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. 

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