By Sylvia Kinosian and Juliane Menezes
Our first week off with some introductory presentations by Emily and Laura to the LANDS program. We learned about what types of project we’ll be doing over the summer, what would be expected of us as members of the LANDS crew, and how the SCA and AmeriCorps fit into our program. We had a tour of the eco-machine in the Aiken center that treats all the water in the building. We also got to go up on the roof of Aiken to look at the green roof project going on. The roof is covered with several different patches of plants to study how rainwater drains through the different treatments. After lunch, we headed to Centennial Woods to practice pacing, plant ID, and compass and GPS navigation.
LANDS as part of the Aiken Green Roof
We started Tuesday off with a visit to a ropes course! To warm up we did some very difficult jumping jacks,talked about knowing and respecting your comfort level during certain situations, and how to remain a team player. We then did some team building activities. For one, we were all blindfolded, handed a long rope, and told to make a star. In another we had to pass the whole team through three different heights of ropes without touching any of them. Our final activity was in pairs, climbing a large suspended ladder. It was really difficult, but by working with their partners, everyone made it about halfway up the ladder; unfortunately this was all we had time for.
Kristian giving Martine a hand up the ladder
When we got back to campus, Deane talked to us about journaling to help us not only remember, but make sense of what we are going to learn over the summer. Then, Emily and Laura talked to us about wilderness first aid and safety.
On Wednesday, we spent the whole day on the slope of Camel’s Hump along the Long Trail. In the morning we did some practice with orienteering, using a map and compass to figure out our location – an important field skill for later in the summer if we become lost during a project. We also practiced keying our plants using Newcomb’s Wildflower guide. We saw Indian Cucumber Roots, some trillium, Canada Mayflower, Jack-in-the-pulpit, and False Solomon’s Seal. We also heard many different birds including Red-eyed Vireo, Veery, Black-throated Green and Blue Warblers, Eastern Wood Pewee, and Brown Creeper.
We posed on a bridge over Gleason Brook near where we had lunch. Such a pretty site!
In the afternoon we met with Liz Thompson to talk about natural communities. She told us about the natural history of Vermont and told us that we were actually on the beach of an ancient lake that once covered this area! We took some soil samples and identified the vegetation around us to figure out what natural community we were in, which turned out to be a Northern Hardwood forest in one spot and and a Rich Northern Hardwood forest in another. Liz also helped us identify some more plant including Sweet Cicely, Virginia Waterleaf, Jewelweed, Wood Nettle, Goldie’s Wood fern, Christmas fern, Lady fern, and Silvery Glade Fern. Besides herb ID, there were some trees and shrubs ID and based on the dominant species, we could classify the landscape as one of the Vermont’s communities described above.
Soil ID with Liz Thompson
After all the hard work at the Camel’s Hump (great job by the way!), we stopped at the best bakery in Richmond, On the Rise. They had awesome desserts and bagels, including maple cupcakes! Yum!
In the morning on Thursday, Emily introduced us to some landscape ecology concepts as ecological processes, patterns and pieces. Based on these concepts, we did one activity which we were responsible to increase the biodiversity of an open area dominated by ferns and wildflowers, and then a presentation of which relevant ecological processes/patterns/pieces would lead to it.
In the afternoon, we met Alicia Daniel at Rock Point, which is next to North Beach. We split up as three teams based on our primary interest: geology, soils, or biota. The geology group looked at an area of Rock Point where a thrust fault had lifted a section of younger rock on top of a section of older rock. This unusual formation has been studied by scientists from all over the world! The soils group took some samples of two completely different locations, measured the soil pH (one was 8.0, which is pretty rare in Vermont!) and described the texture and color. It was interesting to see the differences between soils from a marshy area and then from on top of the cliffs. The wildlife group identified some tree, shrubs, wildflowers, and birds species in the area and then they classified the region as having a Limestone Bluff Cedar-Pine Forest, a Mesic Maple-Ash-Hickory-Oak Forest, as well as an area in between the two. By comparing the finding of all three groups in was interesting to see the how the different aspects of Rock Point’s physical environment tied together and influenced each other.
Here you can see the Dolostone over the Shale as well as some cedars growing off to the side.
After that, we all got together and Sylvia drew an event map showing major characteristics of Rock Point that everyone had noticed. Even though it had started to rain at that point, the drawing still came out rather nicely!
Sylvia drawing the event map for our time at Rock Point
Friday was our first day of work! US Forest Service hired us to help them weeding some of their experimental plots. We spent the morning weeding and then in the afternoon we dug up an old experimental plot tank that was buried in the ground and started digging up another. Around 2:00 we headed back to campus for an introduction to GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Emily helped us get familiar with ArcGIS and showed us how to make a map of Vermont. She also taught us about different map projections and which one to use in order to map Vermont look as accurate as possible.
Jacob, Liz, and Mike happily weeding.
Mike and Sylvia digging out a tank. Liz is helping, too by cutting out the weeds. A group effort!
After our busy week we were all ready for some rest. The time really flew by, though! Hopefully the next eight weeks of LANDS will be just as fun as the first.