The whole Carlson group went to a conference last week! We headed up north to Eureka to attend the annual Cal-Neva Chapter meeting of the American Fisheries Society. There were four concurrent sessions of people presenting their fish-related work. All Carlson group members also contributed with oral or poster presentations. I learned a lot about the local ongoing work on salmonids, sturgeon, and the Garibaldi. Gabriel Rossi introduced the concept of asking fish about environmental changes in their habitat. He is video recording juvenile steelheads to measure fish behavior in time and space. His method is relatively cheap and produces videos that can be quantified using a really good software. Gabe’s bottom-up approach represents an efficient way to learn about food availabilities and hydraulics in freshwater system.
One whole afternoon was devoted to talks on the impact of cannabis production on the local environment. It was very sobering to hear about all the negative effects of illegal marijuana plantations on headwater streams. Karen Pope explained that headwater streams act as a refuge for many species. When the climate is warming, species often move to cooler environments. On average species have moved 1km per decade during the last century. Headwaters are usually colder than the rest and allow heat-sensitive species to escape. These headwaters are however also often the places where illegal pot growers build up their camps. In summary, illegal marijuana growers need to produce a big yield within one season (before they are being discovered in remote areas). This is only possible with an extremely high usage of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. These compounds will then be released into the system and cause irreversible damage to the pristine environments. Water is usually just taken out of the rivers to irrigate the plantations. Moreover, the guards of these plantations usually camp the whole summer out there and produce a lot of waste. They shoot any potential trespasser; humans, bears, rodents. If you want to read more about this environmental problem click here: Drug War! On the other side I should also mention that places like Eureka, where we all met, or also Arcata, its prettier neighbor, profit a lot from these new economic enterprises. These plantations bring new opportunities for money and make everybody in the communities richer. This results in a greater variety of convenience stores, better tourist attractions, and not least also better schools! A two sided sword!
After I was so excited and still thinking about Gabe’s video recording, Phil Georgakakos convinced me that sometimes snorkeling is the only option! Especially if your goal is to survey intermittent streams for fish community diversity and abundance. I want to finish my recap on the Cal-Neva meeting with Travis Apgar’s talk (and poster) on his most recent paper about steelhead conservation. Travis took the relative frequencies of resident vs. migratory O. mykiss genotypes across different watersheds in California. He related the skew of resident vs. migratory genotypes to natural and anthropogenic dams in the environment and quantified how much the dams affected the overrepresentation of residents at a given location. If we assume that historically California was dominated by the migratory genotype (steelheads) than we could attribute the deviation from this expected distribution to the implementation of dams. Travis and his co-authors recommend removing dams to help the migratory form. Moreover, they argue that the removal of several small anthropogenic dams is much cheaper than removing a big dam and its accumulative effect will restore higher ratios of the migratory life form. Here is their Paper!
My family accompanied me during the conference. We rented again (!) a nice campervan at escapecampervan.com and were prepared to sleep in it. However, Gabe was nice enough to offer us a room in his beautiful house in Arcata! His current renter family, Michelle, Chris and their kids, also let us use their kitchen and bathroom. We spent a wonderful time there and are very glad we could stay there!
One night we invited ourselves to Michael Pulley’s house, an old friend of Donny’s who he had not seen for over 17 years! I got to know Mike, his wife and his amazing three daughters and we really enjoyed reconnecting. Linnea found a good friend with similar interests. We will be back!
On the long car ride down, back to Berkeley, we took the Avenue of the Giants and slept again in the car. I very much want to go back there. My first encounter with the giant redwoods was very touching. I did not expect that I could connect to a tree. I suddenly felt the urgent need to hug him. Such an intense feeling!
Linnea watching the giant redwood trees out of the campervan window.
Click on this picture to enlarge it! Beauty.
Our campervan ‚Pinball‘
And after we also made it through this landslide, we headed towards the Lost Coast!
Two hungry animals at the Russian River.