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

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