Time To Get Muddy!

Another week, another day of mud in the slough (Elkhorn Slough, that is)! This week someone else accompanied us on the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve boat, to do his research. Charlie is measuring fine scale changes in the geomorphology of mudflats in the slough using a terrestrial laser scanner (TLC). This instrument consists of a large metal pole stuck 6-8 meters into the mudflat, with a few located around the slough. The TLC uses active imagery to precisely acquire 3-D points of object surfaces. Charlie has been gathering data at Elkhorn Slough since 2012. (In the photo above I am carrying the TLC backpack case for him.) As Kat would say, “This is the stuff that rich scientists use and they’re somehow able to keep it clean, even while working in the slough.”

As we had a few hours of downtime to wait for the TLC to take measurements and gather data, we took an inventory of the cage experiments for Brent and Kat that began almost four years ago. This experiment is noting the effect that sea otters have on the marsh by eating the crabs in the mudflats. Each site consists of an otter exclusion plot, a crab exclusion plot and a procedural control plot. After over three years of hardware wire being in the mudflats, it begins to deteriorate. A crab exclusion plot does no good if the hardware wire 6-8 inches into the ground is no longer there. Some of the otter exclusion plots are no longer otter-resistant, so our inventory took us to each site to determine which plots needed repairs.

Being able to explain Black Oystercatcher (BLOY )pairs and territories to someone who has been working with BLOYs for over 10 years (Rick Hanks) makes one feel pretty good. Since the pairs at Wilder Ranch had never been monitored before, I was the first and was able to get some good baseline data. Currently, I am in the process of writing up a report about the BLOYs from Natural Bridges to Pescadero. This report will include nest location, territory boundaries, number of eggs, number of chicks, and number of fledglings, as well as other useful notes.

Ariana Pacheco
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