Findings from the Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) were recently featured on the front page of the Mendocino County Observer. The ERRP have performed yearly surveys of non-native Sacramento pikeminnow populations in the South Fork Eel River from 2016-present. Working with UC Berkeley students Phil Georgakakos, Wes Slaughter, Taylor Schobel and Sage Kurnie along with Dr. Brett Harvey of the US Forest Service Redwood Science Lab, the 2018 survey found that the 2013-2015 drought has led to an uptick in large adult pikeminnow, and management of these populations is recommended in order to protect native salmon, steelhead, and others. The full article can be viewed here: 7-12-18 Observer Please also visit the ERRP website, www.EelRiverRecovery.org, to see photos and videos of the 2018 survey and learn how you can donate to the cause.
The Berkeley Natural History Field Stations invite applications for the “The Carol Baird Graduate Student Award for Field Research.” Awards will be granted to graduate students to support high quality research that is carried out primarily in the field, based in or around Berkeley’s Natural History Field Stations:
Angelo Coast Range Reserve
Blue Oak Ranch Reserve
Hastings Natural History Reservation
Point Reyes Field Station
Sagehen Creek Field Station
The second competition will support field research beginning in 2019. Proposals of up to 5 pages (total), describing the project, its importance, and proposed methods and logistics, must be submitted electronically to email@example.com by September 30, 2018 with “Carol Baird Graduate Student Award for Field Research” in the subject line.
Awards of up to $22,000 will be made on the basis of merit. Funding may be requested for a single field season or multiple field seasons, and for work at or around a single or several reserves. Support allocations (amount per student, potential for renewal) are flexible, as long as the research is field-based, is of excellent quality, and is substantially improved by this support.
Further guidelines for proposal preparation can be found at http://fieldstations.berkeley.edu.
Daniella Rempe and Bill Dietrich’s recent paper, “Direct observations of rock moisture, a hidden component of the hydrologic cycle” is receiving press on the NSF News website, the San Francisco Chronicle, ScienceDaily, and other news organizations. Their study, conducted at the Eel River CZO, monitored rock moisture from 2013-2016 at nine wells across a hillslope underlain by a thick weathered bedrock zone. They found that this bedrock can be a water source for trees even after the soil has become parched during the dry season, suggesting that rock moisture should be incorporated into hydrologic and land-surface models used to predict regional and global climate.
See more press on this study at the links below:
The UC Berkeley Natural History Field Stations have announced a new award for graduate students conducting field research in or around the following Berkeley field stations: the Angelo Coast Range Reserve, Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, Hastings Natural History Reservation, Point Reyes Field Station, and Sagehen Creek Field Station. Proposals are due September 30th, 2017 and should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more details on the award and proposals, click here (link leads to the Baird Award announcement on the UC Berkeley Field Stations website.)
Dr. Sarah Kupferberg’s research is focused on food web ecology, amphibian population biology, and conservation of aquatic ecosystems in California. A particular interest of Dr. Kupferberg is the effects of dams and diversions on the physical and biotic conditions for wildlife. To investigate these issues, she conducts field research and experiments in rivers with hydroelectric projects, drinking water reservoirs, and flood control projects. Dr. Kupferberg is also applying her extensive knowledge of aquatic ecosystems at the policy level, reviewing stream restoration plans and working with engineers to facilitate designs that are compatible with hydraulic and biological needs.
Angelinos and Eel River Recovery Project volunteers have worked together with Dr. Kupferberg to count (and rescue!) egg masses of Foothill Yellow-legged Frogs (Rana boylii). R. boylii lay their eggs at traditional oviposition sites in the river every spring. The size of tennis to soft balls, these black-speckled jelly masses are more conspicuous than the adult frogs. What do you notice first in the photo below?
