About AdamMKer

I love being outside whether its to work, climb, hike, fish, bike, camp, garden, mushroom hunt, read, hang out with friends, swim, or 10,000 other things. Eating delicious organic foods is a major priority in my life. If I am going to be inside, I will probably be in the kitchen. While I know there are some really great shows on the old tube, I struggle to place myself in front of the screen for longer than a full length film. But I love watching documentaries. I couldn't live without music. I play guitar and write music. Although the amount and severity of environmental issues that our world faces can be overwhelming, I remain optimistic about the future. I believe that my lifestyle defines who I am and if I can remain positive and enthusiastic everyday, I will have a positive influence on the world on any level.

Seeds – a gift of life!

I am entering the last couple of weeks of my internship and there is a lot happening to prepare for the spring.  Instead of trickling away, it seems as though I will be ramping out!  I have really felt like an important asset to the team more and more, which makes it harder to leave behind.  Although I don’t feel like I am truly leaving it behind, as I have no doubts that I will apply what I have learned to my own life projects.  My plan is to start an organic farm, and some of my aspirations include propagating natives, breeding rare heirloom varieties and adapting them to our ever changing local environment, restoring degraded habitat and native diversity, and creating plant and wildlife habitat.  I believe that seeds are our future, and that they alone harness the power to perpetuate life.  I also believe that growing and saving seed is one of our most important basic human rights and we have to fight for it.  By continuing to patent genetically modified seeds, falsely advertise them as the answer to world hunger, corrupt governments, and promote the use of toxic chemicals on our environment, large agribusiness continue to threaten seed diversity and biodiversity as well as cultural diversity and health around the world.  While we have lost more than 90% of seed varieties, we still have an incredible diversity to work with as long as we take on the responsibility of being seed stewards.  Millions of years of evolution and seed stewardship are the reason for the varieties we have today.  Seeds are not inventions, they are a gift of life.

I am very thankful for all the opportunities that this internship have brought!  Thanks to all!

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I worked with a youth crew to grub Himalayan black berry and Scotch broom, then plant willow and Douglas Spirraea stakes along this degraded creek bank.

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I also worked with the youth crew removing false brome.  We scalped the clumps of grass with the roots from the ground, bagged it, and seeded out a couple native grasses and forbs.

FalseBrome_Youthcrew 4


Soft and Warm

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Over the past few days, I have been visiting sites for the first time since before the rain came and have discovered all the areas where water is pooling. What was once a dried up patchwork of bunch grass and soil is now a wetland teeming with frogs, ducks, and geese. I took some time to bird watch spotting Northern shovelers, gadwalls, mallards, great egrets, great blue heron, red-shouldered hawk, Northern harrier, and a white-tailed kite! White-tailed kites are more commonly sighted this time of year because they are less dispersed, roosting communally during the winter. Sometime their roosts can have over a hundred individuals. Northern Harriers, with their white rumps, are one of my favorite raptors to watch as they hunt low to the ground, gliding just above the tips of the grass. I also get a kick out of the great blue heron, standing perfectly still, trying to decide whether or not I can see him. And when he finally takes off, he looks disgruntled for having been bothered. For whatever reason, I personify them as being old grumpy men with something to prove. As they fly off, I imagine them saying, “I still got wings”.

It has been an enjoyable, socked in Willamette Valley Winter so far. I am fortunate I get to roam around some of the few oak woodland habitats that still exist. Everything feels so soft this time of year, the edges blurred by the fog, the moss on the trees, the soggy ground. I wonder how I would feel differently if I didn’t have a heated shelter to return to, stocked with canned goods and frozen berries. I am glad I don’t have to dig for my stashed nuts when I get hungry. Those wild animals sure make me feel soft too.

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Wet Wetland Winter

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We have been seeing a lot of cool looking mushrooms pop up in the prairies.

Well it took a little longer than usual, but the moisture finally settled in the Willamette Valley and the thirsty prairie pools have been filling up, attracting flying V’s of waterfowl and inviting new green life to proliferate.  It is this time of year when we start to see more grey than blue, but there is something warm and inviting about the misty mountain tops.  And while the hardwoods have dropped their colors, the rivers grow more colorful with the silver backs of Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead.  It is always a relief and a rush of joy to see them return to spawn after facing the endless gauntlet of polluted water, damns, fisherman, degraded steam habitat, aquaculture parasites and diseases, and predators.


