Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Weekly Update (August 16 – 17)

Weekly Update (August 16 – 17)
Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns –Emily Hermann (Bawss), Cecilia Huizar (Strawberry/watermelon), Gaku Ogawa, and Massupha Upachit (SPICY NOODLE) and honorary Nelly (CorNelly)

       Final week up at the lookout. Thanks to Dr. V and Kevin Cooper for giving us an opportunity to explore, gather data, work as a team, and learn in many ways.
The team all got together in the morning around 8am and Massupha kindly drove us the Pozo station. At the station we switched to the US Forest vehicle and drove down to finish gathering data on the final area of Site 3. Site 3 only had 4 to 5 patches and we moved onto Site 4, Oakwood land. We didn’t know much to expect from the site, since we had never explored the area prior. The creek bed of the site was littered with giant rocks, compared to the previous sites where the creek bed was made of sand. The density of milkweed was lower in site 4 compared to site 2 and 3. We gathered data until there was a bush of poison oak we could not go around and called off the mission to gather more data to keep everyone safe. We finished around 12:30 and made our way to the lookout. On our trip up to the lookout we decided to give each other nicknames which are written above. Sadly I forgot my own nickname.

      At the lookout we opened up the lookout and ate lunch. The cool slight breeze outside had most of us eating outside while we read the lookout journals and reading an entry of a professor who was once an intern, made us laugh. Cecilia later that night put in our entry into the journals. After lunch, Emily and Cecilia decided to go out for condor radio telemetry. Emily received two signals. Approximately 1 hour later of resting, they both went out again for radio telemetry and Cecilia got a signal. We were able to wrap up with the whole team receiving at least 1 signal for radio telemetry. Sadly, none of us were able to see a condor.

      At around 4:00 we headed back down to Site 2 as advised by Dr. V to check out, but on the other side of the road, which we called Site 2b. We collected data from Site 2b, which was roughly the same terrain and density of milkweed plants as Site 2. We saw one dead monarch larva, which looked like it was beginning to become a chrysalis, but the larva looked deflated. None of us could understand what happened to the poor potential butterfly, but we guessed after Massupha read one of the books at the lookout that an assassin bug was the culprit for hte poor larva. Some of the milkweed had pods and opened up. We continued gathering data until about 6:00 where we ran out of data sheets to write on.

        Soon after arriving back at the lookout at 6:30, Kevin Cooper called and I relayed what he said to the team. We are all eager to have dinner with you and Dr. V once you get time from all those fires. (Thanks for taking care of all of those fires Kevin.) After relaxing our tired legs and changing into more comfortable clothes, Massupha started making spicy noodles for the final night challenge, the SPICY NOODLE CHALLENGE. We all got a good portion of noodles and counted down from 3 and started eating them. Emily finished her noodles first, then Cecilia, then me, and then Massupha as she had the most amount of noodles. Emily was awarded the “finished first” award. Cecilia ate more noodles after and was awarded “eating the most noodles”. I am weak to spicy and was awarded the “at least he tried award”. Massupha was awarded the “brought and made the noodles” award. With our spiced up mouths burning, Cecilia brought out her already cut watermelon we partly ate during lunch, which saved us all, or at least I was saved. That night, the stars were stars were shining brightly and without the moon, the Milky Way shined brightly in the sky. Cecilia and Emily slept outside, which Massupha and I slept inside.

       The next day, we got up and ready around 8:00 and closed up the lookout around 9:00 to go down to Hi Valley. The steep trail proved to make us all tired. Nearing the start of the Savanna region, or as Emily called it the “grasslandy” area, and the end of the brush area, the brush thickened, so the trail will need a large amount of clearing where scissors for plants and gloves maybe needed. We took approximately 1 hour to arrive at the base of the valley. There we saw a large amount of milkweed plants. The largest obstacle in the area was the abundance of poison oak and typing on a phone for data. The site seems to be a potential good site to look at if time allows, but the abundance of poison oak makes, gathering data more difficult. After only about 1/6 of a mile, there seems to be no more easily accessible milkweed to gather data from. If future parties come down the valley to gather data, the trail will need some clippings and poison oak might need to be cleared. At around 12:30 we headed back up the valley side to the lookout and arrived around 1:30 to eat lunch and drove down to Pozo station. We then refilled the tank up at Santa Margarita and cleaned the truck. We said our gratitude to the firemen at the station before leaving for home.










