June 30, 2011
We were on the hunt for several invasive plant species, including tamarisk, figs, and pampasgrass. However over the course of the entire day we could only find a single pampasgrass so it ended up just being a beautiful hike. Once we reached the bottom of the drainage it was time to turn around and head back up the mountain through a different drainage. The heat of the sun was picking up now and the trek back up was challenging. I quickly forgot about all that though as soon as we saw a wreckage of an old airplane sticking out of the ground about halfway up the hillside. Old rusty plates of sheet metal were scattered about with some random airplane parts. We saw two more pieces of the wreckage on the way up. Over the course of the day I saw at least four different species of grasshoppers and crickets, including one with crazy orange patterns on its back that was at least the size of my thumb. The interior of the island is such an amazing place that few people get to ever see, and I am blessed that I was able to explore it.
While the work we are involved with through this internship is terrestrial, Sabrina and I are scientific certified divers. In order to stay certified I need to perform 12 dives each year otherwise I will no longer be considered a scientific diver. Today Jim Haw, head of the ENST department, and Mariah Gill came out to Catalina to dive. Sabrina and I decided to join them on their dives for the day, one at Bird Rock and one at Isthmus Reef both locations I had not previously dived. As we were assembling our gear to get out in one of the skiffs, Gerry came up and said he needed a volunteer for a working dive. I was quite jealous when Sabrina snagged the opportunity to perform her first working dive.
I felt better once I was in the water and saw a thick cover sea grass. We descended along the anchor line to make sure we were secure and found we needed to embed the anchor further into the sea floor. Mariah set about securing the anchor and a startled sea hare inked nearby, surrounding us in a fluorescent purple haze. Once it was properly secured, Mariah took lead on the dive pointing out lobsters, a horn shark and all sorts of sea life. She has a knack for taking her time in the water and finding the most interesting things. I noticed a harbor seal that was swimming around the kelp near us, checking us out but never getting too close or staying in one place long enough for me to show Mariah and Jim. It ended up being a very enjoyable dive that got us back to Wrigley with just enough time to grab lunch at the mess hall.
Our second dive at Isthmus Reef proved to be much more challenging. Since Mariah and Jim were planning on taking the afternoon Miss Christi back to the mainland, the planned dive was expected to be much shorter. However, once Jim was in the water, he checked the anchor and found that it wasn’t secure and Mariah was going to need to stay in the boat since she was the only one who had completed her BoatUS course. We performed a 20 minute dive along the reef, weaving through kelp and we even had enough time to find a moray eel. When we returned to the boat Mariah told us that she couldn’t pull up the anchor, so we descended along the line and found a huge mess of kelp. The leaves were so thick that I could hardly see a few inches and quickly got wrapped up in kelp. After getting free I found Jim using his EMT shears to free the anchor. By the time we were back in the boat with the anchor Jim and Mariah had to scramble to get on the boat before it left at 3:30. Overall it was a fantastic day of diving with the ENST crew that had a few surprises. In my limited experience diving, most of which have been in Big Fisherman’s Cove, every dive is a new experience with something different to see or a new challenge to overcome.
June 29, 2011
June 28, 2011
June 23, 2011
After lunch we all drove over to Emerald Bay, a nearby cove and a popular tourist destination, to examine two examples of trails that were not planned well. Both lead from the road down to the beach in pretty much a straight line. The problem with this is that is causes channelization and erosion of the trail, since water will always gather in it and travel vertically down to the beach. The first trail we went down was so bad that it was closed off to the public. It was pretty much vertical, and at least 2-3 feet entrenched between ground on either side due to the erosion over the years. The other trail wasn’t much better, and it was the only way to get up and down from the beach. It was eroded to the point that there wasn’t even any dirt left on the trail; we had to climb up and down rocks in a ravine to traverse the path. Seeing those trails in Emerald Bay really drove home for me the importance of low-impact trail design. It’s definitely good that we took our time planning and flagging our trail, because I would be embarrassed if it ever ended up like the ones at Emerald Bay.
June 22, 2011
By Sabrina Lawrence-Gomez
We spent today flagging the trail all the way to the summit! We started at the Picnic Oak where we ended yesterday and placed markers all the way up. We were lucky to have Sarah Ratay, the Conservancy’s Senior Plant Biologist, joining us. Because we want our trail to be as minimally invasive as possible, we needed Sarah’s expertise to ensure we weren’t harming any rare plants. She walked the trail with us and made some suggestions to help circumvent some rare plants. Chris and Charlie hiked ahead to help us find more control points while the rest of us spread out through the area trying to find feasible routes. We reached a couple of roadblocks.
