After nearly two years here, my time as an intern at the West Eugene Wetlands is coming to an end. I have accepted a permanent position at another organization, and while I am excited for the new experiences my future holds, I will definitely miss the wetlands and the team of people with whom I worked.
When I began this internship, not too far out of college (with a background in English, no less), if someone had pointed out a plant and asked, “What can you tell me about this?” my answer probably would have been a tentative “It’s green?” I have learned so much in the last two years, however, that now my answer would be more like “Oh, that’s Kincaid’s lupine. It’s a threatened species and the host plant of the Fender’s Blue Butterfly.” And that is an amazing feeling.
During my time here, I have had the opportunity to assist with monitoring, planting, seeding, leading educational groups, and much more. And while I’ve enjoyed the variety of experiences, some of my favorite memories are in the complications my partner and I have had in the field, like spending 3 hours attempting to find 12 rebar we’d stuck so far in the ground only an inch showed (after mowing, burning, or even animals digging burrows, the landscape can really change from year to year), or trying to square up a new macroplot without a compass. There is nothing more satisfying than putting our heads together and being able to formulate a solution to a problem that has plagued us (whoever knew pythagorean theorum would come in handy outside the classroom?).
Anyway, I am so happy to have had such an amazing opportunity and I would like to wish all current and future interns luck with their endeavors.
So, last time I posted here, snow was just hitting Eugene, and boy it did not stop for a while! By the next day, we had nearly a foot of snow on the ground, and then a couple inches of ice on top of that. All of the snow and ice added a lot of weight to the surrounding vegetation, and branches and trees came down all over the city.
Luckily, the snowy conditions only lasted a few days, and then my coworker and I were off checking various sites for damage. As you can see, some of our sites definitely suffered fallen trees. In fact, a beautiful silver maple in front of our field office split in half and toppled to the ground; unfortunately, it ultimately had to be completely removed.
Since the storm, most of the fallen tree limbs have been cleaned up, and we are beginning to gear up for field season. In the next couple of weeks, we will be planting Kincaid’s lupine and Willamette Daisy to augment existing populations. In the meantime, I am developing promotional documents for this year’s Walkin’ and Rollin’ Through the Wetlands event. We are celebrating the 20th anniversary since restoration work began in the West Eugene Wetlands, so it’s especially exciting!
Till Next Time!
So far, the new year has been relatively calm, as the West Eugene Wetlands is in its slow season. January consisted of a small amount of field work; last fall my partner and I began preparations for endangered plant species augementation. We set up three new macroplots in which plant species will be planted in the spring. We then covered each macroplot with shadecloth to control invasive species that may crowd out the endangered species. In January, we revisited the macroplots to make sure that nothing had happened to the shade cloth. At two of the sites everything was fine, but at one site, we arrived to find several sections of the shadecloth ripped up and what appeared to be a dead animal lying smack in the middle of the macroplot. The supposed dead animal was actually a very ominous and unnerving stuffed animal–a cat, with wide staring eyes that seemed to follow us as we examined the shadecloth. Under the stuffed animal’s scrutiny, we determined that the ripped shadecloth was most likely caused by a coyote looking for food beneath the shadecloth, which will require us to return and patch the holes.
Oregon’s unusual weather continues to persist, I woke up this morning, looked out the window to find a fine layering of snow on the ground. We’ve had our second snow fall in two months, which is nearly unheard of in Eugene. And while I am getting more experienced in driving in snowy weather, at the same time I can’t help but hope for the typical rainy weather of a Willamette Valley winter.
December passed by quickly this year (or last year, I suppose), but not without some oddities. First of all, all of the weather stations predicted snow; this is not unusual in and of itself–snow is periodically predicted–but in Eugene, “snow” typically means that snow will fall from the sky, but will not stick to the ground. However, in this case, it stuck–all six inches of it. For a city where our winter weather usually consists of rain and fog, six inches of snow is a big deal; I had never driven in snow and ice, and judging from the sheer number of cars haphazardly abandoned on the side of the road, neither had many others.
