Hubachek Wilderness Research Center | Ely, MN

Summer Activities Update

It’s been a hot, dry, and smoky summer in the Minnesota northwoods. We are seeing early color on maples and birches, likely due to climate-related stress. Leaves on some shrubs and small trees are turning brown and curling up. Plants on the forest floor are wilting. It’s been a hungry season for black bears, with a poor berry crop earlier in the summer. The entrance holes to the old beaver lodge in the pond are high and dry. The lake water levels have been consistently low. Wild rice in the bay seems to be benefitting from shallower water. 

A project to reduce forest fire fuels, in particular budworm-killed balsam fir along the entrance road, was completed last winter and we all breathe a sigh of relief for that and prior work around buildings completed by our maintenance staff. Fire danger in the Superior National Forest is historically very high. Depending on wind direction, we are experiencing some very smoky periods from wildfires both near and distant. 

HWRC started a new long-term black ash swamp monitoring project this summer with the invaluable assistance of our first intern. It was scouted and installed in June, with vegetation surveys completed in July. We didn’t even have wet feet most of the time and saw many new ash germinants in bare patches of soil that are normally under water in June. The Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship team was back to full strength this year for another successful season of bird-banding and data collection. The B4WarmED climate change research group planted new seedlings in the spring for their ongoing studies, losing some of them in the drought. They continue to collect data and monitor the effect of the warming and extremely dry growing season on seedlings physiology, growth and survival, and will likely plant replacement seedlings next spring.

Requests for new research projects at the HWRC are being accepted.