In Seattle, we had a tour of habitat restoration efforts along the shorefront. Metropolitan Seattle occupies a series of estuaries, and these are almost entirely altered from their natural state. Wetlands have been filled, banks stabilized with riprap, and channels deepened and straightened. Brackish estuarine habitat traditionally is where salmon smolt pause and adapt to salt water before entering the sea, so efforts are being made to restore some of the wetlands that provide food and shelter to the young salmon in this critical point in their lives. Below, a restored wetland must be protected with string to prevent geese from devouring the plants.
Dr. Jeff Cordell (U. Washington Fisheries) and his graduate student and Albion Alumna Melora Hass lead the trip. Below Dr. Cordell shows students one of the few areas with remaining natural vegetation. This is important as a model for restored areas.
We also visited the coast, mountains, and saw the controversial Elwah River dams while on the Olympic Peninsula.
The geology along the coast is fascinating. The rocks are a jumble of blocks of all sizes, a chaos created by the collision of North America and the Pacific Plate. Here students are pointing out one of the blocks.
The biology is equally fascinating. Here students are looking at zonation in one of the tide pools.
Hurricane ridge is in the Olympic range and looks out over the high peaks of the Olympics. There was still a lot of snow on the trails, and we had to drive through the clouds to get there, but the view was spectacular.... and well worth the drive.
Elwah River has two controversial dams constructed early in this century to provide power for Port Angeles. These are too tall for fish ladders (which were required by state law at the time of construction; fish hatcheries were constructed instead). These are located within the boundaries of the Olympic National Park. There has been a lot of discussion of, but as of yet no funding for, the removal of these dams. The picture on the left is of the upper dam. Below is a picture a natural stretch of the Elwah River.
Rainforest & Logging
We began our trip with a visit to the Ho Rain Forest in Olympic National Park. On our hike along the Ho River, we saw old-growth forest, nursery logs, abundant epiphytes, and lush ferns and oxalis in the understory. The national park gave us a view of the original ecology of this area, where forest growth was mediated by tree size, ability to reseed in the under story, fungal disease and fire.
It took 14 of us to complete a ring around this large Sitka Spruce. Most of the large spruce on the peninsula were logged off during the second world war to make spars for aircraft (and the famous "spruce goose"). Historic records suggest that Douglas Firs in this area were taller than today's redwoods.
Outside of the park, much of the forest has been logged, and old growth is rare. Our group took a tour sponsored by the Bend Logging Museum. We saw the efficiency of modern logging and sawmills (above) and several reclamation efforts of the industry (below).
A stream that has been restored as salmon habitat by Rayonier, Inc., the largest forest land holder in the Olympic Peninsula. Culverts under roads have been lowered to grade, and the series of riffles shown here were created.
Students discussing Rayonier's efforts to establish owl habitat in second and third-growth forests by thinning the under story and inoculating trees with fungus to create nesting cavities
Miami is the largest of many booming urban areas along the east coast of Florida. Above, the group is heading into an excellent Cuban restaurant in Miami. Below, they are posing for a group photo on a protected beach just south of Jacksonville. Most of the coast between these places is highly developed with many homes and businesses on fragile and relatively unstable coastal landforms such as spits and barrier islands.
The group was able to appreciate both the appeal of this area for development and the hazards posed by hurricanes in this area. This conflict between protection of habitat and development is typical of the issues Florida faces. In this case, it would appear that nature can take care of herself, and our concern is for coastal dwellers in the event of a hurricane. In other cases, it is clear that human intervention will be needed to protect Florida's magnificent ecosystems.
That's all! (Then we went home and got stuck overnight in a blizzard in Ohio).