Thursday, October 30, 2014

Week 9: Dogs and Babies: A Story of Conservation in the Northeast Kingdom

On Monday, we met with Steve Libby, executive director of the Vermont River Conservancy, who gave us background on the Nulhegan Basin and this week's conservation project. We packed up the vans, stopped for groceries in Waterbury, and after playing a quick game of van tetris, we departed for the Northeast Kingdom.

Steve Libby from the Vermont River Conservancy introduces us to Nulhegan Basin.
In order to thank the Green Mountain Club for allowing us to use their cabins at Wheeler Pond, we completed a service project of stacking fire wood for the winter. We worked in teams to load wood into wheelbarrows, transport it (sometimes unsuccessfully) downhill to the woodshed, and stack it. After an afternoon of backbreaking labor, we prepared tacos for dinner, heard Laura's life story, and enjoyed down time around the fire and wood stoves. 
Wood stacking at GMC's Wheeler Cabins.
Grant and James chilling in the wheelbarrows.
 On Tuesday, we ate a quick breakfast and finished the wood stacking project before packing lunch and heading out for a day in the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge. We met with Refuge Manager Mark Maghini, who told us about landscape-level conservation and its context to the refuge and surrounding lands. Mark also shared his educational and professional background with us. We went on a short walk to preview the Nulhegan River upstream from our field work site for the next day. Our afternoon consisted of meeting with Doug Morin, Wildlife Biologist for Vermont Fish & Wildlife, and Silas, his adorable dog. Doug took us to Moose Bog, a site many of us visited 2-3 years ago in our NR1 labs during our freshman years in Rubenstein. After discussing the bog's importance to the greater landscape (specifically habitat) and social aspects of land use, we visited a mixed hardwood forest to compare and contrast natural communities. We ended the day with pizza bagels created on the wood stove at camp, and headed to bed in preparation for an early morning.

Our adventures at the Silvio O. Conte National Wildlife Refuge (NWR).
We took a walk from the Silvio O. Conte NWR's visitor center to the Nulhegan River.

Doug Morin from VT Fish and Wildlife gives us context on Nulhegan Basin.

Wednesday morning, we woke at 5:30 am, and rallied as a team to prepare for our field work day and leave on camp on time--what a struggle :'(. Despite the severe lack of light and caffeine, we somehow managed to pull ourselves together and drive to Vermont River Conservancy's Merck Property along the mighty Nulhegan. We met with VRC's Assistant Director Lydia Menendez and her adorable baby Oly. Flore and Oly instantly formed a connection, and adoption agreements were discussed and quickly shut down. We learned how to conduct inventories to complete a Baseline Documentation Report, and divided into four teams to assess various parts of the property. After gathering photo points and other necessary data, we reconvened and shared our findings. On the table for discussion included a debate on returning to Burlington that night. However, it was decided that we would stay the third night in order to safely trek back home in the morning.

Chris, Zoe, and Flore in the field at the Vermont River Conservancy's Merck Property.

Yeah, LANDS rocks. 

 After a long day in the field, we made an appearance in Barton to fill up water and assimilate with the locals at the Circle K gas station. Back at camp, we enjoyed a delicious meal of grilled cheese and homemade vegetable-noodle soup: YUM! We talked about morning plans and enjoyed one another's company around the fire pit and wood stoves.
Spending the day at the Merck Property. Bottom photo: Moose Bog explorations.

Lake Willoughby

We passed Bonnie View Farm near Lake Willoughby.
Thursday we prepared a full breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon to celebrate our last LANDS camping trip ever. Emily's van headed out early to visit to VRC's offices in Montpelier, while Laura's van stayed at the cabins to clean and pack up. We reunited at the Forest Service building in Burlington, and spent the rest of Thursday writing our baseline documentation report and completing community jobs. We're looking forward to Halloween festivities and a chance to unwind before starting our next project at Jericho Research Forest next week.

Manually adding photopoints in ArcGIS after computer troubles. This is what Thursdays in the lair look like, folks.

Words and photos with love by Chris and Bonnie. 

Week 8: Finishing Touches Or Recalibration

Weather of the week: Grey with 100% chance of rain

To kickstart the week, the crew had its NR 207 Retreat Part Deux (Two). 

