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We are just back from our final sampling run for songbirds in the Trask Watershed, an experimental forest in the Coast Range of Oregon. I now fully understand why the Pacific Northwest is so well known for rain! We battled bad weather for most of our time in the Trask, so I'm sure we will all remember the rain more than anything else! Unlike fish or amphibian sampling, where rain might make you miserable but you can keep working, it's dangerous to catch birds when it's raining because they can get wet and cold very quickly. So we spent a lot of our time watching the clouds and hoping for the rain to break.
In the Trask, small headwater streams run through forests used for timber harvest. We are doing a small mercury project within a larger project looking at the effect on timber harvest on these headwater streams, in terms of water quality, sediment loading, and fish and amphibian health. Our mercury project looks to understand if mercury in the streams increases after timber harvest. Other members of my lab are examining water, invertebrate, fish and amphibian mercury data, but our job was to provide a songbird component. I had come to Trask in 2011 with my co-worker Evan Adams, when I worked at Biodiversity Research Institute, to get bird samples before the harvest to serve as a baseline for mercury.
Despite the bad weather and short time frame of this trip, we caught 65 birds in the Trask. We even recaptured two birds - a Swainson's Thrush and a Pacific-slope Flycatcher - that Evan and I had banded back in 2011! Both of those species winter in central or South America. It is always amazing to me that birds can make that amazing journey so many times and end up in almost the same exact spot to breed!
Despite how beautiful and remote it was, I'm not sure I will miss working in the Trask. Those hills and that rain made it a somewhat rough place to catch birds. I'm really proud that we got the samples that we did, and hope that this provides some interesting results on mercury and timber management!
Look at that!
Welcome to the Hg Blog, a chronicle of my adventures in mercury, birds, and the Pacific Northwest. My crew and I have already gotten to see some of the amazing habitats and species that Oregon has to offer and we want to share our adventures with you! I'm two years into my PhD at Oregon State University, but starting now, I plan to keep a record of the research I'm doing, including both field and lab work.
This blog chronicles the sometimes wandering course of my PhD and then my life as an Environmental Studies professor at Purchase College.. Some blog entries will be guest-written by summer interns working with me.