The Willits Hub Fish & Aquatics Restoration Day

Sarah Kupferberg, Bill Dietrich, and Mary Power participated in a Fish and Aquatics Day celebration as a kickoff of the “Willits Hub” on Sunday, March 19th 2017.   The Willits Hub is being launched as a meeting place and headquarters for several non-profit environmental groups in the Willits area, including the Eel River Recovery Project.

Pat Higgins (ERRP’s Managing Director) invited Sarah to give a talk on her 20+ years of research on Rana boylii, i.e. the Foothill Yellow-legged Frog, a native frog that breeds in the Eel River.  Bill talked about the Critical Zone (the thin, water-exchanging skin of the Earth between the top of the vegetation and the bottom of the weathered bedrock beneath the soil) and why the geology of this zone matters for water storage and resilience to drought in the forests and grasslands along the California North Coast.  Mary told a bit about the history of the Angelo Reserve—the stories of the Angelo-Steel families who protected this land, and some of the adventures that students and scientists have had in studying its creatures, plants, soils, river food webs, and landscapes. In addition, Pat gave brief talks about sediments and river bugs, and Park Steiner reported on his very long-term studies of chinook carcass trends in the upper mainstem Eel and Tomki Creek.  A meeting highlight was the remarkable footage shown by filmmaker Shane Anderson as a preview of his forthcoming movie about the Eel: “A River’s Last Chance”.

We felt fortunate to meet old friends and new ones at the Willits Hub who share our concern over the future of the Eel River ecosystem, and look forward to future get-togethers, some at the Angelo Reserve!

Credit to Pat Higgins for the photo collage.

A new crayfish may be invading the Eel, unfortunately.

On March 14 2015, Mary Power found a new crayfish in the South Fork Eel River, just north of the Angelo Coast Range Reserve on the eastern edge of the first pool below confluence of the South Fork Eel with Ten Mile Creek. Phil Georgakakos tentatively identified this as the non-native (invasive) red swamp crayfish, Procambarus clarkii ( Thanks to Sarah Kupferberg’s communications network, three crayfish experts quickly weighed in, supporting Phil’s identification. Phil and I found just the head and claws of this specimen—One expert expressed the hope that this crayfish had been eaten and tossed into the river. Although a human picnic seems unlikely, given the remote site, we can only hope this was the case~! We would be interested to hear if others see this new, intensely red, rather delicate (thin clawed) crayfish—with no “signal” white spots on its claws like the well-established (and possibly native) Pasifasticus leniusculus.

Ventral (bottom) view-the camera case is 12.5 cm long

the camera case is 12.5 cm long

Landscapes of Food and Fear–field ecology short course planned

Jeanine, Keith, Jim, Phil, Justin, Joel, and Mary in front of White House. photo by Kaitlyn Gaynor

On March 13-15 2015, Joel Brown (University of Illinois, Chicago), Jim Estes (UC Santa Cruz), and Justin Brashares and Mary Power (UC Berkeley) and five graduate students from the Power and the Brashares labs got together at Angelo to discuss behavioral, evolutionary, and community ecology, and our shared interest in animal foraging and food webs. Joel and Mary discussed plans (that they first started hatching over 10 years ago) for a future short field course on “Landscapes of Food and Fear”. Animals (and plants and microbes) must forage for resources that are scattered around a shifting, heterogeneous environment. As food availability varies, so too do hazards from predators and environmental stresses that foragers experience (e.g. temperature, wind). Foraging by any organism involves trading off the gains to be made by collecting food against the costs of doing so—“how to find lunch without becoming lunch”, as yet another food web ecologist, Mark Hay of Georgia Tech puts it. Food gradients and the ability of animals to harvest resources can be studied experimentally, but how do we assess the perception of risks held by creatures very different from ourselves?


Joel Brown and Phil Georgakakos, perched on a boulder in the middle of Ten Mile Creek, discuss ecology, food, and fear. photo by M. Power

Joel causes a ring necked snake, if not fear, then serious concern as he borrows him for a brief interaction. Standing left to right: Jim Estes, Jeanine Porzio, Kaitlyn Gaynor, Keith Bouma-Gregson, Justin Brashares, and Phil Georgakakos.

Joel, an evolutionary behavioral ecologist, has come up with a way to measure “the landscape of fear” for a wide range of animals. He reasoned that foragers should deplete food patches more thoroughly in areas they consider safe, where they could spend more time, and more of that time eating versus being vigilant. In patches they perceived as more dangerous, they might give up earlier, leaving behind more food. If food densities at various sites were initially similar before foraging occurred, the “Giving Up Density” (GUD) of food at a site after an animal quite foraging there might indicate how risky it considered that particular landscape position to be. Joel has devised ingenious experimental food patches tailored for particular types of animals (for example, squirrels get trays of sand mixed with fixed number of hidden nuts). standardized These patches can then be deployed along gradients of safety (e.g., for a squirrel, at the foot of a tree versus far from it). Joel and others have found that GUDs are good indices of how different species perceive their “Landscape of Fear”, and that you can learn a lot about how different species make the food-safety tradeoff that is relevant to their ecology, evolution, and potential futures on our changing planet.

Profs Joel Brown and Justin Brashares (ESPM, UCB) at Ten Mile Creek

Walk through the August 2014 Angelo burn, Jim Estes in the lead.

Joel and Justin on the hogback above the South Fork Eel-Ten Mile Creek confluence

Phil holding a southern alligator lizard

Joel and a Pacific tree toad


Some time in late spring 2017 or 2018 we hope to host Joel for a Landscape of Food and Fear workshop at Angelo–stay tuned. Part of the fun for participants will be to devise Joel-inspired “food patches” with simple materials that can show how diverse creatures (grasshoppers, ground squirrels, garter snakes, butterflies, deer) perceive hazard and opportunity along gradients and across thresholds in their environments. Making successful food patches for a given species requires 1) that you attempt to “get inside the head” of your focal organism, and 2) that you enjoy the arts and crafts of ingenious field gear innovation that is a big part of successful experimental field ecology.   Both are great fun.

Janine, Katlyn, Phil, and Keith at Ten Mile Creek



National Academy of Sciences Report on Field Stations

Last July, the National Academy of Sciences released this report on Field Stations:

Schubel, J. R., Conrad, C. C., Debinski, D., Kareiva, P. M., Matsumoto, G. I., McKnight, D. M., Parmeson, C., Plowes, R., Power, A.G., Power, M.E., Stromberg, M.R.  (2014). Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century. Report of the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences, pp. 1–84.

This entire report can be downloaded at  It describes the critical importance of field stations in the 21st century, but also charges those who use and care for them with being more entrepreneurial in order to sustain them through an era of declining federal grant support for science in the United States.

Here, you can also view a film that features four different Angelo sequences:

Field Station book