Monday, August 3, 2009

Week 9: Our last!

This week marked the last week of LANDS for the summer! And what did that mean? Time to wrap our projects up! With that said, the last week was certainly a busy week but an exciting and eye-opening week, as well, as we had a chance to see our work come to fruition.

On Monday, we worked primarily on preparing ourselves for the week ahead. The team made further revisions on the report for the Dorset Park Natural Area and worked in smaller team groups on our individual STP projects with our respective land trusts.

Tuesday morning, we jumped in Jazzelle and headed off to the Vermont Youth Conservation Corp’s (VYCC) barn in Richmond. We worked with the VYCC earlier in the summer, where members of their crew helped teach us LANDS crewterns some basics of trail building hands-on. This time, we reversed roles and we were able to demonstrate to the VYCC crew at Richmond some of the things we do as a college conservation crew. We gave a brief introductory presentation on the meaning of conservation and the importance of maintaining proper habitat for species, in our case, we used the black bear as an example. We surveyed for potential bear habitat by measuring red oak, white oak, and beech trees and looked for any signs of bear that may have been present. We taught the crew how to identify the three types of trees, measure the trees at diameter at breast height, identify beech bark disease and beech scale, and fill out inventory forms. We even showed them how to use the GPS units to take waypoints. It was a great experience to be a part of such an educational exchange. Coming from very different backgrounds, it was a fantastic way to learn from one another and have a great time while doing so.

Once back from Richmond, we indulged in a delicious potluck lunch and then continued work on the report for Dorset Park in South Burlington as well as work on our small team projects with our respective land trusts.

That evening at 8:30 pm (just as the sun was setting and the bugs were growing blood-thirsty), our interns set out to Dorset park to meet up with Barry Genzlinger, a bat expert in his free time. We walked out to the stream running through the property on the edge of the forest and waited with bat echolocation devices to search for bats. We determined (through the pattern of sounds at specific frequencies transmitted over the device) that there were large brown bats on the property, and possibly hoary and silver-haired bats, as well. We really appreciated Gary taking time to come out with us and share his expertise.

On to Wednesday. We met up at the Greenhouse slightly later than normal and proceeded to Dorset Park to meet with Mike Snyder, the Chittenden County forester. This gave the crew a chance to ask Mike any last minute questions about management options for the property. We received a great deal of helpful advice which will undoubtedly strengthen our report that we hand over to the City of South Burlington at the culmination of our 9 weeks.

Upon finishing at Dorset Park, it was back to the grind in the Greenhouse where we worked on the report some more and prepared for our presentation to South Burlington later that evening. After a dry run and some pizza from Leonardo’s on LANDS, we were off to present our findings and recommendations at the South Burlington town offices to roughly 20 South Burlington residents and users of the Dorset Park property. It was a great feeling to showcase what we have learned over the past weeks and to see such a great crowd of interested and involved citizens come together to see what we have done.

Thursday and Friday were days spent working hard in the office to finish the remainder of our reports. On Thursday, the team headed to the GIS lab in the Aiken Center to digitize our polygons that we created for the wetland delineation in the Green Mountain National Forest. Together, we managed to piece together our work and it was truly impressive to see it come together so well. Friday was more or less the same, with the morning spent to complete our small team projects for our work with tree different land trusts in the area. In the afternoon, we worked on creating our final presentation.

We, LANDS, have had a truly eventful and exciting summer and we look forward to presenting our work on Monday at 6:30 pm in the Aiken Center, Room 105 at the University of Vermont! We welcome anyone to join and we recommend you arrive at 6:00 for some heavy refreshments and hors d'oeuvres! We look forward to seeing you there!

Week 8

This was an office week, but we also focused in on our "small team projects" (STP's). STP field time provided our eyes and backs some much needed respite after hours spent hunched-over squinting at computer screens. Several interns also took a break from their usual work to show a class of k-12 science teachers how to use GPS. Above, Arthur takes a waypoint.

