Two weekends ago, a group of eight SEFS students headed out to the Methow Valley, north of Lake Chelan in eastern Washington, for two days of focused field study with Professor Emeritus Tom Hinckley.
Helping to lead the course (ESRM 491B) were two SEFS alumni: Susan Prichard, a fire and landscape ecologist stationed in Winthrop, and Connie Mehmel, a forest entomologist with the U.S. Forest Service at the Forest Insect and Disease Service Center in Wenatchee. Prichard and Mehmel worked with the students to understand eastside forest dynamics and the roles that climate, introduced and native insects and diseases, fire and fire suppression have on forests—from the stand to the landscape level. Students contrasted an unmanaged stand with a stand undergoing a recent forest restoration prescription, and how these two different stands would have different vulnerabilities to fire, insects and pathogens.
The next day, students met with Brian Fisher of the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation to learn about riparian systems and human impacts (positive and negative) on these systems.
It was the first time Hinckley had organized this particular field trip, which he offered as an offshoot of his long-running “Spring Comes to the Cascades” course. The crew drove out late Friday afternoon and returned Sunday evening, and the goal was to focus more intensively and comprehensively on one study area.
“Usually, when I do field trips and we’re out walking, we don’t ever stay in one place for more than 20 minutes,” says Hinckley. “But we stayed in this one location for close to four hours. We cored trees, looked at the soil, measured and identified all the trees and seedlings, and identified all the coverage of the understory plants. Students really gained some firsthand knowledge in how to do a study.”
The class represented a wide range of backgrounds and majors, as well as undergrads and graduate students. Depending on their feedback, Hinckley says there’s potential to expand the course in the future, or to venture to new regions of the state—such as the North Cascades Base Camp.
Photo © Tom Hinckley.