First, the fence-line on the left hand side of the trail prevented us from crossing the hillside to gain a more reasonable slope and cross-slope. The fence was placed in this area back when the Conservancy was eradicating the goats and pigs from the island. It is part of a system of fences that break the island into smaller containment or management zones, that help land managers deal with each parcel and each problem at a time. The fences are still in place to help manage deer and bison, although the latter are capable of simply walking through the barrier!
The second obstacle we reached was the drainage area on the right hand side. What creates a beautiful feature lower on the trail, is a great rock cavern higher up the hill. The third obstacle was extremely high slope with little cross-slope. The area was pretty much vertical. As we hiked up a stretch, we turned back around to measure the slope and it was laughable how ridiculously steep it was. We solved all of these problems by hugging the fence-line to the left and making a slow and steady ascent across the hillside reaching the right hand side. We continued up the hillside in the other direction and found a great path through some trees with some natural rock steps leading up. Once we reached the summit we were greeted with the Catalina Crososoma, a Channel Islands endemic plant, and some Indian paintbrush, or Castilleja, an iconic American species. It was a great find at the end of the trail! At the top you reach the road to the interior and the bison gate. The gate is in place to keep animals in the interior, but some rogue male bison still break through and wander the hillsides of the west end.
I feel very confident in the trail route we created and I think it will be a great addition to the Wrigley campus. Having the trail connect to the road that leads interior is a very valuable; it will allow hikers to access the Wrigley campus from the main road, making the amenities offered even more accessible. Troops of Boy Scouts and other camps often hike down the main road, so maybe trips to Wrigley’s touch tanks, kayaking, and snorkeling can be added to their adventures! I also hope that this trail can serve as an informative interpretive hike that encourages people to learn more about Catalina while they enjoy the outdoors.
For more photos see Day 11 Scouting and Flagging the Trail
June 21, 2011
by Sabrina Lawrence-Gomez
Today we continued scouting and flagging the Deer Valley trail using the principles of sustainable trail building outlined by Chris. We also had Ellen Kelley, Wrigley’s Naturalist, join us in scouting. We flagged the trail up until our first control point which was a grove of Toyon (a California native tree). The Toyon grow in a ring like shape and provide a canopy of shade, making a prime location to stop and relax along the hike. We continued to scout around the area in search of our next control point. For our control points we wanted a mixture of overlooks into Big Fisherman’s Cove, geologic features, and interesting plant life. We finally stumbled upon our next control point, which is one of the coolest spots on the trail. As you approach the drainage, there is rock wall teeming with plant life. The best part is during the rainy season the rock will funnel the water down forming a waterfall! It is a breathtaking spot and has 3 of the 6 Catalina island endemic species: the Catalina Live Forever, St. Catherine’s Lace, and the Catalina Bedstraw.
Unfortunately, to have the trail enable hikers to get a closer look at this magnificent feature meant creating high impact in some areas. We spent a lot of time trying to circumnavigate high grades and still reach the same point, but we were not successful. We decided to keep the route we had chosen but we would have to take extra steps in order to maintain a low impact trail such as full-bench construction and rock steps. Full-bench means the the full width of the tread (the actual travel surface of the trail) is cut into the hillside, which requires more excavation into the soil and leaves a larger backslope, with an outsloped grade of 5% to sheet water off the tread surface. Full-bench construction along steep hillsides would help prevent erosion in the long run and make the trailbed more durable and require less maintenance. Steps along areas of very steep grade greater than 20% would help reinforce the ground, prevent the trail from eroding, and provide a comfortable passage upward along the trail. In order to incorporate these elements into the trail we will need expert rock workers and trail builders to construct the tread. Chris Baker suggested we recruit an ACE crew to do the rock work and cut the tread. We are now working to have an ACE crew come out and hopefully help us complete the trail by the end of the summer!
For the remainder of the day, we continued flagging to our next control points, a viewshed of Bird Rock and Ship Rock, a bison wallow, a large oak canopy, and a grove of scrub oaks we named the Picnic Oak. As we found control points Charlie and I used an ArcPad to map the points as shape files, using a GPS. We are hoping to including mapping the flora of the area and our trail into our project. Afterwards we traveled bit by bit along the trail, connecting the points and using the clinometer to ensure a slope of 15-20% and that the cross slope that the tread followed was one half of the hill slope (the Rule of Halves). We finished the day with about half of the trail marked which is a great milestone! I can’t wait to finish up the trail tomorrow.
