Archive for the ‘Creative Solutions’ Category

Oh Canada!

Posted by heidi08 On June - 24 - 2016Comments Off on Oh Canada!

News this morning out of Canada that puts the “Find your park” campaign of the US National Parks 100 anniversary to shame. Lets start here.

Parks Canada helping dam beavers with technology

Beavers are regarded as ecological engineering wonders – and now Banff National Park is relying on some manmade engineering solutions to retain vital beaver habitat in the Bow Valley.

Parks Canada is embarking on a $26 million project to replace an aging wildlife exclusion fence along the busy Trans-Canada Highway, but the fence runs through several areas that beavers have turned into impressive wetlands.

Officials say there are two beaver dam areas that are causing particular concern – one along the Legacy Trail and the other by the Norquay interchange where culverts beneath the highway are being affected.

“Where we’re able to, we’re going to re-route the fence design to keep out of the wetlands beavers have created,said Bill Hunt, resource conservation manager for Banff National Park.

26 million dollar project? Did I read this right? Culvert Protection along the entire TransCanada highway – all 5ooo miles from sea to shining sea? The mind reels. The jaw drops.

Beavers are known for unprecedented feats of ecological engineering – building dams, ponds and wetlands that can flood and damage human infrastructure – and are persecuted by humans as a result.

But they are also considered a keystone species, creating ponds that consistently have higher waterfowl diversity, more complex invertebrate communities, and provide critical habitats for amphibians. The buck-toothed creatures also create habitats that provide flood mitigation and resilience to extreme drought.

Hunt said when beavers cause problems for human infrastructure, the traditional go-to solution has long been to live trap or kill beavers, or go in with heavy equipment to destroy their dams.

“None of those historic remedies are very appropriate these days,” said Hunt. “We’d like to come up with solutions that work to ensure water flows through the culverts, but also preserves the habitat for the beavers.”

Beavers probably see a culvert beneath a road as a hole in an otherwise good dam, so they try to plug the hole. Parks is using flow devices, which are relatively cost-effective, low-maintenance solutions that regulate the water level of beaver dams and keep culverts open.

It talks about trapezoidal culvert fences AND beaver deceivers, pond levelers and clemsons. It even goes into how and why they work. Then after truly blowing our minds for several paragraphs it interviews Dr. Glynnis Hood to check that all this is true.

Glynnis Hood, author of the Beaver Manifesto and an associate professor of environmental science at the University of Alberta’s Augustana Campus in Camrose, said she was pleased to hear about the work that Parks Canada is doing.

She said she has installed 29 flow devices since 2011 in various places, including at Cooking Lake-Blackfoot Provincial Recreation Area, as well as in the rural municipality of Beaver County.

“I think what Parks Canada is doing is great, especially in a national park,” she said. “I’ve installed many of these devices in various places and the success rate has been very high. There’s been minimal to no maintenance on most.”

Hood, who studies wetland ecology as it relates to wildlife habitat and management, said she started to look into some of these flow devices because she was tired of seeing beaver habitat destroyed.

“I’m an ecologist, but over time I’ve turned into a wetland plumber because I was tired of seeing these wetlands, and specifically ones that are occupied and modified and transformed by beavers, with the highest biodiversity, disappear,” she said.

“I would be at a beautiful pond, with nesting songbirds, tadpole, frogs and waterfowl and then the next day I would go back and it would be drained because of management concerns. I thought ‘there’s got to be a better way.’ ”

Beavers play a vital role in the environment and are referred to as a keystone species.

“When beavers are in areas, it ends up supporting many other species that otherwise wouldn’t have habitat,” said Hood. “They do remarkable things.”

Parks Canada is hoping to showcase the work to be done at the beaver dam by the Legacy Trail to educate how important beaver habitat can be saved instead of destroyed.

“It’s one of the best beaver dam viewing opportunities in Banff National Park, and it’s completely and totally accessible,” said Hunt. “It’s like a demonstration project. We really want to show there are ways to allow beavers on the landscape without having the detrimental effects people often associate with them.”

