Portal Field Trips

Portal Field Trips

Pre-trip Preparations:

  1. Put together field crew. During the summer months, crew of 4 (including RA) is ideal for the rodent census. Portal plant census trips may benefit from more people. “Local” volunteers (Tucson-based folks) sign up in this form.
  2. Submit necessary volunteer paperwork to WEC-HR (if-svc-wechr@mail.ufl.edu) and CC Administrative Services Manager (currently, Donna Dyer (dkb@ufl.edu)) and WEC Fiscal (wecfiscal@ifas.ufl.edu):
    • Record of Volunteer Service
    • Volunteer Appointment Request. Supervisor is the RA. Volunteers (even if they are grad students at UF) should choose the status: VOLUNTEER. Local physical (work site) address is: BLM land, Desert Willow Rd, Cochise County, AZ).
    • Supervisor Checklist. Choose None of the above duties apply, and have Glenda sign it. Form can be reused for multiple volunteers and trips.
  3. File a blanket travel request for all crew members. Choose Option 2 and fill the form accordingly.
  4. Book flights and lodging for all non-Tucson based field crew members using UFGO.
  5. (Optional) A week before travel, reach out to volunteers to get food/drink requests and order groceries online (e.g., Walmart), and just do a pick-up the day you drive down to the site.
  6. Pick up field truck in the long-term parking lot. Use the PCard to pay for it.
  7. (Optional) Fill water containers (in Watermill Express or other refilling stations) and get gas (You might also want to grab logs in gas stations during the winter)

Rodent Census

A Portal weekend consists of two nights of rodent trapping. We drive down to the site no later than mid-day (can be a bit later during the summer). The drive is ~3 hrs long. Once we get there, we set camp and just before sunset we’ll set traps on 12 plots (refer to trapping map in Dropbox to determine which plots are set on the first and second night), which takes about 2 hours. The GoalZero battery, which we use to charge our electronic devices and power the camp lights, need to be set-up/charged using the solar panel. Prop the solar panel up in the small mound next to the ramada, and make sure it is facing the sun (You may need to adjust it throughout the day). Connect the wire to the extension cord and plug the extension cord to the GoalZero battery. Make sure that the green light in the charger plug is on. It is ideal that the camp lights and the stove are also set up before heading out to the plots. When out setting traps on Day 1, the RA can opt to visit the locations of the camera traps and collect/replace the SD cards and/or replace batteries (Note: labels on the SD cards refer to the location of the camera trap. Ex. 21 west means it is the SD card used for the camera trap located on the west side of the plot NOT where it is facing). Camera traps are currently at the east and west side of the gates on plots 11 and 21. The next day, we get up just before dawn, get a light breakfast, and head out to the plots. We process animals in the plots so make sure to pack water and snacks (“exiled” rodents are taken out of the site). The RA will be the one actually handling the animals while the volunteer records data and assists with equipment. Volunteers can handle “exiled” rodents if they are interested. Later in the afternoon/early evening, we’ll set traps on the other half of the plots (n=12). The next morning will be the same as previous, where we process rodents in the plots. No later than mid-day, we’ll break camp, the RA collects data from the weather station, and then, we head back to Tucson.


The following rodent trapping-related field guides are in the Portal Dropbox for you to peruse:

  • Dropbox/Portal/FieldGuides/Smammal_trapping_protocol.doc: instructional guide on the trap setting and data collection protocol
  • Dropbox/Portal/FieldGuides/Trapping_map.pptx: a diagram of the plot locations and the trapping schedule (i.e., details on which plots you need to set traps in on each day, and where trap boxes need to be moved to for the second day of trapping)
  • Dropbox/Portal/FieldGuides/Rodent_ID_cards.pdf: descriptive field guide on all the rodent species recorded on site. Use when uncertain about the identity of the animal on hand
  • Dropbox/Portal/FieldGuides/Sexing_Rodents.pdf: descriptive field guide to the correct sexing of rodent species

