Here’s an article that Loren Morris found in Forbes Magazine a couple of days ago. It’s a beautiful example of what we can do as concerned citizen scientists who are willing to volunteer our time and talents to making a positive impact on our environment. I hope you enjoy it and can come up with creative ideas on your own for giving Mother Nature a little TLC.
Have you ever said to a friend or family member that s/he has to come out of her/his shell? Well, watch this video and see how tenderly (and maybe proudly?) this puffin parent helped draw the chick from its shell!!! I think you’ll be fascinated!!
What’s the Deal with Gorse?
By Kate Iaquinto
I was recently at a meeting in town and the topic of invasive species came up. A person in the audience commented that the Gorse Action Group in town was in her words, “a total snooze fest,” and wasn’t doing anything to address gorse on private property. It really got me thinking. I’m part of the Gorse Action Group! I think we are doing good work! Maybe the public just doesn’t understand! So I decided to write this blog. Let’s start from the beginning….
What is gorse and how did it get here?
Bandon is known as being ground zero for gorse in Oregon. It was first brought here by a man named “Lord” George Bennett. If you haven’t heard the stories, basically the tale is this. Lord Bennet and his family arrived in America, settling near the mouth of the Coquille River in the 1870s. He was an Irish immigrant and he decided that his new home needed a little bit of beauty from his home in Cork County Ireland. He transplanted several furze plants (known as gorse in the US) at the end of the driveway to his estate. Of course, Lord Bennett didn’t understand the concept of plants becoming invasive, and neither did anyone for that matter. While gorse co-evolved in Ireland with weevils, thrips, mites and moths, those species were not present here in North America, which gave gorse the advantage to take over land and spread with abandon.
As with many noxious weeds, it spread like wildfire, pun intended. In Ireland, furze was a considered a beautiful plant with several functional uses. It was used as kindling to start fires due to its high flammability, it was often used as hedgerows due to its denseness and it was used to make chimney cleaning tools due to its extremely tough spines. All of the qualities that make it useful in Ireland, actually make it quite harmful here in Oregon.
The fact that gorse is extremely thick and spiny, make it an undesirable plant to work with and many people have difficulty removing it for this basic fact. Since it is highly flammable and grows with almost no bounds here in Oregon, it is a very dangerous plant to have around. In 1936 when a fire started in Old Town Bandon, it has been said that the gorse is what kept it going and ensured that the “whole dang town burned down.” In addition to these qualities, it releases large amounts of seeds annually that form a seed bank that can last for decades.
Why do we need the Gorse Action Group (GAG)?
For decades, we have known that gorse is a problem, but that problem has continued to grow and spread and become more of a hazard for our town. With the increasingly dry summers as a result of climate change, gorse is only going to become a more dangerous part of our noxious weed community. According to the Gorse Action Group website, the plant is now rated as one of the top 100 worst invasive species worldwide (World Conservation Union), and the #1 most invasive species on the south coast of Oregon (Oregon State Parks). The other organizations addressing noxious weed issues in southwest Oregon could not handle their typical workload and the massive problem of gorse, so the GAG was formed.
The objectives of the Gorse Action Group are to improve public perception about the problem, improve the regional and local economy through gorse removal, and to increase public safety through gorse eradication. These are some pretty lofty goals but the group is actually making huge strides and getting a lot accomplished. You might not think so, given the sea of gorse that envelopes Bandon, but there are many successes and many more to come.
First, and most importantly to many of you reading this blog, the group collaborated to remove gorse from Coquille Point, a public headland that is part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge. People said it couldn’t be done, but it was done and done successfully. Each spring and fall the headland at Coquille point is treated with a smaller and smaller amount of herbicide. While some non-natives have filled in behind the gorse, these are not a fire risk! In addition, one of the problems feared with removal of gorse from the headland has been proven wrong. It does not destabilize the slope! The gorse has been gone for several years now and no new slides have occurred.
The GAG has also initiated an experiment to test different gorse removals methods. Several methods are being tested at the gorse removal demonstration plots on the east side of highway 101 just south of Bandon. The methods being tested are a combination of removal methods including cutting, grinding, or digging up the gorse, and treatment methods including applying herbicide, landscape fabric, and replacing gorse with native plants or seed. The goal of this project is to determine which methods are the most effective in removing gorse so that the GAG can help people to decide the best course of action to remove gorse from their property.