Here is a burn treatment adjacent to a shade cloth treatment planted with Kincaid’s Lupine.

So, we have been dodging the rain, making quick attempts at spreading native seed. Soggy handfuls of seed make it hard to disperse evenly.  But none the less, we successfully seeded all the prairies that were control burned earlier this fall.  This past week, we spent several days with a youth crew planting starts, pulling weeds, planting willow stakes, and installing shade cloth.

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Willow Stakes planted by youth crew.

The Seed Castle

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Over the last couple of weeks, I worked with the City of Eugene putting together native seed mixes for different land managers.  Last week, they caught a lucky break of good weather that allowed them to prescribe burn, so the seed mixes will now be dispersed at these sites.  Putting these seed mixes together took place in the “seed castle”, a colossal wooden warehouse sitting right beside the train tracks. Gloomy and still like a scene from “The Departed”, I kept my ears perked in anticipation of sirens and heavy footstep.  Who knew when our covert restoration operations might be interrupted?  There was a moment for contemplation.  How funny it is that these seeds, seeds of opportunity, beauty, diversity, nutrition, seeds of life, that harbor so much potential, so much value for prairie health, so much importance, made their way to these plastic bags in this old, dreary, dank warehouse.  I could only imagine how these little carbon capsules of unthinkable shapes and sizes will explode into their glorious forms and colors to feed the soil and the critters creeping and crawling about.

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Late Summer Oaks and Chokes

Machines have dominated my internship lately. Machinery is a two faced technological innovation. The tractor replaced horses and allowed farmers to grow more food, but it also lessened the need for farmers and encouraged the growth of a fossil fuel driven system. Trains, planes, and automobiles gave us quick transportation and lowered the cost of goods, but people have lost touch with their communities and forgotten how to live simply. Although I would argue that a majority of these ingenious contraptions have warped our minds and our culture in the wrong direction brewing the perfect climate change recipe, they are now an important tool for genuine earth efforts like restoration. While it has rattled my nervous system, the blade trimmer has given me the power to mow down intimidating patches of invasive blackberry and scotch broom. Without this tool, we might be inclined to overuse the other common approach of glyphosate application. And by golly, I have to admit, it has been pretty fun and we have taken out a lot of invasives!

I was super stoked to venture out with a member of the Long Tom Watershed, one of our vital partners, yesterday to meet with a private landowner who is participating in a grant funded restoration project to restore degraded riparian, prairie, and oak savannah habitat. We discussed the current state of the project along with the next plan of action and associated funding challenges. Then we did some pre-treatment surveys in the oak savannah, carefully dodging the creeping poison oak. There are plans to remove a large portion of douglas fir to open of the canopy and free the oak trees whose canopy is suppressed. This will allow the oaks, now growing primarily in a vertical orientation, to spread out their branches and achieve a more diverse structure more conducive to biodiversity.



Willamette daisy days parade – Nature Happens!


I spent the majority of time this past month searching for two species Erigeron decumbens and Horkelia congesta, an endangered  species and a species of concern both endemic to the Willamette Valley.  Unfortunately, Erigeron decumbens vegetative form blends in with other common grasses and forbs, making it very difficult to differentiate.  But when it is flowering, the striking yellow and purple colors are hard to miss!  While this work was very monotonous, I enjoyed the little things, finding various prairie critters, and listening to birds, good tunes, and NPR.   I now have a stronger back, an acute eye for particular textures and shades of green, and a holistic perspective on the crisis in Iraq.


  IMG_1156Erigeron decumbens – Willamette daisy

It has been fascinating observing how the prairie habitat has progressed with the season.  Flowering plants that flooded the fields with vibrant yellows, purples, reds, and blues in May and June are now merely dried up skeletons of carbon, which we now identify as thatch for purposes of habitat surveys.  The lowland prairies, submerged in water just two months ago, are clinging on to the last drops as even the sedges and rushes are beginning to dry out.  The upland, no question about it, wants to explode into a violent torrent of heat and flames and relieve itself of the heavy burden of matted dead grass, although most songbirds and small mammals probably love it.  New flowers are starting bloom, and new pollinators are starting to pollinate.  Grindelia integrifolia, known for its sticky leaves, are beginning to pop out of their spiky buds, and honey and bumble bees are ready to indulge on the sweet sugars they produce.  Ha! Nature happens!  Keep it real!

