July 28, 2012
Last Thursday, we were able to make significant progress on our Deer Valley Trail projects. We finally got our hands on the necessary supplies, including cement and flags for our plots. We were able to dig almost all the holes for the informative trail signs. The interns from last year had written and designed them, but getting them in the ground proved to be a challenge for us, as the soil was incredibly solid and we lacked the proper tools. However, we were able to use heavy metal rod to create holes deep enough for the signs. The first one was successfully mounted into the ground using cement.
The same day, we also accomplished a lot for our fennel project. After obtaining and processing the soil samples the day before, we began the fennel treatments. To ensure the plots were random we picked papers out of a hat for the three treatments (full removal, mowing, and a control). The different treatments are designated by a different color flag in the middle of each of the plots. For the full removal, we used shovels and grubbers to break the fennel at its taproot, which will prevent it from growing back. This is the primary method used by the Catalina Island Conservancy. Full removal is the most effective method but can result in soil disturbance and requires intense manual labor. Because of this, we are also looking at the effectiveness of mowing. To mow the fennel, we used pruners to cut the fennel stalk as low to the ground as possible without disturbing the taproot. Mowing will almost always result in fennel re-growth, but we are looking to see if mowing continuously once a year will eventually kill the plant. We did not touch the control plots. We had two of each treatment at each site, totaling to four plots per treatment type. We also decided to take additional soil samples from under native plants so that we can already have a comparison in nitrogen levels before the summer ends.
We felt a sense of accomplishment in finishing one of the major steps in our project. After this, we will be taking soil samples once a quarter to monitor the soil nutrient levels and observe any changes. Most likely, next year’s summer interns will resume the project and continue with the annual mowing.
We hope to not only unlock interesting answers regarding how different fennel treatments affect soil nutrient levels, but also to provide a consistent project for future Environmental Studies interns to build upon. The trail will serve as a field lab for classes and groups. The class ENST 320A: Water and Soil Sustainability will be utilizing the trail as a platform to perform soil samples in the future. For example, one of the ENST 320A field trips to Catalina could process the soil samples for that quarter and contribute to our data. In addition, the restoration project should provide experience removing fennel and other invasive grasses, watering, taking more soil samples, and potentially some seed or root collection. We hope that our work with the fennel project and restoration project will help allow for learning opportunities and hands-on experience for students. We expect that this trail will be getting more and more use as time goes on. Whether it be through the informative signage or the restoration site, we hope that our efforts will make a lasting impact on whoever uses the trail in the future.
Editor’s note: The ENST Catalina Island Internship at USC Dornsife is offered as part of a summer internship program offered to undergraduate students in theUSC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. This course takes place on location at the USC Wrigley Marine Science Center on Catalina Island. Students investigate important environmental issues such as ecological restoration, protected-area planning and assessment, and invasive species management. During the course of the internship, students will work closely with USC faculty and staff scientists from the Catalina Island Conservancy to support ongoing conservation and management programs being implemented on the island. Instructors for the course include David Ginsburg, Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies, Lisa Collins, Lecturer in Environmental Studies, and Tony Summers, Invasive Plant Program Supervisor from the Catalina Island Conservancy.
July 16, 2012
Last summer, the Wrigley interns played an integral role in establishing the Deer Valley Trail. For the past few weeks, other than continuing our work with the Conservancy’s invasive plant management and native plant restoration projects, we have been surveying this trail and looking for ways to extend our work with the Conservancy to the trail in the form of a research project. After some research into potential projects and a quick trip to the mainland for supplies, we were finally able to begin our project today, Monday, July 16th, 2012, with the installation of 12 plots along the trail.
Our project is going to be a long-term study into the effect of invasive plants (specifically fennel) on soil health. With the hypothesis that invasive plants increase nitrogen and carbon pools as well as the pH of the soil to an extent that is detrimental to native plant growth, we predict that if fennel is entirely removed from a plot, the nutrients in the soil will return to a more stable level. Furthermore, if native plants are introduced where invasive plants once were, we expect that soil health will increase to an even greater extent.
We chose two areas that are extremely disturbed with fennel to place our plots. We have three separate treatment methods that will be utilized. One treatment of the fennel will be full manual removal, one will be mowing the fennel just above the taproot, and one will be left alone as a control. In each of the two areas that we chose, we have six plots, two for each of the three treatment methods. The plots are scattered randomly, and no two replicates of the same treatment are next to each other at each site.
These 12 plots are concentrated in two areas at each end of the trail. The square plots are four feet across and are made of PVC pipes which we anchored into the ground with stakes after drilling holes into the PVC connectors.
In the next week, we will be using several methods with the direction of our Professor, David Ginsburg, to take soil samples within these plots. After we get a baseline, we will treat each of the plots and remove fennel when needed. Then, we will continue taking samples on a semi-weekly basis for the remainder of the summer, and continue with monthly or semi-monthly samples for the remainder of the school year. We plan on personally continuing the project into the school year, but we also plan to work in conjunction with Dr. Ginsburg and his students in his undergraduate course, ENST-320a.