In addition to the two projects mentioned above, GAG has been integral in the work to remove gorse from Harris State Beach in Brookings, the Bullards Bridge north of Bandon, and is now working to find funds for addressing gorse in the “donut hole.” If you didn’t know, GAG now has a part-time program coordinator named Rushal Sedlemeyer and she is working hard to help us eradicate gorse! There are also many other nonprofits and agencies that are working to eradicate gorse in southern Oregon including the Bureau of Land Management, Oregon State Parks and Recreation, the Coos Watershed Association, the South Coast Cooperative Weed Management Area group, the Town of Bandon, and others, including concerned citizens like yourselves.
So, Bandon has been dealing with a gorse problem for roughly 100 years. GAG isn’t doing everything and they can’t, but you, the person living in southwest Oregon, the person concerned about noxious weeds and fire safety, the one who drives by fields of gorse and hates those beautiful yellow flowers, you can do something! You can start by controlling gorse on your property, but then what? Help others! Join the GAG! Educate your neighbors! Volunteer on public lands like Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge to help out with control (had to throw a little plug in there). Great work is happening all around you and we can use your help! Please feel free to reach out to me or contact GAG directly if you’re interested in finding out more!
Internship Opportunity: Bandon Marsh and Oregon Islands NWR
Internship Title: Refuge Operations Intern (1 Position)
Internship Sponsor: Shoreline Education for Awareness, Inc. (www.sea-edu.org) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex
Internship Location: Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex, South Coast Refuge Office, 83673 North Bank Lane, Bandon, OR 97411
Term of Service: Approximately April 1, 2020 through September 30, 2020 (6 months). DUE TO FUNDING SOURCE RESTRICTIONS, WE CAN ONLY ACCEPT APPLICANTS BORN AFTER APRIL 1, 1985 (AGE 35 OR YOUNGER).
Position Summary: The Refuge Operations Intern will work with the refuge manager and refuge volunteers for the Oregon Coast National Wildlife Refuge Complex to achieve refuge operations needs and gain a wide variety of experience with responsibilities related to three basic functions: maintenance, biology, and visitor services.
Major Duties include, but are not limited to:
- Identify, monitor, map, and remove invasive plants including gorse, scotch broom, English ivy, cotoneaster and others.
- Conduct weekly nest monitoring of black oyster-catchers at Crook Point, Oregon Islands NWR.
- Assist with the development of a new public trail at Bandon Marsh NWR including helping to build and maintain the trail as well as encouraging public use by getting the word out.
- Assist with bi-monthly mosquito monitoring activities at the Ni-les’tun Unit.
- Assist with pollinator garden activities including organizing volunteer days, planting, seeding and weeding.
- Develop a display in the newly built South Coast headquarters for public education and information on a topic of the intern’s choice.
- Maintain existing trails including hedge trimming, mowing, and trash pickup
- Participate in active land management and restoration projects that benefit migratory birds and rare coastal headland prairie habitat at Crook Point. Interns will learn about conservation planning by working on projects directly stipulated in the Complex CCPs.
- Attend coastal fairs, celebrations and events to promote the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
- Deliver three evening campground programs for campers at Bullards Beach State Park.
- Provide occasional assistance to volunteer interpreters at Oregon Islands NWR public use areas. Must be able to identify focal seabirds and marine mammals of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge and use binoculars, field guides, spotting scopes, and portable signs.
- Speak with visitors about the purpose of the wildlife refuge, answer their wildlife and refuge related questions, and identify wildlife.
- Help protect wildlife and ensure visitor safety by informing visitors of potential safety hazards and attempting to correct minor infractions through interpretation. Document illegal visits or trespass into closed areas. Interns shall not engage in law enforcement.
Internship Requirements (you must have all of these to qualify):
- Some undergraduate coursework or formal training in wildlife biology, zoology, environmental science or a related field. Completed Bachelor’s Degree preferred.
- U.S. citizen, national or lawful permanent resident.
- Possession of a valid driver’s license.
- Ability and willingness to spend the majority of the workday outdoors.
