Down in the Valley

Another month has come to pass and I cannot imagine where the time has gone. Here at the preserve, I have been very busy with a multitude of activities and a myriad of new experiences that have kept me well occupied and learning every day.
Chief among these endeavors has been supervising a Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) crew. Over the past few weeks, I have seen the small group grow as individuals and as a whole– a truly rewarding experience for someone with not much experience supervising any sort of crew. We had them doing all sorts of different projects at the preserve and it was great to teach and learn with them for about three weeks.
Having come to us with little to no experience with tools like a weed-eater, the crew members now know not only how to operate such equipment, but also how to maintain and properly care for such equipment. With such skills, we were then able to clear a large number of the preserve’s water control structures, which are crucial for controlling our wetlands during the flood-up season when we are providing habitat for our beloved avian visitors. By clearing these structures it makes flooding up and draining the wetlands easier and more efficient. Two things that we are always looking to improve at an office with relatively few hands.
This crew also helped us with a cleanup of one of our levees that had been littered with debris from the floodwaters of this past winter. With the help of some local youths from the Galt School District and some California State Office employees, we were able to clean a large amount of debris, ranging from tires to tree limbs to a fishing net. Having such a mix of ages out in the field together was very exciting and I¬†hope the experience really inspired the young ones to respect and care for the environment and keeping it clean. I would never have guessed it could be such fun, but we even had kids that didn’t want to quit when it was time to go!
We also embarked on a mission to repair a retaining wall that had been damaged by flood waters–a feat which really allowed us to work on teamwork and building with different tools and skills. Although it was relatively arranged for us by the previous builders, we had to do a lot of on-the-spot improvising to really work certain areas into place and get the pieces to fit. All in all, our work was quite productive and the wall is looking good and is close to finished. Having never built such a wall myself, this was a learning experience for us all.
In addition to these more work-intensive activities, we were also lucky enough to get out and enjoy the riparian parts of the preserve’s namesake. On two separate occasions, we took the crew out canoeing, both with the school district students and as a small group. On both occasions, we had excellent paddling conditions and were able to all share in a really fun experience. Many of the students older and younger had never experienced canoeing before, making it another great learning experience for us all.
In terms of more personal happenings, I am now UTV and IPM Herbicide trained. This was a crucial step for an intern at the preserve, mainly because we have so many weeds that need to be treated and this year has presented us a great chance to get some of them under control. With the major flooding of this past winter, many of the once heavily infested areas that have been battle grounds in years past are now relatively clear, presenting us with a great chance to get ahead of the weeds and keep our waterways relatively clear. Water primrose (Ludwigia hexapetala) and water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) are our main aquatic foes in these areas and they do not relent.
This has thus been a big focus of my past few weeks. I was able to go out and treat primrose and hyacinth on two separate boat operations as the applicator. In addition, I worked with our lead applicator for several days following my training to treat primrose, as well as yellow star thistle (Centaurea solstitialis).
While this may make it seem as though all that we have are weeds, we actually have a good diversity of native plants and an abundance of wildlife. I have not been as good a botanist as I would hope to be with learning all of the beautiful and unique plants around the preserve, but as I get out and do some scouting for our preserve’s two SOS collections I will keep my eyes out as we always do here at the preserve. You just never know if you will happen upon some river otters, owls, waterfowl by the bunches, or maybe even a mountain lion.
As I continue my internship here, I can’t wait to see what each day brings. I am sure I will have more to share soon!
Until then–

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