Friday, August 6, 2010

The Finale

After over 300 hours of service, at least 15 large bags trail mix, 6 weeks of surveying, 5 delicious burrito dinners, 4 small-team projects, 3 big-team projects, and 1 spectacular final presentation, we have arrived at the end of LANDS. Gazelle now sits quietly, relieved from her load of nine giddy interns and bearing only the faintest traces of field-work aromas. The final reports lay proudly stacked, a glossy testament to a successful and productive summer.

Admittedly, endings have a way of tinting our perspective with rose-colored glasses. And admittedly, this ending is no different. The getting-lost-in-the-wilderness, the extended bouts of bushwhacking, the constant battle with mosquitoes all pale in comparison to what was gained: learning about interesting plants, traveling through Vermont’s beautiful landscape, working in the conservation field. The experience has been rich, to say the least – replete with good intentions, hard work, and excellent company.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

LANDS - Week 9

Week 9
The last week of LANDS was full of logistical planning and computer formatting. It was a long week in the office, but we put our heads together, worked hard, and got everything accomplished on time!

On Monday morning we hit the ground running by tackling our first major priority, making management priorities for the NNIS surveys that we completed for the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF). Jon and Jessie led this discussion by going through each area surveyed near the George D. Aiken Wilderness Area. After the GMNF NNIS ball was done rolling the rest of the day was devoted to writing our four STP final reports.

Tuesday morning Reed rejoined the group after a vacation day in Maine, and He & Kyle led a discussion about management priorities for State Park NNIS. The process was expedited by the fruits of Monday’s discussion. Very complex decisions about management priorities across the VT State Park system were made during our first two hours. After a yoga session on the Greenhouse front lawn, the crew hit the computers to get all of the team reports into the penultimate stage. All but one STP was also completed by day’s end.

Wednesday was another long day in the office, filled with completing all final edits. In the afternoon we were lucky enough to get a break from office work and spend a little time working our muscles outside. In return for getting our office space all summer, we helped members of the Green House staff build a new composting bin. We screwed all the boards together and by the end of the day we put the final product in its resting place. This was both rewarding and challenging, and a great way to pay back some wonderful people for allowing us to use their office for the summer.

Thursday morning began with putting all final reports onto our handy zip drive known as Flannigan. This meant that all reports were finished and ready for the final version to be printed and bounded. After accomplishing this huge achievement the leaders provided us with delicious pizza for lunch to keep us in high spirits. This worked well, as after we were full and happy we all began to put together our individual sections of the final presentation, using the template provided by Deanna. Before we left, we each had a brief run through of what we planned to say, got a bit of feedback, and were sent on our way to come back on Friday and be prepared for a practice session and then the real thing!


Friday was a bit different than most days, with our starting time being 12:30. When we arrived at the office we began with a practice session of our presentation, practicing and providing feedback in front of our LANDS team. After we decided that the next run through would run smoothly we were ready to head over to Jeffords, UVM’s new plant and soil science building, to have a nice Vietnamese lunch/dinner with SCA employees who supported our experience both financially and logistically. This was very nice, and after such a relaxing lunch, it was time to get down to business and complete preparations for our final presentation.

Friends, family and colleagues joined us for our final presentation which began shortly after 6:00. The final presentation went over very smoothly with welcoming applause at the finale. After socializing with family and friends, and after the work day came to a close, the LANDS crew decided that enjoying Burlington’s night life was in order.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Week 8:
This, our second to last full week of LANDS was spent in the Burlington area beginning in earnest the final stages of our program: reports, final presentations and small team projects.

(Reed and Liz looking up communities)

(We used a pH test to help identify natural communities.)


