Fieldwork in the French Alps

Before writing and publishing papers and presenting exciting new findings, most ecologists experience one of the best things about doing science: field work! If you are lucky – as I was in this case – doing field work means great weather, an awesome team, a beautiful landscape, hard work, good samples, lots of fun and new friends! However, it can also mean bad weather, no clean clothes, and drastically changing your carefully planned and well-prepared protocol in one sleep-deprived instant to solve unforeseen difficulties.

These pictures illustrate our 6-week field work campaign in the French Alps, where we collected data for the ECOPICS project. In this French-Mexican project, we study how plants, soil biota and abiotic variables vary with altitude. In both France and Mexico, we dug up soil monoliths to extract roots, soil meso- and macrofauna, microbial samples, and collected leaves and fine roots from several plant species to study leaf and root covariation along an altitudinal gradient.

These field campaigns would not have been possible and not nearly as much fun without the help of very dedicated field and technical assistants and several great BSc students, who sacrificed their summer break to help us out. I hope these pictures encourage students to sign up for such scientific summer breaks – they are much appreciated by researchers!

Monique Weemstra, Postdoctoral researcher, CEFE & AMAP, Montpellier, France


Starting at the lowest altitude (1400m asl): students collecting the fine (mostly distal, lowest-order) roots of Picea abies. Making sure the collected roots belong to the same tree as the leaves that were sampled requires quite some digging. (Photo: MW)


Collecting, labelling and storing a whole plant (Peucedanum ostruthium) for further analysis in the lab. (Photo: MW).


Collecting, labelling and storing grass, which can be quite hard to correctly identify. (Photo: MW).


Walking to our next plots at 2000m altitude. (Photo: MW).


Enjoying the beautiful landscape near Lac Achard (2000m asl). (Photo: MW).


Washing and sorting roots from monoliths at our French gite: an improvised lab and root washing facility and home to 20+ sometimes wet and muddy, and often hungry, ecologists. (Photo: MW).


Scanning roots in our lab/bed/tv/laundry/pizza party room. (Photo: Hans Reijnen).


Climbing a tree (Sorbus aucuparia) to collect exposed leaves. (Photo: MW).


Climbing a tree (Sorbus aucuparia) to collect exposed leaves. (Photo: MW).


Our team collecting plants at 2400m; on the right, in the valley: Grenoble. (Photo: MW).


Our team collecting plants at 2400m. (Photo: MW).


One of our team members happens to be a camera man (and coincidentally, my husband) who also made a beautiful short video about this field work campaign (which can be watched here: (Photo: MW).


Enjoying a French lunch, a rest and the beautiful landscape at the mountain ridge. (Photo: MW).


Our complete field team celebrating the end of field work (photo: anonymous hiker). 


View more photo collections in the fieldwork section of the blog. 




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