San Juan Islands National Monument

Its been a little over a week back from the CLM internship conference in Chicago.  It’s also been a little over two months into my internship in the San Juan Islands National Monument.  I’ve spent the bulk of my first two months planning my project and creating databases for my information.  Now I’m finally at a point where I get to the field nearly every day.  Let me tell you, I don’t miss the computer time.

Last week, I completed several forestry surveys, line point intercept surveys, and recorded several listed rare species in the archipelago.  I worked primarily on Lopez Island, the homebase of the monument, but got to spend a day on the beautiful Patos Island.  Patos is a two hundred acre island and is the very northwest point of the continental United States.  On it is a lighthouse, 8 campsites, and plants not seen anywhere else in the archipelago (namely Columbia Lily and While Fawn Lily).  It’s also a great spot to view marine life, with frequent seal, oystercatcher, peregrine falcon, eagle, and porpoise sitings, and less frequently ocra sitings.  I came to Patos with Keepers of the Patos Lighthouse, a group that works to maintain the island with monthly work parties and stays on the island during the summer months to educate its thousands of visitors about the lighthouse and its history.  Though I wasn’t helping them with work party I saw them remove loads of blackberry and maintain the trail.  It’s always impressive to see how much work they can accomplish in a day.  Also around on Patos that day was the American Hiking Association; they had been volunteering with various public lands that week and were on Patos to help maintain the trail.

My time on Patos and on Lopez last week was largely spent in the forest.  The salal, roses, Himalayan and trailing blackberries don’t make it easy to reach a sample point, but I’ve found the forest systems of these islands fascinating.  The topography, soil type, bedrock, and water availability are hugely variable within any given parcel of land on the islands, and these abrupt changes can be seen looking at the forest canopy.  The Douglas Fir is the dominant tree in the San Juan Islands as well as most of the western coast.  However, I often come across pockets where grand fir, red cedar, rarely sitka spruce or bigleaf maple dominate where conditions are favorable.  While west coast tree diversity often pales in comparison to the east, I was impressed to find a stand on Patos island dominated by Grand Fir and Douglas Fir, with Red Cedar, Douglas Maple, Western Yew making the understory tree community.


Typical Douglas Fir forest in San Juan Islands, WA


This week I spent surveying land on coastal bluffs.  This means lots of grass identification and not a lot of plant diversity.  Still, I can’t complain about the view.


View from line point intercept sample point at Point Colville, Lopez Island, WA


Here are a few pictures captured within the last few weeks of field work.  I hope everyone is having a great field season with lots of collections and tons of new plants.

Jen McNew


Spotted Coralroot (Corallohiza malculata) in early July on Lopez Island

nodding onion

Nodding onion (Allium cernuum)


Hooker’s Onion (Allium acuminatum)


Harvest brodiaea (Brodiaea elegans)

orange trumpet

Orange trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa)


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