We spent the first half of Monday at Raven Ridge, a conserved area in Huntington with Liz Thompson a UVM professor and co-author of Wetland, Woodland, Wildland a Guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont. Prof. Thompson helped us get comfortable classifying different types of forests and natural communities. After a delicious lunch with a beautiful view from the ridge, the interns split into groups to identify a natural community on our own.To end the day we explored a nearby sandplain forest to look for differences in natural communities in this area of glacial deposition. We looked for common species, examined tipped over trees and the exposed bedrock beneath, and dug a soil pit learning appropriate methods like lying down plastic to ensure all of the removed soil/matter is replaced.

(Zac showing us proper soil pit technique)


Tuesday morning Steve Libby joined us in the GreenHouse to give us a mini lecture on conservation easements and all the considerations and deliberations that go into creating these legal agreements. Tuesday also marked the beginning of our Small Team Projects (STPs). Groups of two and three interns have taken on small projects for various organizations (town forests, land trusts, etc.) to complete on our own. While a couple of interns went out into the field to meet with their client sponsors the rest of the crew stayed back at the GreenHouse to begin the final push to create reports for the summer’s surveys and to start thinking about our final presentation in two weeks. (Here Steve talks about property rights with some help from Zac and his bike)

(Rick relates the history of the Shelburne Pond property)


We had another guest speaker today. Rick Paradis, a UVM professor and manager of the University’s natural areas took the crew out to one such area Shelburne Pond to continue the discussion around conservation and landscape protection. In particular, we discussed the many uses of the area and what the impacts of those activities are. Rick gave us a great overview of the history of that area from the glaciers that carved out much of Vermont to the family farms that used to surround the pond to the current issues concerning development and watershed protection. After leaving Rick, the crew continued to develop our various reports for the Green Mountain National Forest, State Department of Parks and Recreation and collect data for our STPs.

(Hard at work in the office)


Thursday was much like the rest of the week except that we did not have a guest joining us. Some of us stayed in the office, but most broke up the day with some office time in the morning and then field time for the STPs. It is difficult to report on the individual projects since sometimes it’s tough to keep on top of your own! One team is creating a trail highlighting interesting natural features in the Montgomery Town Forest; one team is doing much the same in the Hinesburg Town Forest. The last two are performing natural community and plant inventories in conserved properties on Lake Champlain and in Richmond along the Huntington and Winooski rivers. It is refreshing to work with new partners and in slightly more professional capacity.


More of the same: Small team projects are dominating our work today. This is our only full day out in the field so we all need to make the most of it. At the end of the day all crews looked excited but thoroughly exhausted and ready for a beautiful weekend before the real crunch time is upon us. Next week we need to finalize three full length reports, our individual STPs, and plan for the final presentation and the rest of LANDS. It is absolutely incredible that we’re nearly at the end of our program. The weeks flew by, just as promised. Thanks for reading and we hope to see you at our presentation August 30th from 6-8pm.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

LANDS - Week 7

LANDS – Week 7

This week LANDS teamed up with trusty FEHC (Forest Ecosystem Health Crew, pronounced “feck”) to survey for invasive plants in the South of Route 9 Integrated Research Project area located (you guessed it) south of Rt. 9, near Bennington, Vermont.

Monday, July 12

Everyone had a case of the Mondays as we congregated early to drive down to the Forest Service’s Manchester Ranger Station for some survey protocol streamlining. We met with Kate Walker and Melissa Reichert, who laid down guidelines for the week’s work. After some lunch in the sun and a tour of the facilities, we hit the road again to start our survey.

Thanks to our brand new safety vests, as modeled by Ben, we successfully averted disaster.

Zac showed us how to light a fire using his mind, and a couple of sticks.

Tuesday, July 13

LANDS and FEHC worked a long day surveying the majority of the area. A few of us got to know the forest intimately as we bush-wacked through the George D. Aiken wilderness area. We were happy to find few invasive plants, and none in the wilderness area.

Kyle, Will, and Mark walking through the forest.

