Friday, August 1, 2014

The Final Countdown-Week 9

Dinner @ Deane's
Time flies when you're having LANDS,,,,
and after wrapping up our small team projects the crew entered its final week of the summer.

Wednesday night we gathered at Professor Deane's house for celebratory BBQ, volleyball, and blueberry pie. We all piled our plates high with delicious burgers, corn on the cob, and watermelon salad.

We huddled around the picnic table and a feeling of nostalgia filled the cool evening air. We recalled all of the other times we've squeezed ourselves into the over-stuffed van (aka The Landslide), tents, and an endless number of circles for Laura's games and endless planning meetings alike. As Deane coaxed us all into eating 2nds and 3rds everyone ate as much as they could  and sure enough the picnic table got smaller and smaller. Little did we know this was the first step in Deane's mater plan to school us all in his favorite activity......backyard volleyball!

The crew was quickly split into two ferocious teams based on survival and tree ID skills.
 "Play to 15, best two out of three," called Deane, "and only the winner gets blueberry pie" 
And so it began, the smack-down-drag-out game of volleyball: team "Spikey Spruce" Vs." Laura's Team." . After a summer of hiking, camping, and games of hack-y-sac the crew was in tip-top shape. The first game was narrowly stolen by the Spruces but then second game was swept by Laura's team. Friends of the LANDS crew were invited to play and in the picture below you will see, in live action, the wide spectrum of skill level. The competition was fierce to say the least. It all came down to the final game. The score was neck and 14-14, and after a heart stopping rally Nate, on team Spruce, scored the winning point!
 The MVP went to Jessica Mason who served the Spruces an 8 point streak!
(Everyone ate blueberry pie)

some guests had been secretly training for this "friendly" match

          After recovering from the volley ball game the crew met Thursday morning on UVM campus to polish off the final project reports and prepare for the evening's long anticipated final presentation. After only one practice run it was time to set up for the real presentation. The crew dressed to impress and gathered on the third floor of the George D. Aiken Center to greet friends, project sponsors, and other guests.  Each week of the summer was highlighted during the hour long presentation and every intern spoke with confidence. At the very end we all shared our summer's "Words of Wisdom" with the audience. In the end working through the rain (with wet socks), forging fast-moving mountain streams, sweating in the city heat during urban tree inventories, getting caught in patches of invasive Buckthorn, avoiding poison ivy, and even removing ticks was all worth it.
The Final Presentation on UVM campus

Diploma's for each intern. Hooray!

As we find ourselves at the conclusion of our journey one may ask themselves, "What will become of all these wonderful interns after the summer of 2014?" Look no further. 

Dustin-Traveling around the world working in Home Depots
Katherine-Working on a farm in Pennsylvania and then studying abroad in Germany and then getting her Master's degree at Hogwarts school of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
Ben-Surfing the shores of New Hampshire, and skipping his undergrad degree and going straight for a PHD at Middlebury College, or he may just drop out of school to write a novel.....
Travis-Graduating, Getting a Job, Buying a new Truck, Callin' it Mesic! 
Gabo- Returning to Massachusetts to work on a farm.Then traveling to Belize to work on GIS and remote sensing conservation projects as well as become a famous salsa dancer
Nate-Starting his music and modeling career in South Royalton, VT while simultaneously opening up an environmental educationaal "Big Dave-Grunt" Workshop 
Jessa-Becoming a free spirit at "Gathering of the Vibes" and then returning to her studies at UVM
Lincoln-Trekking around the Adirondack Mts. and then embarking on an international tour with the now famous band Squimley and the Woolens. 

Lincoln Frasca

Shelburne Tree Inventory Presentation and Small Team Projects!

To start things off I'd like to take you all back to the past. If you recall, in week three of the LANDS program we began our first of three tree inventories of the summer in Shelburne, VT. The town was so interested in our work and the work of  the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry program, they asked us to present to the Shelburne tree committee and to the Select Board. After sitting in on some of the Select Board meeting, and hearing some heated discussions prior to out presentation, some of us started to feel a bit anxious, but as always we were up to the challenge!

 Jessa and Gabo presenting to the Shelburne Tree Committee 
 The team "monkeying" around between the two presentations
Lincoln introducing the presentation and the LANDS crew

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes a video with actual words helps. Here is a link to our presentation to the Shelburne Select Board! 

Be sure to click on the Video "Shelburne Selectboard" for July 22, 2014

Now, to bring you to the slightly more recent past. The final two days of week eight, and the beginning two of week nine were completely devoted to working on our small team projects (STPs). What are STPs you ask? It's a chance for interns to work in groups of two or three, and exercise all their skills they've accumulated to assist a project sponsor with whatever conservation work they need. Essentially, it's similar to the work we've done all summer, but each team got the freedom to supervise themselves and delineate tasks for the week.