This article just calls for this anthem. Timely because Jon and I are still reeling from Brexit which kinda symbolically unmarries us (we met in Germany where he was working as a British citizen, lo these many years ago).

Maybe we should all move to Canada.


‘Roll that Keystone Away’

Posted by heidi08 On June - 18 - 2016Comments Off on ‘Roll that Keystone Away’

Sad news yesterday in the field of ecology. Robert Paine passed away at the age of 83. If you don’t know why it matters, Paine was the one whose research originally coined the term “KEYSTONE SPECIES” in the late 60’s. Our friend the beaver would be called this without him! Thanks Robin of Napa for sending the article. I can only wonder what our bracelets would have looked like without him!

Bob Paine, ecologist who identified ‘keystone’ species, dies at 83

Bob Paine, an ecologist who conducted seminal experiments along the coast of Washington state in the 1960s, pulling starfish from the rocks and tossing them back into the ocean to demonstrate the consequences of disrupting an ecosystem with the removal of a single “keystone” species, died June 13 at a hospital in Seattle. He was 83.

Dr. Paine was regarded as one of the most significant ecologists of his era, a scientific ad­ven­turer who trekked across wave­-battered shores of the Pacific Northwest to observe, document and explain the forces that govern and sometimes upset the complex network of creatures in an ecosystem.

His concept of “keystone” species, named after the stone at the apex of an arch that supports the other blocks in the structure, refers most strictly to predators such as sea otters, wolves and lions with outsize influence on their communities. A groundbreaking idea when Dr. Paine introduced it in the late 1960s, the “keystone” species is today a fundamental of ecology textbooks.

Dr. Paine published his findings of the event, which he called a “trophic cascade,” in a now-classic article in the journal the American Naturalist, “Food Web Complexity and Species Diversity” (1966). Three years later, he introduced “keystone” species as an ecological term.

I actually had no idea that the concept of ‘trophic cascades‘ came first and from the same bright mind. Nearly everyone I meet trained recently goes out of there way to explain that the term ‘keystone species’ isn’t used much anymore and the field is more interested in ‘trophes’. Which, as it turns out, are all courtesy of Dr. Paine. Thank you so much for showing us the world and teaching us how it works!

Now I know we’re all feeling the burden of kit-season-without-kits of our own for the first time in a decade. So I thought I’d share a little Mountain House comfort with you for cheer. Caitlin was surprised that the beaver kit was out early an braver than his family, all of which Martinez has come to understand well over the years.


Dam Useful

Posted by heidi08 On June - 14 - 2016Comments Off on Dam Useful

DSC_7102Two beavers this morning at 5:00, one noisily chewing near the hole and the other swimming across. When it was still not quite light he or she plunked down toward the edge of the water and munched something with their back turned to the intrusive humans. We are on day 1 of “Project habituation” where we are trying to get the beavers acclimatized to us by repetition. I’ll let you know how it goes.

The only thing I was able to capture in with enough light was this feral cat making his own particular use of the beaver dam. It makes you think about how many species were affected when the beavers left, not just fish and ducks, but raccoons and deer. Beavers and their dams make such a difference that I’m sure many creatures come to rely on them.

One idea that Jeanette Johnson suggested at the meeting was scrabble tile earrings, which I of course had to try right away. I amused myself a great deal with these.

red earringsIMG_1219


Hmmm do you think an etsy shop is in our future?

Very nice article from our friends in Devon, England that several folks sent my way. It deserves our only slightly divided attention. It doesn’t list the author, but its featured in the “rewildling britain” magazine.

Devon beavers are officially working their magic

As an ecologist, it’s clear to see how the beavers have had a huge impact within the enclosure. Habitat variety and structure are the first things that have changed – wet areas, ponds, deadwood, open grassland, scrub and trees and areas of sphagnum. Visually, there also seems to have been overall improvement in biodiversity.

But not everyone is an ecologist and sometimes we take it for granted that everyone sees what we do. Others may just see an electric fence, or a flooded area, or not really see it at all. So how can we influence political and economic decisions if we can’t relay this message to those who don’t appreciate or see nature and wildlife in the same way? How can we say for sure that biodiversity has been improved? Based on our experience, we would expect this to be the case, but in what way has change occurred? And how does this relate to other disciplines such as hydrology?

