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Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Off to Chirikof

2000 year old faunal midden with ground squirrel bones

Tomorrow I am off to Chirikof Island with Sam, Catherine and Jack to test archaeological sites and conduct a bird survey.  I last visited the island back in 2005 when we surveyed the entire island for archaeological sites and assessed site conditions.  The whole island was badly over-grazed by feral cows and the archaeological sites were getting trampled by the cows and eroding away due to the lack of vegetation to hold the soil together.  The cows have totally changed the island's ecosystem and the archaeological sites are getting destroyed.

Catherine is in charge for this trip - I'm just the camp logistics guru - and the goal is to test the old faunal  middens and see what birds the prehistoric inhabitants ate (and discarded in their middens).  Then we will compare what we find to what's out there today.  Hence the bird survey aspect.  How exactly has the ecosystem changed?  For instance, did the prehistoric inhabitants have access to puffin colonies or other ground nesting species that the introduced foxes and cows have since eradicated?

After our first survey we determined that ground squirrels have lived out on Chirikof for at least 2000 years.  The United States Fish and Wildlife Service had planned on eradicating them because they believed that Russian fur traders had introduced them to the island and wanted to return the island to its 'natural state'.  Our work proved that the ground squirrels pre-dated the Russians, and, hence, the USFWS did not have to eradicate them.

Anyway, it'll be good to get back and see how things have changed.  It'll be REALLY nice not to be in charge, and the beachcombing will be GREAT.  Patrick

Mark collects charcoal to date a midden that turned out to be about 500 years old

White-fronted geese near our camp - probably migrating through on their way to summer nesting grounds

Awesome beach combing - a day's haul of glass balls

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