The ecology of dams and dam removal: a socio-ecological history of the Elwha (Part 4)

I am pleased to introduce a guest piece by Peter Brewitt, PhD Candidate University of California Santa Cruz and blogger at 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

The ecology of dams and dam removal: Condit Dam on the Lower Salmon River, WA (Part 3)

The White Salmon River watershed and surrounding vicinity. Borrowed from

By Nate Hough-Snee

Near Washington State’s Mt. Adams, a small river begins, flowing south into the Pacific Northwest’s largest wild Salmon production facility, the Columbia River. This river begins in steep headwaters on one of the Pacific Northwest’s lesser volcanoes and runs 44 miles through forests ranging from the subalpine to second-growth plantations, draining roughly 400 square miles. Continue reading

Early Career Ecologist Profile: Meet Nate Hough-Snee

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

Embracing other perspectives to aviod tunnel vision in your research

Cows grazing near aspen in MPB-killed lodgepole pine forest.

By Kristen Pelz

This past summer, I attended a meeting about aspen ecology and management. I presented my thoughts about how aspen (Populus tremuloides) will respond to widespread lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) mortality caused by mountain pine beetle (MPB) (Dendroctonus ponderosae). I was nervous and excited to present to a small group of accomplished scientists and high-level managers from around the country. I thought I had a complete theory about why aspen had not increased in the way we had expected following a 1980s MPB outbreak that I studied for my Master’s thesis. But, meeting and talking with many people really broadened my perspective and reminded me—once again—about the importance of avoiding tunnel vision in research. Continue reading

Explaining fuels treatments: Thanks, Smokey, but we’ll do this without you.

Forest that burned during the 2010 Four Mile Fire. Before the fire, it was thinned to reduce risk of crown fire. However, it was thinned too little to be an effective fuels treatment. It is hard to sell the idea that cutting down many trees can actually be good for the environment. Kristen Pelz, 2011.

By Kristen Pelz

The intense wildfire season has put a spotlight on fire ecology and forest management in the general media. There has been a lot of talk about active forest management and its potential to reduce property losses due to catastrophic fire. Many western forests have had an “unnatural” buildup of fuels following a century of active fire suppression. As a forest ecologist, it is great to see widespread enthusiasm for restoration of these forest’s structure and function. Continue reading

Aridland Research on Hopi Land: Merging Scientific Knowledge with Cultural Understanding

By Anjel Craig

When I first started my PhD program in ecology at Northern Arizona University, I was a bit fearful of aridland ecosystems. I am originally from Southern Louisiana and grew up near enough to the Gulf Coast that water as a limiting resource was completely outside of my experience. Having now completed two years of my program, I find that I am captivated by the stories these harshest of landscapes have to share with us. The lessons learned here have the potential to be regionally, and even globally, important as researchers predict further drought and water stress to many parts of the planet. Continue reading