The Lake Champlain Land Trust (LCLT) team got intimate with Colchester's voracious insect population down at the Porter Natural Area. The Porter Natural Area is near the Colchester Bog and the delta of the Winooski River. There they are doing a rapid assessment that looks at a lot of different aspects. Non-native invasive species, native plant communities, and mapping the extent of beaver activity (above, beaver-girdled tree) are all part of the project which they are accomplishing all while trying not to sink waist-deep in "puddles".

The Jericho Underhill Land Trust (JULT) team got to explore the Gateway property, which is adjacent to the Wolf Run Natural Area in Bolton. They also had the unique honor of meeting with local tracker/naturalist-extraordinaire Susan Morse of Keeping Track (among other various projects and titles) to discuss a wildlife and timber inventory she conducted at the property. There they are mapping historically significant finds (old homesteads, stonewalls), trails and old skid roads, as well as vernal pools and seeps. They have also done a small amount of wetlands delineation on the southern half of the property. Above, Tim hard at work.

Last but not least, the team working with the Nature Conservancy (TNC) at Charlotte Nature Park and Wildlife Refuge walked and bush-whacked through honeysuckle/buckthorn hedges in the endless quest for insight and wisdom concerning--but not limited to--non-native invasive plant species. Initially a daunting NNIS project, the group explored the extent of the property and was pleasantly surprised to see Brown Thrashers, Eastern Towhees, and Red Fox sign. We also had the opportunity to chat with Mark Labarr, who works with Green Mountain Audubon, about some of the shrubland bird work he has done there in the past (and hopes to continue in the future). Above, a view of Lake Champlain at the property.

Finally, the team was hard at work wrapping up projects with GMNF and South Burlington.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Week 7

This week was our last in the Green Mountain National Forest (GMNF). We spent it working on the wetland inventory we started the week before…

…as well as all the office work that entails.

Kathy Donna originally outlined 15 areas for us to inventory, areas that have potential to contain wetlands. Between the two weeks we finished the 13 areas that were in main focus. It was really good work, hard but fun. With all of the beaver-downed trees to climb over, some of us realized just how short our legs really are. We got to see some really unique and beautiful wetland areas. There is so much more diversity that I ever realized.

Monday morning we met with Kathy Donna just to check in. We were very pleased to see her as she was leaving for a new job in a new state that very same day. Then it was out to the field!

Wednesday was packed full of activity. On top of a full day of wetland work, we had some fun adventures.

Before work on Wednesday we tested new safety goggles for Melissa Reichert. Safety is fun, and super-cool!

Later we got a mid-day break, during which a group found a natural waterslide right near the workhouse! Trust us to find it right before we leave.

That evening we met with Melissa Reichert to show her what we had accomplished. After that we got dressed in our least muddy clothes and enjoyed a dinner out in Manchester. James’ wife Audrey joined us.

Thursday was a half-day of work. Then we packed up and said bye to the GMNF workhouse (and our co-residents). As we left, we were talking about how grateful we were to stay there (especially instead of camping for 4 weeks). Communally cooking dinner in the well-supplied kitchen was one of my personal favorite parts.

And then all that was left was one final long drive back to Burlington.

Stay tuned in the next two weeks for the thrilling conclusion!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Week 6

The rain caught up with us...but did not dampen our spirits! We started our third week in the Green Mountain National Forest to work on wetland delineation. Monday we started our work day meeting up with Kathy Donna from the USFS at the field house for some in depth training on how to identify wetlands. Essentially wetlands have three main characteristics; they are inundated by or saturated with water, they contain wet or hydric soils, and they are dominated by plant species that are adapted to life in wet soils. We were given our topo map for the week on the areas that we would be working on and went outside for a brief look at a local wet area identifying plant species. One of the main reasons the USFS is having us identify these wetlands is for future tree sales and where it would be appropriate to cut. Some of these areas include class 2 wetlands which are identified on the Vermont significant wetlands inventory maps.

