Does this landscape make you wonder how so many species can coexist? Well, it’s no tropical rain forest, but the San Simon Valley in southeastern Arizona IS home to a long term study on annual plant diversity and the rodent species that feed on their seeds. I posted below about the difference in winter and summer annual plants in the Sonoran Desert. While this field site is in the Chihuahuan Desert, it also has a distinct winter community.
I helped a post-doctoral researcher (Pirate Danielle in the second picture) finish the census in March, as she and other graduate and undergraduate students measured literally thousands of teeny tiny plants that had grown all winter in these 80cm x 80cm squares. These were long days, starting at 6am for a three hour drive to the site, followed by eight or more hours crouched on the ground counting or recording, with the return drive looming! If Danielle’s new job as faculty at Smith College doesn’t work out, maybe she’ll publicize the “Portal Workout.” It involves assuming a position on the ground with your weight cantilevered forward, then holding for approximately eight hours. She was pretty strong by the end of the field season.