Starting the day on a good note *smiles*

To continue the fashion of self-reflection, we sat in the Lair had had a group discussion about where we are and where we want to go as a team and individuals. Right after we jumped back to Carse Realm!!!

Cold weather, grey sky with a hint of drizzle is no match for our valiant team as we made our way to down the to-do list with the most crucial being flagging and marking our journey on the GPS.

Grant and Brian are ready for the day!

Nick really enjoyed the rain! 

Preliminary flagging of the trails. 

When we called it a day in the field, that was not the end for us. 

Shannon and Nick taking in the view and making executive decisions about the trail.

The next thing on the menu was reservation Chez Deane Wang with the esteemed guest, Nancy Bell, who have conserved hundred of thousands acres of land (some would whisper half of a million). 

Nom, nom, nom. Lasagna with mushroom and kale and freshly baked bread. (Thank you, Becky)

Deane telling us our beverage options, decaf coffee or tea.

Early but not so bright, we were graced with the presence of Nathan Reigner, a post-doctorate at the UVM Parks and Recreation Department and he dropped some knowledge of the ways on natural resources and human interactions and how the administrations (referring to OUR CREW at the time) can help retain the integrity of a place. This led to a revolutionary change in thought and out to the field AGAIN half of the team went for more exploration and assessment to see how our newly acquired knowledge can make for a better trial. The rest continue working on the deliverables for our sponsor, Rick Paradis!

The next day, with few to go until our deadline, the other half of the team ventured out to give it their final stamp of approval. 

Laura approves!? Or really love Musclewood Trees? Either way we'll take it!

Bonnie Definitely approves!

Until next week folks...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Week 7

The week started off in the lair with the much anticipated assignment of our small team projects. Some of the projects include invasive species mapping, assessing recreational access on waterways, riparian buffer assessment, and more! We then met in our small team project groups and discussed goals of the project as well as any questions we had for our community partners. These projects will take place in late November.

We were then graced with Rick Paradis’ presence, the director of UVM’s Natural Areas, to discuss the newly acquired 225 acre Carse Property in Heinsburg, VT. We discussed trail features and considerations when planning a trail network. Next, we watched some awesome youtube vids about proper trail design and how to mitigate impact from humans, weather and other factors to ensure long-term sustainability of a trail through proper construction of a trail.

We took a much needed break outside to tie each other’s shoe laces with one hand each to learn cooperation and teamwork.

Since it was so beautiful outside, we remained in the grass to talk about trail planning and our goals and objectives for our upcoming project at the Carse Property.

James looking adorable while we plan for the Carse Project.
We subsequently went inside, and continued to discuss our goals and objectives for a few hours to get them juuuuuuust right.

Tuesday we hopped in the vans and headed to the Carse Property to scope it out. We divided into three groups: group 1 assessed the parking lot options, group 2 took note of positive and negative notable spots in the property on the GPS, and group 3 assessed the current proposed trail. It was a perfectly beautiful day. We ended the day by talking about the natural communities that we found throughout the forest. 

Emily, our fearless leader.

Nick and Michelle looking as beautiful as the scenery.
Who doesn't love nature pics?

We even met some friends! This dude had a mouse in his stomach!

Our work site, not too shabby.

Spreading seeds, and joy.
A fuzzy worm.

Mesic-Maple-Ash-Hickory-Oak Forest. Beautiful!

Summing up our findings in a circle. We are really good at making circles.

Jules checking out soil suitability for trail building.

Wednesday, we met in the morning and discussed our findings from the previous day in the field. From that, we came up with a plan for further research at the Carse Property. Group 1 stayed back in the lair to research costs for creating parking lots and talk with landowners. Group 2 and 3 continued their research in the field. We then met up as a group in the sugarbush and planned out our work for Thursday so we could come in and get to work as efficiently as possible.

Thursday, Jules enlightened us to Kid President, an adorable and inspiration figure of the Internet. We then did some drawing therapy before beginning our work day. The rest of the day was spent report writing, researching history on the Carse Property, and developing maps on GIS. Lastly we got to read our Warm and Fuzzies. This is when everyone writes something nice about each LANDS member and puts it in an envelope in order to foster a warm and fuzzy feeling inside.

