The theme of the August media contest was “Awareness.” Working so directly with the land and its resources, our field personnel are certainly well aware of what they have to offer, as well as the impact that humans can have on those resources. The images here certainly demonstrate this.
Our winner, Research Associate Jeremy Gilbertson, submitted the above picture, showing Lassen Volcanic National Park from the park highway on August 4th, the night the Dixie fire raced through over 100,000 acres in 24 hours. “Awareness is something we often discuss in present tense,” Jeremy explains. “Do we see all that’s going on around us? Do we know the fire danger? Do we know how to prevent fires? Do we know where to go in case of evacuation? However in retrospect, if only we were more aware of how fragile our park was, how lucky we were to see it and live it, and how fleeting our natural resources were, we would have been able to cherish it more before the droughts and winds took their toll.” The photo marks the last time that Jeremy’s crew would get to trace up the park highway before being evacuated to Crater Lake.
Megan Means, Research Associate, Botany Crew Lead, USFS Castle Fire Complex at Sequoia National Forest. “Most people associate fire with destruction, but I think many are less aware of fire’s power to bring about restoration. Certain plants, like the giant Sequoia (cone and burnt tree behind me) cannot survive without fire. Sequoias have serotinous cones. These cones are covered in resin, which only melts when fire passes through an area. The cone is then able to open and release the seeds. Post fire is the perfect time for new plants to grow because with most of the tree gone, there is more sunlight and room for the seedlings (baby trees) to grow and gives them a greater chance of survival.”
Bri Jasinski, Research Associate, Forestry Crew Lead, USFS Hume Lake Ranger District. “People can’t help but notice giant sequoias. But what else should we be aware of in the forest that surrounds them? As forestry technicians in Sequoia National Forest we complete forestry stand exams to assess forest health and fuel loading in the forest surrounding these ancient groves. Our work informs forestry treatments such as thinning and underburning which can help mitigate future wildfires and tree disease outbreaks. The health and protection of megaflora such as sequoias depends on documenting what surrounds them – even counting the smallest twigs on the forest floor (also known as 1-hour fuels)!” Pictured: Tev Erlambang, GBI Americorps Program
Amy Nelson, AmeriCorps Member, Botany Crew Member, USFS Castle Fire Complex at Sequoia National Forest, “This is day 3 of the Walkers fire in the golden trout wilderness where we are doing rare plant surveys in the Sequoia National Forest. It is so important to be aware of your surroundings and the safety implications that can happen in the field. On Thursday (day 5) the smoke was so bad that we had to evacuate our field site at the forks of the kern trailhead. We hope the wind will change and we can continue our work on Monday!”
Nic Anderson, Research Associate, Rangeland Technician, Mojave National Preserve. “A turn of events occurred over the past two months as the summer monsoons bathed the desert landscape bringing with it flash floods, annual growth, and the sweet emergence of the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii. Under the right conditions: temperature, precipitation, and forage, they leave their burrows to drink or eat. And the long withstanding drought hadn’t helped this year, so when the recent rains changed the tide for the desert tortoise along with it there must be a change in mind and awareness for the driver. Now as we go through the greater portion of the Mojave Desert, it is important to keep in mind who might be crossing the road for a drink or a snack in the following weeks after the summer monsoon.”
Zach Welch, Research Associate, Forestry Crew, Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, South Tahoe Fuels, Al Tahoe Mechanized Fuel Reduction Project. “The view from above a current fuel reduction project. It’s kinda hard to describe the mixed feelings of anxiety and dread that come with a forest fire. The smoke from the Caldor Fire turns the sun blood-red and darkens the sky in the middle of the day. Everyone seems a little on edge waiting to see what’s going to happen next. I’ve found that people have the most questions about what we do in forestry when the wildfire season starts to pick up. I try to remind people that all of the trees in between us and the fire can fuel the growth and spread of that fire. The work we do is one of the best prevention strategies to ensure a healthy, fire-resilient for the people in our community.”
Aaron Hurst, Research Associate, Engineering Technician, US Bureau of Reclamation Technical Services Center in Lakewood, CO., USBR Sedimentation & River Hydraulics Group, Project Site: Clear Creek, Redding, CA. “I worked with scientists from the US Bureau of Reclamation and the US Fish and Wildlife Service at Clear Creek in Redding, CA to assess the success of restoration efforts for salmon habitat. We used sonar mounted to kayaks to float the river and map the bed elevations so that we could create a numerical model that will let us know which restoration features create better salmon spawning ground and which do not.”