Laura, Zephyr and I headed out to the UC Merced Vernal Pool Reserve on a gorgeous and warm late-January Saturday morning to participate in a community science bioblitz. We helped collect soil and sediment samples in the Veranal Pools from which researchers at UC Merced and UCLA will extract environmental DNA. The scientist will use DNA extraction and sequencing techniques to figure out what lives in the area, from microbes to fungi, plants and animals. How cool is that? This collection day was put together by the CALeDNA Project which I found out about through Twitter.
Zephyr had a great time collecting samples and spotting fairy shrimp. So did we!
Last, but not least, here's a rough draft high resolution photosphere of the two vernal pools that we sampled. As you can see, the lighting was very harsh and hazy, so I hope to come back on a clear day to make some great scenes when the Sierras are visible. Enjoy!
Laura and I spent the morning at the SLNWR with 22 WildLink members, but had to leave Z at home with grandma due to a miscalculation of available seats. To make things right with Z, we ate a quick lunch at home and then headed back out to the refuge in the late afternoon hoping to let Z have some fun running around catch a sunset illuminating the clouds of what would be a pretty drenching storm the following day. We were not disappointed. Although individual bird types were hard to discern, there was no mistaking the Sandhill Cranes as they flew in to Sousa Marsh for the evening (listen to the video clips).
Enjoy the photos.
Grandma, Z and I went for a lovely stroll to catch the last of the fall colors just over Sonora Pass and check out a Sardine Falls up close and personal for the first time. Laura needed some time to finish projects for her MS classes today and we had to get Z out of the house. What a perfect day! Temps in the 60’s at 9000’ and not another person on the trail!
The Relief Peak Formation (~10.39Ma andesitic block and ash tuffs) makes for a great backdrop on an autumn day. Check out Busby’s work to better understand the geology of this area!
I've finally had a bit of time to post pics from my hike to Poly Dome Lakes in early October. The trek is about 5.5 miles round trip, but I decided to go cross-country the first half of the hike to shave off some time and distance. The trail traverses some of the most beautiful examples of glacially created features in the park. There's polish, gouging, chatter marks, erratics, trim lines, and more! Take a gander a the entire photo journal above to see what I saw.
I was lucky enough to be invited to present at the 2018 Pacific Basin STEAM Conference in Hawaii back in mid-September. I learned a ton and also make a big impact on the teachers that attended my session. Here are some of the amazing photos I took while flying over (into the remnants of Hurricane Olivia) and back home.
Be sure to check out the entire photo album!
Laura, Z, Grandma and I needed to escape the smokey Central Valley air that had plagued the valley for much of July and August and we also wanted a way to unwind from the stresses of a new school year. So what better thing to do than drive straight through the burned heart of the Donnell Fire on our way to Wolf Creek just east of Sonora Pass on HWY 108. Traffic was not allowed to stop on HWY 108 between the Donnell Vista and Kennedy Meadows, so Laura did her best to photograph the scene moving at 20-40mph. She did a pretty great job.
The fire intensity was hit & miss. It completely destroyed Dardanelle Resort, but spared Baker Station and several other cabin properties. Still, the damage of this 38,000 acre fir was pretty sobering. But once across the sierra crest, the air was clean and blue as one can imagine a sky to be. Cirrus clouds drifted over head from time to time making the scenery "pop".
I'll be back soon to take 360 photospheres of the Columns of the Giants which also suffered some intense damage to the trees on top of the western-most portion of the lava flow. It'll be interesting to compare my Science Friday Photospheres with the new ones when completed.
For the fifth year in a row, my dad and I were lucky enough to spend several days salmon fishing at Whalers Cove Lodge on Killisnoo Island. This year's fishing was awful, but the weather and the views were amazing. With high temps in the low to mid-70's with sunny skies and glassy seas, the salmon just never appeared. The entire fleet only averaged 14 salmon per day for the three days we stayed. Last year, my dad and I caught our limit of 12 silver salmon in less than two hours everyday. This was likely one of the worst recreational fishing years on record for SE Alaska. The guides blamed it on commercial trawlers, which likely played a role, but I also suspect warming seas and a July dry spell also played a major role.
My dad and I brought home 88lbs of processed fish, 95% of which was halibut and rock fish. Our guide, Garfield, was also a little aloof and grumpy and not quite understanding that the old folk on board were hard of hearing and needed some direct instruction on how to fish. Overall, this Alaska trip was ranked 4th out of the 5 times we've visited. We'll be back next year with Captain Kevin, a very smart and empathetic man! Hopefully the fish will follow!
Take a look at all the great photos we took in Lawrence Freaking Kansas while attending the Earth Educators Rendezvous. It was hot & humid, but so fun to see all of our friends. We also had a blast getting to teach teachers how to make sense of climate change lessons for their classes. Very much looking forward to next year!
Nearly all of my best friends from high school and their families spent a very fun weekend hanging out and watching our kids play on the hammocks at the newly established Webber Lake Campground.
Our entire group took a lovely hike through Lacey Meadow and got to play in Lacey Creek where several other families of young children were already playing. Along the way we spotted 12 different species of wildflowers!
And, while I have no photographic evidence, Dave, Lucas, Zephyr and I were witness to a bizarre display of animal interactions while on an sunset canoe across the lake. We were skunked fishing, but what we saw really made up for the lack of fish. We witnessed a young black tail deer, no more than a year old, antagonize two sandhill cranes and a huge gaggle of geese. I had heard the cranes chatting-up a storm, so we tried to canoe around the inlet delta's willows to take a peek. As we stealthily paddled to within several hundred yards we could see the young deer put its tail up and head down as it ran towards the cranes. The cranes leapt out of the way each time and gave the dear an earful. But the dear was undeterred, and much like a bullfight, the dear circled round and made about eight more passes at the crane, sometimes chasing it into water about 18" deep.
With the cranes fully pissed-off, the deer shifted its attention to a gaggle of three-dozen Canadian geese that were sitting on the marshy shore minding their own business. Like an impetuous human toddler, the deer again raised it's tail and, with a 35-meter run-up made a beeline for the gaggle of geese. The deer was like a bowling ball plowing through the geese. The geese flew-off just in the nick of time, tumbling out like bowling pins and all the while probably wondering what in the hell they ever did to the deer to deserve this kind of treatment. To cap-off the evening's events a bald eagle swooped down about 20' above our heads and landed in some trees on the north shore of the lake. The sun was setting and we raced back across the lake so that I could take the picture below.
I'm lucky to have such awesome friends! We'll be returning to Webber Lake next year.
Ryan J Hollister - Geoscience & EnviroSci Educator, Avid hiker, Landscape photographer, WildLink Club Advisor, Central Valley Advocate.