Wetland plants in the burn
Another handsome guy
the dread plant yellow starthistle
Keeper of the sheep
Update # 1: The Northwest is on fire, as many of you know. The Canyon Creek fire just east of our district began over a month ago caused by a lightning strike, has claimed over 40 homes and gobbled up over 110,000 acres. It got real to me when the smoke of a fire to the north hazed up town each evening when the wind shifted. The day I could finally see the Cascade mountains again was incredible. Firefighters died tragically battling the Okanogan Fires in WA, and it will be a struggle to protect an ancient grove of giant sequoia’s from crowning to the south in California. The USFS has spent over half of it’s operating budget this year just on firefighting attempts. In the ring of fire, volcanic mountain chain, we are surrounded by a non vulcan type of blaze. Locally it is looking like it will wind down, but it sure has opened my eyes to the issues with fire that the west has to look forward to in the years to come. With climate change (causing drought) , the takeover of invasive annual grasses and past fire suppression, it’s the perfect storm. The seeds we are collecting are so important! Not just for sage grouse or pollinators, but for entire landscapes. We are the post-firefighters. It will be the West’s great challenge to thrive in this fiery environment.
Interesting sidenote if working in burned areas or fire ecology enthusiast: Have you noticed the plant community in past burned areas? I kept going to burned areas and vaguely puzzling over the plants I saw there, but didn’t give it much thought. Then I heard about this study that shows that after a burn the trees that died are tapping water out of the earth no more, and this actually causes the water table to rise. This makes water near the surface more accessable to plant life then previously, and you get a early successsion of wetland plants. Weird, but good good to know the fires might not be all bad.
Update # 2 : Assisting the weed technicians with invasive species mapping on our GPS’s, one of our most startling discoveries was an infestation of yellow starthistle, Centaurea solstitialis. This weed was only known to be present in a few places on the district and is of high concern, so recording it is important so that plans to control it over the next few years can be made before it spreads. Yellow starthistle can rapidly decrease water availability to desirable native plants and thus result in large economic and environmental costs. It is also toxic to horses. Myself and the weeds gals spent two whole days manually pulling this prickly weed to aid in its eradication.
Update # 3 : I will never tire of seeing pronghorn antelope, I’m sure of it. These are some seriously cool animals. Did you know scientists think that their incredible speed is due to co-evolution with the now extinct N. American cheetah? I just think they are beautiful, and their cute white butts make them easy to spot.
Update # 4 : I have had the pleasure of tagging along with the wildlife CLMer’s to record western long-eared bat roost site data. I think that working with other people in other areas of focus in your office is one of the most important things you can do as an intern. I would echo this for land managers in general. We need to work together within our offices, our agencies, our communities, and the world. Anyway, I got to use forestry equipment that I haven’t used since a breif lab session in school so I was grateful for some real-world experience. I also learned something new about the western juniper.
How do you determine it’s an old growth juniper? Well overall it just looks old. Better indicative factors however, include: copius growth of macrolichens on branches, no leader creating pointy-topped silloheute, instead rounded. Deeply grooved and twisted bark (lots of bat roost sites) and many (often dead) sprawling lower branches. two or three of these characteristics and you got an old growther. They are supremely beautiful.
Update # 5 : Fun fact, listening to NPR is a good thing to do when you have to drive a lot, alone, as I do. You learn about new science discoveries, local happenings, cultural phenomena, history, geography, and become a more informed world citizen.Your IQ may even rise. Also, I have found that NPR is often detectable when other good music stations are not. Try it out in the field.
Last update (# 6) Fun botany vocab of the month, as taught by using wordy and confusing dichotomous keys: Cordillera: mountain range chain. Secund: inflorecences situated on only one side of the stem. Glaucous: powdery stuff that makes plants look misted. Blue-white until rubbed with finger, then green. I love that botany has a special word for that.
It was long, but my blog is overdue and I had many random thoughts to share. Until next time!