IMG_0696Eryngium petiolatum – coyote thistle 

IMG_0701Grindelia integrifolia-  Willamette valley gumweed





Drowning in Lupin – The Needle in the Haystack

FBB eggs 2013 planting

Drowning in Lupin – The Needle in the Haystack

For the past two weeks, my field partner and I have been looking for the needle in the haystack, the needle being the number of butterfly eggs and the sea of lupin the haystack. Meter by meter, plant by plant, leaf by leaf, we sorted through the infinite in search of the infinitesimal, a tiny, itty bitty white donut the size of a small freckle. It is amazing to consider the uncertain future of this little bugger, to think about all the obstacles it will face…the long leaf, the tall stalk, birds, wind, the frigid, bone soaking winter. This thing has a long, but oh so short life ahead.

Never has a plot so small, 30X30m, seemed so big! And never have I become so familiar with an environment. I had all the birds in the area mapped out in my head, meadowlarks, grasshopper, savannah, and song sparrows, pheasants, common yellowthroats, and redwing- blackbirds. Their territorial battles waged on unendingly, singing songs that set my mind at ease. However, underneath the warm Zen blanket of prairie nature, the cold reality crept in…I was trapped in my own head. And the thoughts came. What am I doing? What does this all matter? So what if I miss an egg? Wait, did I just see one? Hold up, did I already search this plant? No Egg…no egg…no egg…Oh! Egg! …this egg looks like a donut caked in powdered sugar…mmm…I am hungry…no egg…no egg…what am I doing…no egg…no egg…no egg…what time is it? How long could I possibly do this for? Will my efforts actually help this endangered species? What does this all matter? Is this worth my time?

I started to realize that I would have to be crazy not to ask these questions. I think that everyone should ask themselves these questions. What does this all matter? How do I want to spend my time…my life? I believe these are the very moments that help give us guidance.

I now know that I don’t want to monitor plants for the rest of my life. It can get repetitive and boring. However, I think most jobs are repetitive and boring anyway, and it’s okay to be a little bored sometimes. But I am lucky I get to be outside in such a beautiful surrounding and I am stoked to learn as many plants as my brain bucket will allow. Most importantly though, I believe in what I am doing. While I don’t think that it is the most important step to saving our environment, I know that it is an important step.

Random thought/question… Is it worth it to use herbicides, a known toxin, as tool for restoration when we don’t understand all of its negative impacts?

Also check out The Community Environmental Defense Fund and Thomas Linzey! I saw him speak this past week in Eugene. It was very inspiring! He is an environmental lawyer who gave up on environmental law because he realized that it doesn’t work. Now, he is fighting corporations’ political rights head on by drafting a “community bill of rights” for municipalities who have suffered negative health and environmental impacts (from fracking, mining, factory farming, etc.). This “bill of rights” is drafted to give communities and the environment rights over corporations.

Fender’s – I am not talking guitars

This was my first week on the job, and I already got to catch an endangered species, the Fender’s Blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioidies fender). This little blue butterfly is endemic to the Willamette Valley of western Oregon along with its host species, Kincaid’s Lupine (Lupinus oreganus), which is also endangered. If you travel along the highways that plow through the Willamette valley, you can see why these two species are not doing so well. The valley is saturated with monocultures, mostly sod and grapeseed farms, and the rivers lined by levies, channelizing flows and preventing natural flooding (same old story).
Interestingly, the site where I am working is within close proximity to the city of Eugene, OR and actually abuts the industrial area. But this is where the tiny little parcels of prairie exist that supports some of the few thriving Fender’s populations. Usually, we associate such special places and sensitive species with wilderness, forest land, or other more remote landscapes. It would be easy to overlook the value of these prairies, some of them hiding behind paper mills and factories, and focus on some of the more prevalent issues such as old growth and spotted-owls. And that is why my location is so unique. Every little site that I survey plays a very important role, each one being occupied by rare or endangered species, each one being protected from the encroachment of the city, each one reconnecting fragmented patches, and each one being managed to restore the ecosystem that once existed here.

I am excited to see how the BLM and its partners, who I am working with, cooperate on the restoration of the west Eugene wetlands. I am also excited to see what surprises lay ahead, especially after finding Fender’s Blue Butterflies at a site where they have never been recorded!
kincaid's and camas