Winter & Spring 2014
In this newsletter:
Place Based Education at Pacific Creek and Sunset Forest
Sunset School students collect data on a salt marsh near their school.
Pacific Creek and Sunset Forest are made up places plain and simple. They are names made up to describe natural features lost in the urban/suburban landscape of Empire, Oregon where past development pushed a small creek into a subterranean system of pipes and trimmed a coastal forest into a neat triangle at the corner of a school campus.
The “Pacific” of “Pacific Creek” comes from the name of the paved street that controls the surface above a flowing freshwater stream hidden in culverts, briars, and neglect. “Sunset Forest” is nothing more than a patch of uncut fir, spruce, hemlock, and cedar surrounding a wetland in the far southwest corner of the school district’s property. Together, they lead students and teachers on an interesting journey through time and down to the bay where the estuary awaits!
Several years ago, South Slough educators approached teachers at Sunset School and Madison Elementary with ideas that would emphasize field experiences for students exploring sites within walking distance of their classrooms. The reserve’s relationship with classes at these schools extends back over two decades, and classes from both schools have participated in field trips to South Slough. More recently, we have been working to build a connection to the nearby natural areas, the community, and the bay. This is the essence of the term “place-based education” and it lies at the very heart of our comprehension of what each of us can do to better understand estuaries and our connection to them.
In the coming months, South Slough will host an AmeriCorps volunteer to assist with a project focused on conducting after school programs for elementary and middle school students where participants will use hands-on science to discover how a small watershed, Pacific Creek, flows into the Coos estuary. The program will expand Estuary Explorers to include activities during the week for specific grade levels, increase the frequency of Friday programs on alternate weeks, and include a monthly Saturday “family day” component. This project also seeks to build a bridge between Estuary Explorer programs offered during the school year and science camps offered during the summer to extend and enhance learning beyond the academic environment.
As we work with our explorers to delve deeper into Pacific Creek, the Sunset Forest, and the estuary, we invite you to learn more about the exciting and beautiful place where we live, work, and play along the shores of Coos Bay!
Another exhausting fund-raising endeavor by dedicated FOSS members!
A few years ago someone donated an old canoe to the Friends of South Slough and it had been sitting at the South Slough maintenance shed until recently when FOSS Board President Lonne Mays organized a work crew at his barn workshop to fix it up. On a crisp Saturday morning, several FOSS Board members and volunteers gathered to wash, sand and restore the 17’ canoe. All hands worked vigorously while Lonne provided tools, materials and supervision. At one exciting point, Valerie Cooley, FOSS Vice President, tried her hand at pressure washing, directing a 2500 pound blast of water presssure directly into the hull. Not to fear, however, the sturdy fiberglass hull withstood the test! After the years of grime and stains had been cleaned away, the group discussed the next steps in the restoration process. Lonne Mays tried explaining that the cross-linked molecular polymer that makes up the boat's gel-coat finish would make painting both unnecessary and ill-advised.. No one knew what he was talking about, but they all concurred, and decided to try buffing and waxing it. Sure enough, with more elbow grease, the deep natural tones of the fiberglass gelcoat began to show. That is when they all realized what a treasure this full-size canoe is. It is a full 17' long and 3' wide (so it will be very stable with plenty of room for cargo and gear) and it has beautiful oak seats and thwarts.
This lovely canoe along with a couple of paddles and PFD's will be raffled off at a drawing that will take place at the Friday, May 2nd Coos Bay Wine Walk event. The Friends of South Slough Reserve and the Coos Bay Boat Building Center were selected as the non-profit beneficiaries for the May Wine Walk that will be held from 5:00-7:30 pm. Raffle tickets for the canoe are currently available at the South Slough Interpretive Center for $10.00 each and they will also be available for sale at the Coos Bay Visitor Information Center the evening of the Wine Walk. The drawing will be held at 7:00 pm at the Coos Bay Visitor Information Center. Ticket buyers need not be present to win, however delivery is limited to a 30 mile radius from the Reserve.
