California Biodiversity Day Bioblitz for Mono

Users of iNaturalist in or near the Mono Basin might like to join (and thereby automatically contribute to) the “California Biodiversity Day 2020” Bioblitz for the greater Mono Lake area, including Lee Vining Canyon and Lundy Canyon. The project actually runs for a week, September 5 through 13, 2020. Details are on iNaturalist HERE.

I may not get over to Mono myself during this period, but I’ll be helping to identify observations that others make. Here’s a map showing the area in which observations will be added to the project (orange shading):

Map of the project area

Keep cool and hydrated out there — it’s going to be hot and a bit smoky the next few days.


UPDATE 9/6/2020: Oh well, never mind. Too much smoke from the Creek Fire in Fresno and Madera counties (https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7147/). Air quality is “hazardous” in Lee Vining, with the index over 350. (Up to 460 in Mammoth!) Shelter from the smoke!

Lee Vining WebCam on Sunday morning

Lee Vining WebCam on Sunday morning (https://www.monolake.org/today/lvcam)


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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Strolling around Panum Crater

Panum Crater in Google Earth

Panum Crater (foreground) and Mono Craters as seen in
Google Earth, looking southeast.

Panum Crater

One frosty morning in late October I walked around the narrow rim of Panum Crater, just south of Mono Lake. This is the youngest volcanic feature in the Mono Basin, so if you love landscapes built by fire and carved by ice, I highly recommend this hike, but do it in cool weather or very early on a summer day.

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater is only about 670 ±20 years old (circa 1320s to 1360s AD) (Sieh and Bursik 1986). The initial eruption was of the “Plinian” type, where abundant gases escape from the rising magma, producing a massive plume and rain of volcanic ash that may continue for weeks. (This is the same type of eruption that occurred on a larger scale at Italy’s Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD, burying Pompeii and Herculaneum—witnessed and later described by Pliny the Younger, hence the name “Plinian.”) After the plumes of gas and ash subsided, magma welled up within Panum Crater to form a jagged dome of obsidian and pumice. Some time after the Panum Crater event, more ash fell throughout the area from eruptions several miles farther south in the Inyo Craters area.

Panum Crater

What would it have been like to see, hear, and smell this eruption, to feel the earth shake before and during the eruption? There were certainly Native Americans living here at that time — in the Mono Basin, the Bodie Hills, Bridgeport and Adobe Valleys, and on down to Owens Valley. We don’t know what time of year the eruption occurred, but there could have been groups traveling over Mono Pass and along other routes to trade with neighboring tribes when the eruption began.

Panum Crater

Laylander (1998) speculated on how earlier (ca. 880 AD) and larger Plinian eruptions in the Mono Craters may have affected local witnesses: “Local consequences for human populations from the eruption can be imagined. The event may have directly caused some loss of life or frightened the surviving witnesses into leaving the Mono Basin. The decimation of plant and animal communities may have drastically reduced the resource value of the affected area for humans for some time.” (He goes on to consider whether “an occupational hiatus, followed by a return to pre-event conditions” could be detected in the archaeological record and whether the duration of this hiatus could be estimated archaeologically. He concludes that “a hiatus of as much as a century is not likely to be detectable in the archaeological record” using hydration dating of artifacts, unless the sample size is “very large.”)

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Banded obsidian and pumice atop the dome.

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater

Panum Crater is not quite the youngest cinder cone in California — that distinction may belong to Cinder Cone in Lassen Volcanic National Park, which erupted about 300 years later, circa 1650. And Lassen Peak itself erupted last in 1915.

References:
Laylander, D. 1998, Cultural Hiatus and Chronological Resolution: Simulating the Mono Craters Eruption of ca. A.D. 880 in the Archaeological Record, Proceedings of the Society for California Archaeology 11:148-154.

Sieh, K. and M. Bursik 1986. Most recent eruption of the Mono Craters, eastern central California. Journal of Geophysical Research, 91(B12): 12,539–12,571.


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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Plants of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park: a Preliminary Checklist

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

Looking west from Berlin (Ione Valley and the Paradise Range)

Over the last couple of springs and summers I’ve made an effort to become more familiar with the flora of the central and western Great Basin, east of Mono County and the Bodie Hills. Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, in northwestern Nye County, has become a favorite destination. Searching the internet for information about the flora of this area turned up very little, so that was reason enough to focus on compiling an initial catalog of plant life in this very pleasant and remote unit of the Nevada State Parks.

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

Trail near the campground

Berlin-Ichthyosaur sits at about the 7,000-foot elevation on the west slope of the Shoshone Range, overlooking Ione Valley. The park features the remains of Berlin (a mining town active from about 1863 to 1911), a large fossil shelter housing in-situ fossilized remains of several Ichthyosaurs (the Nevada state fossil), a campground, several trails, quiet solitude, and much plant and animal life to explore.

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

Were it not for the pandemic, I would be there again this month, looking for additions and corrections to my list. Later this year, I hope. For now, though, there’s enough in the list to make it worth sharing as a first-draft work-in-progress. I hope readers will find it interesting, take it as a challenge to find more species, and contact me with corrections, additions, or comments. You can find this first edition (a 2-page PDF) and any subsequent revisions on my Downloads page.

Photographs of many of the plants in this list (and a few other life forms) can be found here, on iNaturalist.

Calochortus bruneaunis

Calochortus bruneaunis

Astragalus newberryi

Astragalus newberryi

Penstemon kingii

Penstemon kingii

Along the Richmond Canyon Trail

Along the Richmond Canyon Trail

Astragalus calycosus

Astragalus calycosus

Physaria chambersii

Physaria chambersii (in flower)

Physaria chambersii

Physaria chambersii (in fruit)

West Union Canyon and Buffalo Mountain

West Union Canyon and Buffalo Mountain


Copyright © Tim Messick 2020. All rights reserved.
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