Monday, October 29, 2007

Maria Reyes Alejano, University of Huelva, Spain: Acorn Counting in Europe?
A professor of Agroforestry Sciences, Maria is studying the production of acorns in the dehesas (oak savannas) of Spain. Walt Koenig, at Hastings, is one of the very few people in the world who is also studying acorn production. So, Maria sought out Walt and Hastings to compare what she has learned in Spain to the oak woodlands here. Maria and her family spent a week in the Hastings Cabin in late October. In Spain, people manage the Iberian Oak, Quecus ilex intensively, and the tradition is that severe pruning of the oaks means more acorns, which are fed to pigs, at least in the Huelva area (where by the way, Christopher Colon aka "Columbus" sailed from). Maria's research team is conducting various levels of pruning and counting acorns under the trees to test the tradition. It appears that pruning has no effect on acorns, except that extreme pruning means fewer acorns because the trees have hardly any branches left. Maria visited other researchers at UC Berkeley and gave a great seminar to the Hastings residents.

Walt Koenig and Jean Knops conducted the 2007 California Acorn Count; you can read the typically irreverent report here.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

UC Natural Reserve System Annual Meeting

Hastings hosted about 65 people for 4 days (Oct 16-19). Reserve Managers and Stewards from most of the 35 reserves across the state attended. We heard updates from the Systemwide NRS Staff (UC Office of President) and we had informative talks on CEQA, our Propostion 84 funding support through Wildlife Conservation Board, and Jake Weltzin from the National Phenological Network office at Univ. of Arizona and USGS. We are working toward an NRS phenological monitoring network. Shane Waddell of the UC Davis reserves brought us up to speed on the wireless mesh networks as many reserves, like Hastings, have wireless internet access to support research equipment.

We had a great hike on Palo Corona Regional Park, with talks by Donna Meyers (Big Sur Land Trust), Lynn Overtree and Heather Brady (MPRPD). Walt Koenig reviewed his studies of acorn abundance in California, and Paul Kephart reminded us that we should include living surfaces in our planning for "green" buildings on the reserves. Always good to re-connect with our colleagues once a year.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Facilities Projects- Sumer, Fall, 2007
Any free time we had went to improving some of the facilities at Hastings. We replaced the entry lane markers. These makers, placed every 100 feet in the 1930's, are reference points for hundreds of observations in the Hastings field notes. They give us a way to record where observations were made of plants, animals, etc. We replaced the markers with stout fencing posts and metal signs. There are now 34 markers, starting near the junction of the roads by the Lower Barn and continuing to near the entry gate.

Jaime de Valle and Mark Stromberg took on several other projects that have been lingering for years. These include installing a low wall on the exterior of the screen room at the Lower Barn to keep the contents dry. With the Red House and Stucco House contents now in storage with the arrival of post-doc Eric Walters, and the coming winter rains, we installed siding but kept the screened windows or light on the north side of the barn.

We replaced the sink and faucet in the public restroom, as many years of our hard water and hard use had taken their toll. Jaime refinished the drywall and painted the interior and Mark cleaned and painted the floor. Jaime repaired the Hastings airless sprayer and we painted the exterior. The first question just about every visitor to Hastings has for us is "Where is the restroom?", so nice to see it in almost-new condition again.

Mark mixed about 20 sacks of concrete and mortar and repaired the rock walls below the two foot bridges that serve the headquarters building area. These rock walls were damaged in the 1995 El Nino floods. Once the footings were secure, Jaime and Mark removed most of the older bridges and replaced the worn decking an installed new railing. A bit of new fencing will keep people from the steep edges at the upstream bridge. Our downstream bridge needed more foundation work, and deck replacement. They each have solar lights now to illuminate the way across the bridge.

Finally, we replaced the batteries in the solar light system in the Lower Barn. These batteries need to be replaced about every 8 years, and they were at least 15 years old. So, with new batteries, and some time for charging and adjusting the system, we should have lights again at the Lower Barn.
New Winter Field Assistants: Woodpecker Studies
Doug hails from Concord, NH and is a recent graduate of Skidmore College and former president of the Outing Club. He comes to us from the lab of Cory Freeman-Gallant where he was studying Common Yellowthroats.
Emma graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill and was most recently working at the marine lab in Morehead City, NC in John Buno's lab. She is originally from Johnson City, TN.
Archer grew up in Soldotna, Alaska. She graduated from UW-Madison and recently finished work on the North Slope of Alaska where she was testing for avian flu in migrating birds.
Doug and Emma will be here through March. Archer is leaving at Thanksgiving to start a job based in Barstow, where she will be examining bird use of military bases throughout California and Arizona.