Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Week 12: A Mixed Bag

This week we began wrapping up the various projects that we have been working on over the course of the semester. Our first project of the semester was conducting urban tree inventories in Bristol, Middlebury, and Vergennes. Quick recap of the tree inventory project: we documented the size, species and condition of trees in the public right-of-way and compiled management and inventory reports for the towns to use for future planning. This project was done in collaboration with the Vermont Urban and Community Forestry Program. This week we concluded these projects with a presentation to the respective boards of the communities.
Bristol crew sending it in their presentation!

 Middlebury coming through with the help of Eric on the Q & A at the end.
Vergennes....calm, cool, and collected.
We finished the evening by buying amazing sandwiches and discussing our week (it's Small Team Project time so we have been oh-so-lonely since we haven't been meeting as a group). We also had one last hurrah packing into the LANDS vans before saying goodbye to those lovely beasts for good.
The day following our urban tree presentation was the last day the small teams were allotted time to work on mapping, management plan writing and editing, and finalizing the deliverables for each project sponsor. There were only a few tears to be shed as last minute issues with our backup drive arose.  
This carried us into the next couple of days which consisted of lots of office scenery, complete with soft computer screen rays, labyrinth of Ethernet cables, and sporadic events of madness, as we were reviewing and fixing all of the reports we have created so far, while simultaneously attempting to finalize our STPs.

We also helped with a climate change experiment happening in the back yard of the Forest Service Building. In preparation for winter, we surrounded the study plots with plastic to help protect the trees from the harsh weather that is to come.
And under the instruction of Carl Waite, we successfully made a dent in the installation process. Although no snow, we do have the cold. 

There has been a lot on our to-do list, but we have been able to divide and conquer in order to complete the various tasks at hand.
Check in next week to get caught up on the last full week of the first LANDS semester program!
Until then, Cheers! Brian and Zoe

Week 11: Mapping Invasives and Canoeing in Blizzards

After spending the first half of the week editing reports from our projects earlier this semester, the LANDS crew split up into five smaller groups of three to begin our Small Team Projects (STPs). From November 12th to the 18th, the LANDS interns worked with various community partners on small projects, where we were able to go out on our own and put our skills from the semester into use. Our projects varied from inventorying invasive species to identifying and assessing recreational river opportunities. Each group wrote a proposal for their focus project earlier in the semester. This week, the groups went out in the field to collect data and begin composing deliverables for associated community partners. Here's what everyone was been up to:

Lamoille Paddlers' Trail Inventory
Courtney, Chris and Michelle spent the beginning of the week working alongside Noah Pollock of the Vermont River Conservancy to identify and assess existing and potential access points, portage trails and campsites along the Lamoille River. The project was focused on the area of the Lamoille River east from Cambridge to its drainage point into Northern Lake Champlain. The project was working to identify locations for potential campsites along the Lamoille River with the goal of establishing a trail for paddlers with areas to camp along the way. The reconnaissance covered roughly 33 miles and was conducted over a three-day period, during which time the group paddled down the river in canoes. We encountered weather ranging from sunny skies to rain and snow! 

Courtney and Chris paddling in the snow.

Dog River Invasive Species Inventory
The Dog River Invasive Species STP group inventoried invasive species and mapped the their extent along the riparian area of Northfield, VT's town well field (the left bank in the picture). There was a lot of knotweed, some honeysuckle, and even some garlic mustard. The project is to help offer strategies for successfully implementing a healthy riparian buffer, and invasives are a major impediment to reaching that goal.

View of the Dog River

Lamoille River Invasive Species Mapping in Johnson, Vermont
Nick, Zoe and Grant worked in Johnson, Vermont along the Lamoille River documenting occurrences of invasive species, specifically Japanese knotweed and bush honeysuckle along the banks. We began Wednesday by paddling down the Lamoille in a canoe and kayak, using GPSs to take waypoints of where these invasive species were found.

We were the talk of the town with our hotrod Scion xB. 

On Thursday we went back to finish the section. However, we had a slight mishap with the canoe and a rock that didn't budge, and Nick and Grant took a tumble into the icy water resulting in 2 really cold people, a lost clipboard, and a short work day. Thankfully, nobody got hurt. So we returned Sunday to finish collecting data.

All in all, it was a great project, and we got to paddle on a beautiful part of the Lamoille River. 