Beavers and biodiversity

We picked the most relevant indicator groups related to change associated with the beavers: bryophytes, bats and aquatic invertebrates

Ecosulis, driven by its shared vision of rewilding Britain, uses a Biodiversity Quality Calculator, developed by Dr Alan Feest, which measures change in biodiversity quality. 

The bespoke calculator has been used in many ways to measure change as a result of management prescriptions and to gauge the effectiveness of biodiversity off-setting schemes. More recently, it was used to measure the change in biodiversity quality, using a range of indices, as a result of the beaver reintroduction at the experimental site in Devon. 

Particular focus was given to finding out if the beavers could help maintain the open grasslands in the face of encroaching scrub species. This could allow us to see how biodiversity changes over time and could also be linked to other environmental changes, such as nitrogen or hydrology. This could then also be used to influence decisions on whether reintroductions should be undertaken on a wider scale or if management plans and prescriptions should be modified.

To do this we picked what we agreed to be the most relevant indicator groups related to change associated with the beavers: bryophytes, bats and aquatic invertebrates. One of the key benefits of the calculator is that historical as well as current data can be analysed, allowing for trends to be determined. We measured the changes in biodiversity quality between 2012 (one year after beaver introduction) and 2015 data collected by Ecosulis for bats and bryophytes (invertebrate data yet to be assessed). The data revealed some very interesting trends:


  • + Increase in species richness
  • Increase in species evenness, indicating less dominance of common species
  • – Decrease in species dominance
  • Increase in species rarity scores on the site, including rare grey long-eared and barbastelle bats
  • + Increase in biomass, indicating an increase in invertebrate prey species on the site (and number of bats)


  • + Increase in species richness
  • + Increase in species evenness, indicating less dominance of common species
  •  Decrease in species dominance
  • + Increase in biomass
  • + Increase in nitrogen intolerant species (indicating lower nitrogen levels)
  • + Increase in species associated with well-lit areas, and species associated with acidic soils


  • + Increase in species richness
  • + Increase in species evenness
  •  Decrease in species dominance of any one species
  • + Increase in population density
  •  Slight decrease in species rarity\

Rewilding – right here, right now

After an absence of 400 years, beavers are back in England and, within a few short years, are having an amazing effect

The scale and direction of the changes have been compelling. By taking a relatively simple, cost-effective and standardised approach to collecting biological records, a clear picture of biodiversity change has been recorded at the Okehampton site. The increase in indices such as biomass and species rarity reveals that habitat structure and the carrying capacity of the site have increased. A rise in biomass for bats indicates higher levels of invertebrate prey, which in turn benefits other species including birds. 

The beaver have turned what was an area of dense scrub and simple channel into a mosaic of scrub, pools, dead wood, banks, culm grassland and habitat piles. After an absence of 400 years, beavers are back in England and, within a few short years, are having an amazing effect. Associated species are now diversifying and thriving, instead of declining – this is rewilding in action!

The full results are due to be published in the next Devon wildlife Trust Beaver Project update.

Beavers build nitrogen sinks

One unexpected consequence of the beaver was a potential reduction of nitrogen levels at the site, as indicated by the bryophyte assemblage recorded. By linking bryophytes with their nitrogen sensitivity we discovered that our data supports recent research that indicates beavers produce nitrogen sinks (Geographical. October 2015). This could be a handy additional tool in the argument favouring the reintroducing of beaver to Britain.

Clearly one of the fundamental principles of rewilding projects is that there is no ultimate destination. Rewilding is a journey and one that is to be shared both by people and wildlife. Like any journey, it makes sense to have a reference point to determine whether you’re heading in the right direction and are not back in the same place you started.

Our assessment measures the changes in biodiversity quality without the added value judgement of one species being more important than another. Instead, it tells you whether you have a dominance of any particular species, if you’ve recorded all the expected species present, what the spread and biomass of the species are and how this can be interpolated against the expected outcomes.

Once this quantitative assessment has been made, it can be incorporated into biodiversity and rewilding decision-making related to issues such as the location of rewilding projects, appropriate management regimes and the effects of externalities.

