Eyes on the Eel!


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.

September 2015 Eyes on the Eel Crew in Wilderness Lodge meadow

Angelo and Eel River CZO on local radio

We were very pleased and grateful for an audio report from Berkeley undergrad Sohil story about his experience at the Angelo this summer.  His grad student mentor Suzanne Kelson reports “His story was chosen by the local radio station (KOZT the coast, “I love this town”) and played Thursday, August 13. Very cool! I’m proud of Sohil”
Here’s the link to listen to the story:

Keith Bouma Gregson and Mary Power have both chatted about cyanobacteria, drought, and other river issues with Patrick Higgins, Executive Director of the Eel River Recovery Project, on KMUD’s Monday Morning Magazine.  http://www.kmud.org/programs-mainmenu-11/kmud-audio-archive.html, e.g.,  June 1 2015.

Jerry Schubel, Director of the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach California, hosts Coastal Conversations, a monthly program that deals with major issues confronting the nation’s coastal areas—marine and in the Great Lakes.  He was the lead author of a July 2014 of the National Academy of Science National Research Council entitled “Enhancing the Value and Sustainability of Field Stations and Marine Laboratories in the 21st Century”.  On Feb 27, Jerry invited three authors of that report, Felicia Coleman from Florida State University’s Coastal and Marine Laboratory, Rob Plowes, from the University of Texas, Brackenridge Field Laboratory, Mary Power, from the University of California, Berkeley, Angelo Coast Range Reserve, and Peter Kareiva from The Nature Conservancy, to discuss the importance of natural history field stations for research, education, and outreach, and ways of increasing their impact and viability  into the 21st century.  http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/events/info/coastal_conversations 

Climate extremes and the Critical Zone

As people who had planned to live ordinary lives face early-onset climate change, we are discovering that it not the change in average temperature or precipitation, but the extremes that will change our future. In the US alone, we are already seeing parched landscapes throughout western North America, while deluges and storm surges destroy crops and infrastructure throughout the Midwest and the East coast. Droughts and heat shocks, or deluge and super-storms, are following atmospheric and ocean warming, because, as Gregory Johnson’s haiku version of the IPCC 2014 report states,

“Wet will get wetter/and dry drier, since warm air/ carries more water.”(http://daily.sightline.org/2013/12/16/the-entire-ipcc-report-in-19-illustrated-haiku).

By now, we have little ability to correct the atmospheric and ocean conditions that have triggered weird, often violent weather around the globe (although we should rapidly change our energy sources to avoid making it worse).   Instead, we must turn our attention to the skin of the Earth, where life meets rock, and cycling water is received, stored, transformed, and released back to the atmosphere, or as runoff to surface waters. We call this Earth skin the Critical Zone. It extends from the top of the vegetation to weathered bedrock deep beneath our feet. The lower part of the Critical Zone is largely unobserved, but of crucial importance. It begins where fractures in bedrock give plants and microbes access to stored water, and provide flow paths feeding the springs, rivers, wetlands, lakes, and estuaries on which most terrestrial life depends. Careful stewardship of Critical Zones—the vegetation and the soil and bedrock beneathe–could help us buffer, and even ameliorate, temperature and precipitation extremes at local, regional, and, perhaps some day, global scales. But to steward something, anything, it must be understood. That is the purpose of the network of Critical Zone Observatories, funded by the US National Science Foundation.

See the Research section of this web site for reports from studies at the Eel River Critical Zone that 1) explain how uplift and drainage affect the ability of bedrock underlying Coast Range hillslopes to store and slowly release the water that keeps springs, streams and rivers flowing during drought (Rempe and Dietrich 2014); and 2) predict that temperatures in our wooded landscapes would be elevated 1-2oC if we replaced all the broad-leafed trees with conifers (Link et al. in preparation).