While the concepts and ideas we cover in the classroom are the foundation for our work in restoration, learning the nitty-gritty details of how to apply them is equally important to success. Enter field school: two intensive weeks learning the practical techniques for monitoring and data collection. These skills will let us will let us evaluate if our projects are working and adapt them to be more successful. Plus who doesn’t love going outside to muck around? It’s a big part of the reason why most of us are here.
We were lucky enough to have two full weeks of sunny weather in the beginning of May. We started with a safety module and a lesson in being ‘Bear Aware’, learning how to avoid conflict with bears while out in the field. We all made sure to pack up our lunches while in the field at Mill Farm to avoid any Ursus from nosing around.
Through the semester we learned the importance of standardized scientific methods, and the value of efficient monitoring and data collection to accurately determine if the project goals were reached and facilitating successful restoration.
For our first week, our focus was terrestrial: we trained in completing terrestrial surveys (including amphibians, birds, and vegetation), performing radio telemetry, and doing small mammal trapping. We learned from several experts who gave their insights on methods such as amphibian species collection and giving and hearing bird calls.
In the second week, we shifted focus from the woods to the water, learning about aquatic ecosystems and survey methods. We covered the sampling and identification of fish and benthic macroinvertebrates, and learned how to gather the data used in Fish Habitat Assessment Procedures (FHAP). Several students also participated in a certification class for electrofishing, a process when done correctly is a safe and efficient way to survey fish species in streams.
We didn’t just learn how to sample for monitoring, we also got some practical experience with habitat enhancement! Field school wrapped up with construction of large woody debris (LWD) using log drilling and cabling methods. LWD is used in restoration to improve stream complexity and create habitat for fish.
Overall, field school was a fun crash course in the common techniques used for restoration projects in both terrestrial and aquatic environments. We had a chance to get our hands dirty and learn a wide variety of monitoring and restoration methods that we may go on to use in our restoration careers.