The next steps for the method are to help inform the debate regarding the decision to reintroduce beavers more widely back to Britain. We can also consider if this method might be applicable to other potential reintroductions such as those for pine martens or even lynx.

How’s that for a thorough recap of beaver benefits? Honestly I almost hope the United Kingdom never approves beaver reintroduction because it make for such fantastic efforts by the media to convince them – which benefit everyone! Go read the whole fabulous article, and share it with your friends or nonbelievers.

Captur1eThe city of Vallejo had such success with their Nature celebration last year for the anniversary of the State parks that they are working with USFS and FWS to do it again, specifically celebrating”Wild in the City”. Steve Dunsky has already asked me to give a Martinez Beaver intro and yesterday the project put out the plea for corporate sponsors. Uh oh. Check out their photo for the ‘Beaver sponsors’.

CaptureYou would think that a team of scientists would know better than this, but you’d be wrong. Because I was three feet away from Dr. Michael Pollock of NOAA fisheries when he proudly displayed a photo of a nutria in is beaver talk. I of course wrote them they might want to make a correction, and supposedly they will. In the mean time their mass email asked us to share it on social media and I see no reason not to oblige.



East side West side, all around the town

Posted by heidi08 On June - 4 - 2016Comments Off on East side West side, all around the town

It’s election season, and amidst all the dramatic vote-wooing, winning and stealing, one contest stands out as a true gripping question for the American people.

Mendon residents to vote on beaver trapping, killing

MENDON – Residents at Special Town Meeting this month will vote on whether to approve trapping and votekilling of beavers on Lake Nipmuc to reduce high water levels.

The proposed article would allocate $1,500 from land bank money to pay a licensed professional to trap beavers which are building a dam which is causing Lake Nipmuc to rise and flood the yards of waterfront homes.

“A beaver dam seems to be the culprit,” said Land Use Committee Chairwoman Anne Mazar.Parks and Recreation Director Dan Byer said that rising water may also be eroding the town beach.

Mazar said she does not know if residents are widely aware of the problem and does not know if the Town Meeting article will have any opposition.

“That’s one reason it’s good that it’s going to Town Meeting so people can talk about it,” she said.

The article goes on to say they ruled out the use of a flow device because it requires an ‘an elevation drop to work’. Does that make some kind of sense that I’m not getting? For the life of me I can’t imagine why any beaver in the world would build a dam WITHOUT an elevation drop? I mean if its not holding back more water than there is on the other side what’s the point? Anyway, I wrote Ms. Mazar today and contacted Mike Callahan, who’s a whopping 70 miles away, and we’ll see what happens. I’m hopeful she’s interested in alternatives because the article quotes her as saying,

“Mazar said she wishes another option existed because beavers are “really important in the environment.”

Mean while PRI covered the story of the newly famous urban beavers at the Olympic village in Vancouver. It’s a nice report and you should listen it. The article has some of the best ‘urban beaver’ photos around. I give it 9.9 from the German judge.

Vancouver’s former Olympic Village is now home to urban beavers

lodge and apartments

The Un-memorial Mural

Posted by heidi08 On May - 31 - 2016Comments Off on The Un-memorial Mural

Okay, you really need to watch this. It took nearly all day to make and I’m kind of proud of the integration of our photos with Mario’s images. The painting process is done, he’s just sealing today, so it’s the right time for an un-memorial to christen the piece.

Mario said the mayor AND Dave Scola came by to congratulate him on how beautiful it is. And I just got an email from Lara on the council saying the same thing. There was a blurb about it in the community focus, and kids have been excited about the frog and the turtle. This was a hard project to complete at almost ever level, first convincing Worth A Dam that it was okay to do something that felt like a memorial, then convincing the city to let us, then wrestling with everyone get the project insured: it was a battle at every step.

But we won. The battle and the war. And now Martinez will have a beaver dam on Alhambra Creek forever.

DSC_6991Well it’s time to celebrate now. How about enjoying the 12th annual beaver pageant in Durham North Carolina. The fun part is, that Worth A Dam’s Lory Bruno will be attending so we have a beaver emissary!