Conveniently for biologists interested in conserving this species (which is currently under review for protection by the Federal and California Endangered Species Act), adult females lay one clutch of eggs each spring. So one egg mass = one breeding female frog. A census of clutches thus provides an index of the total size of the breeding population. Repeating the counts annually can indicate if populations are growing or declining. In the case of the Angelo Reserve, the population has fluctuated over the last 25 years, but remains basically stable. In contrast, since 2012 we have been observing a growing population along the banks of the South Fork Eel- this is where the California State Parks stopped operating the Benbow Dam in 2016 to impound the river and create a summer lake. In the Spring of 2016 in advance of the de-construction of the Benbow Dam, ERRP volunteers (http://www.eelriverrecovery.org/) and Angelinos relocated 100’s of egg masses (10,000’s of thousands of tadpoles!) out of harm’s way. Now that the high flows from winter 2017 have reconfigured the gravel bars at the restored dam site, we will monitor how the frogs respond.
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!
Here’s a link to the movie (released in mid May 2017) on our Eyes on the Eel surveys.
Shot by Amy Miller and Josh Rosen, Spine Productions, the movie features Gabe Rossi, myself, and many of the stalwart students that do this survey at 8 river reaches along the S. Fk Eel and mainstem Eel. The film was funded by Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which has realized that the Milieu Exterieur affects the Milieu Interieur.
It was a huge pleasure to work with Josh and Amy, who also have filmed canopy research by the Dawson Lab, and a movie on Hydrowatch featuring Inez Fung, Todd Dawson, and Bill Dietrich explaining their life cycle of water work in the intensively monitored Rivendell basin draining to Elder Creek.
Trees must pull water from soil and rock, where it is held at tension, to their leaves, where it evaporates to the atmosphere through open stomata. This process, called transpiration, is a major component of the hillslope water budget and can dramatically affect the local climate by lowering air temperature and increasing water vapor concentrations. Understanding how trees use water is a major topic of research at the Angelo Coast Range Reserve. How does the seasonality of transpiration differ between species? At what water content (and potential, or tension) in the subsurface do trees become so stressed that they close their stomata to prevent embolisms (damage to their vascular tissues)? How does rock type influence how hard trees must pull to extract water from the vadose (unsaturated) zone? How do trees access water to continue to transpire throughout the summer drought in Mediterranean climates?
To answer these questions, researchers are monitoring tree physiological response to environmental conditions in the Angelo Coast Range Reserve. Sapflow (the vertical ascent of water through xylem) can be measured using a simple sensor consisting of three prongs placed into the sapwood of the tree. The central prong emits a heat pulse, and the two surrounding prongs sense changes in temperature. Flowing sap advects the heat pulse so that a temperature rise is sensed sooner in the upper temperature probe. This principle enables the sapflow velocity to be determined.
As the tree ‘pulls’ water up from below, tension increases in the water column in the xylem. This suction can influence the size of the tree trunk, which can be measured with very precise piston dendrometers. These sensors capture the diurnal size variation due to changes in both water content and potential as well as tree growth.
Some evening in June, July, or September, you may see a wet, tired crew of river ecologists eating burgers at The Peg Inn (Never don’t stop there!) or the Chimney Tree House in southern Humboldt. Or you may see our EoE tags along the river–The “Eyes on the Eel” is an ongoing survey of the state of river and tributary ecosystems along Eel mainstems and tributaries, one of four long term research tasks outlined for the Eel River Critical Zone Observatory. Led by Profs Stephanie Carlson and Mary Power, and graduate students Suzanne Kelson, Gabe Rossi, Phil Georgakakos, and Keith Bouma-Gregson, our Berkeley-based student crews have been, frankly, amazing at putting up with long days, hard work, wet clothes, while steadfastly documenting physical conditions, cyanobacterial and algal abundances, invertebrates, and vertebrates along 48 transects and 16 pool-riffle units in four tributaries and four mainstem sites down the South Fork and mainstem Eel River. We thank these student researchers, and to the generous land owners who have given us permission to visit their property for one day per month for our surveys. We will be working to publicize our observations in ways that will be widely accessible and informative, and, we hope, will invite collaboration and comparisons with observations of others along the Eel. For example, Eyes on the Eel, in some ways, complements the extensive snorkeling surveys of deep pool habitats performed by the Eel River Recovery Project. The rationale and methods for this effort are described in more detail under the Research section.