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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Weekly Update (August 9 – 10)

Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns –Emily Hermann, Cecilia Huizar, Gaku Ogawa, and Massupha Upachit

On Wednesday (8/9), we initially met up in SLO and Emily drove us up to the Pozo station and arrived around 9 am. Once we got to the Pozo station, we switched our vehicle to the US Forest truck and drove off to the fieldwork, which were a few miles away from the station. This field site was the second site that we’d been working on for the past couple weeks. As usual, we did our survey on the narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) alongside the streambed and collected the data on each plant to see if there was any breeding present in the area in this hot season. There was an abundance of milkweed in this field site and its colorful flowers make such a beautiful scene for us to enjoy. A couple of monarch butterflies were spotted flying in the patches and a caterpillar at its fifth stage was found devouring the leaf. As the heat temperature was nearly reaching its peak about 90 – 92 degrees, we decided to call off the survey and headed to the lookout for lunch around 1 pm. After lunch, Gaku, Cecilia, and I began our search for condor signals. Fortunately, we were able to receive two bird signals but have yet to see an actual condor. Hopefully, we could at least see one bird before our summer term comes to an end. When we finished the first round of the radio telemetry data collection, we walked back to the lookout and took a short break to stay out of the sun. In the late afternoon, Gaku and Emily did the second round of the radio telemetry but no signals received this time. After a hot day, we spent a wonderful night at the lookout enjoying the sunset, the full moon, and the stars.

On Thursday (8/10), we started our morning with a view of sea of clouds. It was just another fine day for us to work in the field. Around 9 o’clock, we headed back down to the second field site and began the data collection procedure. Things went smoothly because the weather wasn’t too hot and we finally finished up the second site and moved on to the third site. Yet again, monarch butterflies and a caterpillar were spotted in the area. Also, we found a lot of monarch butterfly’s wings laying on the ground so we assumed that in that particular area was a grave of monarch butterflies? We took a quick lunch break at 12.30 pm and resumed our work at 1 pm. When we were finishing up our survey at the third site around 2 pm, a small accident had occurred to the truck and Phyllis’s car. Fortunately, nobody got injured and both cars were zero damaged. For our vehicle, it was just a tiny scuff mark but it was easily removed by using some gel and a soft sponge. Thankfully, Eric, a captain from battalion 31 helped us remove the scuff mark and solved the problem.

I also attached pictures  that I took at the lookout from last week

- Massupha Upachit
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Weekly Update (August 2nd/ 3rd)

Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns - Emily Hermann, Cecilia Huizar, and Massupha Upachit

This week, a thunderstorm that swept through SLO county Wednesday changed our usual day's work. The different weather certainly made for a unusual day as it was humid, hot and temperatures stayed between 80 to 83 degrees, which beats the typical blaring sun and dry 90 degree heat any day! We typically start our day surveying narrowleaf milkweed (Asclepias fascicularis) along the stream bed, but due to a flash flood warning, we did not risk it. (Thanks for the heads up Dr. V!) Instead, we opportunistically surveyed woollypod milkweed (Asclepias eriocarpa) along the roadside starting from the campground and moving our way up until we reached the lookout. We arrived at the campground around 9:45am and began our data collection. Similar to the A. fascicularis survey, we looked for evidence of monarch catepillars and butterflies' presence in the area. We were initially excited to see a monarch catepillars and two chrysalis but at the same time, were not so thrilled. Monarchs should not be here in our area at this time of the year, so hopefully these little critters survive the summer.

Not too long after we began our survey, it started to rain and we saw lightning. The rain was inconsisent. It would drizzle then pour out of nowhere and stop all together moments later. When it poured, we ran to the car so our data sheets would not get wet and we would wait in the car once the rain stopped. However, we only had to deal with the "rain" for the first hour or so. During the middle of our survey we heard first reports of the 2 fires that started on Highway 58/ Red Hill. Moments, most likely an hour, later we saw a smoke plume that was the Red Hill fire.