On Tuesday, we were back in the field with Kathy and Melissa from the USFS this time at our first wetland complex that consisted of a series of beaver dams. We did some delineation and GPS work using the knowledge we gained from the previous day. Thunderstorms threatened from above and as soon as we stopped for lunch, the rain unleashed itself! The second half of the day did turned itself around weather wise and we were back in the field to take some more GPS tracks and points. Later that night, we had a very enjoyable and enlightened dinner with Nancy Bell who is the Vermont Represenative of the Conservation Fund (a national organization that helps government agencies, non profits, and other partners acquire and protect landscapes used for wildlife habitat, recreation, history, and more).

The remainder of the week had us working hard on our designated areas, tracking streams, identifying wetland plants, and bushwacking through some hardcore hobblebush! Much was accomplished by all the teams by Thursday and we felt we had a great start on this new and exciting project.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Week Five

Coming from two weeks of hiking in the Green Mountain National Forest, this was a strange week for the LANDS interns. We spent most of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday in the office, working on our final Calkins Property report for the city of South Burlington and the smaller report on invasive species infestations for the Green Mountain National Forest. The Calkins report is still in the planning stages, as teams begin to organize their data. The invasive species report involved a ton of data organization, GIS work and map labeling, but it is now nearly finished!

More work on the horizon: interns picked their STPs (Small Team Projects), and have begun to meet with project partners. The three STPs focus on land management, a topic that interns are beginning to feel very familiar with.

On Thursday, we spent the afternoon with the Vermont Youth Conservation Corps Richmond Community Crew. The crew was working on trail maintenance at the VYCC’s Monitor Barn, so we joined in and helped to build a rock water bar, found and moved boulders from the woods closer to the trail, and broke larger boulders into gravel for a drainage ditch. It was a physically difficult afternoon, and gave us huge respect for what the VYCC does on a daily basis. We’re also looking forward to another work day in the not-too-distant future, when we get to show the Richmond Community Crew what the LANDS program does!

We are more than halfway through our nine-week program! Where does the time go? Next week, we head back into the Green Mountain National Forest to begin a two-week project sponsored by the Forest Service, delineating wetlands. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Week Four!

Monday we returned to the Mt. Tabor workstation for another week of invasives surveying and mapping. Most of the longer trails were assessed last week, but a good amount of roads and spur trails remained. Throughout the week most of the crew headed out in Jazelle (our lovely van) to survey, while a few people stayed back to work in the office. With all the invasives data forms and GPS points coming in, some GIS and organizing work was in order, not to mention the drafting of our final reports for GMNF and South Burlington. We were successful in finishing up what roads/trails the GMNF wanted us to cover, and then moved on to other areas we thought were important to check out.

On Tuesday Kate Walker stopped by to drop off more NNIS forms and talk about how things were going. Then we headed out to look at more roads running through the GMNF. On the way back we stopped by the Manchester Ranger Station to say hi. Alex Sienkiewicz, the district Ranger, gave us a tour of the facility, introduced us to the people who worked there, and even gave us some tips on how to secure a job with the Forest Service. Thanks Alex!

On Wednesday in addition to more surveying and report work, we picked a large patch of garlic mustard at a trailhead off of Tower Rd in Dorset.

On the way back we stopped at the local cafe´ to congratulate ourselves on some hard work done...

mmmmm..... just like old times...

Later in the day we had a meeting with Melissa Reichert to go over what we had accomplished in the past week and a half. In addition to the NNIS data we collected, Melissa was interested in any bear and moose signs we had encountered that would indicate high quality habitat and corridors that were being used.

Thursday was dedicated to invasives pulling along Rt. 259, one of the most infested roads.

