Monitoring, monitoring and more monitoring!

Over the past month here in Missoula, MT, we have been busy implementing new wildlife and forestry monitoring before the season comes to a close. We have been helping with a Snowshoe Hare project conducting habitat monitoring on stands with the ultimate goal being: to determine how long after thinning projects it takes for hares to re-enter and use the area. The monitoring consists of horizontal cover data, canopy cover data, habitat typing, shrubs and seedlings found in the plot, pellet counts (my favorite) and habitat typing the area.  Looking for the little m&m sized pellets is like a scavernger hunt!

The forestry monitoring project we have been working on is a new project so it has been a difficult process to determine our exact protocols and plot locations. However, it has been a great opportunity to be on the planning side of a monitoring project to see how protocols are determined. The picture below is a group of us at our first site, trying to finalize the protocols. The goal of the project is to monitor the response of understory vegetation to different thinning treatments (clear cuts, single tree selections and salvage) over a long term timeline. We are establishing plot locations and collecting baseline pre-treatment data. The data we are collecting is horizontal cover, canopy cover, vegetation height, fuels data (Brown’s survey method) and understory plant diversity and composition (with a Daubenmire transect).

Besides the monitoring projects above, I have been busy helping monitor a riparian site using Multiple Indicator Monitoring, collecting seeds of Black Hawthorne (Crataegus douglasii), Snowbrush (Cenothus velutinus) and Bitterbrush (Purshia tridentata), preparring herbarium samples and surveying for more sensitive plants. The photo below is of Pyrola picta, White-veined Wintergreen, a sensitive plant that is found in moist and dry forests. Unfortunately, this year most of the plants we have found did not flower, perhaps due to the lack of snowmelt. Thanks for reading!

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