The proceeds from the raffle will go towards seed money for the new “FOSS Floats” endeavor- a self-propelled estuarine science laboratory classroom vessel.
Floating Classroom Plans Falter; Paddlewheel Concept Arises
The “Little Annie,” a sternwheeler similar to
those that plied Coos Bay in 1876.
Last year the Friends of South Slough (FOSS), with the support of the South Slough Management Commission and staff, applied for permits to construct a pier and dock near the Sloughside Pilings and the lower end of the Hidden Creek trail system. Their hope was that the pier could be used to moor a floating shed that could be variously used to store the Reserve’s boating equipment or for education and interpretation. The Friends’ plans required a change, though, when staff learned that the structure would not be permitted under Oregon’s statewide land use planning rules, since it would allow the shed to lie on sensitive intertidal bottom at low tides.
Not to be dismayed, the members of FOSS stepped back to rethink their objectives for FOSS Floats!— a strategy for expanding access to the slough for water enthusiasts other than kayakers—and came up with a new idea that not only avoids the permitting difficulties, but potentially will enhance and expand the Reserve’s capacity to teach people about estuaries.
“The new vision and direction for FOSS Floats! involves building or buying a shallow-draft vessel that would serve as a teaching laboratory and classroom,” said FOSS President Lonny Mays. “The vessel could be tied up at docks in Charleston and Coos Bay, thus eliminating the need to build new structures in the Reserve. We’ve discussed multiple concepts for the vessel, and the most promising to be proposed is a flat-bottomed sternwheeler, such as those that historically plied Coos Bay.”
The vessel could provide a unique opportunity to get small groups of people on the water for education interpretation, Mays said, and the sight of the historic replica moving about the bay would generate increased public awareness of South Slough Reserve and interest in its programs. “This visual, mobile presence would directly result in more effective public outreach and educational opportunities,” he said. The vessel would be equipped to operate as combination laboratory and classroom. Its shallow draft and flat bottom would allow it to navigate shallow channels and sloughs about Coos Bay and allow a direct, close-up and personal experiences with wildlife.
Its historic profile would mask modern technologies. Although propelled and styled as an old bay sternwheeler, “this vessel would use solar energy and electric motors to power the paddlewheel, achieving a near-zero carbon footprint,” Mays said, adding that he expects the vessel’s power requirements will be low. “This melding of the old and the new would capture the advantages of flat shallow hulls propelled by paddlewheels that would be able to navigate with only a foot or so of water, and to load or unload directly from the shoreline, via an on-board gangway.”
The initial design concept is for a 65-foot (length at water line) steel hull with a 17-foot beam with a 10-foot diameter stern paddlewheel. The paddlewheel will be driven by powerful direct-current traction motors powered by storage batteries to be charged by solar panels affixed to the roof of a mezzanine deck. The vessel would carry 30 people at a time – “About right for a class or students.” Mays said. FOSS’ members have even proposed a name for the vessel – the SS NERR – a playful pun on the clinical acronym, SSNERR, that adorns many publications, notifications, and presentations that feature the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve.
South Slough Recruits a GIS Data Manager
South Slough welcomed Colleen Burch Johnson to the staff in October 2013 as the GIS Data Manager. She will be creating maps and geospatial databases for the Coos Estuary Inventory Project-Phase 2. As the project progresses, she will assist in analyzing and summarizing the environmental and socio-economic data, and make the resulting maps and data available on the web. She enjoys environmental research and producing effective, attractive maps.
Colleen grew up on a small dairy farm in upstate New York then moved to Corvallis, Oregon to attend graduate school at OSU. She has a B.S. in Geology and a geography minor from State University College at Oneonta, New York and a M.S. in Geography and a geology minor from Oregon State University. Her working career began at the Real Property Tax Service of Otsego County, New York, where she hand-drafted tax parcels. After graduating from OSU, she worked with contractors to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Corvallis on numerous projects. For example, she gathered geographic data for regions potentially affected by acid precipitation, characterized watersheds for the Surface Waters component of the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), and created a large-format map of Level III and IV Eco regions of the Conterminous United States.
