Monday, July 30, 2012

Report Writing and Small Team Projects

Monday-Tuesday (7/23-7/24)
The first two days this week were spent finishing up creating our reports for the Glastenbury Wilderness and Wetlands Mapping projects. We were intensively wrapped up with report writing, GIS-ing, and eating our leftover camping food (all covered in Nutella, of course) for two days straight.

Sam, Dylan, and Stephanie examining maps to 
mark the areas surveyed on GIS

On Monday, we were able to reunite with Liz Thompson, with whom we had learned about natural communities from during our first week of training. She showed us UVM's Pringle Herbarium where we were able to see how all kinds of plants are collected, classified, and stored for preservation and research. Then we sat outside and talked through some of our difficulties with her in identifying natural communities on our maps for our wetlands project that don't seem to fit into any specific category. Because she co-authored Wetland, Woodland, Wildland: A Guide to the Natural Communities of Vermont, she was a great resource to have in trying to understand the overlap between natural communities and how we might view and communicate these areas within the larger context of our project for our client.

Darren, Sam, Andrew, and Kelsey engaged in a deep discussion of 
conclusions to draw from our project results

Tuesday was spent with more report writing and GIS mapping. With all of the hours we spent sitting in front of a computer screen, we certainly needed a break and some sunlight. We relaxed and reenergized by doing yoga outside, led by our very own yoga guru Emily, and playing elbow tag. Although we learned how out of shape many of us felt after weeks of eating camping food and sitting around campfires, it was still a great time and left us feeling ready to finish up the rest of our reports at the end of the day.

Teresa and Kelsey creating beautiful GIS maps of the areas 
we surveyed for our wetlands project

Wednesday-Friday (7/25-7/27)
The rest of the week was spent working on our Small Team Projects (STPs). The project groups and topics include:
-Sam, Kristie, and Ally - Wood Turtle Habitat and Japanese Knotweed Management in Middlesex/Worcester
-Teresa and Stephanie - Natural Resource Inventory and Trail Assessment in Johnson
-Darren and Andrew - Recreation Management Planning and Trail Creation at a Talc Mill in Johnson
-Kelsey and Dylan - Trail Planning at the Reservoir Property in Johnson

Kristie and Sam performing wood turtle habitat data collection at the 
Whiteside Property in the North Branch of the Winooski River

We met with our clients, performed field work, and began putting together reports. These STPs gave us a great opportunity to network with local conservation groups and districts, perform the entire process from planning to data collection to report writing, and put all of the skills from this summer into practice. We are looking forward to continuing our work on these projects next week and delivering high quality work to our clients.

Teresa surveying and mapping a trail on the Prindle Property in Johnson, VT

Stayed tuned for our final week of the 2012 LANDS program!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


July 16th-20th, 2012
The start of the week saw us packing up the van again to head down to Woodford State Park for two nights near Bennington to continue our wetland inventory work from last week. Shovels and augers in hand, we set off into the field for a few hours surveying Maple/Beech/Birch/Spruce forests and Class II wetlands to much success. Having started late, we arrived a little before sunset to a familiar campground in time to build a fire and flame hot/turk dogs and stir up some mac 'n cheese. Can you say yum?

Scouting a Beaver Complex just before the rain


We packed into the screenhouse (set up in the lean to to host the boys for the evening) and under the glow of headlamps and flashlights poured over the maps for the next day.

Late night map party

Tuesday morning saw many of us heading up the Appalachian Trail after dropoffs to pursue a few wetlands that were deep within the bush of the Green Mountains. Bushwhacking and with compasses and gps units in hands, we found most of what we were looking for.
This is a mushroom.
This day we were also fortunate enough to be blessed with Stephanie's 24th birthday, so naturally we had to send her and Ally out on the farthest trail, which brought them back to the van a little bit later than expected. Not to worry, our search and rescue procedures did not have to be used and we all made it back to Woodford State Park to swim and cool off in the lake before dinner.  

Wetland outlet
With only a few wetlands left to inventory in a central location, we decided to focus our efforts for the morning on one large wetland off of Rt. 100 and a smaller wetland to the North. We dropped the groups off and they successfully mapped the area, making it out to the other side across the river to be picked up and head back to Burlington. 
For Teresa, Andrew, and Emily however, they learned a few important lessons about trusting GPS units and pacing the correct distances, as they unfortunately spent the morning mapping a wetland that wasn't quite the one they were looking for.

The jungle
Happy to be back in Burlington, the crew met in Jeffords Hall to begin the process of writing the multiple reports for the summer. Job roles were divided up and we hunkered down in the computer lab to start compiling the data. It was interesting to see the GPS points we had been taking all summer start to present their selves as useful data in map forms. Much of the day was spent prepping the data and teaching each other how to perform the different GIS operations so that more work could be completed the next day.

With the week winding down, the Wetland Inventory report began to come together as we created maps that showed all the wetlands that we visited, and the natural communities that we found existing within them. We were all becoming familiar with the GIS operations which would make future work much easier and by the time 4:30 rolled around we had completed the wetlands report and were on to writing up our Glastonbury project report! It was going to be a well-deserved weekend.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Wetlands Mapping Week 1

July 9th-12th


We experienced a welcome change of pace as we started our first week of the wetlands project. Our task for this project is to field check possible wetlands that were mapped using aerial photos and look for wetlands that were not mapped.  When we find the wetland we will determine what natural community it is and take notes on the vegetation and accuracy of the boundaries on the map.

