I am pleased to introduce a guest piece by Peter Brewitt, PhD Candidate University of California Santa Cruz and blogger at http://damremoval.wordpress.com. In his PhD research, Peter is working on the politics and ecology of two of the dams mentioned in this series. Thanks to Peter for the quick turnaround on this article – please thank him by checking out his work at the above links.
-Nate and the ECE
The ecology of dams and dam removal: a socio-ecological history of the Elwha (Part 4)
By Peter Brewitt
The Elwha River used to be 45 miles long. It flowed north out of Washington’s Olympic Mountains, from glaciers to taiga to lowlands and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It was far enough west to pick up the moisture rolling in off the Pacific ocean, far enough east to avoid getting scoured out like the rainforest rivers on the west side of the Olympic Peninsula. And… it was full of salmon. Continue reading →
A map of the Rogue River Basin and associated Chinook salmon runs. Borrowed from rogueriverkeeper.org
By Nate Hough-Snee
Case one: the Savage Rapids Dam, Rogue River, OR.
The Rogue River begins a 215-mile journey to the sea from Crater Lake, the remnant caldera from the eruption of Mt. Mazama in south central, Oregon. From Crater Lake the river snakes through Oregon’s lushly forested Cascade Range before heading through the Klamath Mountains and the Kalmiopsis Wilderness and onward to the Pacific Ocean. Between the two mountain ranges, the river passes US Interstate 5 near Grants Pass, a former timber town and the county seat of Southern Oregon’s Josephine County. It’s near this point where the river seemingly parallels I-5, at which a major salvo was fired in the 21st century’s first Pacific Northwest dam wars.
When someone asks, “what is the signature of human beings on Earth?” what do you immediately think of? Does your mind wander to vast expanses of land converted to row-crop agriculture? Or do you think of a sea of urban pavement and rooftops? What about the earth’s brightened night sky, as captured from space? What systems have been ubiquitously changed, those large and small, across continents and cultures? Whatever your answer, many people can agree that the landscapes that humans have most heavily altered are those that they perhaps need most – water dependent ecosystems: streams, rivers and lakes. Continue reading →
Dr. Kristin Marshall measuring willow stems in Yellowstone National Park.
Our very own Dr. Kristin Marshall is getting quite a bit of press these days. This past week, she published an article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences on the dynamics of riparian ecosystems following wolf re-introduction in Yellowstone National Park. This 10-year study concludes that the story of species interactions within the Park is not as simple as we once thought. Turns out, the beaver plays a crucial role in both willow growth and ecosystem functioning! Check out the ScienceNOW coverage of the story, and read Kristin’s own communication of her research right here.
Everyone loves a good story. But all good writers know that a really great story is a balancing act between creating a trajectory that your audience can connect with, and including all the relevant facts and details. Stray too far in one direction and the story becomes overly stylized and not believable, too far in the other leaves you with a pile of facts and no story at all. The same can be said for doing science. We want to boil down all of our observations to a simple theory that explains what we observe, but we also want to balance that simple theory with the complexity we know exists in the natural world.
This post is about finding the sweet spot in telling an important conservation success story: the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park. Continue reading →
The Arctic Ocean outside of Kaktoviak, AK, USA 2006.
I have always struggled to describe the rise of my interest in ecology or how I became an ecologist. At this point, asking me why and how I became an ecologist is kind of like asking a backcountry snowboarder why he or she is checking the weather every 30 minutes. Ecological research and restoration have become a part of my identity – it’s just what I wake up thinking about. Oddly though, I never really anticipated that things would turn out this way. Eventually, I ended up in the woods, on the river and out in the muskeg. To narrate this I’ll focus on a few anecdotes that, in hindsight, determined the R-squared of how I became an ecologist. Continue reading →
Hiking out of Canyon de Chelly, Arizona. A small orchard and riparian forest visible in the background.
I’ve always enjoyed being outside, and despite growing up in the big city, I knew I wanted a job someday that involved working outside. In high school, the most “outdoorsy” job I could find was working at a plant nursery, watering acres of petunias and giving advice on what customers should plant in their gardens. Little did I know that 15+ years later I’d be launching a career studying plants! Continue reading →