I’m two months into my CLM internship at the Eagle Lake Field Office, in Susanville, CA, and I have been reflecting on the ways in which water, while not always present, has shaped and shapes my new home. Moving to Susanville, a dry town on the edge of the Great Basin from New Orleans, a humid swamp, has been quite the change in water regimes. After recent heavy rain events New Orleans’ pumps system failed, resulting in local flooding. And now, with Tropical Storm Harvey headed towards Louisiana, New Orleans is gearing up for more flooding. But out here in my new town, I have seen it rain only a handful of times. However, when it does rain, lightning strikes and starts often ensue.
Besides the potential for fire, in the high desert, standing water brings life. American avocets forage along the edges of mudflats, Canadian geese prepare their young for a long migration south in ephemeral ponds, and foot prints dot the edges almost every water sources we have visited. Plus, there are always a few “regulars” around streams and springs:denseflower boisduvalia (Epilobium densiflorum), field hosetail (Equisetum arvense), povertyweed (Iva axillaris), dock (Rumex sp.) and if you’re lucky, aspen, (Populus tremuloides). After a high snowpack and unseasonably high spring rain events, many of the flats, ephemeral wetlands, and stock ponds on our field office are full of water, an uncommon sight so I’m told. Even the playa where Burning Man is currently being held (not on our field office, but close) was filled with water relatively late into the summer. With the unusual snow melt, we were able to find a special status plant (Gratiola heterosepala) that has not been seen the area in a few years due to the California drought. During the past month, my fellow co-intern and I have had the opportunity to visit a few multiple stream monitoring sites across our field office. The first couple we visited were unusable after the high spring stream flow events bent the steel pipes where the gauges were housed. But this past week we visited a couple more that survived the f!
Water has also shaped the nature of our seed collections this season. My co-intern and I have been having difficulty finding perennial bunch grasses with seed, which we believe is due to the high snow melt and heavy rains at the beginning of the summer. Many of the people at our office hypothesize that that unusual precipitation patterns resulted in the grasses putting more energy into above their ground growth. After the rains, the heat wave that followed resulted in a spontaneous abortion of seeds. But fortunately, we have been able to locate other populations that have been keeping us busy.
Until next time,