Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wu Ledges

By: Rachel Markey

This week, Sam, Maria, and Rachel all headed down to Waitsfield to check out the elusive property known as Wu Ledges. We were ready to map out a network of trails, but did not realize what exactly we were dealing with until our sponsor, Mark, described them as a "spaghetti mess."

We felt like this. 

But afterall, things were not so bad. We spent 2 full days in the field, and mapped out almost 6 miles of winding mountain bike trails. We took note of their conditions and any special features they had to offer. Once we were on a roll with finding, tracking, and mapping the trails, we began to enjoy ourselves on the property.  

One of the many eastern newts we found!

Final trail map with all points of interest. Phew!

Pease, please!

This week, Jacob, Liz, and Martine headed out to Charlotte to explore the Pease Mountain natural area. Pease Mountain, the twin of Mt. Philo, has a small trail system that we set out to map. To our great enjoyment, we discovered several small trails that led to lovely views of the surrounding landscape. We offered many management recommendations to help deal with the excessive muddiness, such as rerouting trails and installation of boardwalks. From our conversations with local Pease enthusiasts, we understand the great value of this low-impact recreational area to the community, and are really grateful for the opportunity to help contribute to the longevity of this very cool place.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Week 8: July 22 to 26

By Juliane Menezes and Sylvia Kinosian

This week we started our last project as a whole group! The Conservation Commission of the Williston, Vermont hired us to make ecological assessments in three different locations that may be placed under conservation easements. The three areas had some interesting names: Bur Oak Knoll (Bur Oaaaaaks!), Glacial Spillway (Ice Age) and Johnson Falls.

Kristian chillin’ on the tree hunting stand.

One person of each group was responsible to find historical data about their respective area. Sam, Liz and Rachel searched in hundreds of folders and files in the Town Clerk Office for valuable information about historical land use, property landowners, and easements. The rest of the crew were responsible for collecting info about natural communities, wildlife, natural and human disturbances, topography and hydrology. We also looked for historical maps and aerial photographs in UVM Memorial Library. It was kind of interesting to notice the changes of the landscape in time. In other words, basically everything that we have been doing on previous projects in this summer. We are masters at doing ecological assessments by now!

Glacial crew crossing this old bridge (One at a time!)  

We did the entire project, which includes the assessment of the properties and report writing, in only 3 days. Good job everybody! 

It's time to play What's That Small Nondescript Herbaceous Plant?!

Done with the Williston project, we started our Small Team Projects (STPs)! The projects chosen by our crew were: Gomo Town Forest (Kristian and Mike), Pease Mountain (Liz, Martine and Jacob), LaPlatte River Marsh (Julie and Sylvia), and WU Ledges (Sam, Maria, and Rachel).  We had to do these projects on our own, without the help of Emily or Laura; contacting the sponsors, planning, gathering all the maps and writing the reports are entirely our responsibility.  The results of our independent projects are still a surprise! Good Luck LANDS!

Martine enjoying the shade of a Quercus macrocarpa

Friday, July 19, 2013

Week 7: Stuck in the suburbs

Map Partying (planning).
On Monday afternoon, we emerged from Bianca onto the steaming pavement of Essex Junction's Five Corners intersection. Our mission for the week was to inventory each urban street tree in the public right-of-way in Essex Junction Village, noting down species, size, and condition. The lovely Elise Schadler of VT Urban and Community Forestry guided us in our work, providing software training, treats, and insight in the context of this project. 
Like many of our other projects, this inventory is intended to inform management practices for the urban forest. Data from this inventory may help monitor a disease outbreak, or prevent hazards and altercations. In addition, the project has a strong community aspect in that it intends to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy urban forest and expand public support. Town planners may use this data to establish tree dollar values, providing an economic lens to promote tree conservation.

Often overlooked as a crucial component of walkable, aesthetically pleasing neighborhoods, trees provide a wealth of benefits to communities. Urban trees provide shelter from the sun, serve as passive cooling devices for buildings, improve air quality, buffer storm runoff, regulate temperatures, provide wildlife habitat, mitigate noise pollution, and generally improve the appearance of a place. Elise told us that trees can even function in crime reduction. Their presence provides a resource for environmental education initiatives, community engagement, and fostering a strong sense of place. They’re hugely important for maintaining healthy and functioning communities that are easy on the eye.

Some forestry stars.
We spent three days in the field wrangling with a slightly maddening software system called Juno to record data and GPS coordinates. Partitioned into 4 separate groups, we trekked through the village landscape wearing bright vests and seeing mirages (it was a sweaty week). Upon reaching a new street to inventory, we measured and calculated the right-of-way distance from the curb, which would tell us which trees fell in the public realm and which did not. For each tree we happened upon, we recorded an assemblage of data including DBH (diameter at breast height), species, GPS location, overall condition, and whether it had defects and/or needed consulting. We also noted any properties that could possibly use a tree in their yard. At the close of each workday, Elise uploaded our data onto the Vermont Urban Community Forestry Tool and we entered all our notes into an Excel document.

