November Post (my last)

This month has been such a blur since time went by so fast again. One thing I’m glad I was able to learn this month was how to drive a large tractor with a bat wing mower attached. What we wanted to do was a mow a certain portion of the preserve that is commonly flooded during the winter season. The purpose of this was to create additional habitat for birds such as egrets and cranes. Two egrets actually came by and foraged approximately 20 feet of where I was mowing!

Another fun thing I did this month was installed our “Cosumnes River Preserve” sign. This thing is huge and it required a four man team to installed it. We had to bring in a backhoe and attach it to toe straps to hoist it up and manuever it towards the post. One of the more memorable assignments during my internship!

Left to right: Mark (our wildlife biologist), me, and Robin (one of our amazing volunteers).

Left to right: Mark (our wildlife biologist), me, and Robin (one of our amazing volunteers).

Many of the broadleaf weeds such as yellow mustard, wild radish, and milk thistle are starting to emerge as rosettes and a large portion of what I did this month is herbicide application. The type of herbicide to be used depends on the goal. Since we’re only targeting broadleaf weeds and not grass, we can only use only Garlon 3A. Any residues of Roundup left over in the previous pesticide tank is diluted and disposed of before we can start with a fresh batch of Garlon. What Roundup will do is that it will wipe all the plant species including grass species which we’re trying to preserve. The equipment that has been used lately is the UTV and sometimes ATV for the herbicide application. I enjoy cruising along on the ATV, the only downfall is that it’s strapped with herbicide.

We recently moved back into our visitor center. During the move, we came across some vandalism such as broken fire lane signs and damaged displays. Another volunteer and I worked on these repairs and many other touch ups for the building and its surrounding area to make things safer.

We’ve been also setting out squirrel traps for the resident ground squirrels around our facilities. Another part of my job has been to capture and relocate squirrels to areas where they are no longer a nuisance. So far we’ve captured and relocated four individuals.

Nothing super exciting went on this month, but it’s work that needs to be done.

Chau Tran

Blog Posting for October

Right now, the preserve is filled with birds migrating from the north. Since last month’s post, we filled approximately a dozen more ponds with water and that’s not including the rice and safflower fields. Here at the preserve, we also utilize agriculture fields as wetlands. Some ponds are utilized by birds more than others, only the birds really know why. Currently, there are several thousand sandhill cranes on the preserve, most of which prefer the safflower fields that are now flooded. The survey conducted by volunteers last week estimate the population to be 3,160. This species is arguably the most popular bird species on the preserve.

Another bird species drawing a lot of attention is the greater-white fronted geese. Sometimes when I peek up at the sky, I estimated there to be at least 3,000 birds. And that’s just the ones that I see, we expect their numbers to be in hundreds of thousands. Regardless of the abundance of birds, we didn’t see a large number of species diversity during last week’s waterfowl survey. We saw mostly Canada geese, greater-white fronted geese sandhill cranes, northern pintails, and American coots.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the backhoe performing road maintenance. The rain is abundant around this time of the year in northern California, which is an issue for us. It’s great since we’re in a drought, the bad thing is that it’s preventing us from driving on the roads. Besides the rain, our resident beavers are also weakening our levees that we drive our rigs on. So, I’ve spent a lot of time patching up potholes, widening the levees, and repairing other forms of erosion around our water valves. It has been really good experience utilizing this heavy equipment.

In addition to road maintenance, I’ve been tasked with maintaining our current office as well. We pulled weeds, sprayed weeds, filled in ground squirrel holes with concrete, rebuild the retaining wall, and trimmed trees. I’ve done some saw work recently too. A portion of our trail had been blocked by a fallen Arroyo willow tree. Another volunteer and I cut down what was over hanging and bucked up the remaining limbs. I love saw work, reminds me of the fire season with the BLM fire crew.

