waders

IMG_0531It’s been an eventful week in many ways. I had my first round of midterms (outcome yet to be determined), so I am getting a check on how I’m digesting the academic aspects of my new field-of-choice.

However, the more notable things of interest from the week are as below:

1. New Vestment – Waders

This week I added a new vestment to my forestry livery – waders.  Essentially, these are water proof, rubber overalls that are suitable for wading (hence the name) rivers and creeks.  My watershed ecology class took a field trip to Winton Park this week to take measurements in the Kings River.  In a lab team of 4, 2 of us suited up to wade the river while the other 2 stayed shore-side to use the auto-level and tripod.  The lab involved taking several types of measurements.

First: the two of us in waders took out the stadia rod out into the water while those on shore used the auto-level to calculate the depth of the river over our particular transect (i.e. more or less straight line across the river).    Essentially, we waded 6 feet out, then placed the rod on the river’s bottom, then moved on another 6 feet and repeated the same.  Once to the opposite side of the river we could calculate the average depth of the river, the width of river, and cross-sectional area of the river at our transect.

Second: we calculated the estimated velocity of the river by timing how long it took a floating object to pass from an upstream marker to a downstream marker placed 10 feet apart.  We used the estimated velocity and the cross sectional area to find the estimated discharge of the river (Discharge = Area x Velocity).

Third: the 2 waders went out again to the 25%, 50%, and 75% width mark of our transect to collect benthic macroinvertebrates (BMI).  In short, the type and quantity of BMI found in the water are good indicators on the water quality.  To collect BMI you wade out into the river, then kick up the river floor (or “do the twist” as you please ;), run your rubber boot over rocks in order to get algae and BMI uplifted.  You hold a D-frame dip net down-current from your kick-up point to collect specimens as you kick them up (about 60 seconds of this at each point).  What we collected in the net we transferred in a jar to complete part II of the lab (identifying the BMI we collected) next week.

It was a really lovely day so quite pleasant to be out in the water.  As a first timer with waders, it felt almost not allowed to be walking in water without getting wet.  However, I had a few close calls with getting myself rather wet : rocks covered with algae + rubber-soled boots does not equal great traction and confident stability.  Spoiler: I completed the lab dry.

We had a little tour of Winton Park after the lab was done, a nice walk around the river which included a spotting of a beaver dam and beaver slide.  Neither captured well in a picture and I was most disappointed not to see the builder himself – sighting a beaver in the wild has been a bucket list item of mine for quite some time.  Next time…

2. New Vehicle – Kubota

IMG_0515

new wheels

I had a brief lesson in how to drive an RTV.  For those who don’t know what an RTV is (I certainly didn’t know before starting my venture into forestry) it is an off-roading vehicle.  Essentially imagine a golf cart, but one that can go up trails and hill sides while carrying a moderate cargo in the open-bed back.  It drives pretty much like a car, but with a few more things you have to do to prepare the engine (since it is diesel-run) and you also have to train yourself to believe in its ability to traverse rougher terrain then you might take your car over.  I didn’t take it off-roading this time, just a short ride on a rather established dirt road leading from a parking lot to our work site up at Sequoia Lake (a 2-minute drive, but it go my feet wet in the business which I was grateful for).

3. New View – the “eye” in team

As the saying goes, there is no “I” in team…but there is an “eye” in team work, as I learned this week.  On Thursday, my forest recreation class returned to Sequoia Lake to continue work on the bridge.  We started the day by moving an eyebar (“I” and “eye”… work with me here people) manually to provide foundational support to the bridge we are building.  The eyebar essentially keeps the wooden bridge base boards from sagging under weight over time. Moving it was quite an impressive illustration to me how a team working well together can lift a great deal of weight and maneuver an awkwardly shaped item through a labyrinth of trees. It also revealed to me just how essential team work and team communication is to accomplishing forestry-related tasks.

The video is long (4 minutes), but even a few seconds is rather enlightening as to how the operation went down:

4. New Visitation – Timber Harvest

One of my teachers was taking his class to observe a timber harvest (a class I was not able to enroll in this semester) and there were extra seats on the bus up for grabs…so I grabbed one.  We got a tour from a licensed forester to observe and hear about how a timber harvest is planned for, managed, and executed.

Some of more interesting factoids harvested (<<< see what I did there?) from the timber harvest tour include:

  • The importance of tagging: a consulting forester goes through before the loggers arrive to tag (put colored tape on) the trees to be cut, tag trees that should be cut if they can be felled safely (i.e. a safe distance away from power lines), and tag the skid trails to haul the trees out along.  He uses differed colored tagging tape to indicate different instructions.
  • What a skid trail is: A skid trail is basically the path of least resistance and path offering the least potential damage to residual trees for the loggers to drag logs through after the trees have been felled and de-limbed.
  • After the logging operation the loggers have to put in berms (i.e. large dirt mounds on a trail to divert water off of a trail to prevent erosion or water collection) on the skid trails.  If the slope of the skid trail is rather steep, then the berms need to be closer together.
  • Some trees are more trickier to fell then others.  As in – not all tree species fall the same, as predictably, or as easily.
  • Deer often follow loggers through the woods as the fell trees.  They like to nibble on the lichen found on the trees after they hit the ground.
  • Loggers have to lop & scatter: after loggers buck the logs (cut them into length usable by a mill, in this case and in general I guess this is 33 feet?), de-limb the trees, and drag the logs out to take to the mill, they have to cut the limbs and debris in to manageable pieces and scatter them (this avoids the obligation to burn piles of debris).

The main impetus for this particular logging operation was caused by the drought.  The drought has weakened many of the conifers in the area, which has made them more vulnerable to bark beetles.  The bark beetles burrow into the trees, lay eggs, and the next generation essentially eats their way out, killing the tree, and then they move on to the next green tree near by to repeat the cycle.  You can tell when a tree has bark beetles in it before its foliage turns brown.  The evidence (see pictures below) is 1) the frass (the finely ground saw-dust like substance) which indicates the bar beetles have burrowed into the wood and 2) the pitch (the sap-like substance the trees emit as a defense mechanism to push the beetles out) dripping down the tree’s trunk.

Our forester guide was great, very patient with our questions, and informative.  He also introduced us to the main sawyer – he fells trees all day by himself.  All he had with him was a canteen of water, a giant chain saw, his safety equipment (hard hat, safety goggles, gloves, hearing protection, chaps), a hatchet, a tape measure (for bucking purposes), and a tool belt.  He was quiet-spoken man, adorned in the dirt and dust of a hard day’s work, but he kindly permitted our interview of him, and clearly enjoyed his work.  We walked along the skid trail for a while observing the work that had been done that day and then returned to the bus.

All-in-all another great week.  Praises of thankfulness for such learning opportunities abound.

When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity (Seneca)

When you enter a grove peopled with ancient trees, higher than the ordinary, and shutting out the sky with their thickly inter-twined branches, do not the stately shadows of the wood, the stillness of the place, and the awful gloom of this doomed cavern then strike you with the presence of a deity (Seneca)

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