Unfortunately, this weather interfered with our plans at the office. We had planned to plant numerous nectaring species plugs for the Fender’s Blue Butterfly, but had to wait for the snow to melt. During this time, Eugene also saw an unusual drop in temperature; it reached Eugene’s second lowest recorded temperature in history, -10°F, and let me tell you, I have lived in this area for nearly my entire life, and I did not know that it could even reach negative temperatures here (well, that’s one question answered).
We had initially worried that the cold weather would have damaged the plants waiting to be be put in the ground, but fortunately they survived and were ready to go when the snow melted. Luckily, my cohort and I had much appreciated assistance with the planting, in the form of a small high school class. In a matter of hours, we had all of the plants in the ground. It was quite nice to have a little bit of field time during a time when I am usually firmly situated in the office.
That was really most of the excitement for December. I took a short time off for the holidays to visit family, and am happy to be back in the office. I am also ecstatic to see that Eugene’s normal winter weather–rain, and lots of it–has returned.
Till next time!
Hello to my fellow CLM interns! November was an interesting month for me as it required a bit of field work, which is unusual for so late in the year. However, the West Eugene Wetlands field office has an ongoing threatened & endangered plant augmentation project in the works, so my botanical cohort and I, with the assistance of the Institute for Applied Ecology, began to lay the groundwork for the project.
We had three empty macroplots that we created earlier this year, all of which would be planted with Kincaid’s Lupine plugs at a later date. First, we had to cover the plots with heavy shade cloth in an attempt to control the invasive grasses that would compete with our T&E species. So we packed up six giant pieces of shade cloth, several hundred wooden stakes, and three sledgehammers, and trekked out to our first macroplot.
I discovered that laying down shade cloth is quite the art form, from folding under the edges of the cloth before pounding the stakes in (to prevent the edges from fraying or unraveling) to pounding the stakes into the ground diagonally (to make them more difficult to remove). Several hours and hundreds of wooden stakes later we were finished with our first macroplot. I find that there is nothing quite so satisfying as being able to look at a finished project and know that you were vital in its accomplishment. And for me, the more challenging the task, the more satisfying the outcome.
Unfortunately, I did miss part of November at the office, as I had my wisdom teeth removed and complications resulting from the surgery took me out for longer than I anticipated. Now, however, I am recovered and happy to be back in the office. Right now I am focusing on entering data into the Geographic Biotic Observations (GeoBOB) database; I am knee deep in plant data going back to the 90s.
Next week may bring more opportunities in the field. We’ve received 500 lupine plugs ready to plant, but Eugene is currently experiencing a cold spell (it was only 15 degrees Fahrenheit when I arrived at the field office this morning, which is unusually cold for the Willamette Valley).
Here’s hoping for some warmer weather!
It’s one of the most important times of year in the West Eugene Wetlands: seeding time! The time of year that, after sites have been mowed or burned, we go out and spread native plant seed.
This, in itself, is a multifaceted task; we must mix different species of plant seed together, map out and mark the areas in which we will spread the seed, and then actually go out into field and seed the area.
When mixing seed, we’re dealing with gallons upon gallons of seed, which we then mix with corn cob (because we’d much rather have the salivating birds perched in the trees above us go after the corn cob than precious native seed). We then haul the seed out to the parcel of land where we will spread it. When out in the field we use buckets to carry the seed and then cast it around us by hand. It’s always this time of year that I realize that I could benefit from exercise or lifting weights or something, because my arms are always dead tired by the end of the day, but it’s a satisfying feeling, knowing everything that I’ve been able to accomplish.
We pretty much kept our fingers crossed the whole week hoping that it wouldn’t rain. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is known for raining 24/7 in the colder seasons, and rain would have hampered our task considerably as we would not have been able to drive out onto the land (rain + wetlands = not good driving conditions). However, we were lucky, and it was cold but sunny the entire week.
One of the more exciting aspects of this year’s seeding involved a site that had undergone major restoration this summer. Situated smack in the middle of an industrial area, it was unfortunately completely overgrown and rife with litter. This summer, restoration crews cleaned up all the litter and a masticator took out several trees and opened up the area. When my partner and I arrived there with our trusty bags of seed, the area was unrecognizable compared to its appearance a few mere months ago. Having never seen the before and after of a major restoration project, I can say with certainty that it was rather amazing.
