Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Week 2

Monday, June 6thWe kickedthe day off with an activity to get everybody on the same page before we embarked on our assignment for the day. Today we stood in a circle on the campus lawn and played predator-prey; a game that involves each person identifying one other person as prey and one person aspredator. The game is to make sure that you are positioned between them. As you can imagine it turned into a huddle of sorts.
We spent our day at the Richmond Library and at a property that the Nature Conservancy owns and manages. We were received by Donia Prince; a volunteer outreach coordinator at The Nature Conservancy. She talked us through a fabulous and informative presentation on invasive plants and how they have affected natural communities in various ecosystems. This was followed by a presentation that encompassed the new iMapInvasive software that is used to map invasive species.She noted that we would be the first in the country to use the new iMapInvasive software. A true honor indeed. We will be using this software as we embark on mapping invasive plants for various landmanagement institutions throughout the summer. Our day did not end there. We were then handed the task of cutting down an invasive plant named Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum).We did this armed with machetes (even make shift ones) and clippers. The Silver Maple-Ostrich Fern Riverine Floodplain Forest in which we worked on was one to behold. The understory of the forest was dominated by beautiful ostrich ferns - some of which were up to 6ft tall.We ended the day with a yoga session led by our very ownyoga extraordinaire, Story Wiggins. We headed into the evening to polish up our presentations on non-native invasive species, which we will give to the rest of the group tomorrow!

Tuesday, June 7th,
We kicked off the day with our usual routine of getting everyone on the same page; today’s activity was an energy wave game. This was followed by an interactive presentation by Steve Libby who is the executive director of the Vermont River Conservancy. The presentation focused on key elements of what it means to conserve land, terms used in land management, and how our work this summer will integrate these different elements. It was a very informative talk in which we as interns also took the initiative by asking questions on different scenarios that may arise during the issuing of conservation easements and what it means to have land conserved.
Our afternoon was dedicated to Liz Thompson who isa field ecologist and a Graduate Professor here at UVM. She led us on a quiet walk through a sectionof the Long Trail and then introduced us to the concept of natural communities in terms of plants species and soil makeup. She was very helpful in explaining how to identify natural communities; for example using tree species and digging into the ground to explore the different soil layers. We also got to test our plant identification skills by using Newcomb’s Wildflower Field Guide to key out plants that Liz picked out for us.
We head into tomorrow looking at our first real day of fieldwork where will be orienting ourselves with the GPS units and mapping out areas with invasive plants.Wednesday, June 8th,
We kicked off the day today with a yogic “Breath of Joy” that was led by our team leader, Zac. Today we got the opportunity to start our official summer work;mapping invasive plants and then recommending management strategies that the landowners could employ. We were scheduled to be at Leddy Park for the duration of the day.
Once we got to the site, we were split into groups of two and each was given the task to identify and map out all invasive plants using skills we hadacquired both through our team leaders and various avenues such as The Nature Conservancy training
. All in all, we had a fabulous day recording data and it seems that each one of us was one step closer to becoming masters of identifying invasive plants and forming observations that explain their abundance and richness in natural areas.
We head in to tomorrow with another field day; we will be based at Ethan Allen and Mount Calvary wetland.

Thursday, June 9th,
We started our day with a yoga session that was led by Story Wiggins. The yoga felt so relaxing and definitely gave us a kick start to the day. In addition to this Isabel fed the group with zucchini bread that she had baked at home. The flavor was so good it simply can’t be described.
Zac, our team leader, gave us a run through of the day’s assignment and Leah, our wonderful co-leader, handed us our “guidebooks for the day” (maps). We were scheduled to be at Ethan Allen for the morning, mapping invasive plants and checking up on their distribution, based on a report that was published by the LANDS crew of 2008. We spent our time referring to the maps and comparing the abundance of species and their location. Despite a serious mosquito problem, we managed to stay on task and stay positive. After lunch we headed back into the woods to finish up any parts of the park we had not completed. Our afternoon went smoothly until hail started falling from the sky, and most of us had to take shelter under the tree canopies to prevent injury and data loss. The hail and rain brought on a cool feeling that soon turned into muggy heat after it stopped raining.
From Ethan Allen, we headed to a swamp that was heavily, I repeat, heavily, infested with mosquitoes that thought it was Christmas as soon as we arrived. The property was ironically placed in the middle of a suburban neighborhood which was unique in itself compared to the other areas we had been that were secluded from the man made environment. In this property; known as Mount Calvary, we were also checking for invasive plants which to my surprise were not as abundant as in the other parks we had visited before. This greatly reduced our time collecting data and also the mosquitoes’ dinner.
We head into tomorrow with a brief orienteering session that will be led by Leah. We will also spend our time at the McKenzie property and finish up on some work that we had not completed on Tuesday at Leddy park.

Friday, June 10th
Our day started off with a quick session of “keepers and obtainers” that called for each of us to make observations of what we want to keep doing in terms of protocol for data collection and also what we would want to do better or learn. This was a very positive time of the day since members of the team gave feedback on these issues.
Leah gave a short lecture on magnetic declination and finding the bearing between two different points on a map using a good, old fashioned compass. We were then scheduled to be at McKenzie Park for some more invasive plant mapping. Little did we know that this would be another mosquito haven where we would have to be strategic in how we evaded their attacks. All in all data collection went smoothly and all groups worked together to complete their work in due time.We spent our afternoon finishing up on collecting
data at Leddy Park. This took no more than an hour a
nd we were soon on our way back to the Greenhouse (our home base) to start entering data that we had collected into the new iMap software. The day was both relaxing and very productive in terms of how efficient all groups were in collecting data.
We went into our weekend grateful for the collective positivity of our group, and excited about the possibilities and adventures the summer holds in store. Until next week, keep it locked!!!

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