Don't be scared.
We found the urban forest to be, for the most part, in good health, with minimal instances of consultation necessary. However, some bad news is that there are many trees in Essex Junction Village that are susceptible to invasive pests, a situation which should be closely monitored. Promoting a more diverse age structure and species assemblage will encourage the long-term sustainability of this urban forest.

Stopping traffic.

"I love this software." -Kristian

Downtime at the Essex Town Hall. Thanks for the cold water.

End-of-the-week-treats. Thanks, VT Urban and Community Forestry superstars!

Despite the oppressive heat, we had a fun week. Thanks so much to Nick for the pool party!

-the cr00

Friday, July 12, 2013

Week Six: July 8-12

By: Rachel Markey

Monday morning we all had an unexpected start to what we thought would be just another office day. Emily held back her plans from us and piled us into the van as it started to rain. You could say that we were all a little bit confused as to why we were going “out into the field” when not one of us was rain gear prepared. Once we pulled into the parking lot of Oakledge, it was safe to say a few of us could figure out where we were being taken that was sheltered and out of the rain.
Once we all took a seat inside the Oakledge TreeHouse, Emily read us a short story by Barbara Kingsolver. After reading, we all set down to complete a reflection on our time here at LANDS. By this time, we had just completed our 5th week, over halfway through the summer.

Back on campus, we began editing and revising the final versions of all 5 of our written reports. It took all day, and some of Tuesday to finish the revisions. After finishing, we had completed full reports for the East Woods Natural Area, the Pomainville Natural Area, the Roche property, and Concord Woods Natural Area. Now to start the next project....

Tuesday afternoon we headed out to Bolton to meet up with Kathryn Wrigley so she could introduce us to our new project. We would begin our work on the Smith parcel, a piece of land in Bolton which was purchased by the Green Mountain Club. The GMC then transferred the ownership to the State of Vermont Agency of Natural Resources so they could hold it in perpetuity for conservation. Currently, a section of the Long Trail is being rerouted through the property.

Our job was to complete natural community inventory and mapping for the property. This would help the GMC and VT ANR determine characteristics of the land. We set out into the field Tuesday afternoon, and despite having only about an hour and a half to check it out, managed to define two natural communities and get a pretty good sense of what we were dealing with.
Sam & Martine checking out soil, topography, and surficial and bedrock geology maps

And thanks to Mike, the WeatherWizard, we were able to stay dry and out of the rain during our field work.

When Wednesday rolled around we were all reading with all of gear to head out to Bolton for an entire field day. Three groups set out within the 177 acre property to assess and attempt to mark the transitions between the natural communities of the parcel. Throughout our time exploring the property, we found many cool features of the land. Such as...

Thursday we spent the whole day  in the office writing up our report for the Smith property. We compared our notes, once again, to Wetland, Woodland, Wildland and attempted to piece out the natural communities we encountered within the property.

Friday morning we all arrived ready for some weeding at the Forest Service again. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day and none of us really minded being out in the sun. It only took us about an hour and a half to complete the weeding! We attempted to start digging out an old experimental plot tank, but it was filled with rainwater and mud, so we headed back towards campus.
Back on campus, we met up with Elise Schadler, who works for RSENR and VT ANR. She wanted to find out how much we all knew about urban forestry and street trees. Split into groups of two, we set out in downtown Burlington to see how many street trees we could find, sample, and identify. Together, we came up with over 50 species of trees, and were rewarded with Sour Patch Kids, Swedish Fish, and a crew frisbee.

After that some of us headed back to the computer lab to edit and revise the final draft of our Smith Property report. The rest of us got started on our weekly chores, and well, that’s where we're at now....

Friday, July 5, 2013

Week Five: Concord Woods Project

July 1st-4th

by Maria Clara Starling

What started out to be LANDS' shortest week turned into one of the longest ones. For our fifth week, we were awarded with the privilege to explore Concord Woods Natural Area. This 100-acre property is a piece of land in North Concord, VT. Donated to the UVM Natural Areas in 1944, its uniqueness relies on the fact that it is a well preserved piece of Northern Hardwood Forest (with some variations). On the other hand, its surrounding region has been heavily logged (completely clear cut). Working in Concord Woods meant a break from our now well-known invasives (not a single Buckthorn was traced). Meanwhile, it taught us how boundary marking and navigating in steep (very steep) elevation, looking for 30 year old blazes, and (of course) below heavily pouring rain, can be tricky. 

