Thursday, April 30, 2009


Today was pretty lame. Ian was gone so I read, played with GIS and did some tutorials, and did some more research on projects we may do later. Not having my government license really restricts what I can do on my own so until the paperwork goes through, I'm reliant on Ian's whims. I did however produce something from some data that was compiled about what soils are more likely to erode and contribute fine sediments in the process. It's essentially meaningless, but at least I felt like I did something. The data is for all of Oregon but I clipped it show it's relationship to local fish bearing rivers. The map is technically part of the the Rogue River-Siskiyou Nat'l Forest.


The first half of the day was boring; it was more of the same. I won't even bore you with it...

The second half I got to go to a meeting that was discussing the feasibility of have a gravel mining facility on the Applegate River. The meeting is part of an Oregon government project called The Oregon Solutions Network which is comprised of businesses, non-profits, government agencies and citizen organizations that are able to connect their resources, expertise and interests to collaborative, community based projects. So a bunch of folks from various organizations (including the gravel mining company) get together to discuss the best environmental ways to go about having a sustainable gravel mining industry here in the Applegate Valley. The debate/discussion was very interesting; on one hand the agencies and organizations are trying to meet or exceed all the environmental concerns (mostly listed endangered fish) while on the other, the gravel company is trying to make their business financially feasible and sustainable. There was a lot of wheel spinning (as there often is at these things), but also a lot of headway. It was good to see the mining company there and on board with meeting environmental expectations, but from what I gathered, I think they are expected some sort of way to get out of the very expensive permitting process. I'm lucky in the sense that I got to be in the room, not contribute, and just listen to the process which seems like a fairly progressive one to me. The Oregon Solutions Network is various governor picked projects that he deems important to creating economically and environmentally sustainable communities where a dialogue is started (and finished) and where everyone comes out somewhat happy. I think we are a long way off with this particular project, but it seems like everybody wants to move in the right direction which is what it's all about.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009


Today was spent arduously pouring over literature to get some background information on, and gather ideas for, a gravel augmentation project Ian would like to start on. The Applegate Dam is a total fish barrier, meaning that when salmon and steelhead return from the ocean, the dam is as far as they go. So, these fish must either spawn before the dam or at the dam (right below it). And some fish do try to spawn right there at the dam, however, the gravel is not really suited for successful spawning. The project would basically either just add suitable gravel or remove the crap gravel and add suitable gravel. However, there are a lot of variables to take into consideration, so the digging through arcane texts (past experiments and methods) wasn't quite as boring as I had anticipated.

All day I was shaking in my boots, nervously awaiting my driving exams. They were horrendous. Horrendously easy, that is. My examiner, John (previously mentioned), was awesome. I knew it wouldn't be too bad when John was preparing in his office, blaring Voodoo Child by Jimi Hendrix. I was instantly relaxed.

It rained today. The mix of rain and sun was beautiful. The sun was shining at just the right angle so that you could make out every raindrop and revel in their perfectness as the light reflected off, sending sparks dancing in daylight.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Ashamed. I am deeply ashamed and embarrassed. I usually pride myself on having fairly good grammar, punctuation, and spelling, but after reading over a couple of my last posts, I was appalled at what I saw. Mistakes everywhere. I guess I shouldn't just write and post; now, I'm going to need to run spellcheck and read everything over after I'm done so I can escape this feeling of chagrin. Sorry everybody. Sorry pride. Sorry dignity.

Today was spent doing GIS (geographic information system- a tool to map, process, and interpret data of many kinds) tutorials to brush up on rusty skills and learn some new ones. Unfortunately, this meant that Ian thought I was a level 100 GIS Wizard (some dorky humor for you real dorks) and started rattling off all these projects he wanted me to do and actually asking me questions he didn't know the answers to. Scary. What a sucker.

We did get out into the "field," though, for a bit. Sidebar: anytime you leave the office in the Forest Service, you are venturing into "The Field." The Field seems to be different, yet the same, to everything you are familiar with. "Going to the river?" "Yes, we're going into The Field." "Going to the Ashland offices?" "Yes, I get to go into The Field." And so on. Anyway, a group of various scientists from various sectors of the government came out to The Field (on a field trip, they often call it) to inspect several plots of land where they ran a fuels (things that catch on fire- mostly understory) control experiment. The experiment mostly has to do with riparian corridors and whether or not removing the riparian corridor when removing fuels (by slash and burn) makes a difference to several biotic variables. Interesting stuff. This fuels control thing seems to be big right now especially in the Forest Service and especially in this part of Oregon (they have had several dry years). It's also a very contentious issue. On one hand, most federal lands fall into the wildland urban interface, so the feds have to take public safety into consideration. Also, they claim that it keeps the forest healthy. On the other hand, it's unnatural. The jury's still out for me; I need to know more. My soft, liberal first impression says we don't like it, but as I do learn more, I realize it's just not that simple and there are some good conscientious scientists and foresters (that I got to listen to today) that want to, ultimately, to the right thing.