Plant Census

We conduct plant census trips twice a year: Once in the winter (around late March/early April) and once in the summer (around late August/early September). The dates vary based on its proximity to the new moon date of those months because we also do rodent census during this trip. Ideally, this is conducted with atleast 4 people. Usually, we stay at the site for 1 week during these trips. During the winter plant census, we only do quadrats. During the summer, we do BOTH transect and quadrats. Sampling protocol described here. Allocation of the time for each task (rodent/plant data collection) can vary depending upon your arrival time on site and weather. It is recommended that site maintenance be done during this trip (e.g., fix trap boxes, fix gates, stomp out holes within 1m of the fences, clearing trails, etc.).

Things to pack:

  • truck keys
  • PIT tag reader
  • PIT tags
  • weather station Surface Pro
  • rodent/transect/quadrat data sheets (Quadrat data sheets are needed for both summer and Winter plant census trips and Transect data sheets are only needed during the summer plant census trip)
  • sleeping bag (and sleeping pad, though we have some extras in the truck)
  • headlamp
  • hiking boots
  • field clothes (Note that there are lots of thorny plants at the site)
  • hat/sunglasses (for shade from the sun, and also for the chilly evenings/mornings)
  • water bottle
  • rain jacket
  • chapstick
  • (Optional) something to keep yourself occupied during down time (book, music, etc.)
  • (Optional) tent

Post-trip Duties:

  • Check millet supply. If low, schedule a trip to a pet store. OK Feed and Pet Supply sells a 50 lbs bag of white millet for ~$30. If shop is closed (usually on Sundays they are), you can buy bird feed in Walmart. Just choose those that do not have big seeds that can get stuck in the traps. This brand works fine. Three 10lb bags are plenty enough for 1 weekend of trapping. Use PCard to pay for it.
  • Clean inside of field truck, and make sure cooler is drained. Keep the lid slightly ajar and crack open window of the bed of the truck to to vent it. Set-up the solar panel so that the battery gets charged. Place the solar panel in the dashboard horizontally and plug the wire to the GoalZero battery. If you are staying in a hotel before heading out, bring the battery and charge it inside the hotel room but make sure you bring it back to the truck before you leave.
  • Drop off field truck at the long-term parking lot. Remember to take a photo of the stub/card they give you in the free shuttle.
  • Submit receipts of PCard purchases (lodging, baggage, fuel, field gear, trapping supplies, etc.) using the PCard Receipt Submision Form
  • Fill in mileage log and send to WEC Operations Manager (currently, Cameron Carter (ccriderr@ufl.edu)) and CC WEC Fiscal (wecfiscal@ifas.ufl.edu). Note: You have until the fifth day of the next month to submit the log from the previous month.
  • Submit a Travel Expense Report for all travellers within a week of returning from the trip.
  • Enter and QA rodent/plant data by following the instructions in the relevant section under Portal Data Entry.
  • Download camera trap photos, and deposit on the lab T: drive. Deposit in the appropriate folders: portal_cameras-> year_folder(Ex. 2024)-> year-month_folder (Ex. 2024-05) -> location. Use The Reconyx Buckview Software (already in the Surface Pro) to go through the photos before depositing in the drive.

Some other things to keep in mind:

  • We take care of all the food and related items (volunteers don’t need to bring coffee, snacks, plates, utensils, etc. unless they want to)
  • This is a rustic camping situation, meaning no bathroom facilities and no water supply except what we bring in (we have several large jugs we can fill for drinking and washing dishes).
  • It may be quite cold in December - February (it has been known to freeze overnight)
  • It will definitely be quite hot in May - August
  • There is somewhat limited cell reception at the site, depending on your carrier
  • We camp out in the desert. The bed of the truck is spacious enough to fit 2 tall people. The back seat inside the truck can also be used but it may not be as spacious. However, anyone is welcome to bring/set up a tent near the ramada. There is an extra 2-person tent in the truck that anyone can use.