Climbing to collect temperature data

To learn more about cold air pools (CAPs), we’ve been collecting temperature data from iButtons–little monitors the size of your thumbnail–hanging in trees around the monument. These monitors have been logging the ambient temperature every hour for almost a whole year. Now, we’re visiting the trees where the monitors hang to download the data they contain.

Our team retrieving an iButton from a tree and downloading temperature data

The data can tell us the location and temperature of CAPs, how quickly they form or dissipate from day to night, and how they change in frequency and intensity across seasons and years. By relating temperature data to plant phenology in each location, we can determine the biological response to cold air pools. Are plants in cold air pools budding and blooming later than those outside of cold air pools? Which plant species are most sensitive to warming or cooling?

It’s no easy task getting to some of the iButtons, though! Because they’re located along an elevation gradient (so that we can determine the depth of cold air pools), we’ve had to climb up some pretty steep slopes. And unfortunately, we sometimes find dead loggers with no data at the top. A laptop, datasheets, parachute cord, extra iButtons, GPS unit, an extendable staff to reach waaaaaaayyy up into the trees, and a keen eye to locate loggers are some essentials for each trip. A good sense of humor is a plus!

Setting an iButton in a tree with help from an extendable staff, some parachute cord, and our trusty rock


We scrambled up this granite dome last week to reach iButtons on trees along an elevation gradient.

It’s then my job to work with park staff and scientists to make sense of the data. We’re using Devils Postpile National Monument as a case study for managing climate change refugia. By reading the data across many years, we might even be able to see how climate change is impacting the frequency and intensity of CAPs. Keep following my blog to hear about what we find during the remainder of my time here!






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