Wednesday, July 14 (Bastille Day)

A welcome alternative to surveying in the rain, Kate Walker met us in our campground shelter to discuss our progress, methods, and the remaining work to be done. We then came to the conclusion that we could finish all of our surveying that day, and return to Burlington late that night. On our journey home, we met with Melissa Reichert at the Rutland Forest Service Office for pizza and a short debriefing.

Deanna, singing in the rain.

Our rendezvous with Melissa Reichert at the GMNF Rutland Office.

Thursday, July 15

Today is a short, pleasant office day in which we are regrouping, cleaning, inventorying gear, and beginning our NNIS report for the Forest Service. After some long work days, we’re looking forward to a three day weekend.

Kyle hard at work!

Friday, July 9, 2010

LANDS- Week 6

DAY 1:
After enjoying a four-day holiday weekend the LANDS crew returned to surveying non-native invasive plants and insects in Vermont State Parks. The crew had a busy day Tuesday at Lake Carmi State Park in Enosburg which is the largest state park in Vermont. Dividing the two areas of the park is the Lake Carmi Bog which is the third largest peat bog in Vermont. The crew surveyed over 170 campsites and several roads all in one day in over 90 degree weather and finished the day with a stop to an ice cream stand. For such a large park, surprisingly few invasive species were found.

Campsite at Lake Carmi State Park

DAY 2:
The heat wave continued throughout the rest of the week as the crew surveyed Burton Island State Park in St. Albans on Wednesday. This park was located on an island in Lake Champlain. The crew boarded a ferry for a 10 minute ride to the island. The lack of cars and presence of a marina made this state park unique from the rest. Even though the park is remote and surrounded by water there were still several invasive species to be found including honeysuckle, buckthorn, oriental bittersweet, Japanese and Common barberry, and black locust. The occasional dip in the lake was a much needed relief from the heat during the day of surveying.
Relaxing on the ferry on the way to Burton Island State Park
Beautiful, quiet view from a trail on Burton Island State Park.

DAY 3:
On Thursday the crew surveyed Underhill State Park on the west slope of Mt. Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. This small campground features several trails to the peak of Mt. Mansfield and was almost pristine with only Oriental Bittersweet and Buckthorn being found. In the afternoon, the crew stopped at Smuggler’s Notch Cave on the way to Smuggler’s Notch State Park for lunch. After exploring some of the caves and enjoying the natural air conditioning coming out of the crevices, the crew climbed up the caves to a ledge with a great view of the notch to enjoy lunch. After lunch we headed to Smuggler’s Notch State Park where we surveyed just for invasive plants and found only one small patch of honeysuckle. At the end of the day we got together and found out what we would be doing for our small team projects which will take place in about a week. We will work in groups of two or three with various land trusts and other organizations on projects such as natural community inventory, management plans, and outreach materials.
Reed and Jessie explore a cave at Smuggler's Notch while Ben enjoys a snack
Jon climbs his way up to the lunch spot at Smuggler's Notch
The crew enjoys lunch on a ledge at Smuggler's Notch
Beautiful view at Smuggler's Notch

DAY 4:
Friday was an office day in which we finished up our first full draft of the soil disturbance monitoring report for the Green Mountain National Forest. We also made first contact with our organizations for our small team projects as well as started putting together site descriptions for all of the state parks and campgrounds that we visited. After weeks of collecting data in the field, we are excited to see the fruits of our labor in the form of tangible reports.

LANDS Week 5

Hello readers! In LANDS’ 4th week in the field, and 2nd week calling the Mt. Tabor Workhouse in Danby, VT our home, we continued surveying soils in recently harvested sales. Our work took us to the South Road, Cone Brook West, Snow Valley, and Middlebury sales.

On the way south from Burlington our LANDS crew stopped at the Dutton Brook Sale in Middlebury, VT. In the small town of Goshen, VT Jon and Toral spotted a black bear and her three cubs crossing a skid road in the early afternoon; only the first bear sighting of the week! The Dutton Brook sale was one of the more disturbed areas we have visited thus far. Plentiful wetlands made surveying difficult as well.

