Beginnings Awash in Rain: First Post from Arcata, CA

I rode north from Santa Cruz in my trusty red Subaru (which is very happy to be back in California after two months of riding around the southern states), windows down in the cold and damp air — so known and yet so new. A few frantic days of house-hunting and floor-sleeping yielded a wonderful small hut for my latest chapter — a CLM internship in Arcata, California working as a botanist for the Bureau of Land Management for the next 7 months. I am already in my second week; reeling as we do from the sidelong speed of living life. I must admit, it has been the most fully “adult” week of my sub-adult life! Happily transitioning into a new chapter, new place, new pretenses for my between undergraduate and graduate school life.

Many habitats have greeted me thus far, further intensifying my pleasure in residing and working in the heart of diversity in the California Floristic Province (that’s right, Northern California has the highest regional diversity in the state!). The dense, resplendent Redwood forest, is quite different than the Redwood forest I came to know near the southern extent of its range in Santa Cruz, CA (where I graduated in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology in December). In the north, the charismatic Sequoia sempervirens mixes with several species from the Cascades, including snowflake-foliaged Grand Fir (Abies grandis) and the lustrous grey flake-barked Sitka Spruce (Picea sitchensis). Groves of Yellow Skunk-Cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) cover the low wet forest ravines with long, broad leaves and a warm animal musk. Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) flowering and shedding ruby petals in the babbling draws! Wakerobin (Trillium ovatum ssp. ovatum) blooming white in every shady nook and cranny!

To make things even more overwhelming, spring is springing — not the bloom and bust sort of spring many Californians are used to, but a slowly unfolding sort of spring driven by warm oceans, a warming world and locally, a higher latitude than I have ever lived at! (Pacific Wren and Ruby-crowned Kinglets have already begun singing in my ears and outside my window at home.)

I digress… The past week and a half have been a diverse mix of duties, reflecting the diverse management issues and responsibilities of the Arcata BLM Field Office. I attended a two-day climate change adaptation workshop (directed by EcoAdapt), have been getting oriented and trained, began my primary project for the next months, drove to the King Range to input invasive plant GPS data and judged the Humboldt County Science Fair! My primary work in the coming weeks will be monitoring the dune mat plant communities along the Humboldt coast line, of which the Humboldt Bay hosts the longest continuous stretch in the state. My work out there includes identifying all plant species, discerning cover densities and paying close attention to two federally listed dune plants — the Humboldt Bay Wallflower (Erysimum menziesii subsp. eurekense) and Beach Layia (Layia carnosa). The dune system is a truly beautiful and rare habitat type — salt spray, intense north coast wind, powerful sun, constantly shifting sand. One cannot help but stand in awe of these humble plants (particularly in a year like this, when the entire dune leaps with flowers). Paradoxically, these incredibly well-adapted plants exist within a fragile matrix — a habitat that is in many locations inhospitable to native species due to invasions of European Beach Grass (Ammophila arenaria) and Iceplant (Carpobrotus edulis and C.chilensis).

Samoa Dunes, Transect #3!

Samoa Dunes, Transect #3, a classic example of North Coast Dune Mat habitat.

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Federally endangered plant #1: Erysimum menziesii subsp. eurekense. Growing characteristically close to Artemisia pycnocephala, an indicator species.

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Federally endangered plant #2: Layia carnosa. Many more rosettes in the background!

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Spring? The wonderful Sanicula artopoides, the Footsteps of Spring.

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Close-up (Iphone photo through a hand lens) of Platystemon californicus — Cream Cups.

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Claytonia exigua ssp. exigua

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The incredible Dune Silver Bee (Habropoda miserabilis), perhaps the most important dune pollinator, doing what it does on Humboldt Bay Wallflower.

Anyways….back to the dunes! Thanks for reading!

Kaleb Goff

Arcata BLM Field Office

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