Researchers have developed a new tool to spot huckleberry patches in Glacier Park . . .
The average huckleberry is about as big around as a pencil eraser. But now we can spot them from space.
Several years of refinement have allowed researchers in Glacier National Park to tease apart landscape photos and pinpoint huckleberry patches. The method works on both aerial and satellite photos.
That could qualify as classified intelligence for some secrecy-bound huckleberry hunters. U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Tabitha Graves and biologist Nate Michael joked they could be endangering themselves by revealing berry hot spots.
A very interesting article by Chris Peterson of the Hungry Horse News about the importance of bumblebees to the huckleberry crop . . .
The next time you grab a handful of huckleberries, you just might want to thank the bees — bumblebees that is. Research by Montana State University and the U.S. Geological Survey has found that there’s about six species of bumblebee and one Andrenidae species of bee that pollinate Montana’s huckleberry bushes.
Prior to 2014, researchers weren’t sure what insects exactly were pollinating the iconic bush, USGS scientist Tabitha Graves said during a talk last week at the Flathead Chapter of the Montana Native Plant Society.
The bees are critical to berry production. Experiments in the field have shown that bushes that are isolated from bees make a fraction of the fruit compared to plants that are pollinated by their fuzzy friends.
Researchers have launched a serious effort to learn more about huckleberries.
The North Fork Preservation Association is supporting this investigation. The NFPA has a huckleberry team of seven people, led by Suzanne Danielle, who checked two sites in the North Fork every week throughout the season . . .
We know the least about the plant we love the most in the mountains.
When Tabitha Graves took up carnivore research for the U.S. Geological Survey base at Glacier National Park, one of the biggest puzzles needing attention was the role huckleberries play in the food chain. Although creatures from grasshoppers to grizzlies like the purple fruit, we know little about what the berries themselves like.
“The more I’ve gotten into this, the more I’ve realized how important they are,” Graves said. “All kinds of birds eat them, as do small mammals. We’ve found coyote scats with berries in them. We’ve seen wasps eating them. And of course, humans eat a lot of them.”
Several North Forkers are helping out with this huckleberry study . . .
Huckleberry enthusiasm has been elevated to obsession in Northwest Montana, where purveyors of the seasonal fruit advertise products ranging from jams, pies, salads and milkshakes to candles, coffee, wine and beer — even huckleberry-flavored cartridges for electronic cigarettes.
Yet for the scientists who know that the berries play a key role in the ecosystems of Northern Rockies, a full understanding of the huckleberry plant remains elusive.
“That’s one of the allures of the huckleberry, you know — you can’t grow them in your backyard,” said Tabitha Graves, a U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist based in Glacier National Park. “I think up until this point, they haven’t really had a level of research that would be appropriate for their role in the ecosystem.”
Graves is conducting a multiyear monitoring project in the park, hoping to gain an understanding of where the most productive berry plants grow and what conditions drive the timing of the crop and allow the plants to thrive.