CalNat Yosemite – Day 2 (Geology, Climate & Citizen Science)

It was a glorious rain all day in Yosemite.  This meant, unfortunately, that our field outing to Glacier Point was canceled and most of the day done indoors.  But, rain is rain, and a rainy day Yosemite is nothing to complain of.

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Although today was just a general overview of the geology and climate characteristics of California (the Sierra and Yosemite) in particular, for me most of it was something I did not know before.  I have long wanted to learn more about geology and the climate of the Sierra, at least to understand the basics.  So, while perhaps very general for many in the cohort here, I ended the day having learned quite a few things new.

Few newly learned tidbits:

  • In general, as elevation goes up, precipitation increases.  And as elevation goes up, the growing season for trees and shrubs decreases.
  • A glacier is not a “glacier” unless it is moving.
  • Granite is a lightly colored, course-grained, intrusive igneous rock made up of quarts + feldspar and small amounts of mica or hornblende.
  • Igneous means it is rock created out of crystallized magma.
  • Intrusive means that this crystallization process took place underground, where the magma cools, and then, over time, the rock reaches the surface after the volcanic rock above was slowly eroded away.
  • There is a lot of granite in Yosemite (and much of the Sierra) and some of this granite formed 2-5 miles underground (so A LOT of eroding took place before it reached the surface).

We also discussed citizen science, which is “scientific research conducted by nonprofessional scientists.”  While there are many ways to engage in citizen science, should you be a “nonprofessional scientist” like myself, one easy accessibly and strangely addicting way to do so is through iNaturalist.  Essentially, iNaturalist is an online database where you can upload pictures of flora and fauna you see near your home, on a trip, on a hike.  If you have a smart device, this is easy (and yes, there is an app for that).  If you don’t (like me) it is still quite simple, you just have to remember to make note of your general location when you took your photo, the time you took it, and the date.

After you upload it, you can take a stab at identifying the tree, flower or bird you got a photo of.  You have nothing to lose in at least trying because you can check the box for “Needs ID” to have others using the website verify the identification.  This not only allows you to contribute to scientific research (your sighting might show scientists where new habitat for a particular species is and provides an idea of where populations of certain species can be found) but it also allows you to keep a log of things you have seen in the field (whether in the trail or in your neighborhood).  Additionally, the “Needs ID” feature will allow you to test and improve your ability to identify things for yourself.

Rain is letting up as I’m about to turn in, but I can’t help but recommend you read John Muir’s essay on a stormy day in the Sierra.  I think it an illustration of how we each should enjoy gloomy weather – with wild enthusiasm.

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