With only three weeks remaining in my internship, I am beginning to reflect on my experience and take stock of all that I have learned. Lately, this means thinking a lot about invasive species. Unfortunately, this has felt like a monumentally disheartening topic. While my fellow intern and I are doing our best to pull out weeds or spray them with herbicide, our efforts can feel very small compared to the scope of the problem. In many cases, the area that we are treating for one invasive species is also home to many others. If we were able to treat them all, we would be left with a mostly barren field by the end.
It is hard not to feel as if we are fighting a losing battle, so I would like to visit a time when I felt slightly more optimistic. At the beginning of July, I wrote a blog post marking the halfway point of my internship. I was never able to post it due to what I have dubbed the Blog Blackout of 2018, but I want to revisit it now, because I think it is a useful way to frame my current pessimistic train of thought.
Today marks the halfway point of my internship. Hang on, that can’t be right. While I’ve been stomping around in the woods, time has passed me by. Collecting seed may not be the most glamorous job in the world, but it sure does pass the time.
The past two weeks have been a race against the clock: trying to find and collect seed from three native grasses before they disperse. Roemer’s fescue, California oatgrass, and Lemmon’s needlegrass are very charismatic native species (well, as charismatic as a grass can be) and we are trying to collect enough seed to grow them out for restoration projects. In practice, this means that I look at maps in ArcGIS to try and identify sites where these grasses have been spotted in the past or habitats that would support their populations, and then travel out to these sites and cross my fingers that those populations actually exist. I have embarked on more than one long walk with disappointing results, but at least most of those hikes end with a view:
In the middle of this seed collecting frenzy, any activity that mixes things up is welcome. This week, I practically leapt at the chance to pull weeds in a post-Independence Day rafting trip down the North Umpqua River. The purpose of the trip was to pull out a grass called false brome, a nasty weed which will aggressively push out all other vegetation if left unchecked. While we found plenty of false brome, we also noticed that it was much less prevalent at sites targeted by past rafting trips. It was gratifying to see the positive results of a management strategy, and it is a nice reminder that my small efforts at weed control are not futile (provided they are part of a long-term plan of action).
After reflecting on my experience from two months ago and zooming out to focus on the big picture, I am feeling a lot better. My efforts may feel small right now, but as long as they are part of a larger plan of action there is a brighter, less weedy future to look forward to here in the Umpua Valley. I can go back out in the field for the rest of the week with renewed energy and determination to knock out all of this false brome or any other invasive weed that gets in my way.