It was a very productive week. In addition to all the field work and making a lot of headway on our reports, we decided on what will be our final LANDS projects! These “small team projects” (STPs), are all affiliated with various land trusts, and will be undertaken by groups of three interns each. The land trusts we are working with are: The Lake Champlain Land Trust (LCLT), Jericho Underhill Land Trust (JULT), and the Nature Conservancy (TNC). Unlike our two previous projects, where the objectives had been determined at an earlier time, for the STPs the interns will be more involved in the planning process. During the week of the 29th LANDS groups will be meeting with our respective organizations to draft an official proposal and determine a work plan.

-The team working with the JULT will focus on a 125 acre parcel JULT has recently acquired that adjoins the Wolfrun property.

- The team working with the Nature Conservancy will focus on the Charlotte Wilderness and Recreation Park in Charlotte, VT.

-The team working with the LCLT group will be focused on the 57 acre Porter Natural Area in Colchester.

For more information on each of these organizations:




We are all very exited about what great opportunities these projects hold. More info to follow...

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Week 3

Here at LANDS we’ve completed the first of four weeks working with the Green Mountain National Forest. This week, we’ve already been able to rack up some impressive mileage on the trails and roads while surveying for non-native invasive species (NNIS). Please read on for more details about our work this week!

(Andrea L. hard at work filling out a data sheet on invasive species)

Monday began with a long and early ride down to the beautiful Mt. Tabor Work Center where we would be working and living for the next 4 days. I don’t think any of us could have imagined better accommodations, and are very grateful to the US Forest Service for letting us stay at Mt. Tabor this summer.

(Mt. Tabor Work Center)

Once we arrived at the work house, we met with Melissa Reichert, the Forest Manager and Planner. Melissa gave us an overview of the Dorset-Peru Landscape Assessment, an integrated resource project that will look at a wide range of resources in the area including recreation and vegetation. For these first two weeks at the GMNF, our job will be to provide information about non-native invasive species for the landscape assessment. Invasive species can severely alter ecosystems, so early detection of these threats (i.e. pinpointing small, recently established populations) as well as the subsequent rapid response to them can be a very effective method in attempting to control NNIS.

(Andrea B. removing common buckthorn)

Next, Kate Walker, the Wilderness and Trails coordinator, guided the LANDS team through the important list of NNIS’s we would be looking for in our surveys. We also met Kim Hoffman (UVM Master’s student), and Teresa Corliss (a visiting research fellow), who were able to offer helpful advice from their experiences working with the Forest Service and conducting graduate research in the field. In the afternoon, we attempted put our new NNIS knowledge and identification skills to work, but our time was cut short due to uncooperative weather. However, we were able to remove a sizable stand of garlic mustard at a trailhead before the downpour forced us back inside.

(The LANDS team working at Mt. Tabor)

After discussing our approach to the project and creating a work plan Monday evening, we attacked the trails bright and early on Tuesday morning. It was a great day to be outside, and the LANDS team scoured the trails and roads looking for non-native invasive species such as common buckthorn and garlic mustard. The road crew gets a special mention for their amazing work in logging over 60 occurrences of NNIS in one day.

The trails crews were able to catch some beautiful vistas and many were able to stop by Griffith Lake. Lydia and Andrea L. were even lucky enough to discover an historical mound of mulch dating back to the 1940s from an old logging operation!

Wednesday we continued our surveys down near Bromley Mountain. Again, it was a great day for fieldwork and we covered a lot of territory with great views from the top of the ski mountain. It also turned out to be a great day to see some wildlife, including ruffed grouse and a glimpse of a juvenile moose!

Sadly our last day, Thursday, turned out to be a rainy one. Six interns set off in the morning to work on our road surveys, while three interns remained in the office to begin prepping for the report that LANDS will submit to the GMNF at the end of our work. In the afternoon we packed up, piled in the car, and headed home for the long weekend, looking to rest and rejuvenate before our next week at GMNF.

Stay tuned for more information on our second week of work at the GMNF!