Monday, May 11, 2009

A conservative week for conservation

After three fastball weeks of memorizing species and working hard in the field, the Bio 450 class threw us a change up last week with regular days and only one in the field. Three out of the five days had very similar schedules. Lectures were regular and discussions in the afternoons were a great trade from the late hours of drawing in our notebooks and identifying species till early hours in the morning. Karen McLeod gave a variety of lectures on marine conservations issues. She started by giving us a good overview of the state of the oceans and what policies were in place as well as what that meant in the science world. Karen then moved on to talk about marine reserves, fisheries, and other economical roles of the ocean. After each morning lecture informing us of these issues, she would always follow with an afternoon lecture on how to best approach them. The highlights this week included a field trip up ten mile creek: Hiking through a beautiful forest in the rain, learning about fish habitat restoration projects, and learning about endangered birds in the area. At the end of the week we had a full day of student presentations where we could dive deeper into the issues that we wanted to become learned about, and then present them to the class.

Student presentations were much more formal than the presentations about inverts or the in-lab presentations of algae. Dressed in our best we delivered presentations on current issues. Throughout the day we learned about hypoxia, coastal development, Humboldt squid, ocean acidification, jelly fish blooms, shark fining, wave energy, harmful algal blooms, and even seafood origination labeling. This was a very mixed array of knowledge but never the less enthralling. We also got to eat cookies shaped like squid and some that were not.
Tuesday Morning we got a special talk delivered by Karen describing her work with COMPASS. She explained to us how the organization compiles credible research data and facilitates the scientific community. By developing a concerted front, the labor of many professionals can be channeled into an effective political tool. The focus is kept away from public education and outreach, in order to reinforce the goal of commitment towards policy amendment.
On Wednesday we got the chance to hike at Ten-Mile Creek, the site including the largest stand of old-growth remaining in the nation! It was pouring rain almost continuously, so we kept morale high by calling in the owls (unsuccessfully). The focus of the trip was to give us a tour of the stream restoration project, and to show us the methods used for sampling fry and smelt. We got to see Salmon, river Sculpin, and even a Lamprey! The fish were chemically sedated so we could take a closer look. We had a brief talk regarding the restoration of the stream, including the removal of old roads, and the input of timber utilizing helicopters. We also had the chance to learn about a unique species that nests in the Pacific North-West. The Marbled Murrelet uses moss platforms high in the branches of old-growth evergreens. It will fly in from the ocean, travelling many miles inland to find protected home sites. Flying back and forth to the ocean to gather food for the young is not uncommon. This site at ten-mile creek is one of the last remaining habitats suitable for the species. Corvids, mainly crows, have begun to compete in most areas because the chicks are left unattended.
The most notable topic from our field-trip was the discussion about fry-boxes for hatchery steelhead and salmon. We learned that attempts to include the public in raising stocks have perhaps been counter-productive. Usually the hatchery stocks lose much of their natural instinct, as well as the ability to sense a home range. They also compete strongly enough with native fish to have become a serious threat. In the end it doesn’t matter whether we retain all that we heard. We have all been struggling to cope overstressed. And as it turns out, school doesn’t get much better than this!

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