We didn't just get thrown out into the wild though. Each intern received the chance to chose their top three projects out of a potential nine that had been offered to the program. Our wonderful leaders then broke us into small teams based on our project preferences and we were divided as follows: 

Team 1: Travis, Dustin, and Katherine

Team 2: Ben, Travis, and Nate

Team 3: Jess and Gabo 

Team 1 was chosen to complete the Williams Woods Invasive Survey in Charlotte, VT. This team's objective was to survey transects in Williams Woods for bush honeysuckle, common buckthorn, glossy buckthorn, Japanese barberry, and burning bush (all common non-native invasives in Vermont). It started with some difficulty and heartache as this group spent four hours searching for rebar along the property edge which was supposed to identify the start of the transects. They never found the rebar and were forced to improvise, but never fear! This group persevered by creating their own transects. In the end, they had a ton of fun and received more lessons in bush-waking than they ever thought possible.

 Dustin and Katherine identifying invasive plants within their plot

 Katherine and Travis were forced to measure the distance to the next transect because the brush was too thick
 Travis and Katherine at the start of one of the transects, where there was a thick patch of honeysuckle and buckthorn

Team 2 was selected to create an interpretive trail map for Journeys End trail and swimming hole in Johnson, VT. Ben, Lincoln, and Nate spent one day in the field exploring the trail, identifying the plants, mapping the trail, and even enjoying the awesome swimming hole! They spent three additional days in the office reporting writing, and working with Photoshop to create some amazing signage. They created five signs with engaging, accessible information on the following subjects: wildlife community, geology, forest community, stream ecology, and land use history. These signs are intended to reach a wide range of audiences and will be an amazing addition to this already beautiful area.
 Some beautiful Indian pipe identified by the team
 Ben working in the computer lab on Photoshop
 Current Journeys End sign

An example of the signage created by the team in Photoshop

Team 3 also worked in Journeys End in Johnson, Vermont, but they focused on trail connectivity. The objective was to increase understanding and accessibility of Johnson's extensive trail network. Specifically, the team surveyed trail conditions, located potential trial linkages, and created a comprehensive map of the trail system. They did this via GPS mapping, a lot of hiking, and traversing the many rivers and waterfalls that flow through the trail network. At the end of it all, they created  maps in GIS that present the current and proposed trail network. 

Gabo standing majestically in front of a waterfall 
 Another beautiful waterfall along the trail network
Awesome map created by Gabo and Jessa with GIS software

Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy the pictures.

On behalf of the LANDS Summer team 2014

Wishing everyone well,

Dustin Circe

Friday, July 18, 2014

Checkin' Out the Trees in Swanton and Northfield

Week 7 marks our last group project! This week we were fortunate to work with the lovely Elise Schadler again completing tree inventories in Swanton and Northfield, VT. On Monday, the LANDS crew headed up to Swanton to meet with the village manager Reg Beliveau and get started on some surveying. Walking the streets in town, we used iPads to record data on all of the trees in the public right-of-way and vacant spots for potential tree plantings. The town was interested in documenting many features of each tree including condition, DBH, decay, root girdling, and whether it needs pruning. At night, we set up “tent city” at a local campground where we cooked burritos, enjoyed a campfire, and slept under a spectacular starry sky. Early the next morning, LANDS set out for a walk on the Discovery Trail at the Missisquoi Wildlife Refuge. A raised boardwalk provided a passage through this wetland habitat where a variety of birds, wildflowers, and abundant dragonflies were spotted. Later that day, we finished up the inventory in pairs and headed back to Burlington as a storm rolled in. 

Swanton Swans!

Mapping the town

Missisquoi adventure

On Wednesday, LANDS met with the Northfield Conservation Commission on the town green and then took on the trees of Northfield. Similar to Swanton, we split into pairs with our iPads and orange vests to conquer the streets and take down some data. This time we also performed a tally of ash trees in preparation for the encroaching Emerald Ash Borer. Ruth Ruttenberg, a member of the Northfield Conservation Commission, generously allowed us to set up camp in her backyard. Hearing rumors of bears, coyotes, and maybe a catamount(!!) in the area, we decided that a night hike was a perfectly frightful way to spend the evening after a round of s’mores. On Thursday, we finished up our inventory and found some time to check out the biggest European Larch in Vermont! Overall, it was a wonderful time traversing these towns and meeting the locals. This week wraps up the projects we’re working on as a whole crew because next week we are tackling Small Team Projects!