- Experience conducting avian or plant-based biological surveys, invasives species monitoring, and a familiarity with marine and estuarine ecosystems.
- Experience with general maintenance, trail maintenance, and mowing.
- Willingness to work a flexible schedule, including occasional weekends, evenings, and limited overnight travel.
Additional Qualifications: Applicants must have the ability to perform the physical duties of the position including being able to hike over difficult terrain, climb onto offshore rocks and being able to lift and carry at least 20 pounds. Prior experience working on National Wildlife Refuges is preferred but not required. Applicants must be able to work with minimal supervision, be very independent and easy-going, and be able to work with the public of all ages in a professional manner regarding conservation issues.
Intern Benefits Include:
- A taxable, monthly living allowance of $1,200.
- Upon successful completion of the term of service, a bonus of $900 (prorated by the length of service).
- Professional development, training, and networking opportunities.
- Free housing at Bandon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge including utilities. Intern will have private bedroom, with ample shared kitchen, bathroom, laundry, and living space, wi-fi, and TV with DVD player (no cable). No pets allowed.
- Government vehicle is available for official work duties only.
- Intern is responsible for personal transportation needs.
Questions about the position?
Contact: Refuge Manager Kate Iaquinto, firstname.lastname@example.org, 541-347-1470
How to Apply: Send a letter of interest, resume, and contact information for at least three references (must include email and phone number for each reference listed) by email to: Kate_Iaquinto@fws.gov. DO NOT send applications by mail.
Additional information about Bandon Marsh NWR and the Oregon Coast NWR Complex:
If you live on the Oregon coast or are planning a visit, remember that in December gray whales can be regularly seen swimming past our shores as they migrate South to Mexico. You can learn all the details about this migration and about the return trip to Alaska that happens in the Spring by clicking on the link below.
As you may know, seeing these enormous mammals is a sight that thrills the hearts of most humans. It especially delights the young among us. So grab your binoculars and head to the cliffs or to the beaches on the coast and let your breath be taken away by another wonder of nature!
We seeing urchin overpopulation devastation right in front of us on the Oregon coast. To get an idea of the scope of the problem, check out this link to an article from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.
The problem is real and present. The solution is yet to be developed. Let’s hope that ODFW and others working on the problem comes up with a plan soon. Every step, small or large, towards a solution is important.
What have you heard about the concept of “regenerative agriculture?” Watch this short film and judge for yourself. Is it a band aid or a major surgery for the destructive effects of agri-business?
Of course, this isn’t all that is being done to reverse the degradation of our planet. Many governments, private businesses, and non-governmental organizations are working at finding healthy ways for people and nature to thrive together, and this is wonderful to watch. The growing presence of wind turbines and solar farms are a great encouragement.
But we all know that the driving force for restoring our planet is in the hands of each person who calls Earth home. When we choose to conserve electricity, to reduce our individual use of fossil fuels, to reduce, reuse and recycle the materials that we use – especially plastics – we are in small ways “fixing” the planet.
Personally, I am becoming more hopeful about the future of our planet because I am becoming more thoughtful about my relationship to it. And I see more and more people around me doing the same. Shouldn’t we all live more carefully? More conscientiously? And isn’t it disturbing when we see environmental abuse happening, whether it is being done by governments, big business, or individuals? I believe we all need hope. I will be looking for “good news” articles and sharing them from time to time with you. I HOPE you enjoy them.
As I was searching the internet for links to SEA, I came across this video that was filmed by LightCurve on the Road – Fousie in 2011. I was stunned by the beautiful way this video captures what SEA is all about. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this video is worth a million!! Take time to watch it. I’m sure you’ll feel the same.
Seems that everywhere we look lately we are reading about or seeing major shifts in our marine ecosystems worldwide. Major changes are occurring. Is it human-caused or natural rhythms in nature? Each of us must decide for ourselves what is causing them and then determine what we each can do to promote healing.
The article below is a challenge for each and every one of us who is concerned about our oceans to look for ways we can get involved.
For months beginning in October 2016, carcasses of tufted puffins turned up one after another on the shores of St. Paul Island, a tiny Alaskan outpost in the southern Bering Sea.