Water primrose and hyacinth is on a rampage. We must have partaken in a least half a dozen spray sessions to remove them. These herbicide applications are only a form of control, the battle is never ending. Some of the spray sessions were at a restoration site owned by The Nature Conservancy called Bjelland, the others were on public waterways. Spraying pesticides is probably the easiest thing to do, but also the most difficult in my opinion. Squeezing the trigger and watching out for back spray is easy, but transporting two full 15 gallon tanks with a large car battery on a canoe down 200 meters to the boat launch is a little more challenging. What’s worse is that you’re now sitting in a cramped canoe after you manage to push over 250 pounds of herbicide into the slough and now you’re stuck in the water surrounding by primrose and hyacinth. Every paddle stroke you make gets you only an inch forward. Regardless, the job was done and it was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve done on this job. What I wouldn’t give for another set of hands on deck.

This job has given me an enormous amount of skills that I wouldn’t have imagined ever attaining. I now know how to operate almost all of the equipment at our facility and it’s given me a lot of confidence. What I hope to happen during the rest of my internship is to become more well rounded as an individual. I can handle much of the physical aspect of the job, what I hope to gather is more knowledge. Knowledge about the grant proposal process, environmental policies, what it takes to manage a restoration project, and ways to better manage the land.

Chau Tran


Wetland Work and Grant Proposals

This month I’ve been in the field half of the time and the other half in the office. Right now is time when birds from the north start migrating down to our preserve. It’s our job to prepare our wetlands so that these birds have the proper habitat they need to forage and rest. The typical preparation process starts with “resetting” the pond. What this mean is that we mow and disc “problem” areas within the pond before we flood it up. Areas with unwanted plants by birds are associated as “problem” spots. Once we reset the pond, we can start next step of pumping water into the ponds. Before we run the water pump, we check the water control structures (WCS) and make sure that it sealed tight before any water is added to the pond to prevent wasting water. We then open the valve associated with that pond and check other adjoining valves to see if they are closed since some are connected via underground piping. Once the proper valve(s) are opened, we initialize the connecting pump and double check that water is flowing out of the intended valve at the proper rate of speed. This process repeats approximately 43 more times by the middle of December since we have 44 ponds to manage.

During this time of the year, we also monitor the bird use within the ponds that we flood up. This means that as we flood additional ponds throughout the season, the workload increases as well. In addition to the new workload, we have to manage eight special ponds for the United States Geological Survey (USGS). USGS is conducting an experiment to test how well our wetlands absorb naturally occurring toxic methylmercury. Since these eight ponds are a part of the experiment, we have to treat them differently in accordance with USGS expectations. All eight ponds are to be filled up at the same time and specific instrumentations are to be placed within the WCSs.

Flooding up the ponds is my favorite part of this job. It allows all the plants and macroinvertebrates to thrive and with that an abundance of birds such as Canada geese, the popular sandhill crane, and black-necked stilts. Seeing these birds reminds me what kind of difference this job can have.

Another neat part of my job assignment this month is helping with grant proposals so that we can restore habitat for the federal-listed endangered giant garter snake (GGS). Since I have some GIS skills, I was tasked with creating maps to supplement the grant proposal text. The goal was to create a set of maps that could tell the entire story of what we were trying to accomplish with the money. It had to contain information such as proposed restoration sites, relevant habitat corridors, and urban infrastructures. The process of creating these maps took numerous edits and revisions; an important, but somewhat tedious task. I was also asked to create a literature cited page by using some existing sources from the previous Environmental Enhancement Fund (EEF) grant. Utilizing my previous education in engineering, we also calculated some dimensions of the proposed wetland restoration site. By helping our staff with this grant proposal process, I learn a lot about what applying for a grant entitles. It’s something I like to be more involved with later in the future of this internship, if possible.