My driver's test is tomorrow. First, the written, then the practical (including 4x4). Wish me luck.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

4.25.09 Cont'd

I did not have/get to wear the Smokey costume. Damn.


There's some irony in here somewhere.

I woke up same time as usual today (thank goodness for the weekend...) to drive to Ashland and meet Ian at a local park at 8:00 (early). We donned our waders and went down to the creek to collect macroinvertebrates (aquatic insect larva) for kids to check out at the Earth Day fair. These same young learners would later prove troublesome. We collected all we needed and headed to the fair.

We arrived and set up fairly quickly. Too quickly, in fact, because when we were done, we had over an hour before the fair was open to the public. Damn Ian and over-preparedness and damn me and my efficiency. Luckily the day was nice; people kept saying that this was the best weather the fair had ever had (and later went on to say that this year's fair had the most people too). As they day progressed and more and more people came, I got an idea of what I was in for.

Southern Oregon is mostly little islands of Bumfucknowhere, USA surrounded by private/state/federal "no-man's-land," but Ashland is a little hippy haven. There I was surrounded by people who made most Arcata folk look like Bush's drinking buddy. I think that these folk are surrounded by so much gun toting Bubba land that they over-compensate; liberalizing themselves in patuli oil. And they all loved the earth, the sky, and swaying to the sounds of the local bluegrass group. They do not like jets purposely spraying chemicals and toxins in the atmosphere, anything without the word natural, sustainable, alternative, or biofuel, and the Forest Service.

There were about eighty booths there; different organizations (land trusts, government departments, clubs), information booths, and companies. The companies struck me as the most interesting because a lot (not all) seemed to prey on the helpless, weak, and idealistic do-gooders that were prancing through the place eating their $8 bowl of tofu and brown rice. They saw it as a good business opportunity to sell this stuff because most of the people there were not poor, love-first hipsters, but $30,000 Prius owners (they were actually selling these and other cars there!) that could afford a small wind turbine to power their grow operation.

We didn't get too much shit-talking directed at us (everybody told me they expected more), but we were positioned (I think strategically so) on the outer-most ring of booths. Apparently the Forest Service cuts down trees it shouldn't and puts too many limits on other things (fishing, off-highway driving). Some or all could be true, but you just can't please everybody.

The kids activity (with the macroinvertebrates) turned out pretty good. It was a good way to teach about streams and their inhabitants. The kids liked looking at, and touching, the bugs so much that they were often too rough and overhandled them. You can't really tell a kid to stop and get lost when their parents are right there watching them squeeze the life out of all the critters in the container. You can only tell them to be gentle and that maybe sandwiching them between two pieces of hard plastic or piling them all on one another to see if they would fight isn't such a great idea.

When I got "home" I made a delicious dinner of broccoli-garlic stir-fry, rice cooked in rich chicken stock, and chicken. I piled it high on my plate (I wasn't even that hungry; it just looked GOOD) and promptly, by a series of unfortunate events, dumped it on the floor. I almost still ate it.

Noteworthy event of the day: seeing eight modelesque girls walk out of the local butcher/meat/deli/sausage store. I may have had a double-take.

Friday, April 24, 2009


A very boring day. Ian was gone, so I didn't have much of importance to do or really much of anything to do.

When I got off, I drove up to the lake (about 10 minutes away) and ran some of the trail that runs along its perimeter. The lake itself isn't too pretty- following the trend of most man-made lakes- but the surroundings were great, the trail was nice, and it offered a good view of the Red Buttes Wilderness (pictured, but not by my hand).

Tomorrow, I go to Ashland to participate in an Earth Day festival because the Forest Service has a booth, I need work hours for my Americorps crap, and I am their bitch (hopefully they won't make me wear the Smokey the Bear costume).

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I think I'm starting to see a pattern here. My day began with computer networking problems (lame) and reading some literature (slightly less lame). After lunch, we drove over to Grant's Pass (about 45 minutes away) to meet with a a guy from the local watershed stewards non-profit (Dan). He was looking for some "support" from the local Forest Service fisheries biologist (Ian) to backup a couple of grant proposals for nearby stream restoration projects. The projects mostly involve adding large woody debris to the stream channel to create meanders and fish-harbouring pools in the streambed. We had to visit the sites so Ian was comfortable giving his support.