We returned to the lookout around 1pm and because we saw lightning earlier we decided to wait out until the late afternoon to do our condor radio telemetry.  We returned to the road to finish our A. eriocarpa survey, in which, we realized was not much left to be surveyed. We returned to the lookout once again, around 3pm. We decided it was safe enough to do radio telemetry, as we did not see lightning for a good couple of hours. Emily and I searched for signals until about 4:30 and had no luck. Unfortunately, we did not get any signals, this week. We ended our night reading up about the stars, animals and critters of California.

Thurday, we started our day, around 9am, back at the stream bed (Site: Tamarisk 1). It once again was humid hot and about 81 degrees. We resumed to our A. fascicularis data collection and saw a few more monarch caterpillars and butterflies. We had lunch between 12:30pm to 1pm and called it a day at 3pm. Was a tiring day but happy with our progress. Almost done with site two and will most likely begin Site 3 (after finishing Site 2) next week.

Other sightings:

Apart from our usual sightings of accorn woodpeckers, dark-eyed juncos, yellow-billed magpies, etc., I saw an Oak titmouse, which was my first time seeing one (but they are probably common around here). I didn't spot any Northern Harriers this time around (I usually see one every week).

We found a bone of a medium-sized mammal (that I believe may have been a coyote tibia). I didn't think about taking a picture, unfortunately. We also came upon a few large rib cage bones (probably from a cow?)

-Cecilia
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Sunday, July 30, 2017

Weekly Update (July 26/27)

Hi Mountain Lookout 2017 Interns - Emily Hermann, Cecilia Huizar, Nelly Guerra, Massupha Upachit, and Gaku Ogawa

After weeks of preparation and training, we embarked on our first over-night stay at the lookout!
On Wednesday (7/26), we got to the Pozo fire station around 8:30 am and walked out to our first field site about 60 meters from the station. Our goal for the day was to begin the milkweed survey, as well as work through the kinks of the data collection procedures. We are looking at the relationship between milkweed plants (Asclepias fasicularis and A. eriocarpa) and their distance away from a nearby stream bed up to 20 meters. The presence of the patches provides space for monarch breeding to occur, so we record if any breeding is present on the plants, or if monarch adults are in the area. Overall, the data collection went smoothly as the group found our routine for measuring, recording, and conflict resolution.

We finished data collection in the first site before lunch, and headed back to the station to relax and get out of the sun. After lunch, Nelly drove us up to the lookout for Condor Telemetry data collection, as lead by Massupha and Cecilia. Thankfully, we all got a refresher on the different sounds the receiver can make from interference, as well as hearing and recording two birds signals; both signals came from the direction of Big Sur.

After packing the telemetry equipment back up, we all headed back down the mountain to our second field site about 50 meters past the creek crossing. There was an abundance of milkweed from the mouth of the dried creek bed, a very different scene than years previous. We worked for about an hour and a half when we saw Dr. Villablanca's "Mod Bus" roll over the hill to meet us. He came up for the night to ensure that the survey procedures would still be effective in the new season and that we would all be settled in for the night. We talked through how the first day had been going and decided to alter our protocol to include a larger span of milkweed plants from the center of the creek bed.

Our long and productive first day was over and we worked our way up the mountain to eat and relax at the lookout for the night. We even pulled out the telescope for a late night celestial viewing party.

The next morning, we woke up to a gorgeous sunrise, ate breakfast, and packed up the lookout. As we closed up we decided to put the chains from the North and South shutters in the top drawer of the desk in case of vandals. Dr. V pointed out the small animal trapping sites and the other milkweed survey starting points on our way to our field work site for the day. The timeline for getting through the sites is vague at this point in time because there is a visible increase in population size as compared to last year, but we will do our best. 

The second day of data collection went smoother logistically, however it seemed like the heat and the long hours slowed us all down. We reached a stopping point around noon and decided to call it for the day, in order to stay on the safe side and avoid any heat sickness. When we got back to the station, we cleaned up the truck and all of our belongings and relaxed together for one last time as we ate lunch. It was a successful trip and we are all excited to see what the rest of the summer holds for us.

(We will be rotating who sends out the weekly updates. Nelly will be sending out next week's)

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017