A Month Filled with Fire

This month I took some personal time off from the preserve for a fire assignment with the Folsom Lake Veterans Crew from the BLM Mother Lode Office. I spent almost a good three weeks in Wyoming with the crew so this month’s to-do list was not as loaded as the previous. Lots of stories to tell, but I suppose this isn’t the right place to share. 🙂

Upon my return, I assisted our wildlife biologist with water work which involved sending water to some of our wetland ponds in addition to fixing any visible leaks within our “dams”. Another assignment of mine was to supervise the habitat restoration team (HRT) crew for a day. Around this year, the HRT crew manage the weeds around the ponds so that our biologists can manage the water without having to trek through weeds to find our water control structures that hold back the water. We also trimmed down the Atriplex, which we use as hedge row to prevent trash from Highway 99 blowing in.

Some of the trails needed maintenance as well since they are prone to erosion due to the seasonal flooding. As a result, we ordered some gravel from Galt Rock and used the Kubota tractor to scrape it evenly among the road. It was a fun experience driving the tractor. My goal is to be able to drive the big tractor to disc to ponds by the end of this internship. Baby steps.

We had a small fire recently within a portion of the preserve’s property. As of result, it exposed a lot of the trash that accumulated over the years. I was recently put in charge of leading 30 high school kids to clean up the burn area on the 2nd of September.

Since I have some (Geographic Information Experience) GIS experience, I’ve been in the office more often lately. We are putting together a grant proposal to restore some habitat for the listed giant garter snake and I was tasked with creating a map of the proposed restoration area for the grant. We went over numerous edits and I really enjoyed the map making process. I was also tasked with creating the literature cited page and the peers edit process as well.

Until next time…


July Recap

I can’t believe it has been a month since the last post, time sure flies around here. As usual, there are way too many items on the to-do list and not enough time to finish all of them. Recently, a lot of the staff members left for vacation or personal time off so Corey and I are the only interns left. Corey is an American Conservation Experience intern picked up by Harry (our preserve manager) to manage the Badger Creek restoration area. Since now I’m the person with the most experience about wetlands, I was left in charge of managing the water levels around some of our ponds. I’m starting to see species of waterfowl return to the area.

I’m also working with a volunteer who is a GIS expert. We’re trying to QA and QC (quality assurance and quality control) the location of all our valves, standpipes, air vents and water control structures. It has been a challenge to finish this little project due to lack of knowledge about the Citrix server and issues with the Trimble Juno handheld unit (battery discharge). However, after installing the proper background imagery and having a functional battery, I was able to finish that task this morning.

The YCC crew came back to our preserve after departing for the Pine Hill preserve several weeks ago. They were extremely valuable because they helped with weed wacking and moving rip rap, tasks that are really demanding in 100 F temperature. I really enjoyed meeting the crew members and hope them the best. I’ve attached a picture of me and the crew, not sure if that went through…

I’ve also been involved with pesticide applications this month. The water primrose is getting out of control around our sloughs, it is the worse that is has ever been. This could be attributed to the longer growing season, I think. We typically use Roundup custom in addition to Renovate to spray. The thing I find most tedious with pesticide applications is the clean up process.

We also had a move! Our center is going through some renovations, so we have to move all our supplies to another location. It took us several days to coordinate and move all our supplies. I can’t believe how much those giant folders weight. The heaviest thing I lifted alone was probably one of our printers. Probably not a smart idea now that I think of it.

I recently starting using the Kubota to mow some of our trails and ponds. Such a fun experience! Growing up in the city, I’m not really used to operating heavy equipment. This is one of the perks that I really enjoy about this job. I’m trying to work myself up to using a tractor to disc the ponds sometime in the future.


June Summary – Chau

I jumped back to work after the workshop ended where I had an amazing time. We had planned on having the Youth Conservation Crew come down to the Cosumnes River Preserve on the 20th. I would be the person in charge of supervising the YCC crew. The crew consisted of Jose, Ausbon, Thor, Diana, and Alicia. During that week, I had trained the crew regarding safety, tool use, and a couple of other things.

We went on a tour of the preserve and talked about precautions such as snakes, ticks, dehydration, and etc. They were exposed to some of the flora and fauna at the preserve. We saw valley oaks, turkey vultures, Oregon ash, coyotes, and several different types of habitats. We talked about different projects that the preserve is involved with (waterfowl survey, raptor survey, methyl mercury with USGS, and database management).