The first stream we visited had the streambed heavily altered by anthropogenic means. It was mostly straightened to have less affect on the surrounding ranches/farms, but there was also some changes to the stream bank itself. We met with two of the land owners that the proposed restoration project would affect. They were some colorful characters. The first guy, Charlie, was retired, but still raising cattle and gardening on his land that straddled the stream. He was mostly concerned with his cattle getting into the creek and getting loose if the watershed stewards removed the wall of invasive blackberries along the bank, but was amenable to the project. When asked if he would like native trees planted along the edge of the stream, he said he would like fruit trees. Not really what we had in mind... Charlie owned 1/10 of a mile of the 8/10 of a mile of stream to be restored. The other 7/10 was owned by a rancher and jack-of-all-trades, Tom. He grows hay, owns a construction company, owned his own quarry, did some trucking, etc., etc. He liked the idea, but was concerned that the project would affect and possibly reduce his hay producing fields. He had owned his land (and farmed it) since 1953 and had some great stories about the area and "how things used to be." He told one story about clearing out algae from the Rogue River with a Caterpillar; he actually drove in the Rogue! His attitude towards land use policy was definitely not one of minimal effects on the environment, but rather that the environment was nice, but would eventually- if it knew what was good for it- bend to his will. He sprayed often for weed control and crossed his creek often with trucks, tractors, and trailers. I was surprised he was interested in what Dan was offering, but it was essentially free.

It was good to see what Dan what up against and to experience that aspect of stream restoration. As Ian said, he was one half fish biologist and one half used car salesman. He was trying to sell the idea while negotiating and compromising with what the land owners want. I thought that he didn't do a very good job explaining to the land owners why we were out there and what the restoration could accomplish and how it might benefit them. Ian later told me that Dan had been the head fisheries biologist for the Siskiyou district way back when and it definitely was evident that he a similar stance to land use that the Forest Service does: "the greatest good for the greatest number for the longest time." Not necessarily environment first.

We then went to another proposed restoration site. Not much of interest there, but a really cool stream. It was a long day though; 8:00am- 7:00pm.

No notes of interest. Boring.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


Today was another fairly boring one mired in various administrative malarkey and some rather uncomfortable shenanigans. It did, however, end well.

The first half of the day was spent getting passwords in order (again), studying for my driver's test (again), connecting to the Forest Service network (again), and reading more literature (again). After lunch, Ian had me try on a wetsuit and drysuit he brought for me. I went down to the empty warehouse to change and see what was what. This turned out to be not such a great idea. The outside temperature was somewhere near 80 degrees and inside the warehouse was even hotter, so struggling into what later turned out to be women's large wetsuit and a rather sticky nylon drysuit was less than comfortable. After much effort, I eventually got the wetsuit up over my shoulders, but couldn't zip up the back zipper. I was almost rather pleased with myself because it appeared that my shoulders were just too wide for this puny wetsuit made for the most average of weaklings. Later, Ian informed me that it was likely a women's suit and that a rather small lady had used it a couple of summers ago. Oh well. The drysuit fit and I also got to show off some expertise when I informed Ian of the dry cracking on the gaskets, what this could lead to, and how proper care could avoid such things. But when I say drysuit, I don't want you to think that I am being spoiled here. These are nylon suits with rubber booties. Rubber booties, people! The same material that the gaskets are made of; you have to squeeze your foot into. And if you if you don't wear a long sleeve shirt and leggings underneath (as I did not later), it's like wearing a rain shell with no shirt on. Sticky, clamy, ichy.

Anyway, we went to the base of the dam to "try out" the drysuit (aka get out of the office) and hopefully get a peek at the spawning salmon via snorkeling carefully above the redds (their nest sites). From above, the water seemed clear and we could see dozens of salmon spawning. In the water, the clarity was surprisingly negligible. We didn't see any fish mostly because they knew we were there and spooked easily. The water was freezing (I think Ian said around 46 degrees)!. I had no layers under my drysuit and no gloves, so I was chilled, but we weren't in for too long. When we got back to the office, I did some data entry for a creel survey they conducted earlier this year. Awesome? Not really.

Note of interest: John (whom I mentioned earlier) said he saw an aerial battle between a golden eagle and a red tail over the reservoir. I wish I had seen that... He called it a "dogfight" and likened it to a b-52 fighting an f-16. There's some weird people in Oregon.

After work, I went to Ashland (about 45 minutes away) to play some pickup ultimate and do a little shopping. It was great to play and I knew a lot of the people there. I played with a bunch of Ashland folks last year at club coed sectionals and regionals. It was fun to play and be around like-minded people and they all seemed genuinely happy I was their and were very welcoming. When pickup was over, I went and got a burrito (Senor Sam's - typical Oregon fare) and then on to a store Ian turned me onto called the Shop 'n' Kart. Aside from the terrible choice in name, it was awesome. It was like the Arcata Co-op, Murphy's Market (an Arcata supermarket), and Fiesta (a Sebastopol supermarket) all wrapped into one. Except much cheaper. I, of course, ended up spending entirely too much.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


It was a fairly uninteresting day today. Most of the day was spent studying to get my government driver's license, reading some literature related to some of the projects we will do, and setting up my Forest Service network information.