Monday started earlier than usual with van packing at 8 am. Yes, Bianca was packed, once again, but she manages to be such a great team member that everything fit well (not!). Laura was the smooth driver this time and at around 11 am we met Becky and Rick Paradis who were going to tell us about the property and nominate tasks (thanks for trusting us again!). After one hour chatting about Concord Woods’ natural history, looking at maps and discussing project details we had a game plan and started the hike up to the property. One of our tasks was installing four corner posts on their unknown proper location. Therefore, we made a quick stop in the middle to grab some digging tools and four shiny red pressured treated hand-marked corner posts that were carried up with us (credits to Becky). Posts were marked according to the 1700s survey when US territory was split on lots and ranges delineating properties. After following blue flags up the hill we got to our first boundary corner where we found a short decomposing orange post that came from a mysterious source. Then, we split into 2 groups that would explore eastern and southern boundaries looking for old blazes and equally mysterious orange posts each. Both teams left to accomplish their tasks while Emily and Laura were addressed with the digging mission. One of the teams was successful on finding some old blazes and the post after a precipitous climb up within a dense well conserved forest to the eastern corner. The property boundary was also somewhat clear by tree age on both sides.  The other group struggled a bit to find old blazes and followed the mapped bearing up to an interrupted barbwire fence.  Back to the first corner (where a brand new bright red post already laid on the place of the second one) and down the mountain we went to get groceries and set up camp. Tents up, fire lit, dinner cooked, s’mores devoured. It was time to go to bed under continuous water drop sounds that persisted heavily through the entire night. 

    “Caution! Items may fall while opening the door” 

                                                 Carrying posts and tools up the mountain

                                             Old corner post and shiny and bright new ones!

Tuesday morning’s alarm tone was a frenetic oven bird that seemed to be pumped up by all the rain that kept falling.  Unfortunately, we accidentally had food and trash left out during the night which attracted messy rodent company.  As we gathered in the lean-to after breakfast to “bring our minds together”, wet-tent night stories started popping up. Some of us had had their sleeping bags totally soaked and a long night experience.  The talk was necessary to bring us back to a positive mind state. Duty still called us and we were presented with a streamlined plan for the day: a field naturalist relay with a blazing and digging tools exchange.  Four stages, three groups, three corners to be properly blazed in order to keep loggers out of our untouched forest, and countless special features to be registered. Rather challenging, as usual LANDS tasks, but there is something within us that always speaks louder and we just went for it! At some points during the climb we did wish Becky had made lighter corner posts, but we managed to get all of them up by the end of the day (awesome team work! Now we know that she made the posts this way just because she believed in us, maybe more than we did!)

Stage one down, rain picked up a little bit during stage two. Towards the end of stage two, weather conditions had slowed us down and so did difficulties to find old blazes and one of the old corner posts. All three groups ended up together at one corner and the decision was made to head back to the starting point and finish our mission on Wednesday. We went down with our eyes (and cameras) open for wildlife and unique features on the way. Leatherwood, huge yellow birches, moose scrapes, deer and moose scat, bear scratches on trees… a wonderfully rich forest!  As much as we aimed for concluding all of the four stages that day, we learned that when dealing with some circumstances we cannot control (such as the weather) it is okay to be below the (high) expectations we create for ourselves.  Back to camp, we made a clothes line and gathered all of the wet items that were essential to keep us warm. Emily and Laura took a bagful of sleeping bags, sweatshirts, pairs of paints and socks to the laundromat (thanks a lot!!).

                                                   Tuesday’s foggy morning tent perspective

  Stage one: check! Old blazes replaced by new ones!

                                 Wildlife signs: bear scratch and moose scrapes

        Clothes “line-to” 

Surprisingly, Wednesday started out as a dry morning. Camp down, breakfast eaten, lunch made and Bianca packed. It was time to do a little service for the camp site in order to pay for our stay. Trash picking, nail removing, spider web brushing, etc… Unfortunately, we came across another unexpected situation. While Julie was innocently cleaning one of the fire places a tree branch fell out of an old pine on her head. “Wrong place, wrong  time!” Luckily, small cut and no concussion. By the time all necessary bureaucracy regarding the incident was dealt with, we had a game plan and left to the field under the sun light! We met Becky and Silas (her dog and now 13th member of the LANDS crew!) at the usual parking place.  We gave Becky an update on what we had already accomplished and on our plans for the day. Our last search for two missing old posts started humid and sunny. However, half way up to the supposed corners, we were caught by a huge torrential storm. Refreshing as it could only have been, it followed us all the way to our “corners”. One of the groups seemed to have their eyes trained for old blazes and the barbwire fence mystery was finally solved. A corner post was found buried under a fallen tree (awesome eyes)! With three out of four, we headed back to base, completely soaked, but satisfied with the work we could accomplish against all of the odds.
With Bianca packed (and emitting a curious smell) we headed back to Burlington. Since it had already passed dinner time, we ordered pizza on the way and had delicious dinner on someone’s front yard (oops!). Timing couldn't have been better, we were out of the van and walking home just in time to watch 4th of July fireworks!

                                                            Service work for the camp

                                                            Buried corner post found!

                                                                     Torrential storm effect