Adventures with sawdust

22 May

Because I have a completely awesome instructor, my Timber Harvesting & Products class gets to take the best field trips ever. We recently traveled to the McDonald-Dunn Forest near Corvallis to observe the Oregon State University student logging crew in a thinning operation, and then went to the historic, zero-automation Hull-Oakes mill in Dawson for a tour, and finally to Freres Brothers mill in Lyons to observe a state-of-the-art automated operation. Thank goodness our instructor is energetic and excited about putting these trips together.

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The voluntary incarceration of attending grad school

28 Apr

Your faithful blog author has an admission to make that you may consider funny: Conventions freak me out.

I find them distressing, vexing and worrisome in the extreme. This probably sounds ridiculous. You see, conventions and symposia trigger my anxieties about a far more common problem — the fear of graduate school. I’m writing this post because I returned yesterday from a conference that has basically sent my midbrain red-lining.  And more importantly, because most of you reading this are students coming to crossroads just like I am.

So let’s pick my panicky heart to pieces in the name of science, shall we?

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Pacific dogwood species profile

29 Mar

People often ask me what my favorite tree is. It’s tough to say, but if I had to name a favorite genus, it would be Cornus — the dogwoods. I am not alone in loving these trees; they are grown far and wide as ornamentals. They are cosmopolitan, meaning they are found all over the world in similar climate bands. Oregon has two native species, one shrub and one tree. This profile will focus on the tree, which is Cornus nuttallii, or Pacific dogwood.

This species is small, generally staying under 25 meters in height. It is also a bit of a fragile beauty, as it is very susceptible to dogwood anthracnose; this disease is caused by the fungus Discula destructiva. It has killed many older trees in the wild and makes this particular species less favorable as an ornamental tree.

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From a plant’s perspective

23 Mar

I haven’t made a current issues post in a while, and something from 2007 may not qualify as ‘current.’ But the idea that “looking at the world from other species’ points of view [can be] a cure for the disease of human self-importance,” seems as relevant as ever.

This is a TED talk about looking at the world from a plant’s perspective, which close friends know is a subject that is dear to me. The speaker, Michael Pollan, is the author of books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma and The Botany of Desire (which I hope to review at some point). I first saw this link posted by a friend/coworker of my husband‘s. The two of them cook for a fabulous Japanese restaurant here in Portland, so I’d imagine they approach this talk from a foodie angle, while I approach it from — spoiler alert! — a botanical perspective. I want to make some comments after the video:

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Why I have not been writing: Tons of awesome field work!

17 Mar

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been absent from my duties on this blog for a couple weeks. But never fear! I have only been digging my way out from under an avalanche of term projects and exams. It will all be over Wednesday, so I figured I’d take some time to post today and show you what I’ve been up to. This also means I have not been able to prepare the interview I have in store, but judging by the response I got to my field notes post, you’ll enjoy this more, anyway!

I mentioned in a previous post that I’ve been working on various term projects. My friends might say the projects have been working on me, but that’s another post. We gave presentations for GIS and silviculture this week, with watersheds on Monday. Since my field notes post dealt entirely with our watersheds project, I’ll share that first, with elements of our GIS projects thrown in.

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Quick note

5 Mar

Hey there, readers. You probably didn’t know that I was supposed to have a new blog post up today, but about half of everything left to turn in for the whole term was due today. So, I’ll be taking this week off to get a little rest. Hopefully, I’ll have a great interview up next week. Stay tuned!

My shameful response to “Field Notes on Science and Nature”

28 Feb

In light of my recent review and a chat with a friend, I’ve decided to open my own field notebook to scrutiny. So, dear readers, I submit for your viewing pleasure my current and most decrepit field notebook (cover at right)!

It achieved its awesome state through rain, snow, mud, wind, river water, tree pathogen and the cruel stompings of a certain vice-chairman. Watershed Processes class may be the final nail in the coffin for my stoic No. 311 level.

Aside from the sorry state of the cover, I will also show you the sorry state of its insides! I’m working on a term project in the Young Creek watershed that investigates whether a nearby clearcut has affected the creek’s water quality, velocity, and stream channel characteristics. The preliminaries involve everything from soil tests and vegetation surveys to streambed profiles and reach maps — most of which I’ll post below.

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The importance of recording everything: A book review

22 Feb

Field Notes on Science and Nature (ed. Michael R. Canfield) was recommended to me by a teacher a while back. It made loads of Best of 2011 lists, too, and for good reason — it’s a fascinating exploration of keeping field notes.

On the surface, this may not sound so interesting, but the book illuminates the approaches of several contributors spanning fields from anthropology to wildlife conservation, and it not only explains what sort of things they record, but why, and even what benefit there is in doing it one way instead of another. A great example is the chapters that alternately sing the praises of Polaroid instant film and of black-and-white sketches. Because each contributor makes a convincing case for his or her method of choice (which often involves explaining why another method should not be used), it can seem like a tangle of contradictions. But the wealth of perspectives is exactly why I found it valuable.

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Fire in Oregon’s forests: A study analysis

16 Feb

English: "Elk Bath" – A wildfire in ...I had expected this to be a very dense academic work since its subtitle bills it as a synthesis of current information,  and at times, it is. But I was also surprised to see that most of the information presented would be easily understood by the average reader. It’s mildly personally disappointing, as I was hoping to find a dense academic work (since OFRI publishes things just for me dontcha know), but it’s far outweighed by how much good can be done by making this information understandable to landowners and other non-specialists.

This publication spans everything from basics to specifics, predictive science to natural history. It begins by explaining a lot of things that I take for granted, and would imagine that many Pacific Northwesterners also consider common knowledge — the recent history of wildfire suppression policy, explanations of historical fire regimes, and the many dangers posed to the natural world by the interaction of the two.

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Oregon white oak profile

10 Feb

Quercus garryana is a special tree because it is the only native oak found north of Eugene, OR. It lives on the west side of the Cascades, primarily in the Willamette, Umpqua and Rogue River Valleys, and along the Gorge. It also occupies a similar range in Washington and British Columbia, and grows up into the foothills in California.

It is a very drought tolerant and slow growing tree. Historically, frequent low-intensity fires have maintained its dominance on oak savannas throughout its range. Because it is fire resistant when mature and a vigorous sprouter at all ages, it is adapted to thrive in this type of fire regime, which also keeps the seedlings of faster growing species at bay. Native Americans set fires in these habitats to promote the growth of important food sources like the Camas lily, prized for its starchy bulbs (and pictured with oaks above).

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