Ian and I did, however, get out of the office for a bit. First we helped a recreation technician, John, who has been with the Forest Service since something like 1987, by spotting for him while he felled a "problem" tree in a nearby campground. While we were there, I also got to meet some of the community justice crew that is working on a Himalayan blackberry removal program along the edge of the Applegate. A funny side note: Ian later showed me a copy of an article that had been written about the project; it talked about what they were doing and why and interviewed some of the prisoners that were on the crew. One of the crew members was talking about how he got there. His story went something like this: "I was on probation for aggravated assault; then I smoked a bowl and told my probation officer about it." Oops! He also went on to say that he didn't know why he was out there doing what he was doing and didn't care, but that was better than shackles. The journalist used some literary genius and said that the river was shackled by the blackberries... Later, we went to a couple of sites to check for snags and more "problem" trees that could be used to create instream habitat.

After work I went and checked out what is now a nonmaintained trail that literally starts in our backyard. I got some cool pictures, but I will undoubtedly contract copious amounts of poison oak.

Monday, April 20, 2009

4.20.09 Cont'd

Oh yeah, the high was 88 degrees today.


My eyes pop open, my heart thumping with adrenaline: I overslept. I sit bolt upright and pop out of bed to rush over to my cursed phone that had stabbed me in the back when I needed it most. 2:12 a.m. Holy shit! I had not overslept... "Yes," I said to myself, "three more glorious hours of sleep." But did I listen to my wise inner monologue? No, I woke up every 30 minutes thinking I was going to oversleep. Glorious. I was almost glad when my alarm finally did go off. It ended the cycle of sleep, then adrenaline, then sleep again. The morning was pretty nondescript, but it did take me longer than I thought it would to pack up all my stuff.

The drive up was uneventful and beautiful. I saw the sun rise over the Klamath and waking elk shrouded in thick wisps of lifting fog. Once I hit the Applegate valley, the drive really started to get nice (probably because I had never driven these roads before). The roads here mostly followed the Applegate River and were hemmed in by far reaching pastures and "hobby ranches." The grass is incredibly green mostly because I think there are no strict limitations on pulling water from the river to keep everything lush.

I arrived at 9:30 and though my "mentor" was expecting me, he was in some safety meeting and I had to go wait outside. I read for about an hour and Ian (my boss and previous senior thesis mentor) came out to greet me. He said that he wanted me to come inside to the conference and sit in on the safety talk that the local Forest Service Law Enforcement guys were giving. Excellent. I was further intrigued and excited when I noticed his PowerPoint slides detailing exciting subjects such as safe office layouts and escape plans number 156. I sat and tried to look remain attentive. We took a five minute break after about 45 minutes and Ian gave me a brief tour of the office and told me that there was a potluck later for lunch. Things were starting to look up. After 50 more minutes of discussing safe counter height for the reception desk and how remarkably similar the panic alarm and the door chime sounded, we broke for lunch. This is when I really started to like these people. On the table before me was a cornucopia of deliciousness. My new housemate (Terry; a silviculturist) had barbecued an excessive amount of ribs and chicken (I believe the leftovers come to our house). There were baked beans with both pieces of bacon in them and slices of bacon laid on top. There was tortellini salad with pieces of salami mixed in, potato salad, the most delicious fruit salad I've ever had with yogurt, homemade cheesecake, homemade smoked steelhead with cheese and crackers, and more. After that, they decided to continue the rest of the never ending safety meeting next month. I went on to do some paperwork and then Ian took me on a tour of the district.

Some notable moments from the tour: first, we went to check on a tributary of the Applegate which often goes subterranean in the summer during low flows (due to the effects of some weird mining practice). This needs to be monitored because right now is the time when steelhead smolts migrate downstream. Low and behold there was a huge section of stream that was completely dry and I even found some dead, dessicated smolts that had not made it out of the pools they had been trapped in. Ian went to fetch his digital camera to record the dead fish we had found and the extent of the dry stream bed. On his way back downstream, he yelled for me to come check something out. I ran up and he was trying to catch a 12 inch cutthroat that had just launched itself out of a pool right above the dry bed onto the bank. He caught it and we put it (or part of it) in a 32 oz. cup that was lying nearby. I carried the fish downstream of the dry area and released it into a large pool. A weird coincidence of timing. The second notable moment was when we went to look at the river right below Applegate Dam where a proposed project may take place. Right there, 100 meters below the dam, over fifty summer run steelhead were spawning right in front of us. We went down to take a closer look; the fish were putting on quite a show. I even saw a muskrat on the far bank. Sweet.

That's it for now. I will post more when I feel inspired (maybe not everyday). I think if you become a "follower" of this blog, you will be updated when I post something new. I'm not really sure. No pictures for now; I, of course, forgot the cable for my digital camera. I also forgot swim trunks because I am stupid.