Thursday, October 18, 2012

The foggy trail going towards the ocean
Students observing the experimental areas
Our field trip to Point Reyes was definitely one of the coolest field trips I've been on. The autumn weather couldn't have been more perfect given the usually windy and cold conditions. We heard about some of the difficulties of managing such a huge piece of land by park biologist Dave Press, such as what to do about the oyster farm that has been "grandfathered" in and allowed to operate within park boundaries. We also heard from Dr. Cushman about the experimental plots he took over in 1998 which have been used to gauge the effects that elk grazing have on the grassland/coyote brush that is the dominant plant community. It was evident that the fenced-in plots were much more dense with coyote brush and probably provided better habitat for some species of animals. The most important point I took away from this field trip is how hard it is to manage such an area after 150 or so years of human-caused changes to the landscape. As Dr. Cushman emphasized, we really don't know what is the "right" mix of plant species since we don't have historical references, and so there is much to be learned.

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