Upon seeing our van for the week (not our beloved Bianca) we were baffled as to how all of our gear was going to fit. Somehow we made it work. After the long drive south we met Nancy and Mary Beth from the Forest Service to begin our first day of wetlands training. Nancy and Mary Beth taught us how to tell if we are in a wetland based on hydrology, soil, and plants. In the middle of looking at maps two young black bears wandered by us. They kept walking and after we were able to focus again we looked at more maps and headed into a couple of different wetlands.  We dug quite a few soil pits today and were smelling, feeling, and getting our boots covered in hydric soil. 

Identifying a shrub

Nancy teaching us about wetlands

Nancy (left) teaching us about the wetland
After training we headed to our campsite, got our groceries, and enjoyed one of our tastiest meals; pita pizzas made over the fire, and of course s'mores after that.  


Round-leaved sundew

We continued our training today without any more bear sightings. Aaron, a botanist for the Forest Service joined us as well as Mary Beth and Nancy.  We learned many species of plants today that we will use to determine whether we are in a wetland and the type of natural community.  Some of the highlights included round-leaved sundew and pitcher plant; both carnivorous plants.  We also saw green wood orchid and learned many shrub species such as sheep laurel and mountain holly.  

After another delicious dinner we went to the lake by our campsite to plan for the next day.  We decided GPS naming protocols and completed the extremely important task of making names to call each other when using our walkie-talkies.  

Aaron identifying a rush

Pitcher plant


Taking a GPS point as we map the wetland

We were finally able to get out and map some wetlands.  Teresa, Ally, and Kelsey mapped an area with a lot of beaver complexes while others found seeps and possibly a couple poor fens.  Dylan and Sam went on a hike down the Appalachian Trail to get to their wetland.   The other groups were greeted by a very friendly grouse at our drop off point.  We all learned today just how challenging it can be to find the wetlands and to walk in them without losing a foot in the mud.  After some bushwacking we found the wetland we were looking for and mapped the perimeter, taking notes about the plants and hydrology as we went.  When we stopped for lunch we discovered some bear scat nearby and were glad not to get too close to any black bears today.  In part of our wetland we found some more sundew and the green wood orchis that we saw on Tuesday, and of course a lot of sedges and sphagnum moss. 

The ruffed grouse that kept us company

          After we made it back to the access point we had to wait for the van to come back.  Luckily our friendly grouse reappeared to entertain us.  She is probably imprinted and clearly not afraid of people since she walked right up to us.  We watched her eat a lot of jewelweed.  We were once again distracted by wildlife while having a discussion as she reappeared and checked out the rest of the group before going back into the forest.  



How did we get all of that into the van?!

After having some difficulty getting to one of our access points and making a brief stop into Massachusetts, we started our second day of mapping.  Andrew and I found one of our wetlands but the second one we were looking for turned out to be upland with some wet spots.   Emily and Kelsey also had an area that was dry with a few wet spots. 

On the way back to Burlington we stopped at the Rutland Forest Service office to try to get the  software that we needed to enter our invasive species data.  We didn't get back to Burlington until late and as we saw all of our gear laid out on the lawn we were amazed by the amount of stuff we were able to fit in the van that we have named Ursula.  

Post by Stephanie Falzone

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday, July 6, 2012 – LANDS Week 5

White River Partnership Project – Week 2

                This week we finished up our surveying of the White River Partnership area for invasive species.  We spent the past three days camping in Branbury State Park and driving down to the roads and trails to map them during the day.
                Tuesday we drove down, stopping to do our mapping along the way.  It was a scorcher, but luckily we had just received our official SCA-issued water bottles and caps, so staying hydrated and avoiding sunburn was not a problem.  We then returned to Branbury, where we set up camp and made our dinner of Annie’s Mac and Cheese.

Note the hats.

Walking down Liberty Hill

                The heat and humidity stuck around for the Independence Day festivities.  We spent our day being as efficient as possible while mapping a number of forest roads and trails in one section of the White River region that we had not gotten to yet.  On many of these trails the damage caused by Hurricane Irene could still be witnessed.  The following are pictures from the roads and trails around Chittenden Brook.

Exposed culvert at crossing to Chittenden Brook Trail

This trail was closed - as signs reiterated many times throughout the journey

Washed out shoreline - trees were taken down, as were many enormous boulders, and deposited in the stream

Raccoon on Forest Road 61

 More flood damage, this time on Corporation Road

                Once we had finished with the trails surrounding Chittenden Brook, we drove out and mapped the last two nearby trails so that we would not have to drive back out the next day – saving gas and the environment.  When we finally made it back to the campsite we all darted straight down to the lake to cool off.  The park was packed with people, but we scoped out a spot on the lawn and got creemees before our patriotic dinner of hot dogs, corn, and potatoes.  Unfortunately the one-and-a-half bags of marshmallows that we had been planning on finishing by making s’mores were barely touched, as the rain started pound down.  We promptly put all of our dishes out on the table so that mother nature could rinse them all out, and then sat on the edge of the lean-to waiting for the fire to be completely extinguished.  While most of us crawled into our sleeping bags and listened to the rain, a few managed to catch the fireworks down at the lake before bed.
                Thursday we woke up, took down camp, and set out to finish our mapping for the White River Partnership.  We returned to the area that we had come to on our very first day in the region, but fortunately for us there were no construction vehicles driving back and forth.
                With our mapping done for the week, we returned to Burlington and to the Greenhouse and began planning for the next few weeks’ mapping and report-writing.

Post by Dylan Marcus