by: Apryle Craig
This summer, I will be installing deer exclosures in wolf-present and non-wolf areas of northeastern Washington to investigate the impacts of recolonizing wolves on deer herbivory. At each study site, there will be two vegetation plots: one inside a fence protected from deer browse, and one outside of the fence exposed to deer browse. Each winter, deer consume woody plants that stick up above the snow. In the spring, I will measure the plants in all plots to see how much the deer ate during the winter. By comparing plants inside and outside the fences across wolf-present and non-wolf areas, I can determine if wolves are influencing deer herbivory.
Before I begin installing exclosures, I have to determine where to place them. I use mapping software called ArcMap to look at different land characteristics and property boundaries. If I find that deer in wolf areas do not eat as much of species x, I need to be sure it is because there are wolves there and not because all of my plots in the wolf areas in on north-facing hillsides. So, I use maps to make sure that hydrology, aspect, slope, roads, and plant communities are similar in the two study areas and that the only difference between the plots in the wolf-present and non-wolf area is the presence of wolves.
I also use the software to help with field navigation. I can use the software to export my survey points and import them to GPS units to find the sites in the field. I will also create printed maps.