Thursday, August 1, 2013

Our Last Few Days in the Field

Liam, Shannon and I had our last few days working on Bunchgrass Ridge.  We continued to work in the reference meadows, but also did a little bit of work in the forested control plots.  Many of the forest plants were the same plants that we were looking at in the treatment plots, but they looked so different in the forest instead of exposed to the sun.

We worked on tree encroachment for a while too.  Nico finished counting all of the seedlings that are growing in the plots, so the next part of his project is to measure the density, species type, and diameter of the adult trees bordering the plots.  Then, he can look see if there is a correlation between seedling dispersal and tree density.  

Now I have been home for a few days.  I miss being able to go step outside and go swim, or hike, or bike, or read, or whatever.  I think that there are opportunities for that in Portland, but it makes such a huge difference to have that on your doorstep.  

The three of us are going to work on our post field work portions of our project now.  We should be able to post them when they are all done.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Preview of Burn Pile Data

Liam has been inputting data from the burn piles and has begun data analysis.  Here is a preview.  "C" is the center of the burn pile, "E" is the just inside the edge of the burn pile, and the two marked "U" are the unburned areas.  This is only the data from this years data collection.  Eventually it can be compared with the data from earlier surveys to see how the ground cover have changed over time.

Liam and Shannon will be creating a final report about this data.  That report will most likely be posted here when it is all finished.

Nico and I found this poop.  He convinced me that it was toad based on the beetle parts inside.

 This is along the Lookout Creek Old-Growth Trail at HJ Andrews.  On the way to the trail-head, we found two researchers whose car had slid down a soft shoulder.  It sounds it slid just enough to keep the wheels from catching.  It was in the evening and if we didn't pass them, these two people may have had to walk several hours back to the headquarters.
We had bicycles with us.  Amanda from the group studying pollinators let the stranded people use her car which gave us a good excuse to ride back down to headquarters.

Wild Ginger (Asarum Caudatum) flower

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Other Projects: Pollinators and Spotted Owls

Liam, Shannon, and I were able to help with two other projects this week.  We went with our roommates that are studying the interactions between pollinators and with Steve Ackers who studies spotted owls.

The morning began with a flat tire.  Many of my favorite trips have included flat tires.  While collecting snakes and lizards with Portland State University our school van got a flat in we were stuck in Lodi.  On a trip with students to Costa Rica, we had a flat tire which gave us a chance to learn how to salsa dance.  In Mexico, I was on a bus taking me to catch a boat.  The bus got a flat near the end of Meet Joe Black in Spanish.  I missed the last ten minutes, but I haven't felt the need to find out what happens.  This time, we just practiced the safety dance that we learned two days earlier.

Liam and Fabian
Shannon and Scott
The pollinators work in meadows much higher and steeper than our meadows at Bunchgrass.  This crew counts the number of flowers within a three square meter quadrat and then monitor the number of interactions that invertebrates have with the flowers.

Amanda taking soil samples
 Soil samples are also being taken from the various meadows to help get a better idea how the different meadows compare.

 Any pollinator that the crew is not able to identify by sight is collected and preserved back in the lab.  Each specimen is given a number that corresponds with their data sheet and is sent back to Oregon State University.

Each researchers has a different scientific question that they are trying to answer with the collected data.

Our day was not a very busy day for pollinator activity, but it did give us a chance to spend some time within HJ Andrews.

Spotted Owls
We also went out with Steve Ackers to look for spotted owls.  He had one individual he was trying to track down.  This male owl had been seen in a different area of HJA and he wanted to see if it stayed there or came back to an area that he had been found before.  If we found it, Dr. Ackers also wanted to observe its behavior to determine if he was mating or caring for a brood.  Here is an OPB report that I found that discusses some spotted owl issues.

Dr. Steve Ackers (Sorry it's so blurry)

Steve has a pouch full of mice and some recordings of spotted owl hoots.  He carries everything on himself in-case he needs to quickly run after an owl.  On this night, the owl flew quickly over to us and did not seem interested in going anywhere else.

After identifying the owl from a band around its ankle, he begins to set mice out on the trees to see how the owl will behave.  I tried to put a few series of photos below.

 If this male was paired with a female, it would have made a call to her after receiving the food and their could have been some calling to offspring, but this male just hid his mice poorly in some moss.

After we went through all of the appropriate field protocols, we were able to sit an watch the owl for a while.  It was a hot day, and the owl did not seem interested in moving very fast.  That time also gave us a chance to discuss the natural history of owls, the conservation, and the struggles with trying to understand and protect them.  Right now, spotted owl numbers are still declining and they are facing several different forms of environmental stress.

We needed to go back and get ready for bed but Dr. Ackers said that he would be taking a break and then going back out after dark to see if he could get any responses in areas that have traditionally been homes for owls, but more recently do not seem to have any.  He planned on being out until 2 AM.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Vacuuming Dirty Plants and a Creepy Bee

"I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my soul,
I lean and loafe at my ease observing a spear of summer grass."

-From Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself"
(I heard it in my car while driving back to HJA to count grass)

This week, we have been working with Joseph A. Antos from the University of Victoria.  He and Charlie are old friends and colleagues.

Over lunch, they described working on Mt. St. Helens just before and just after it erupted.  They were studying the response of the plant community to the ash.  In order to accurately compare the effects of the ash, they needed an identical control group free of ash to provide a comparison.  This meant "cleaning" all of the plants.  It is the first time I've heard of anybody vacuuming the forest to keep it clean.  While the volcano was still active no less.

Joe formerly worked with Charlie on Bunchgrass Ridge, so he and is wife came back to visit and help for a couple of days.

We have begun measuring reference meadows on Bunchgrass Ridge.  The experimental design includes forest plots that have not been altered, treatment plots that have had the trees removed, and now reference meadows that should represent a typical meadow community.  The treatment groups can be compared to the other two communities to observe if it is transitioning, and if it is, how quickly.  

It seems that the majority of the plots that I have observed have fewer forest species and more meadow species.

 Nico caught a bird.  It's a juvenile grey jay, Perisorius canadensis.  It may have fallen out of the nest.  It didn't seem quite ready to fly yet.

Shannon also found a garter snake this week.  I wasn't quite quick enough to see it.  I wonder if it would eat the tree frog that I found last week.  There are a lot of grasshoppers to eat.  I wasn't sure if they actually eat grasshoppers, but I looked it up and the internet says that they do.

There are a lot of grasshoppers to eat.

Carex pachystachia inforescence
I found this fungus growing on a charred log

 There are new flowers blossoming every week, while the flowers from only four weeks ago are dried and wilted.  I didn't realize how short lived flowers are and how quickly they are replaced.  For example, the tiger-lilies are all gone and they are no replaced with these thistles (Cirsium sp.).

This one has a spider on it. 

This creepy bee is about to interrupt this young blister beetle couple.

Tragopogon from last week

Tragopogon this week

Slender phlox, Microsteris gracile

 Liam and I were trying to make it to a rocky outcrop called, "Thor's Hammer."  We didn't make it, but that's okay.