Wednesday, September 23, 2009

HJ Andrews Class Field Trip

This year in Geography our field trip was to the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest. Last year I
went on the Geography Field trip with the new class of Geography students where we ended up at the HJ Andrews Forest where the 2nd year students cooked us up a wild salmon dinner on our last night. Well, this year I was the 2nd year student and it was our turn to treat the incoming geography students to dinner. But, before that night our actual class was called Field Research in Landscape Ecology so we basically
spent 4 days touring around the HJ Andrews Experimental research learning about various flora/fauna species and the geologic history of the landscape. Our teacher Julia
Jones brought us to various sites throughout the forest that were clearcut, old growth, debris flows, etc and explained to us the processes that shaped the land into what we see today. I found it all very interesting... until we began the main project for the class which was to take sound recordings from various places around the forest to construct an “acoustical landscape” for the HJ Andrews. This involved placing sound recorders throughout the forest near streams for 24 hours as well as taking roadside recordings with portable recorders. I found this objective to be odd because HJ Andrews is considered a very quiet landscape with few birds or animals
compared to other locations in Oregon. The only thing that was particularly audible were the stream and river systems throughout the LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) site. We hypothesized that perhaps we would be able to detect a change of sound overnight on the streams based off different levels of evapotranspiration of the forest between day
and night. This, we found was definitely not the case because of how little water there actually was in the forest during this time of the year.

At night we were able to hang out together in our rooms and after a year of being friends we all had a pretty good time. On Sunday night James and I cooked up my father’s goulash recipe
for everyone. I was excited that everyone really liked it and we made about twice what we needed to make for everyone. I basically winged the amount of ingredients for the recipe and we ended up with two big pots and a giant wok full of it. At the end of dinner we had a giant wok left over that we ate up on Wednesday night instead of cooking up more food. Tuesday afternoon after we got out of the woods a bunch of us cooked up a massive meal of albacore tuna for the 1st year students while I managed a playlist of music for people to listen to with speakers provided by Julia (speakers were for research but we nabbed them for music as well :). The first year students seemed really nice but when I questioned them about
how much beer they had brought for us I learned that they had severely underestimated our drinking capacity :). Thus, James and I made a last minute run to the small town of Blue River to grab some more booze for everyone.

We had a delicious dinner of the tuna and other dishes
that we prepared before all going into the headquarters building for a round table discussion fielding questions from the newbies about the department. I left to go to the bathroom and when I came back I found Ralph reciting his funny Lamprey rap song to everyone in the room.. which is reeaalllly long. We all fielded a few questions from the newcomers then retired to our room for a
dance party DJ’d by me where the extra beer we bought came in handy. The newbies didn’t stay in our room for very long but all the 2nd year students stayed up till nearly 3 in the morning playing limbo, other body balance games and dancing the night away.

On Wednesday we spent the day designing our sound recorder
observations and placing the instruments throughout the forest. We finished by 5pm and decided to head out of the research forest for a swimming hole on the McKenzie River down the road. We found a cool place to jump off the rocks and of course I stepped it up a notch and found the highest point
to jump which took me out over a shallow ledge of rock that I had to clear or break my legs. Then we found a rope swing nearby as well which Ralph went off of with his snorkel (don’t ask me why he had a snorkel on the trip...) I took the rope and pulled it as high as I could up onto the rocks before swinging out over them to about 20’ in
the air above the river before letting go. It was really fun but the river was friggin’ freezing! Logan got some great photos of all of us with his fish eye lens.

We all had a good time during the 5 days we spent at the research forest and I can honestly say that I now feel a lot more comfortable naming species of flora/fauna that I see on hikes in the Northwest. We saw some really amazing things in the woods too such as massive 500 year old Doug fir and one tree that had a spiral core taken out of it by a lightning strike.
Now we have to go back to Corvallis and analyze all the data we recorded and write a paper on the acoustical landscape which I’m not looking forward to. Hopefully I can use some of my map making and graphics experience to add the paper.

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