Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Fall Updates

It has been a while! A lot did not happen over the summer as far as my thesis research. Did not expect to hear that, did you? Well, I got a job on the Yakima Training Center conducting vegetation monitoring for Stell Environmental, who has a contract with the YTC. Between working out in the field full time and keeping up with my little munchkin, collecting data on my study site took the back burner and got burnt. But no worries. I did collect what I could last week and will add to it next spring through summer. So what if I am a third year graduate student?

Concerning that data I collected...I had six 30-meter (50-meter is ideal but my measuring tape was short 20 meters) transects within an approximately 20-acre exclosure. This area is prime sage-grouse nesting and brood rearing habitat in a riparian area. In the past, cattle grazing has degraded it to bare ground. The wind farm is reducing grazing utilization and also fencing off important areas to improve habitat. See, the important thing about this habitat is it is a part of a plan to try and reconnect the sage-grouse populations on the YTC with populations in Douglas County. Therefore, my study will assist in this endeavor.

With my time limitations, the data I collected occurred the week the cows were taken off the alottment, which means that grazing occurred all summer by the time I got to running my transects and collecting vegetation data. Along with the six inside the fenced area, I also had four transects at random places outside the exclosure so I can make a comparison of grazed vs. ungrazed.  Next year, I will get a 50-meter tape.  More data is always better!  Next  year will also show me how this area will recover after grazing.  According to the local rangeland guru, next year is a rest rotation so I will be able to study the site in the absence of grazing.

That is where I stand as of now.  This quarter I will start writing my literature review for the thesis.  I will continue to talk to knowledgeable people about my study area and hopefully find ways to get involved with local Coordinated Resource Management (CRM) groups.

Despite having to change my study, I still hold a lot of interest for free-roaming horses and continue to keep abreast the news about what's going on.  Learning more about cattle grazing has given me a new light on horse grazing -- more knowledge all around to discuss those highly emotional and volatile issues.  So feel free to chat with me about either topic and just try and shut me up!

Looking west across a grazed portion into the exclosure. 
Sage Grouse need adequate grass cover and shrubs for nesting
and forbs for broodrearing.

This area of on Whiskey Dick Mountain is called The Pines.