Friday, August 20, 2010
Outsourcing in the Natural Resources Dept.
Summer is blazing by here in the Four Corners. We have had a nice monsoon, with the rains just taking a long enough break to give our recent guests a nice visit. Projects are finishing up, such as the Seeps and Springs monitoring and the Bighorn Survey.
Another very interesting project we assisted with was establishing long-term study plots for the Integrated Upland Monitoring program done by the Southern Colorado Plateau Network. These plots are intended to be monitored almost indefinitely, so the boundaries of the plots were marked with stakes and witness trees, with GPS waypoints for all reference marks. Once the study plot was established, all kinds of measurements were taken: gap analysis, soil samples, measurements and tagging of all trees, and exhaustive description of plant species and coverage within sampling frames. It takes a team of 3 experienced scientists all day to complete 1 50m study plot.
Assisting other researchers is always a treat, since it's a chance to learn a lot from smart people and also a nice break in our routine. We never let go of our primary directive -- combating invasive plants, and now we have competition! This past week, we've "contracted" out controls of musk and canada thistle to "foreigners" that work for free, and with luck, they'll do a great job. I'm not too worried about my job, since these competitors have historically only shown to be about 30% effective, and more importantly, they have the IQ of... well... a tiny bug. Yup, I'm referring to the biocontrols used against thistles: Trichosirocalus horridus (the Musk Thistle Rosette Weevil) and Larinus Planus (the Canada Flower Weevil). We set these weevils free in areas of high infestation that were also difficult to treat with herbicides, due to remoteness or sensitive riparian areas that might contain Tiger Salamanders or other species of park concern. I hope they work well!
With all that the rain promises, I considered myself fortunate to attend a Mushroom hike organized by the San Juan Mountain Association. It was great, and I learned much. Tonight we feasted on Five-Shroom-Pizza, including the coveted Chantrelle (spotted by yours truly!), Aspen Bolete, tiny puff balls, and a few others. So far, we've survived our first harvest! Important tips from my field notebook: be careful, cook practically everything, test for allergic reactions (esp for Boletes), watch for maggots, and be even more careful.
'Till next time: peace out, bro!