Tag Archives: Conservation

Fun with iNaturalist

I’ve started uploading some observations of plants and occasional other critters to iNaturalist.org. iNaturalist is a project of the California Academy of Sciences that serves as an on-line place “where you can record what you see in nature, meet other nature lovers, and learn about the natural world”.

For me, iNaturalist is one more place (aside from the Consortium of California Herbaria, Intermountain Regional Herbarium Network, and CalFlora) where I can see what others are finding in the Bodie Hills, Hot Springs Valley, and other places I like to visit. It’s also a way to get acquainted with some invertebrates and other organisms that I don’t have the training to identify easily myself. You can also help other people identify what they’ve observed, ask for help identifying some of your observations, create “Places” (like the Bodie Hills) as geographic filters for lists of observations, and follow or communicate with other observers. There’s also an app that lets you record observations in the field.

There are a few drawbacks — photos don’t always capture the characters needed for accurate identification, and an observation may get labeled “research grade” even if two people agree on the same identification that happens to be incorrect. On the whole, though, the community of observers (a mix of amateurs and professionals) seems to get things right, providing a useful and user-friendly addition to the knowledge-base on biodiversity.

The project is still young and it will be interesting to watch it grow in the years ahead. iNaturalist began as a student’s final project in the UC Berkeley School of Information in 2008. It was acquired by Cal Academy in 2014 and has a small staff supporting the project. Do you have photos of identifiable biota in Mono County or anywhere else in the world? Share them on iNaturalist!

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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A Peat Bog in the High Desert

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

There’s a tiny peat bog (about one-half acre in area) within a somewhat larger meadow (about 1 acre) in Cinnabar Canyon in the Bodie Hills. The most abundant and characteristic plant in this meadow is a Sphagnum, or peat moss (possibly S. fimbriatum, but this needs to be checked using the most recent keys). The peat growth is deep and spongy wet, even late into the dry season. Water seeps slowly from a spring at the highest point in the meadow. Vascular plants in the meadow include abundant Nebraska sedge (Carex nebrascensis) and Tufted hair grass (Deschanpsia cespitosa), with a few very scrawny Swamp laurel (Kalmia polifolia) plants. The Kalmia was probably more robust and much more at home here during the cooler climate of the Little Ice Age (circa 1300 to 1850).

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

Sphagnum sp.

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

Kalmia polifolia

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

Carex and Deschampsia

This place fills me with questions, but skimming through the on-line literature about peat bogs in the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada reveals very few answers.

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

Why is this bog here? What is it about the geology, hydrology, or history if this place that led to the formation (or persistence?) of a bog here, and not in any number of other seemingly similar meadows? Why aren’t there more peaty wet meadows in the Bodie Hills? (There is a suggestion in the literature of just one other that I haven’t seen, near Dry Lakes Plateau.)

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

How long has the peat bog been here? Peat deposits at other locations in the Great Basin and beyond (some actively growing, some not) have been examined to determine the relative abundance of different kinds of pollen and diatoms at various depths. The peat deposits can be dated at various depths with the aid of identifiable volcanic ash layers. These findings are used to infer changes in vegetation and climate over centuries or millennia. I’m not a palynologist, but I would love to know what a few core samples might tell us about the history of this place.

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

Are there invertebrates that favor peat bogs, and are they present here? Is there anything unusual about the chemistry of the water in this spring? The water feels cold, but how does the hydrology of this meadow relate to the band of hydrothermal activity (some still active, some long dormant) extending from roughly Cinnabar Canyon northwest to near Bridgeport?

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

The spring

Unfortunately, the meadow is not in the best of shape. I wish it could be fenced. Trampling by sheep has disturbed the surface and shallow subsurface of the growing peat layer. (But it looked about the same 35 years ago.) This trampling probably reduces the abundance of some plants, degrades the habitat for some invertebrates, and introduces nutrients unfavorable to some of the flora and fauna here.

Cinnabar Canyon Bog

Trampled peat

 


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.
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Botany and Natural History in the Bodie Hills and Beyond

Welcome to a website about the botany and natural history of the Bodie Hills and vicinity. Where are the Bodie Hills? In northern Mono County, California and western Mineral County, Nevada. North of Mono Lake and east of Bridgeport Valley, where the Great Basin meets the Sierra Nevada.

Hulsea algida and Potato Peak

Hulsea algida on the north side of Bodie Mountain. Potato Peak in the distance.

My intent with this blog is to post material related to my preparation of an e-book listing plants that occur in the Bodie Hills. This is an update of the MA thesis I prepared as a botany graduate student at Humboldt State University a few decades ago. That thesis was completed in 1982, but never became a publication. Now that the world is all digital and I happen to use graphic design and publishing software in my work, it’s relatively easy to package and deliver content in a variety of self-published electronic and printed formats.

But first, the botanical information needs to be updated. A lot of plant names have changed in the last 33 years and a bunch of plant genera have been reorganized and placed into different families. Also, some additional plant collecting has been done in the Bodie Hills, resulting in species being recorded that I did not find there during my three summers of collecting years ago.

Currently (2014-2015), I’m updating and formatting the content, preparing a map or two, and visiting the Bodie Hills for some new photographs and a bit of plant hunting. There will be blog posts on plants, sites of botanical interest, plant identification, and more.

Along the way, I’m running into some other interesting information about the history and geography of the region that I would like to share—forgotten place names, shards of history and geography, places worth visiting, and other happenings in and around the Bodie Hills. I’ll blog about those as well.

Have you found an unfamiliar plant or a curious bit of habitat or geology in or near the Bodie Hills? I’d love to hear about it. Leave a comment on any post or go to my Contact page. Thanks for visiting!

Carex douglasii at Bodie

Carex douglasii at Bodie.