Setting the Stage, Part 2

I wrote this post for the Ashland Forest Resiliency Blog to explain how we use ecological forest thinning to set the stage for restoring a natural fire regime to the forests of Ashland.

Our last post explained why ecological thinning (what foresters call commercial density management) is necessary for forest restoration and wildfire hazard reduction in the Ashland Watershed. In this post we want to show you how one thinning method works.  After trees have been marked by Lomakatsi technicians and selectively cut, they need to be extracted from the forest, a process called yarding. AFR employs two yarding methods: helicopter and ground-based, which we’ve been working on this year. Here’s a quick overview of what ground-based yarding entails:

First, a crew member pulls the yarding cable and connects it to one or more felled trees.
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Setting the Stage, Part 1

I wrote this post for the Ashland Forest Resiliency Blog to explain how we use ecological forest thinning to set the stage for restoring a natural fire regime to the forests of Ashland.

If you live in Ashland, you’ve probably seen log trucks rumbling out of the watershed this summer. It might be easy to dismiss this activity as just “logging,” but did you know that removing these trees is crucial for restoring ecological health to the Ashland Watershed? To find out how, read on! 

The Ashland Watershed viewed from Wagner Butte. Our forest is beautiful, but it needs our help.

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Oak Conservation in Southern Oregon

I wrote this article for Southern Oregon Land Conservancy’s (SOLC) most recent newsletter.

Vernal pool/oak woodland habitat being restored by ODOT and The Nature Conservancy near Central Point.

Oak woodlands are truly special places. Among ecologists, they are famous for holding troves of species, many of which are unique to oak habitats. On a personal level, I find them utterly surreal. With relatively flat terrain, a parklike canopy, and abundant plants and animals (and in the case of southwest Oregon, magical vernal pools), oak woodlands are an idyllic and comforting place to wander in spring and early summer. Unfortunately, the virtues of oak woodlands have also been their downfall. Continue reading

A New Approach

A new home. A new job. A new approach to photography.

At the end of 2016 I accepted a job with The Nature Conservancy in Oregon. I packed up my belongings, moved to Medford, OR, and completed my two and a half year “lap around the U.S.” In the last three years I’ve lived in New York, Maine, Florida, Nebraska, and Montana. I’ve learned so much  about conservation and gotten to know some inspiring photographers, namely Michael Forsberg, Chris Helzer, and Mac Stone. From them I’ve learned the immense value of being in one place for a long time. In doing so, you develop an intimate understanding of the local issues and form crucial relationships to other people. It’s this level of understanding and dedication, I’ve learned, that makes truly great photography.

In contrast, for the last three years I’ve mainly been taking pretty pictures, writing opportunistic blog posts, and occasionally working on small video projects. This has been incredibly fun and important practice, but after seeing positive change other photographers have achieved with more focused projects I’m inspired to take a new approach. I’ve decided to focus my photography on two specific causes.

I took a lot of pretty photos like this in Montana, but so what? Everyone already loves mountains. For a while I’ve been searching for a cause to apply my love of photography to.

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Black-and-chestnut Eagles


While I was working on my latest video about an organic farm in Ecuador, my thoughts drifted back to an incredible bird I filmed while living in that country. I went onto YouTube to see how many people had viewed the remarkable video from that experience and was horrified to discover that I had never published it! Because of the dire conservation status of this bird, as well its sheer beauty, I made it a priority to share this story and rare footage. (Trust me, you want to watch this one). Continue reading

Platte Meditations

This is a post that I wrote last January while living in Nebraska but didn’t get around to publishing. I’ve been waiting for some cold weather to publish it since.

On a sub-zero Saturday morning last month I got up early to catch some photos of the sunrise. I had planned to go to a prairie, but as I was driving I noticed a line of steam rising on the horizon like the trail of dust a pickup makes as it races down a dry gravel road. Curious, I headed towards the steam and realized that it was coming off of the Platte River. When I arrived at the bridge I was stunned; the entire river was steaming, and the vapor was being backlit by the sunrise. An endless procession of ice chunks slowly floated by, quietly scraping against the snow on the bank. I spent almost two hours photographing, filming, and recording audio, and I never even felt cold. There was something special about that morning, something about the stillness that made me feel content and peaceful. I wanted to share that feeling with other people, so I edited a short video of how I saw the Platte that morning:

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Sea Serpents

I was walking along beautiful Quake Lake when I startled a snake resting on the rocky shore. He gracefully slid into the water and disappeared in the blue shallows. Ironically, I later identified the species as a Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans). After taking a few more steps I startled another. Pausing to scan the rocky shore more carefully, I spotted two more. What was going on? Why were so many snakes drawn to a frigid lake on a chilly day?

A Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans) sunbathes on the shore of Quake Lake

A Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans) sunbathes on the shore of Quake Lake

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Predatious Pinedrops

20160723_montana_2102While walking walking through the shady forest on the way to Lava Lake last July, I stopped to look at one of the more unique plants in Montana. As I admired its dangling, urn-shaped flowers,  I noticed a couple dead insects stuck to them. Looking closer, I realized that the flowers were practically covered in tiny beetles, bugs, flies, and wasps, some dead and others still struggling to free themselves. As you might know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I’m a carnivorous plant lover, but I’ve never heard this plant, Woodland Pinedrops (Pterospora andromeda) mentioned as a carnivore. I did some research and learned a lot of interesting things about this sticky plant. Continue reading

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! Here’s a post from last year about a very spooky yet fascinating animal.

How many naturalists does it take to spot a parasitoid? In this case, two. While we were harvesting seeds in a wet prairie, my supervisor, Chris Helzer, spotted this caterpillar. He noted that it seemed to be mimicking horsetail (Equisteum sp.), a very common wetland plant, for camouflage. That was a really interesting idea, but it turns out be far from the truth, and you’ll soon see why.


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