BLM Terrestrial Assessment, Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM)

Soil scientists for BLM AIM

Robert McNown, Aaron Wells, Sue Ives

ABR’s Ecological Land Survey team coordinated with the BLM to collect data for the 2021 Terrestrial Assessment Inventory, and Monitoring (AIM) field season. Our field crew included senior scientists Aaron Wells (vegetation and landscape ecology) and Sue Ives (wetland science), as well as research biologist Robert McNown (wetland science).

As with every BLM AIM project, we first met with our BLM counterparts to ensure that the work plan aligned with their objectives and that we had a sufficient understanding of the BLM’s goals to successfully execute the plan. We collected data over a 23-day period at 29 sites identified by the BLM. Data collection for AIM projects requires that we closely follow established AIM data collection and quality control protocols, to ensure that our data is ready to integrate with a national database.

Due to the need for such a high level of data integrity and uniformity, it is important to have everyone in the field crew on the same page, so before leaving for the field, our crew spent a day in an alpine tundra habitat near Anchorage, working through plot setup and data collection procedures and calibrating data-collection between observers. This calibration procedure ensured everyone had experience using the electronic data-capture devices and software in a tundra sampling scenario before deploying to the field.

At each sample plot in the field, we characterized vegetation cover and structure using the line-point-intercept method, quantified plant species richness, described soils following standard Natural Resource Conservation Service protocols, recorded active layer depth and moss thickness, and took photos of the vegetation and soils. We also recorded and identified species of lichens. Unlike in the lower 48, where field teams can drive and walk to field sites, implementing BLM AIM in the vast wilderness of Alaska presents several challenges including, managing remote field camps, helicopter logistics, remote power and fueling, and aviation weather. This field season’s success was a result of the planning, collaboration, ingenuity, and hard work that went into every step.

ABR Ecological Land Survey Team