Later skaters,
Shannon and Courtney

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Week Six: More Report Writing

Week 6: Our Shortest Week of the Year!! due to a day off on Thursday to make up for the Town Forest Summit last Saturday. We spent 3 intensive days report writing for the Stratton Pond Management Plan. 

Look at us work!

Day 1: Grant started the week with some classic line drills (lunges, high knees) to get our hearts pumpin' on the cold morning before we started a long week in front of our computers. We spent all morning brainstorming an outline for this report, and began the process of creating a task list for the next few days. In the past we would write reports in small groups, but this was our first report written all together. The rest of  the day was spent with Ralph Tursini, director of the Jericho Research Forest helping pull invasive species in the Japanese Larch stand. 

       Ralph in his natural habitat             Just some goombers goombering around with da tools                            

We picked buckthorn, honeysuckle, and Japanese barberry. A group of us also gathered acorns to aid in the reintroduction of red oak to the Larch stand after harvest. 

Michelle mimicking our grey, furry friends                                     Nick pulling some barberry

Day 2: First thing first, Michelle led us in a tea meditation. We then began the day by laying out our goals and objectives section as a group for the management plan. It was important to have a clear view of what it was we were trying to accomplish during the project before we began to write the report. Then we broke off into our respective groups to get sections done! We came back together around lunch time for a progress report. After lunch we met with Jeff Hughes, author of "Environmental Problem Solving: A How To Guide" one of our textbooks this semester. He spoke to us about how to approach problem solving by getting to what he called "the real problem". This meant spending more time dissecting the problem to see all of the different components and then thinking of ways to solve the multidimensional issue. We will all get experience with this when we start our Small Team Projects (STPs) later in the semester!
Jeff Hughes

We then took some time to not be inside... so we went to stretch our muscles and played a great game of zipper tag!
Run Flore run!

Day 3: Our last day began with a reflection of what we were thankful for and what we like about October led by Bonnie. Then we brainstormed and compiled our recommendations and considerations for Stratton Pond. We then spent most of the day finishing our report. 

Finishing in style

Stay Classy, Internet
Grant and Zoe 

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Adventures at Stratton Pond

We started off our week bright and early Monday morning at the Forestry Sciences Building in South Burlington. After loading up we departed for the Rutland Forest Service Station to discuss our project plans for the week with Jen Wright, our project sponsor. Next, we continued our journey to Stratton Pond, making a pit stop at Mt. Tabor Forest Service Work Station to divvy up food and gear amongst the groups packs.

With our packs ready to go we headed out to Stratton Ski Mountain where we took the super secret Forest Service entrance to the Stratton Pond Shelter.


After the 3-mile hike in we set up camp and cooked dinner: pesto pasta with sunflower seeds and a whole lot of love

Day 2
We oriented ourselves with Stratton Pond and split into three groups to start on the project for the Forest Service. One group assessed the impact of the developed area near the shelter and its effect on erosion near the pond. The second group examined the campsites at the North Shore Tenting Area, while the third group evaluated best management practices for dispersed use recreation.

After a hard day of work we hiked back out of the woods into civilization for an amazing dinner hosted by the parents of one of our crew members, Courtney Crowley: a delicious feast of tomato bisque, vegetarian chili, salad, pumpkin muffins, lemon pasta salad, and grilled chicken. For dessert we had blondies and molasses cookies.

We departed with full and happy stomachs and headed back to camp in the dark of the night through eerie fog and bouncing headlights.

Day 3
At four AM some of us awoke to the pitter patter of rain on our tents. Getting up that morning was a bit slower than our usual chipper selves. Jen Wright and Lee Allen, who was the first caretaker of Stratton Pond nearly 40 years ago, met up with us after breakfast. We split back up into our groups and dug soil pits with Lee at current and potential campsites around the pond.

Day 4
Exhausted and damp from the day of rain we packed up camp and made one last breakfast, trying to use as much food as possible to lighten our return. After getting all our gear together we finished one last project assessing the impact of our camping on the area near the shelter. With all of our work done we hiked back out to the vans for our return home.

Until next time, Rachel and Michelle