For more information on Sustainable Trail Construction and Maintenance visit:
For more photos visit: Day 10 Scouting the trail
June 20, 2011
Today we had the opportunity to work with Chris Baker, president of ACE (American Conservation Experience) and an expert on sustainable and low-impact trail design. He gave a short and very engaging and informative presentation to the interns as well as Conservancy staff, Travis from Howland’s Landing educational camps, and Ashley, the Nature and Conservation Director of Boy Scouts Emerald Bay on the principles of sustainable trail design. The 3 golden rules of trail design he covered were 1) Do No Harm 2)Complement the Landscape 3)Erosion Abuses the Landscape all of which he liked to sum up as “Think like water!” Chris discussed if you think about the purpose of the trail and the type of hikers that will visit, the design should match their needs so that they will use the trail instead of wandering around the general area. Since water can be such a damaging factor to a trail a large portion of the talk was dedicated to guidelines regarding slope, such as the Half Rule “the trail grade should be no more than half the sideslope grade” [Trail Solutions, IMBA 2004] and full bench construction, all the exposed soil on the trail is hardpack. He then trained us on the use of clinometers, a sighting device which provides information on degree or percent of a slope. We practiced estimating slope, then went to the Deer Valley Watershed right next to the WIES campus and set about designing the trail. The process ended up being considerably difficult, democratic and ultimately very rewarding. We would establish control points, areas of interest that we would like our trail to visit, then use the clinometer to determine the slope, look about, re-determine the slope, and debate about the best route for the trail. If we concluded that the trail would be successful, both for people hiking and with regard to impact on the ecosystem, we would put down a trail marking flag. Some areas were pretty obvious as to the direction we would go and others would be very difficult requiring us to fan out and follow game trails, some of which required crawling through. It was a tough day of work; just the beginning of the process of designing our trail but it was a great day and Chris Baker is very knowledgeable and passionate about his work and we were lucky that he was able to come out to Catalina to help us design this trail.
June 18, 2011
June 17, 2011
In this short week, we have been exposed to many different aspects of conservation activity that gave us a glimpse of the upcoming tasks our internship will entail: building trials, removing invasive plant special, giving interpretative hikes, recognizing political contention between the conservancy and locals of Catalina, and identifying plants. As overwhelming as it may sound, it actually blew my mind to find there was so much to do in my field, and I was excited! And today was no different; we got to add plant pressing to our list of new skills. We had the pleasure of meeting with John R. Clark, Senior Plant Biologist and Curator of the Herbarium at the Wrigley Memorial and Botanical Garden. Although we had been to the Garden earlier this week, we never entered the herbarium. This time we got to peek at the enormous collection of plant pressing and learn about the process. To be honest, I didn’t know what a herbarium was, I kept calling it a herbatory. I learned that a herbarium is a building or institution that stores a collection of the preserved plant specimens, similar to a library. Herbaria (plural form) keep precise records and are very resourceful. People can study plant taxonomy, identify unknown plants, make comparisons, and research how the plants evolve. More importantly a herbarium records the plants in an area and keeps a timeline of change in vegetation.
For our internship, we will prepare our own plant pressing collection for the trail since no one has collected plant species at that site yet. For each plant species, we will gather five samples, unless they are rare. The collected samples are distributed among us, the Wrigley herbarium, and the other herbaria. Once we have our samples, we will press them, classify them, and make labels for them. The pressing process is another topic that we will delve into when we start collecting our specimen. However, today, we helped attached labels and envelopes on to the pressed paper. The small envelopes, called “frag packs” were used to collect stray pieces of the plants that fell apart. It was important to collect these tiny structures because they could be crucial to aiding other people who are looking at the samples. I also learned there were other methods of preserving plant specimens, such as in plastic or glass jars. These were called spirit or wet collections. Delicate structures, such as a flower or algae, were kept in glass jars with liquid preservative such as ethyl alcohol.
As we prepared to take another hike through the garden, John showed us something cool. He discovered that some flowers had holes near the bottom of the petal. Apparently, the humming birds were poking the bottom of the flower to steal the nectar, making them nectar thieves. It seemed that the size of the hummingbird’s bill was incompatible with the flower petals. We made a trip around the garden and up to the memorial. As we looked down at the garden from the top, John told us that there were plans to change the layout of the garden, to make it more aesthetically pleasing as well as more sustainable. One idea was to redo the pathway through the garden. Instead of having a straight path down to the entrance, John was thinking of having the path meander throughout the garden. This would prevent erosion. Later, we adventured into a hidden trail. We jumped over the fence and walked through a trench. The vegetation through this trail was clearly different; it was made up of riparian woodland plant community, very green and lush with lots of trees hanging on top of us. I really adored this little path. After our hike, Sarah Ratay, the senior plant ecologist, joined us, and we had lunch under the pavilion and watched some educational Conservancy videos. Sarah’s favorite was the bison one, titled “Going Home”. It was really moving; it detailed the process of shipping bison back to South Dakota in order to control their population on Catalina. It didn’t have a lot of words, just a lot of Native American-inspired music that made it very emotional. Afterwards, we helped out with the presses. It was extremely fun and therapeutic gluing labels and envelopes.
For more pictures check this album: Day 6 Visiting John Clark and sarah at the Herbarium