The crew was also trained on tool use and the associated personal protective equipment. We also talked about being cautions about fires and ways to prevent and control fire if we see one on the preserve. They were also introduced to many of the staff members, some of which were kind of enough to spend time with them and gave them additional advice on staying safe in the field.

After their training, the crew went around sites within the preserve that needed maintenance. They first worked on trail maintenance using weed eaters, rakes, and leaf blowers. We also controlled vegetation around structures such as pumps, valves, and water control structures (where pond water escapes). Some members of the crew went to prep for rip rap work where they had to use a sledge hammer to break apart concrete blocks. Towards the end of the week, we took four canoes out to the Cosumnes River and paddled around. Two of them fell in, had to jump in after them to fish their boat out. It was a fun week with the crew. They were great to work with since they were all smart and hard working students.

After the week with the YCC crew ended, I worked on the mountain lion project. We had to drive to various locations with cameras and retrieve memory cards with the pictures taken. On that same day, Perry (one of our amazing volunteers and also my classmate) and I worked on chores around the preserve. We cleaned up the storage site for our boxes trying to get ready for the move to another office. We fixed one of the doors near the storage site and removed graffiti. We also trimmed some vegetation along one of our amazing trails called the Tall Forest for the mountain lion team.

I was able to do some water work, which involved managing the water levels within brood ponds in our wetlands. I ran the pump and also altered the flow rate around our water control structures. As instructed, we again assisted with the moving process in addition to some trail work.

Went out today to Bjelland and we monitored the water level of the pond for the giant garter snake. We also did an assessment of the yellow star thistle population after applying the herbicide treatment. Another thing we are trying to do is map out the remaining population of yellow star thistle after a prescribed burn that occurred on Horseshoe Lake. This species is pretty amazing. Even after the fire, we still notice at least 25% of their population came back.


Blog Entry for April 29, 2016

Since my last blog, I’ve been trying to keep busy. My main task around this time of the year at the Cosumnes River Preserve is to manage the weeds that we have around the wetlands and the visitor center. However, there’s always something else new to work on. That’s what I like about this job, it can be unpredictable sometimes. Just today, we had someone from Wilderness Inquiry spot a possible mountain lion. The preserve manager, Harry, and I followed up on the lead and attempted to track the lion through dense oak woodland full of mosquitoes. When we were back from our search we started working on our plant identification. We saw Orgegon ash, box elder, curly dock, valley oaks, and blackberry bushes for sure. Afterwards, we set up a camera trap so see if we could get pictures of the cougar later on.

Also during this week, I assisted with showing 6th graders about the macroinvertebrates that are in the wetland ponds. It was nice to see the kids having fun at the canoemobile event. A part of their activities is the paddle down the Cosumnes River, an experience that many kids get to have for the first time.

I was able to help out with the specimen collection a couple of weeks ago down at the Merced River, the wildflower displays were gorgeous. We had Dave, a BLM employee who showed us where all the plant species were. It was a good experience get to know more about the SOS program and too bad we we’re only at the river for roughly two hours.

Cosumnes River Preserve

I had a variety of tasks for this month and really enjoyed working at the preserve. I’m currently stationed at the Cosumnes River Preserve located south of Sacramento, CA working in conjunction with the Bureau of Land Management. A large part of the preserve’s mission is to manage the wetlands for resident and migratory bird species. The management is focused a lot on removing invasive species such as Italian thistle and also to promote vegetation that birds like to feed on. Lately, I’ve been collecting a lot of data on the wetlands so we can start looking at their volumes. This is important because it gives information of how to move soil within the wetlands in ways to promote the presence of certain plants. I’ve been working on some trail maintenance also. On some days, I was assigned to treat weedy species with herbicide and also to manage them with the weed eater. Overall, there’s plenty of work for me to do at the preserve and the tasks come in many varieties so that I’m never bored at work. 🙂