Mad River Riparian Buffer Assessment
Bonnie, Jules and Sarah completed their STP with the Friends of the Mad River doing a riparian buffer assessment project. We started work early on Wednesday morning and continued field work on Thursday. Bonnie and Sarah took the bus to Richmond to meet Jules, and we all started off to Waitsfield to begin assessing riparian buffers. We travelled to eight different sites along the Mad River in Waitsfield, Warren, and Moretown. Six of the sites had been previously planted by the FMR and two were perspective planting areas. At each site, we evaluated the quality of the buffer and the survival of planted trees, if possible. We made recommendations for future tree plantings and maintenance at each site.

Our time on the Mad River provided us with amazing views, great weather, and the opportunity to brush up on our tree identification skills.

Northfield Natural Resource Inventory of the Dog River
Olivia, Flore, and Rachel spent the first day of the project in the library gathering resources, doing research, and creating maps of the area of study. On the second and third day, they set out into the field and met with their project sponsor, Christine Barnes of the Northfield Conservation Commission. In the field, the group walked along and through a three-mile stretch of the Dog River, from Northfield Falls to Norwich University. The natural resources that they inventoried along the river corridor to assess the river's health include soils, geology, hydrology, wildlife, and riparian buffers. The team had a lot of fun wading through the river and fighting their way through an upsetting amount of Japanese knotweed. This fun included Rachel giving Olivia a piggy back ride across the river in a section that was too deep for Olivia's boots. On the last day of the project, Olivia, Flore, and Rachel spent the full day summarizing their findings into an inventory report with recommendations, and creating maps of photo points they collected.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Week 10: Walking in a River Wonderland


We quickly hopped in the vans and headed over to Jericho Research Forest to meet with Ralph Tursini, Jericho's caretaker and forester.  We sat down next to the heated wood stove, and discussed the land use history of the research forest. 

Laura through the eyes of a ham sandwich.
Wetland explanation from our fearless leader.
The goal of this week's project was to assess the wetland and stream ecosystems surrounding Mill Brook on the northeast border of the research forest land.  Emily and Laura then discussed the definition of a wetland and what we may or may not see when we reach the project site.  We learned the wetland 3-H's Rule!  Hydrology! Hydrophytes! And Hydric Soils! Woohoo!  We were excited to get outside and get muddy so we hopped in the vans again and headed towards Mill Brook.  After a super short hike down to the brook edge, we worked on determining where the floodplain began and ended.  We spent the rest of the examining soils and plant species in certain areas throughout the floodplain to determine if it was in fact a wetland.


Tuesday we headed back to Mill Brook to continue our study of the brook and surrounding ecosystems.  Our goal for the day was to better understand the stream geomorphology through a stream geomorphic assessment and general observation.  Two groups split up and headed in opposite direction, sloshing through the brook to get to a specific area to conduct some research. 
Chris forgot his muck-boots.  He made it work anyways.
Lunch break on the sand (cobble) bar.

Suns came out for a second to make for a glorious moment!

Each section sampled was vastly different; one was in a steep, rocky canyon while the other was in a flat, wooded and grassy floodplain.  After measuring the width of the bank-full, and depths at certain intervals, we determined a cross-section of the river corridor.  We also took a samples of stream sediment to determine composition and comparative percentages of certain sizes of various sediment, giving us an idea on the stability of the stream.  After a day of wet feet and tired legs, we headed back to Burlington. 


Wednesday morning started with finishing GIS maps and other report deliverables from last week's work with the Vermont River Conservancy.  After lunch, we headed to the 40th anniversary of the UVM Natural Areas program at the Davis Center.  The day was filled with presentations from the programs partners, research scientists, middle school/ graduate students, and us!

Rubenstein Dean speaks to everyone.  LANDS is up soon!

 LANDS presented about who are and what we do, and how we play a part in the UVM Natural Areas.  We also got to show some of our work we conducted at the Carse Property. 


Shannon summoning her inner beaver.
Walking across beaver dams.
Today we started with compiling data from the stream geomorphic assessments and compared data between the two groups.   We then got to do some independent exploring and observation on the ecosystem connectivity, wildlife habitat, river geomorphology, invasive species, natural communities, and plantations around Mill Brook.  The day was spent trooping around through the river and looking for clues all around the stream. 

Next Monday, the findings of each group will be presented to the entire team. 

LANDS 4eva... Until next week, James and Nick