Above: Deanna checks for compaction

Tuesday took the LANDS crew to the Cone Brook West sale. Reed and Lydia stayed back at the Workhouse to begin the piecing together the soils report for the Green Mountain National Forest. The landing at the Cone Brook West sale was huge and had very disturbed soils. Mapping and assessment of the skid roads was initiated, and survey work was continued on Wednesday.

Above: Zac joined the LANDS crew for the second week of soil surveys. Lucy shows him the ropes.

On Wednesday the crew took on the South Road and Snow Valley sales. Jessie and Deanna were surveying at Snow Valley when they encountered two mature black bears and a white tailed deer. Luckily the bears headed for the hills and the girls changed their transect path to avoid disturbing the bears’. In the end it was a very successful day for the crew, and marked our last soil surveys in the field. One lucky group finished the day hiking in to a beautiful undisturbed area on the Appalachian Trail.

Above: Zac and Sam demonstrate some of Sam's "flying yoga," used to refresh minds during long days in the field.

In order to get a jump on the report for the GMNF, the entire crew remained indoors at the Workhouse to start rough drafts of each section. Nancy, Mary Beth, and Melissa provided a delicious lunch for LANDS, followed by an enlightening presentation on the bigger picture of our work in the GMNF. It was rewarding to hear how our work the past two weeks will be utilized in the coming years. Now that the report is started, we will be taking a break from soil work to finish up our non-native invasive species surveys around the state. Thank you to all our dedicated readers!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Week 4:

Week 4 brought with it a change of pace as well as a change of scenery. Instead of camping out and surveying state parks for non-native invasive species, we began the first of two weeks staying at the U.S. Forest Service’s Mt. Tabor workhouse conducting soil disturbance monitoring.

Day 1:

We piled our gear and our selves into Gazelle for the trek to Mt. Tabor. This time we had the luxury of leaving the tents and camp stoves behind and instead taking shovels and hard hats.

Once at Mt. Tabor, we settled into a day of soil disturbance monitoring tutorials with Nancy Burt and Mary Beth Dewey soil scientist and biological technician, respectively, for GMNF (Green Mountain National Forest). Our focus was on disturbances in timber harvest areas, past or future. We learned which factors, such as compaction, erosion and pooling of water could slow forest regeneration, a result neither ecologically nor economically desirable.

After half a day of class time we went into the woods behind the work house to learn to measure slope (word of the day: clinometer), dig soil pits and get a feel for what to expect from undisturbed forest soils.

Nancy and Mary Beth at the Mt. Tabor workhouse

After the workday, Lydia introduced us to a lovely natural water slide near the workhouse. She jumped right in while the rest of us worked up the guts to try it out. We all took the plunge eventually, though, and it wasn’t nearly as scary as it looked.

Day 2:

After visiting Snow Valley Sale with Nancy Burt and getting acquainted with soil disturbance monitoring protocol, we split up for an afternoon of bushwhacking and orienteering in the Dorset/Peru area of GMNF. We tested the protocol on essentially undisturbed sites considered for future harvest.

Walking to Snow Valley Sale

Jon tells us about a soil pit at Snow Valley Sale while Reed uses the data recorder.

Found while visiting undisturbed site in Dorset/Peru area.

Q: Can you spot the invasives? A: 1) honeysuckle, 2) a car, 3) Kyle

Day 3:

We split up to do the survey for real, some of us going to Apple Orchard Sale, others to Burnt Meadow Sale, saw what kind of disturbance can occur with harvest. At Burnt Meadow, we saw some areas where drainage was limited and water was pooling, to the detriment of tree seedlings that should wish to grow there. Though somewhat disturbed by harvest, the area had signs of abundant wildlife, with birdsong throughout, and plenty of moose tracks.

