Jack Frost Does Not Like Oregon

Hello everyone! I hope everyone is doing well and having a good time in the new year! January has been quite the busy month here in the Umpqua, but that has really made time fly by! The first few weeks were relatively quiet. We worked on seed cleaning and started the new process of extracting and packaging Douglas Firs and Ponderosa Pines for an assisted migration project, which addresses their geographic distribution in regards to climate change. It is a monotonous task; however, it does make the time pass because there is always something to be done. At Dorena, there is always something to be done, which I kinda love. I am never bored here.

Buuuuuuut, mid-January a gnarly ice storm hit my area and caused major damage to the community, native deciduous trees, and the power-grid. This storm created a temporary ice rink on every exposed surface and allowed me to slide to the grocery store rather than walking there. Do not get me wrong, it was beautiful, but it was also incredibly dangerous. Although I was lucky and only was without power and water for 6 days, others in the community did not receive their power for almost two weeks. After this experience, I think I take the doomsday preppers a little bit more seriously. This storm left my city in shambles from houses and cars being squashed by trees to fallen telephone lines across roads and sidewalks. Throughout the past few weeks, the community is still recovering and has dramatically increased their supply of firewood.

Post ice storm, Dorena regained power and normal activities returned. We continued on extracting and packaging the Douglases and Pines, but we had the awesome experience of having multiple jobs corps groups and volunteers come in to help the project. It was incredible. The extra hands turned the expected end date from two months to two weeks. Without their help, we would have been extracting and packaging for weeks.

Overall, this month has flown by. I am sure I am missing a few events here and there but that is kinda the gist. There was definitely some good moments, like sowing oaks with everyone in the greenhouses after the storm, which was so fun to drink our coffees and chat, but there were also some learning moments. Life is not life without both sides. This month definitely was a wild ride, but I am excited to see where February takes me. Also unfortunately, last week I did break my laptop; thus, I will have to share all my photos for next month ūüôĀ

Hope y’all have a good February!

A Very Smoky August

Early this August, I got to make my first personal delivery to the Coeur d’Alene Forest Service Nursery in Coeur d’Alene, ID! Since the nursery is a 2.5 hour drive, it has proven to be quicker and more efficient to deliver the seed lots ourselves, rather than packing and shipping the large quantity of seeds that have take up all spare office space. Myself and the rest of the Lolo Botany Crew got to take a tour around the nursery facilities and take a look at all the different projects going on this time of year. The nursery is quite extensive, with many greenhouses and open warehouse space for plugs and seeds spread to dry.

Among the seeds and saplings are a more friendly nursery occupant: the nursery cats. Apparently three cats inhabit the Coeur d’Alene Nursery, although I only had the pleasure of meeting Smoky, who currently takes up residence in the seed extractory. What a hard worker! It was very impressive to see the success of current grow-outs from seed collections of years past from the Lolo NF. After surveying for much Whitebark Pine this season, one of my favorite parts of the nursery tour was to see the greenhouse designated for Whitebark Pine saplings.They typically ship out about 100,000 white bark pine saplings every year, so it was excellent to see great restoration hard at work. Super cool time!

Another fun event in early August was the Western Montana Fair, which I got to attend both for work and fun. I had the chance to participate in some community outreach with the Lolo National Forest, greeting the public at the FS booth had and got to talk to the community about some of the projects going on and how exciting it is to work in natural resources/restoration. The best part was meeting new coworkers from different programs in the Missoula office who I don’t get to see every day. Aside from work, I went to the rodeo at the fair, and it was actually my first rodeo! It was so much fun to watch all the events.

Earlier in August I took a trip up to Glacier National Park. It has been pretty smoky this August, but the views were still great! I hiked from Lake McDonald up to Snyder Lake. Beautiful hike I would recommend to anyone visiting Glacier.

In which we electrocute fish

One of the benefits to being a wildlife intern is that I get to handle animals.¬† Usually it’s limited to the arthropods and herps I find out in the field, but sometimes it’s even more exciting.¬† Most recently, Michelle and I were sent out to check on fish populations on Forest Service and BLM land.¬† There’s a decently sized stream that runs through both FS and BLM land which has a number of indigenous species (Lepidomeda alicia, Rhinichthys osculus, and Catostomus platyrhynchus) as well as the accurs√©d Salmo trutta.

As an aside, I need to say that the BLM riparian vegetation was in infinitely better shape than the FS parcel thanks to more responsible grazing methods.¬†¬† Just sayin’.

<i>Lepidomeda alicia</i>, leathersides, are not for eating.

Lepidomeda alicia, leathersides, are not for eating.

As I expected, in order to estimate the number of fish in a stream it’s necessary to capture them.¬† What I wasn’t prepared for was the equipment: a forty-plus pound backpack full of electronics and a very large 24 volt battery.¬† It turns out that the preferred methodology for catching fish is to use this Ghostbusters cast-off to run an electrical current through the water.¬† The¬†field wreaks temporary havoc with their little nervous systems which causes them to drift aimlessly into our waiting nets.

We were warned beforehand that there’s usually low mortality with this technique, but not non-zero.¬† Larger fish have greater surface area and therefore take a harder hit from the current and have a tendency to die.¬† The current was actually very mild; I unthinkingly¬†shoved my hand in the water to grab a fish while the stunner was running and only spasmed slightly. I’m marginally larger than even a brown trout, so I think that it’s fair to say that it wasn’t a horrible experience for them especially given that we didn’t lose a single fish.

Our field office doesn’t have waders large enough for me, so I didn’t get to wield the stunner.¬† Instead, I was given an even better job which I know sounds crazy‚ÄĒwhat¬†could be¬†better than electrocuting fish‚ÄĒbut it’s true.¬† I was take-the-fish-out-of-the-net-to-put-in-the-bucket guy.¬† That means that I got to handle the fish directly and admire them and their nematode parasites.

Michelle proudly holds the <i>Salmo trutta</i>, brown trout, I accidentally dropped.  Repeatedly.

Michelle proudly holds the Salmo trutta, brown trout, I accidentally dropped. Repeatedly.

Now, prior to this field excursion, I had appreciated fish as theoretically pleasant creatures.¬† Now I desperately want to take ichthyology courses so I can handle more of them.¬† I can’t begin to describe what fantastic and beautiful pieces of engineering these things are.¬† For example, the Salmo trutta (May their tribe decrease!) secrete mucus which makes handling them, or presumably eating them, much more difficult. ¬†I personally dropped the same brown trout at least five times while trying to pose for a photo. Michelle got a better picture with it just because I had stunned it already. I was also sort of secretly hoping that one of the larger fish might spontaneously die so that I could dismantle it but that in no way changed how I treated them.

We swept each stretch of creek twice: the first time was to catch as many fish as possible so that the second sweep would yield no more than 40% of the first catch. By doing so, we made the statistical witchcraft that estimates the total population more accurate. It meant a lot of work though. We caught several hundred on the first pass at one site. Luckily, doing a proper job the first pass makes the second a breeze.

The data that we gathered was some of the first for this particular system, so more will be gathered in the next few years as the monitoring continues. There’s some talk of (Euphemism alert!) “removing” the brown trout seeing as they’re an unwelcome species from Europe imported for sport fishing. The hope is to introduce trout endemic to Utah and restore the stream to its former native glory. Until then, most of the focus is on adjusting grazing schedules to repair the riparian communities along the banks. Having seen photos of what this stream looked like a few years ago, I’m proud of my field office’s handling of the situation.

Nelson Stauffer, BLM Cedar City Field Office, Over and out.