During most of July and a bit of August I have been collecting data on several deer exclosure sites here in the eastern deciduous forest of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. A fellow resource management intern and I drive and then hike out to these 10 x 10 m plots, which are situated in one of four terrain types: upland and bottomland fields and forests. Once there we focus on the vegetative aspects of each of the paired exclosures and their respective controls.
In order to verify the extent of the impact that the deer herds are having on the park, we must determine how the vegetation is being affected. So, we take note of several things: the pin-drop method is used on three 5 m transects within each control and each exclosure plot to analyze species composition, and also if the individuals hit have been browsed; a vegetation pole is used to record the heights of vegetation at the ends of each transect; saplings are counted and recorded by species; canopy cover and percent composition of various vegetative aspects are estimated; a 10-factor prism is used to quantify tree density in and immediately around the plots, and also a few other dimensions are considered in this data-collecting process. As much as I love all of the various fieldwork, the odd rainy day does come in handy for data entry.
Besides all of the research that I am helping to conduct, there have been some other items of interest involved with working at this particular park. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is one of the more recently established National Parks. Even though it has been part of the National Park System since 1974, until the year 2000 it was known as ‘Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area.’ I mention this due to the fact that there are people (visitors and the like) everywhere, and the park itself is right in between two heavily populated areas, Cleveland and Akron. If truth be told, when I first arrived here after our workshop in July I did not consider this area to be parkland, but rather it felt and still feels more like its original name. There is no established park entrance, and highways such as I-80, 271 and 303 run right through the center of this 33,000 acre (fragmented) park. With so many people around, random interaction is soon to follow, and it does. There have been more than a few amusing side conversations with passersby as we drive and hike out to the sites that we are assessing, whether we go by road, trail, or up a tiny ski slope nearby.
One of the best things here in the park (besides my job!) is that since the park was created to incorporate a large stretch of the Cuyahoga River, inevitably it also contains a big section of the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath. This provides such a scenic daily ride, as I often have been biking to ‘Homestead’ (aka Resource Management), which is the office where I work when I am not in the field. I also enjoy watching the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (CVSR) trains go by, as they run north to south, back and forth through the park Wednesday through Sunday, well into the fall.
I feel so privileged to be here… hopefully everyone can wake up in the morning and be as excited to go to work in such a great place as I am!
~Maria C. Brown, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio