m going into my second year of summer research. I work with Peter Wimberger on ice worm phylogenetics. Last year’s highlight: finding the southernmost ice worm population (Lewis Glacier, South Sister, OR). This year, I’m looking to expand my research for last year by sampling more glaciers in Central Oregon, but also expanding into ecological data as well. I’m going to be doing some stuff with stable isotopes, and caloric content to continue Tim Clute’s thesis research and also looking at the biological conditions that determine when ice worms emerge, which was started by Ali Garel.

Unfortunately, we’re kinda being stalled this year (and we were last year as well…) because there’s too much snow!!! I know, I should be happy that there’s snow because it means that the glaciers might not ablate (shrink) this year… but then I can’t go out in the field to collect my worms!! As much as I love being in the lab, I can’t extract DNA until I get my worms!

We were able to get out and have some fun on the snow last Thursday. Peter is also advising Karina Caprez, who is working on the bacteria that grow in the snow or glacial surface, which the worms eat. So the three of us went up to Paradise Glacier on Mt. Rainier for a practice collection run (YES I BROUGHT SUNSCREEN THIS YEAR!!). It was beautiful and sunny all day! AND WE FOUND WORMS! Which was really exciting, because we didn’t see any on my practice run last year. We were also able to pick up some bacteria for Karina AND counted the number of pecks per minute for a grey-crowned rosy finch. From information on the caloric content of the worms and the pecks per minute, we can calculate the amount of calories that the birds are getting from eating the ice worms. EXCITING!

Looks like we’re headed down to Oregon for the first real collection trip at some point next week! Keep your fingers crossed for snowmelt… 🙂

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