The Wide World of Weeds and Grasses (and Forbs and Unknowns)

There are extensive grasslands on the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, and a refuge manager here, Jack Heisler, thought it would be a wise decision to survey them for their vegetation population and health. In order to do this, he recruited the help of a Wildlife Biology Technician at the time, one Clint Wirick, to help him map out the extensive units, and record the grass and forb data which inhabit them. Plots around the area were chose at random, and he went about setting up post marks and monitoring the vegetation structure in these areas.

Clint picked a random direction from the computer generated points, and stretched a 20 meter tape measure in that direction, then went about marking off a rectangular parameter every 2 meters on alternating sides and recorded vegetation diversity and percent coverage in each section. Along with this, each species max height was taken as well, along with percent ground cover.

Our Wildlife supervisor Howard took us out the first day to show us the ropes, and Nikki and I quickly caught on. Since we are UTV and ATV certified, we rode the Polaris UTV out to each individual spot guided by a GPS, often needing to use 4-wheel drive due to the extreme march conditions. The technique for data collection is called the [Technique]. At arriving, a tape measure if stretched in the direction classified, and a rectangle is moved along every 2 meters, as one of us identifies and the other records. Clint also took pictures of every specie of grass and forb on our grasslands and put them into a useful book- which was a valuable asset we found. The percent of the rectangle each species takes up is put into one of 6 classes: 0-5%=1, 5-25%=2, 25-50%=3, 50-75%=4, 75-95%=4, and 95-100%=6. This is also the scale used to identify the bare ground to litter ratio.

After a week of recording, Nikki and I are both experts now at identifying the grasses and forbs present on the grasslands, and if we cant identify a species it is brought into the lab for further inspection. We have been working for days on quantifying all the plots, and have only completed a fraction of all the ones needed to be done. We are sure to be working on this for a ways to come, and will most definitely be able to identify grasses in our sleep before finished.

The Great Grassland Abyss

 Taking Care of Business

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