The Beaver Queen Pageant brings puns, fur and fun to an ecological cause

Scarlett O’Beavah takes her reign at the 2010 pageant.

The Beaver Queen Pageant is not a beauty pageant with a twist. Rather, it’s a beauty pageant with a lot of twists. More twists and turns than its longtime beneficiary, Durham’s Ellerbe Creek Watershed.

For starters, its contestants dress up as beavers. In drag.

Still with us? Good. Now note that points are taken off if contestants’ tails aren’t at least partially, um, functional. Engineering is essential.

Contestants assume various alter egos. This year’s winner was a comer named Scarlett O’Beavah. Ostensibly, the lovelies are judged on the quality of their tail, evening wear, stage presence, something called wetland-ready wear and talent—which almost invariably involves pop songs rewritten for the occasion. (One year featured a mysterious contestant known only as Belvis.)

But at this pageant, the judges are gleefully on the take, available to the highest bidder—once, that is, they’ve bought their way into their seats. The more budget-conscious vote-riggers can help fudge the selection process by stuffing the ballot box with the perfectly good votes they’ve paid for. With their own (or other people’s) money.

In the tradition of the other kind of voter-financed elections that have marred North Carolina politics for too long, this exercise in civic representation isn’t merely pay-to-play: It’s strictly cash-and-carry.

Over the past six years, the pageant has substantially raised the visibility of its namesake—the beavers that have now made an unlikely lodge in a wetland behind a Roxboro Road strip mall. “The attention they’ve drawn has cleaned up that natural resource,” notes Duke Park resident Bill Anderson. “I can remember the Cub Scouts coming down to that marsh and pulling out five tons of trash in the early days.

“You go there now, it’s just amazingly clean, when in the old days it was a dump zone.”

But the Beaver Queen Pageant has done more than exhort neighbors to clean up an environmental eyesore. The $15,000 they’ve raised over the past half decade has helped the Ellerbe Creek Watershed Association buy the wetlands the beavers call home this past year, as a part of their land trust efforts in acquiring and protecting ecologically significant areas in Durham’s urban environment. Their philanthropy has been “an enormous help in mobilizing the community to steward and maximize the benefits of the Beaver Marsh and our other preserves,” says Diana Tetens, the association’s executive director.

Still, this family-friendly neighborhood party and environmental, philanthropic endeavor started out as something significantly different. Picture an underground, after-hours drag pageant in 2005 led by activist Katherine O’Brien.

HA! This definitely has a more ‘diversity’ than ‘biodiversity’ flavor to it, but I’m thrilled that anyone in North Carolina is saving wetlands or valuing beavers! We loved their last slogan of  ‘Peace. Love. and Beavers’. So we can only assume this year’s will be awesome too. Lory is bringing a flyer of our festival with her to cross pollinate!

Go see the mural today. Snap a photo of yourself with your favorite part and I’ll be happy to share it on the website!


Beaver Memorial Day

Posted by heidi08 On May - 30 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Memorial Day

Home again, home again, and not a moment too soon! We found Mario putting finishing touches on the mural, my attempts at posting on location upside down and the fantastic news that Hopkinton is FINALLY hiring Mike Callahan! Here let me catch you up to date on everything! I’ll sit on my Portland stories a while to let them percolate.

overthetopApparently Dave Scola and some city folks are stopping by on Wednesday to see the final product. Then it’s just sealing the work for posterity. Love the frog and the dragonfly and the way a beaver dam is forever on Alhambra Creek. I couldn’t be more pleased, but I’m still going to try to push for one little beaver kit. Wish me luck.

I think every city should have a beaver mural, don’t you?  I love that this mural is literally “OVER THE TOP”.

Now you might remember the city of Hopkinton in Massachusetts, which I was forced to learn how to spell when I wrote about them in winter of this year, or in winter of last year, or in spring the year before that. I wrote the council and one brave responder actually talked with Mike for a half an hour in 2015 before a trapper killed 42 beavers this year. Just go to the search bar and type “Hopkinton” to see how many articles come up on the first page alone. They have been such voracious whiners they provoked me into this graphic in December.

