Memories from the field, Oregon, Summer 2020

Nate in a stump

          This past summer I joined the Mills lab and was lucky enough help out with field work as part of the snowshoe hare research the lab has been doing in the Oregon Cascades. I spent most of the summer living in a cabin in Sisters, Oregon with the main field crew consisting of Laura Collins, Amanda Emmel, and team mascot Rebel. We also had visits from PI Scott Mills and PhD students Lindsey Barnard and Hannah Walker. This post includes some of my favorite photos and accompanying memories from this awesome experience.



Me photobombing Laura as she gets an ear clip from a roadkill hare; not pictured: The suburban family watching in confusion. Photo credit: Amanda Emmel

          This photo was taken at the end of a short day. We had some extra time, and it was pretty hot, so we decided to make a stop at Suttle Lake to put our feet in the water and cool off a little bit before heading back to the cabin. Just before turning on the drive to park at the Suttle Lake Lodge we spotted something in the road. I vividly remember all three of us staring at the splotch as we passed, all trying to figure out if the unlucky thing was a snowshoe hare or not. It was, and Amanda was quick to stop the truck. We hastily got out of the truck and ran over to the poor hare. Luckily, we had everything we needed to extract and store some tissue samples. Even though the unfortunate hare was dead, we can still get some DNA from its tissue for later analysis. Aside from getting a 0-effort bonus sample, the best part of this moment was seeing the look on the faces of the people in a car waiting for us to get out of the road. They weren’t exactly sure what they had witnessed.

How many people does it take to put on a spare tire?


Our deflated tire. Photo credit: Amanda Emmel

          Usually, it’s the longest days make for the best memories. The day this photo was taken could be used to define the term “type-2 fun”. It was a long day during one of the hottest streaks I remember from the summer. By the time the day’s work was coming to an end, were all a little dehydrated, hungry, and ready to feel the AC from the truck. As we were leaving, the right front tire of the truck went over a sizeable rotten log that put a large splinter into the sidewall. The three of us spent the next hour in the sun trying to figure out how to lower the spare tire from its spot in the undercarriage. At one point we thought the mechanism for releasing the spare was broken. Eventually, we figured it out and exchanged the wheel with the flat for the spare and we were on our way. At the time, I think we were all a little frustrated, but looking back, thinking of the moment makes me laugh.

          There were lots of other good moments from this summer that don’t have pictures to accompany them.  Some honorable mentions include but are not limited to: Lindsey thinking my car was going to explode. Missing Scott at a rendezvous and waiting for 2 hours at a forest service road junction. Sitting around the campfire exchanging marshmallow roasting techniques and hearing stories of Bhutan. Taco Mondays. Fires on the beach. Peanut butter and pickled onion and kale and mustard and tomato and jelly sandwiches. That mysterious metal box we found in the woods. Driving my Subaru back to Missoula with only 3 functional cylinders and no AC. Anytime Scott would say the word “rodeo” as a way to describe how many hares we caught in a day.

          I want to give a lot of credit to Amanda and Laura for putting up with me all summer. Huge thanks to Scott for letting me join the crew and giving me the opportunity to get out and gain experience in the field.

          -Nate Barton, Undergraduate student, Mills Lab   

Feature Image: Me in a stump.  Photo Credit: Amanda Emmel 

More photos



Amanda and Laura in a stump. Photo credit: Nate Barton


Amanda in a burned-out tree. Photo credit: Nate Barton


Our mascot Rebel getting some much-needed rest after a long day of napping. Photo credit: Nate Barton