“It was very apparent that something strange was happening. They just keep washing in and washing in,” said Lauren Divine, director of the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island Ecosystem Conservation Office, who helped oversee the birds’ collection. “Every person in our community knew something was wrong.”
The odd-looking seabirds — with their rounded heads, golden head plumes and distinctive bright orange bills — typically migrate south to warmer waters that late in the year, so having any puffins wash ashore was rare enough. But the arrival of hundreds of emaciated puffin carcasses, as well as of a second species known as the Crested auklet, alarmed and astonished local residents and scientists.
“Part of the mystery is what in the heck were those guys doing there? Why hadn’t they left? … That means there’s something going on in the system that’s not too good,” said Julia Parrish, a professor at the University of Washington who also runs a large citizen-science project known as the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, or COASST. “We know month in and month out what is normal, what to expect.”
The mass die-off of the widely beloved birds off coastal Alaska — one of a growing number of “mass mortality events” affecting seabirds recently — was anything but normal.
Parrish and a group of colleagues used weather data to estimate that between 3,150 and 8,500 birds probably died, most likely from starvation. In a paper published Wednesday in the journal PLOS One, the authors theorize the die-off is at least partially attributable to the changing climate.
“This mortality event represents one of multiple seabird mortality events that have occurred in the Northeast Pacific from 2014 to 2018, cumulatively suggestive of broad-scale ecosystem change,” they write. Such episodes, they add, “are indicators of a changing world, and particularly of climate warming.”
Tufted puffins breed in the Bering Sea off the Alaskan coast, feeding on various fish and marine invertebrates, which themselves rely on plankton for food. But several years of significant warming and reduction in sea ice has resulted in troubling changes, such as the migration of certain “forage fish” such as capelin, juvenile pollock and other energy-rich prey that puffins and other birds depend on to survive.
The authors suggest the climate-fueled shifts that probably affected the food supply, as well as the birds being in molt — a process that replaces their feathers but also hinders their ability to fly — ultimately doomed the puffins that washed ashore on St. Paul Island.
“They didn’t get where they were going,” Parrish said. “They ran out of gas. They ran out of time.”
Similar circumstances appear to have fueled an unprecedented die-off of common murres — a thin-billed sea bird — between 2015 and into early 2016 off Alaska and other parts of the U.S. Pacific Coast. The following year, another seabird die-off happened in the Bering and Chukchi seas of Alaska and Russia, affecting northern fulmars, short-tailed shearwaters and other species.
In fact, 2018 marked the third year in a row that scientists documented “massive” seabird die-offs in the Bering Sea region, according to the National Park Service. It was the fifth consecutive season of mass mortality events in the North Pacific, the fourth consecutive year of these die-offs in Alaska, Parrish said.
“Seabirds are good indicators of ocean ecosystem health. Recent mortality events are concerning in that they may be pointing to significant changes in marine ecosystems,” the agency wrote in an update late last year.
As recently as this month, dead and dying common murres have been reported along the Mendocino County coastline in California, though the cause of that die-off remains undetermined.
“We are now just bracing for what is going to wash in next,” Divine said. “It’s kind of terrifying.”
Such episodes have also unfolded elsewhere in the world in recent years.
In the Gulf of Maine, puffins have been found dying of starvation and losing body weight — although scientists there have helped aid breeding in an effort to boost populations. Across the Atlantic, puffin populations also have been in decline, partly because of human factors such as hunting, but also, scientists say, because of changes to food supplies.
Wednesday’s study also comes on the heels of a United Nations report earlier this month that found roughly 1 million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction, with alarming implications for human survival. That report by seven lead co-authors from universities around the world goes further than previous studies by directly linking the loss of species to human activity. It also detailed how those losses are undermining food and water security, as well as human health.
Parrish acknowledged many questions remain about precisely what led to the puffin die-off in 2016, as well as others documented before and since.
“People often think you can point to climate change the way you can point to a person with a gun who had just shot somebody,” she said.
The reality, she said, isn’t so simple when it comes to figuring out all the forces shaping a complex ecosystem such as the Bering Sea. But she said each die-off offers clues that significant changes are underway and that more troubling patterns might lie ahead.
“Each one of those is like a bell going off,” she said. “And there’s been a lot of ringing lately.”