May 22, 2009

Focusing on Fragments

I've always known that SF habitat is diverse and fragmented, a true mosaic landscape. Walk through a grassland that turns into scrub, round a corner onto a western slope with a bit of runoff and you might find some weirdly green vegetation. Every chunk is cleaved by trails, roads, and adjacent property lines.

Really getting into it with research goals in mind, I'm finding the pieces a bit overwhelming. Yesterday, with the help of Randy Zebell (a city land manager with mad skills), I began to map the previous extent of Cape ivy (Delairea odorata) invasions in Glen Canyon Park. It's a completely different scale than the French broom (Genista monspessulana) that I've been working on Bayview. Ok, I knew this. And I knew it would be difficult to map these little pieces, but it's really difficult. I'm not a natural at any of this so it takes a lot of repetition and review for me to understand what I've just accomplished.

I'm about to go over to the office of the Natural Areas Program to try to offload my GPS points onto a computer. I'll compare these line fragments to aerial photos and existing maps to complete the mapping of the way that Cape ivy has spread and been controlled in Glen Canyon. Randy led me around the park but we couldn't simply walk a line around our areas of interest. The terrain is steep in places. If not steep, it's impenetrably covered with willow, blackberry, and poison oak. Inside the willows, the GPS does not get a reading anyway, so we walked lines through to clear patches, waited for the beep (which indicates that the GPS is reading) and moved on.

Although I've loved Glen Canyon for years, and it's the first park in which I did habitat restoration, I went to places I'd never seen yesterday. We saw two garter snakes, a fancy hummingbird (I suck at birds), raptors, and dragonflies galore. I still have to go back to Bayview this weekend to wrap up some plots there, but by Sunday I'll be scratching my way through the vicious vegetation of Glen Canyon. I'm seeing a pattern in my work that's got little to do with nature: Fight with a computer to create maps, cling to steep, windy, poison oak ridden grasslands, fight with computer, claw through dense blackberry, fight with computer....

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