Beaver riskWell, change IS possible, get out your nano tools so we can all measure the progress.

Hopkinton looks to trap beavers, install devices

HOPKINTON — In an effort to reduce flooding on properties on Fruit Street and Huckleberry Road, the town is looking to get approvals to trap beavers and install other measures in Whitehall Brook. The Department has filed a notice of intent with the Conservation Commission to approve a beaver management plan developed by a private contractor, Beaver Solutions LLC.

The plans call for trappings, breaching three small beavers dams and installation of two flow devices.

“The town’s goal is not to eradicate the beaver population but to manage it enough so that we can all enjoy our properties safely,” Burke wrote. Mike Callahan, owner of Beaver Solutions in Southampton, surveyed the area by kayak and foot in March.

“Whitehall Brook is a large stream that drains an extensive area including Whitehall Reservoir,” he wrote in his report. “It can have very high flows and if impounded by beaver dams can flood extensive areas since there is a broad floodplain here.” He said beavers have likely lived in the area for a long time. His report details six dams.

“Three active dams raise the water by six inches to a foot each,” he said. “These several small dams all combine to maintain a higher water level abutting the homes on Huckleberry Road. There are also two very large active beaver lodges in this area.”

He said because there is a good food supply, some trappings will likely be needed. He said beaver trapping season is Nov. 1 through April 15, but a permit can be granted from the Board of Health in the off-season.”There are two large beaver dams and multiple smaller ones,” he wrote. “Ironically it is the smaller dams in the vicinity of Huckleberry Road that have generated the most concerns.”

He said for one dam that is flooding an acre of farmland, he recommends the town spend $3,000 for two pipes to lower the water.

Hurray for Mike Callahan and beaver solutions! And hurray for the working mind(s) that made this happen! Of course they are clinging to the trapping idea, because 42 beavers just ISN’T enough for a city of 15,000 and 1.5 square miles of water. (On the day the terms “Slow learner” were redefined, we can simply stand in awe and watch.) Still, progress is incremental. Maybe when they see how these two pipes work for the long term they will stop wasting everyones times with trapping.

learning curve

Looks like this memorial day is full of losses and opportunities. We need this I think.

Beaver Easter came late this year…

Posted by heidi08 On May - 16 - 2016Comments Off on Beaver Easter came late this year…

CaptureFor some reason the Handel version of this verse was playing in my head all morning. From the black pre-dawn sky where we stumbled down the dark alley to the dam, to the first initial trills of bird song as the steely darkness was haloed in a sherbet dawn, through explosion of bird chorus that followed, muffling the train whistles, all the way until I saw this:

A Beaver! What is that sudden lightness I feel between my shoulders? Am I falling upwards? Could it be the final easing of that dread harness of grim resolution in the face of overwhelming loss?  Was the sunrise always this splintered by all this moisture? Is it possible that it really was darkest just before the dawn?

Maybe you’ve never sat up through a candlelit vigil waiting for Easter to dawn, but my teenage days remember these things. You know how it is, that person you like talks you into going even though you’re not sure you really believe this stuff. I vividly remembered that spooky darkness replaced by irrational sunrise and this merry welcome of the day with lots of hugging. (Oh! the hugging!)  I was raised catholic but there was a bible-study period in my teens where I briefly mistook a crush for faith.

But of course you know my true religion now.

There s/he was building a dam in front of me. As if to prove that I wasn’t the only one happy for the dam’s return, a mother mallard with 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 babies suddenly appeared, the ducklings zipping so quickly that hardly my eyes or the camera lens could keep up. Like fleas or rolling peppercorns, their rapidly expanding circles were pierced by a swimming turtle before they banded together like a seed pod explosion in rewind and followed mom back down stream.

The tide will be excellent for another day or two, you should go. I’m hoping Jon can be persuaded to make the journey again. Tomorrow we present at the Parks, Recreation, Marina and Cultural Commission to get permission for festival IX. Then it’s last minute details to take care of before Portland.

It all seems like perfect timing. Like destiny. If you believe in that sort of thing.