The Larch

We found some BIG ones

Looking at ashes

LANDS crew

All the Best,
The LANDS Crew

By: Jessa Mason

Thursday, July 10, 2014

River corridors in the heart of the Green Mountains

This week the crew went camping in the Green Mountain National Forest to work on a project in a small tributary of the Middlebury River called Sparks Brook. We were working with the National Forest service, and they provided us with a brand new, never-before-tested protocol for monitoring vegetation in river corridors. Here's the hitch: the team that developed the protocol is from the West Coast, so they wanted us to give it a test run in the dense and buggy river corridors of New England. When we send back our data and our feedback on the protocol, we'll be helping the team from the Forest Service create a protocol for evaluating and comparing the health of riparian vegetation across the United States.

LANDS arrives on the scene with GEAR

Before we do our thing, LANDS makes PLANS
Travis commandeers the LASER
The crew came to Sparks Brook with a substantial working knowledge of riparian vegetation and fluvial geomorphology from our project in Grafton, so all we had to do was figure out the protocol and get to work.  The protocol turned out to be a long, technical, and slightly disorganized document that came with pictures, diagrams, and a full-page random number table. The crew split into groups to read and make sense of it, and between all of us we came up with a plan. After that, we headed down to Sparks Brook.

The protocol had two parts: an assessment of vegetation near the river and a geomorphic survey. To help carry it out, we brought in a Fish & Wildlife technician from nearby Rochester named Sue Staats. She provided a wealth of experience working in streams, some helpful insight on potential problems in the protocol, and two extremely neat lasers. For the vegetation portion of the survey, we walked along transects to sample the vegetation cover. We used one of Sue's lasers to shoot a vertical beam into the canopy and down to the ground, and recorded the plants that the beam touched. We used the other laser for the geomorphic survey. The laser head mounted on a tripod and spun in a circle, shooting lasers in every direction and scouring the landscape in search of a receiver beacon that we held on a pole. The three-legged survey robot, ostensibly harmless and totally not sentient, was extremely helpful in measuring topography...almost too helpful.

The team sets up a transect
Sue demonstrates how to handle the all-seeing eye

The group stayed the week at Moosalamoo Campground, a cozy plot of woodland nestled into the center of the Green Mountain National Forest. We took the place by storm and occupied not one, nor two, nor even three, but four entire campsites. After long days in the river, we came back and cooked up heaping delicious feasts, including veggy-pineapple-chicken kebabs on our first night. We passed our evenings with sunset hikes to a nearby overlook; jam sessions with the guitar, D'jembe, and ukulele; and borderline-spiritual hacky-sack hacks. By Thursday we had finished our data collection and written up some feedback on the protocol, and we packed up, reluctantly gave back our lasers, and went home.


Grilling pita pizzas on the campfire

Everyone admires their handiwork while waiting for Mountain Pies to be melted and crispy

Just a couple hooligans on the side of the road, jamming under blue skies

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Trails of Jericho

This past week the LANDS crew has been busy formulating a plan for and assessing the trails of UVM's Jericho research forest. Armed with the knowledge of a 30 horse "poker ride" passing through in the next month, we pushed through the hot, muggy, ten hour days to finish the project and have a three day holiday weekend!

Planning out routes for trail assessments
The week began with some general information gathering from Ralph Tursini and his intern Glenna Hartman. We gathered a general understanding of what Ralph was looking for from this project and with this began our planning. Planning was a long and sometimes arduous process, as we debated over the best ways to assess the trails and create a user friendly data collection template to be used in further monitoring of the forest. After nearly two days of planning things out and tweaking our data sheet we finally set out to map the features of each segment of the designated trail for the poker ride! Quickly though, we learned what was missing from our data sheet and also that we weren't completely sure where the trail was. So it was back to the drawing board!

Re-route Recon
After some short recon and tweaks to the data sheet we had our final route planned and set out to map in the 90 degree heat that was Wednesday. Of the six segments we divided the main route for the horses into we were able to easily map the features of five. Segment two was all that was left but it needed a reroute as the trail was overly muddy and blocked by quite a lot of debris. After some deliberation we split into three recon teams to assess other possible routes and found a few possibilities to recommend to Ralph and the horse riders.

As Independence day looms in the near future, we are once again back at base camp here in Aiken finishing up the writing and map making. The air conditioning is a nice change of pace but we still have a lot of work to get done as the day winds to end. At the same time we are looking forward to a fun three day weekend and our first real camping trip of the summer to Moosalamoo campground next week, for our work in Green Mountain National Forest.

Happy Independence Day Weekend everyone!

Until Next Time,                                                                               Written By: Travis Hart

Christmas in July!!! Boxes O' Swag
The LANDS crew

That's pretty neat
The original re-route recon team

Cooling off in the river