Haul road to Burnt Meadow

Burnt Meadow landing

Kyle and Ben acquire satellites on their GPS unit

It was a hot one, so after the survey was over, Lydia introduced us to another swimming hole. This time is was an old marble quarry with high cliff faces. We all jumped from the medium height cliff (15-20 ft at bet guess), but Deanna and Dan tackled the high jump and came back grinning.

Oldest marble quarry in the United States, Dorset, VT

Day 4:

We revisited some sites from the day before to finish the survey and measure skid roads. We had a short day in the field before heading back to Burlington to wrap up the week, and even missed the rain.

Toral, Nancy Burt, Dan, and Reed split up skid roads at Burnt Meadow Sale.

Dan says it’s this way.

Three red lines mark the boundary of the sale unit.

We found this slick at the landing and wondered if some diesel had been spilled. Someone shared a fact from Sam: bacteria can form a skim on puddles, just like petroleum. If the surface breaks into plates like ice instead of swirling when you disturb it, bacteria are the cause.


Monday, June 21, 2010

Week Three

Week 3 started with a two-hour ride in Gazelle down to Bomoseen State Park, just South of Rutland. Upon arrival, we set up camp and made a new friend, "Cheeks" the chipmunk. Deanna enjoyed feeding him trail mix, which was later found by Kyle, with nuts and raisins stashed away in his sleeping bag and pillowcase. Soon after camp was set up, we began to survey the park, finding mostly honeysuckle and the usual suspects, along with a few less familiar invasive plants such as Black Swallow Wart and Amur Maple. A downpour of rain made the process a bit slower, but we finished the park before the end of the day, leaving time to survey some surrounding nature trails. The day went quite smoothly, and ended with a relaxing camp fire.

Reed, Ben & Deanna hard at work

On Tuesday the weather was beautiful and everyone was in high spirits. In the morning we all hopped into Gazelle and made our way to Emerald Lake State Park, which was a gem of a place. Here, we teamed off to survey campsites and nature trails, finding mostly honeysuckle and garlic mustard, and luckily no invasive insects. We had a nice lunch break on the beach, where we got to bask in the sun. Those of us who were lucky enough to have our bathing suits got to cool off in the lake, making our way to an island in the middle where we found more honeysuckle. When it was time to take off for the day, we stopped in Rutland for dinner veggies that had been unfortunately left behind in Burlington. We ended our day with a feast of delicious veggies, pasta and kielbasa.

Our fearless leaders Sam & Zach (and Dan skipping rocks)

On Wednesday we were expecting the worst after a forecast of heavy rain all day long. Fortunately, we still had hopes for the best, and the timing was perfect! We had a long day of surveying three different campgrounds, and were lucky enough to have it rain only when we were driving in Gazelle from location to location. We began the day at Lake Saint Catherine, surveying 60 sites in about 2 hours. After quickly completing the survey, and finding the usual invasive plant species such as honeysuckle and garlic mustard, we hopped in Gazelle and headed towards Branch Pond, eating our lunches of PB & J and gold fish on the way. Branch Pond was a beautiful, remote, and quite undeveloped site. The landscape was very different than previous sites, with tree species such as Fir and Spruce, and rare plant species such as the flowering pitcher plant and the lady slipper. Although we didn't finish here until about 5pm, the crew decided to make the day even longer and survey one last area called Old Job in the Tabor Mountain area of the U.S. Forest. This was mostly a road survey, with a few campsites along the way. We surveyed through dusk, finishing up just as it was getting dark. After the rainy two hour ride back to our campsite at Bomoseen, we cooked burritos at 10pm, having a short fire before we were all too tired to stay awake any longer. It was a long, fun, and very successful day of surveying.

A Flowering Pitcher Plant: Branch Pond, VT

Because of our long day on Wednesday, we were able to cut the day in half on Thursday, surveying Half Moon State Park. Working until 1pm, we finished all the campsites, and even got to explore a huge field in search for more invasives. Here we found mostly honeysuckle and buckthorn, along with a car door, microwave and golf club. We then proceeded to drive back to our home base in Burlington, where we unpacked and headed home for the night.