Anyway, now that we’ve finished seeding (and just in time, too–the rains have started), we’re back in the office for the foreseeable future.
Til next time!
In late September I had the opportunity to participate in a partnership event put on by the BLM, City of Eugene, and Willamette Resources & Educational Network. This event invited volunteers from the community to help in a restoration project; at the site I was working at, this meant helping to restore a path from the damage and overgrown vegetation it had acquired over the dry summer.
We had a fairly decent turn-out considering that the weather report called for rains and high winds. The volunteers worked hard, and it was nice to see community members passionate about restoration and their environment. We were able to get the path into top-notch shape and everyone was able to leave with a sense of accomplishment.
I’m looking forward to more adventures to come!
Till next time!
Field season ended in early August, so since then I’ve been firmly ensconced in the Wetlands field office. It’s been a relatively calm month, mostly revolving around the paperwork that results in the aftermath of field season, and office organization. Data entry is always prominent in the wake of monitoring, and after carefully administering heaps of information into tables, I find myself surprised at the stack of paperwork we managed to generate over the past five months.
In addition to data entry, office organization has become a focus of mine. With the hustle and bustle of people going to and returning from the field, some tasks get pushed to the wayside in the face of higher priority projects. I am now filing hardcopy data in our archives and taking on the tasks of organizing over six years worth of photographs into an easily navigable system of folders; I truly never realized just how many photographs of the wetlands existed until I began sifting through hundreds upon hundreds of pictures.
Later in September and October, I may have the opportunity to assist with seeding native species, and possibly even helping out with National Public Lands Day, but for now I am enjoying the chance to get the office in order.
With the beginning of August comes the end of the West Eugene Wetland’s 2013 Field Season. All in all, I think it’s been a fairly successful–albeit early–season (last year the season ended at the end of August; we’re a bit ahead of the game this year). Through the course of the season, my monitoring lead and I (we are an awesome team of two) monitored five sensitive plant species and one endangered butterfly species. While the sensitive plant species are incredible, I’ve found that I derive most of my enjoyment from the various wildflowers and wildlife in the area. I love being able to go out in the field and know that I might see something new every day.
Some of my favorite wildflowers of the season:
As for wildlife, I’ve had the great fortune to see a coyote, a rough-skinned newt, what might be a skink (I’m no lizard guru, so I’m not sure), and various birds.
Anyway, now that field season is over, I’m off on a quick vacation before it’s back to the office to process paperwork and write reports!
It seems so much has happened in the last month that it’s hard to know where to even start. My colleague and I concluded our Bradshaw’s lomatium monitoring just in time to attend the Willamette Resources & Educational Network’s (WREN) annual Walkin’ and Rollin’ Through the Wetlands event. WREN is a partner organization of BLM’s in the Rivers to Ridges Partnership, which works to protect and enhance the land and water resources in the upper Willamette Valley. WREN, as its name implies, is dedicated to providing environmental education to the public.
My colleague and I both helped man BLM’s West Eugene Wetlands booth, there to educate the community on BLM’s involvement in restoring the wetlands. Unfortunately, not many community members attended the event this year (last year we had upwards of 90 people and this year maybe 20); Eugene was still in the middle of its unusually hot and sunny weather at the time, which could have kept people indoors. Luckily, our booth was right next to the Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife’s booth, which meant that I was fortunate enough to see various pelts of animals found in the West Eugene Wetlands area, from beaver to mountain lion and bobcat pelts. I also learned a few things. For example, did anyone know that gray foxes–the red fox’s smaller, less seen cousin–can climb trees? I sure didn’t.
This year field season is moving impossibly fast. We’ve just finished both the Fender’s Blue Butterfly and Kincaid’s lupine monitoring. Before starting the lupine monitoring, it was important that the burtterfly monitoring be finished; the Kincaid’s lupine is the host plant for the Fender’s Blue Butterfly, and so any premature handling of the plants would stir up and disturb the butterflies.
Up next on the agenda is Willamette Daisy (Erigeron decumbens var. decumbens) monitoring, which is my favorite of the plant species we monitor!
‘Til next time!