The Aleza Lake Research Forest (ALRF) lies 60 km east of Prince George and is operated by the University of British Columbia (UNBC). The purpose of the ALRF is to support education and research in multiple environmental fields including sustainable forest management, silviculture, forest ecology and more. The facility services everything from educational institutions to government to the private sector. In the IASK 107 course Natural History, Technology and Society, we took a brief field trip to the ALRF to observe the natural world and record our findings.
On arrival, the first thing I noticed was in the quality of the air. It’s not that I find the air quality in Prince George to be poor (though perhaps I’m simply used to it), but that the air at the research facility was extremely fresh. It carried with it the very distinct smell of pine, birch and moss. I would have to describe these smells as sharp; they exist in the city as well, but only in a dull sense—overtaken by the smells of civilization. Nature feels somewhat pure in this regard.
I spoke with one of the researchers there in regards to the mountain pine beetle. My father is a logger so this subject has come up a lot, especially with political undertones. The mountain pine beetle is notorious in British Columbia. During the 1990s and early 2000s a large-scale epidemic of mountain pine beetle occurred, destroying some 723 million cubic metres of pine trees. The loss of which has had a substantial negative impact on the forest sector and B.C economy. Where some blame the government of the day, others argue that the disaster had anthropocenic origins—rising global temperatures and wildfire prevention.
During our visit we took a brief hike down and into part of the forest. As the elevation dropped, the plant life grew thicker and taller, and the terrain changed from dry to wet, with all the moisture accumulating into a marsh at the bottom of a small valley. The physics behind this phenomenon is obvious in hindsight, however, it never truly occurred to me how this translated to forest growth. Along the hike we collected specimens to later examine under microscopes.
Back at the lodge, we observed a number of collected specimens including mushroom caps, assorted leaves, berries and flowers. While using the microscope I observed an entirely new world, full of microscopic life and bustling with activity. I also noticed the extreme amount of detail in everyday objects—deep grooves and fissures, designed to serve some purpose. After looking through the microscope it occurred to me that an astronomical amount of the natural world is not easily discernible to humans. It requires the use of technology for us to truly understand the environment.