Ben & Zach getting familiar with the park

Friday was a day of logistics in the office, finishing up some necessary last minute duties. This third week was good for everyone, as the weather was enjoyable and the days flew by. The crew worked smoothly as a team and continued to learn a lot while enjoying the diverse and beautiful landscape of Vermont.

Sam & his beloved mushrooms

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Week Two

Week two of the LANDS program started bright and early, with a trip to Camp Plymouth State Park for a day of training. We hit the road ~5:30 AM, and didn't return until around 7. At the park, we were educated on the history, biology, and impact of non native plants and insects on Vermont ecosystems from a variety of speakers. Absorbing such a vast amount of information was a little daunting, especially since we were so tired, but we were pleasantly surprised by a cookout for lunch.

On Tuesday morning, we departed for our first week of camping. Nimble but spacious, Gazelle was able to fit most of our supplies and ourselves comfortably, and Lydia's car held the rest.

Dan, Toral, and Kyle load supplies into Gazelle

Setting up camp was rendered much easier by the two lean-to's we found at our campsites. Most of us ended up sleeping in these, so we didn't need as many tents. After camp was setup, we hiked to Silver Lake to begin our first day of surveys at the campsites there. The process was a little chaotic at first, but each site we surveyed took half as long as the one prior, and by the end of the day we knew we'd be experts in no time.

Confusion ensues, followed by gradual understanding

On Wednesday our team split up, with Sam's group finishing up at Silver Lake, and Lydia and Zac's groups going to Moosalamoo Campground. Moosalamoo turned into an easy, encouraging survey – most of the campsites didn't have a single invasive plant, and fortunately, no invasive insects. They worst invasions did find were hard to miss – they were labeled, in a “wildlife garden” intended to teach campers the sorts of things they can plant in their backyards to attract desirable animals. Many of these intentional invasives had clearly spread into the surrounding woods. There wasn't much we could do but laugh, but the experience served as a stark example of the extent to which our mindset needs to change.

Zac and Reed take on an particularily egregious honeysuckle at Moosalamo, while Dan observes

Our goal for Thursday was Branbury State Park itself, but by now we had become so adept at our protocol that we finished before lunch. Opting to take advantage of the extra time, we packed up camp and migrated to D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) State Park.

D.A.R. was a reality check for everyone, especially after the relatively pristine ecosystems around Silver Lake and Mooselamoo. At. D.A.R. we found woods with understories completely dominated by buckthorn and honeysuckle. Natural tree regeneration was nearly absent, and the abundant diversity of a healthy understory was totally stifled. Ultimately, D.A.R. may be a lost cause, but it was a powerful reminder of why our work this summer is so important.

Unfortunately, Thursday afternoon was also the time when the rain which had been threatening all day finally arrived. It didn't last long though, and the entire crew was able to enjoy a particularly relaxing final evening.

Since we had almost entirely finished D.A.R. the day before, we were able to complete another additional park Friday afternoon before heading to Burlington. We stopped at Mt. Philo State Park, an isolated peak with spectacular views of Lake Champlain and New York state beyond. It only took a few hours though, and we got home with time to collect ourselves and reflect on the week before heading home.

View from Mt. Philo, looking west to Lake Champlain

Friday afternoon, home sweet home

This first week of camping has made clear both the rewards and the challenges the rest of the summer will hold. None of us expected we would be away from our homes and friends so long, so it will take some time to adjust to the circumstances. This is a learning process for everybody, and hopefully as time goes on many of the uncertainties and bugs will be worked out. On the other hand, as someone who has never been to Vermont before, I am extremely grateful for the chance to experience so much of this amazing state. On top of that, there is the satisfaction of ending every day knowing we are contributing to the conservation of the awe inspiring landscapes and ecosystems around us.

The LANDS crew + the FEHC crew