So what exactly do we hope will come from this project? The Conservancy primarily uses herbicides for the treatment of large patches of fennel rather than manual removal, which is very labor intensive and causes a great deal of soil disturbance. Being in the watershed of the marine protected area down in Big Fisherman’s Cove, the fennel along the trail and in the surrounding area cannot be treated by herbicide, so large monocultures of fennel scatter the watershed. Some of the fennel is hard to reach, and on steep inclines, and full manual removal is often difficult or impossible. Part of our project hopes to see that if the fennel is mowed and allowed to grow back, how many times it will take before the fennel taproot runs out of enough nutrients and life to come back. If the mowed plots eventually are cleared of fennel, the prospect of applying this treatment method to the remainder of the watershed is available.
In a separate plot along the trail, we plan to not only take soil samples and remove invasive plants, but also actively restore the area with native plants. This project will be separate from the 12 plots that were set up earlier today, but the results will provide further insight into the soil health of the watershed, and how it can change with our remediation.
July 25, 2011
After this talk, and a little shade, we continued our hike, past the waterfall to an area of fennel dominance which we had decided would be a good area to work. We started removing the fennel and everyone started pulling out fennel with vigor. It was a hot day, but everyone had plenty of water and sunscreen, and before I knew it there were already large piles of dead fennel littering the hillside. I was having a great time, chatting with the group and getting lots of work done and pretty soon it was about time to head down for lunch. We snapped a group photo and began to gather up all the fennel, water bottles and backpacks that needed to come down. Since there was so much fennel and the hike was pretty long, some bundles of fennel that I saw people carrying down the hillside were quite impressive. We made it down the hillside with enough time to make sure that we had gotten all of our tools and water bottles and then helped the other group clear their fennel.
We ended up having a great lunch with the conservancy, getting an opportunity to get to know them better and talk about the other work they were doing. They were really happy to get a cooked lunch as their past week had been spent camping and their meals were mostly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. As a thank you for all their hard work throughout the morning, we headed down to the waterfront and gave a talk about kayak and snorkel use and asked the crew which they would want to try out. Most were interested in kayaking, a couple wanted to snorkel and a few of them wanted to get some sun and sit out on the loading ramp. Miller helped people get the kayaks and load them into the water, Sabrina was out in a kayak to lead the group, Alex was helping the people that had flipped their kayaks and I was getting the snorkelers in the water.
Even though many of the Conservancy members had not kayaked nor snorkeled before, their enthusiasm and resiliency was impressive. It seemed that no matter how many times they fell out of a kayak, just a few minutes later they were back in, trying all over again. This time at the waterfront was the highlight of my day. I fell in love with Catalina spring semester 2010 when I came out for a class. One day after class and lab a group of us decided to kayak and snorkel. I had previously been kayaking but had never snorkeled before and it was an amazing experience. Seeing all the flora and fauna that lived in the Marine Protected Area opened my eyes to a whole new world underwater. Getting the opportunity to share my love for the water was a spectacular experience. At the end of the day, we all watched them getting on the Miss Christi and waved goodbye; I was wishing the day could have gone on and on.
Check out our picture album from this day
July 19, 2011
by Sabrina Lawrence-Gomez
In between preparing our lab samples, we had a meeting today with Charlie de la Rosa. Charlie is beginning his PhD in the Evolutionary Biology program at UCLA (our enemies!), so this was one of the last opportunities we had to talk with him before he leaves for school.
The focus of our meeting was the future of Deer Valley Trail. We had been discussing adding interpretive signs to our trail for some time, so it was finally time to start planning them out! We discussed many ideas for potential signs like an introduction to island biogeography, a map of all of the coves of the West End, an overview of sustainable trail design, or sign with all of the trail’s endemics on it. We also discussed the location of each sign. The goal is to have a sign at each control point, but we still weren’t sure which locations are best for which sign topics. It is also important that the trail is reversible so that hikers can begin the trail from the top of the ridge or from that bottom and have the same experience. Charlie suggested we continue to work through ideas for signs and begin drafts to help with the creation process.
We also talked about the sign design and funding. We are going to research different signs that we have seen that we like, and contact their creators. Charlie is very fond of the steel signs at Joshua Tree, so hopefully we can get in touch with them and find out how their signs are made. Unfortunately we don’t exactly have funds for the project yet. We talked about fundraising ideas and hope to coordinate with Wrigley to get money for these signs. I hope we can get through all of this red tape and have our signs completed before the end of the summer!
Next on the agenda was the a fennel removal volunteer day geared towards Conservancy employees. We discussed dates to invite Conservancy employees to help us remove fennel along the trail and then enjoy the amenities at the Wrigley waterfront, including snorkeling and kayaking. We chose the 27th and 29th for our work days. I hope that we can pull these events off! It will be a great opportunity for us to get more hands to work on the removal along our trail and teach more people about marine life at Wrigley Marine Science Center .
Before he left, Charlie invited us to a Stop the Spread event focused on educating volunteers on fennel removal in Howland’s Landing tomorrow. I hope we can all attend. Learning how the Conservancy teaches its volunteers how to remove fennel will be a really good model for us to follow when we have the LA Conservation Corps comes out on Monday.