Welcome to the Veg Crew Diaries where we will provide you not only awesomely-cool photos of plants, but also updates about the status of the veg crews throughout the summer.
The last week in May my crew visited two plots in the Rothrock State Forest. We didn’t work Monday because of the holiday, so we shifted our work schedule to Tuesday through Friday instead. On Tuesday and Wednesday we visited a plot off of Boal Gap Road with easy access. This is how I prefer to start the season, because the crew is still getting comfortable with data collection. Both days went smoothly and were right on schedule. We collected 11 subplots worth of vegetation data and canopy photos on Tuesday, repaired 4 fences, and collected 11 subplots worth of soil samples on Wednesday. Morale was high, crews were happy, and I was optimistic.
Mother Nature had other plans, however, on Thursday and Friday.
Found this gem hiking out of the first plot on Wednesday. This is European columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris). While not native to our forests here in North America, it is still quite beautiful.
The second plot we visit each year is a bit of a nightmare. Crews are still new to the protocol and plots tend to take a bit longer than they will in another couple of weeks. Plus we’re not in field-shape yet. I joke about field-shape, because no matter how much cardio or strength training you do, nothing can get your legs under you except for a couple of weeks doing the job. I always feel like a newborn fawn the first week or two, re-remembering how to shift my weight through dense mountain laurel and rock fields that I normally avoid at all costs the rest of the year.
The second plot requires excellent field-shape. It’s only 0.33 miles from the road, but it’s straight up a pipeline. Plus we carry a lot of gear. It’s heavy. Here’s the truck from the top of the pipeline:
That little black box is our truck. This is the view from the trail at the top of the pipeline.
Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. We were rained on most of the day on Thursday. Vegetation work in the rain is the worst. You’re drenched head-to-toe in a matter of minutes even with decent rain gear. Plus you move slower, so you’re in it longer. I tried my best to keep spirits up, but morale was low. I told them it would better on Friday. (Positivity is the key to a successful field season!)
Of course, it wasn’t better on Friday, at least not in the morning. It rained again, and we had to hike the pipeline in the rain. We collected soil samples in the rain. We fixed fences in the rain. And then, like someone shut off a faucet it stopped. We ate lunch without rain! It was glorious. By the end of the day the sun was shining and we even got this beautiful shot from the top of the ridge.
Through it all my crew persevered. We stayed on schedule and only worked an extra 3 hours. They really are an incredible group to work with. Hardworking, motivated, and they make few mistakes. Plus they are fun. It’s important to have a good group dynamic over the summer. It makes the job that much better!
So, hats off to my crew. They deserve it!
One of the two southern crews working in Rothrock and Bald Eagle. All smiles after the rain! Pictured: Teanna Kobuck (left), Silvio Shiaroli (middle), and Aaron Reardon (right).
Ph.D. graduate student
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management
PA Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit