On our way down the mountains in Los Padres National Forest, west of Santa Barbara, Raja and I ran into some folks paragliding.
Peter, an undergraduate student in my lab, is interested in winter ecology – a little studied field that is more or less assumed to be of limited relevance in temperate systems, at least in comparison to warmer seasons. In the winter, ecosystem and community functions slow or stop all together. For example, primary productivity halts in deciduous trees, yet likely still occurs in microorganisms, and invertebrate community interactions (i.e., predation) are simply slowed due to an overall decrease in metabolic rates. Of the multitude of processes or interactions open to investigation, Peter decided to assess decomposition dynamics of leaf litter under the snow, and address effects of snowfall on these dynamics. To do so, five blocks with three treatment plots each were marked and sampled by removing subsamples of leaf biomass from each of the three treatment plots within blocks. Within each block, snow from one treatment plot was removed and added to another, so that there was a treatment plot with ambient snowfall, snowfall removed, and snowfall added. Now, if we could only find enough freezer space…
In contrast to the views from the biology department at Kent State, which are non-existent in my basement office and lab, the landscape surround UC-Santa Barbara and Raja’s building are almost depressingly awesome.
As for the photographs of Raja and myself – it’s something Raja likes to do and is generally not in my photographic interests, but, here you go; I was here.
On my visit to Santa Barbara, California, Raja and I observed a decently-sized flock of snowy plovers, a threatened shore bird currently being managed in several reserves up the Californian coast. While attempting to photograph the birds, a volunteer literally ran down the beach to tell me to keep moving to reduce disturbance to the fledglings. The reserve is more-or-less constantly patrolled by volunteers with a variety of experiences in conservation biology, as evidenced by this particular volunteer’s lack of knowledge about the plover’s restoration and referral to another individual to answer my questions.