Hello from the Northern California wilderness! This past week and a half has gone by so quickly. The first thing that struck me was the natural beauty of this area. Every morning I get to run on the trails behind my cabin in Russian Gulch State Park, then I visit the beaches each afternoon. I can hear sea lions from my campfire spot, and see great blue herons on my way to work.
I spent most of last week settling into the office and meeting all the wonderful people who work here. I also got to tag along for a few bird surveys, which the Mendocino Land Trust is conducting with the help of some volunteers. I did manage to pick up a couple calls, and at the least can now distinguish between the chips of a squirrel versus those of a bird (harder than you may imagine). I also went out with a group from the Bay Area who were using their vacation time to do community service (part of a movement called “voluntourism”). They were a really friendly and lively group, and were incredibly helpful in removing the invasive species from the beaches (see photo).
Back in the office, I have been working on plans for my summer project. To help restore salmon habitat, the Mendocino Land Trust is working with the California Conservation Corps to install large woody debris (LWD) in area called Russell Brook. Over the years, lots of wood was removed from this river, creating chutes with fast-moving water (making spawning more difficult) and fine sediment buildup (choking eggs). Hopefully by installing this large woody debris, pools will be able to form, water temperatures will drop, stones will be redistributed, and water velocity will slow; all of these things allow salmon to thrive. My job is to ensure those changes are really happening through pre- and post- monitoring of these large woody debris sites. I will mostly focus on the pre-monitoring part of this project, since winter storms are crucial for post-monitoring data to be useful. Salmon are considered a keystone species, meaning they are critical for ecosystems worldwide to be healthy, so I am really excited to work in this realm of research and produce some valuable data.
I have come out of these last ten days knowing not only some bird calls and field terminology, but also with a better sense of this small but mightily motivated community. The degree of inter-organization cooperation is really impressive; we at the Land Trust can make a call to the California Conservation Corps , the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, or any of our great volunteers to get input on developing or ongoing projects. Overall the environment is very supportive and forward-thinking, and constantly pushes me to work towards conservation and restoration.
More updates to come!