When not working on GIS projects, Colleen enjoys hiking, reading, cooking, and travelling. Colleen’s husband is retired and their son is attending college. They also have a very vocal, part-Siamese, 14-year-old cat at home.
Recently, Colleen toured several National Parks in the western U.S. and recommend everyone visit them if possible. She says it is a pleasure being near the ocean, meeting new people, and becoming a part of a group dedicated to the South Slough area.
Work Experience Interns
Summer Interns Return Home
SSNERR hosted three Work Experience interns during summer 2013 including Kevin Kuhl, MacKenzie Litts, and Sam Stroebel. They delivered presentations of their work at the Interpretive Center and have returned home or moved on to their next opportunity.
On Monday afternoons, Mackenzie Litts assisted FOSS volunteer, Laura Mays, with accounting projects, including learning QuickBooks, and how to balance the FOSS budget. Mackenzie, a Lakeside native, is currently attending California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo where she is pursuing a career in accounting. She’d like to work eventually at a top accounting firm, but she is also interested in the outdoors and environmental issues. She serves on her school's Environmental Council and works on local watershed projects. MacKenzie said the opportunity to do an internship at South Slough offered a perfect combination of her interests, and she was excited to help out.
Meanwhile, out on the salt marshes, summer science interns Kevin Kuhl and Sam Stroebel assisted South Slough’s science staff on a number of projects. Kevin helped to tag Port Orford cedars, as part of an on-going project to understand disease resistance among these signature coastal trees, and provided an extra boat hand on the boat when science staff motored through the slough to check native oyster restoration sites, monitor eelgrass, or establish benchmarks. He departed South Slough on Aug. 2 to return home to Arizona.
Sam Stroebel worked for about four weeks beginning July 3, and stayed with his brother while in Coos Bay. Like Kevin, he assisted with cedar tagging and research boat runs. Sam is a student at Ohio State University. He gained considerable experience working in the outdoors on conservation projects as an Eagle Scout. He plans on an environmental profession after he earns his bachelor’s degree in environmental science.
SSNERR placed four new water quality monitoring stations online in October 2013!
The System-Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) was implemented in the South Slough estuary in 1995 with the installation of two continuous water quality stations, one in each main arm of the estuary (Winchester Creek and Sengstacken Arm) in order to quantifiably measure changes in meteorological, water quality, biological systems, and land use / land-cover characteristics over time. By 2001, these original stations were followed by two more water quality stations in the South Slough estuary and a meteorological station in Charleston. The SWMP network has now been expanded to the greater Coos estuary to capture a more complete picture of water quality conditions in the entire system in order to help us understand both current conditions and the future effects of climate change.
Four new water quality monitoring stations went online in October 2013, measuring water temperature, specific conductivity, salinity, dissolved oxygen (percent and concentration), pH, turbidity, and depth every 15 minutes. The new stations are located in the upper part of the Coos estuary, located on Isthmus Slough, Catching Slough, Coos River, and the upper bay near North Point (see map). The North Point station will eventually be outfitted with real-time telemetry and referenced to local benchmarks in order to provide real-time tidal data to bar pilots and recreational boaters. In addition the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians operate a station near Empire and one on the North Spit near the BLM boat Launch, while the Coquille Tribes has one station pending near the Mill Casino. The Confederated Tribes’ North Spit station has real-time telemetry, allowing up-to-date, raw data to be accessible to the public (go here to view North Spit water quality data). Together, the existing South Slough SWMP stations, the new Coos Bays stations, and the tribes’ stations provide a network of 12 continuous water quality monitoring stations in the Coos estuary.
Maggie Allen, a volunteer from the AmeriCorps VISTA program, has left South Slough Reserve after completing a year-long assignment developing work experience internships for high school and community college students. Maggie also obtained a grant from the Jubitz Family Foundation, a Portland-based non-profit that provides grants for environmental education, for $3,000 to support an Education, Trails, Aquaria and a High School internship for spring and summer 2014 terms. The Friends of South Slough will manage and distribute the funds. SSNERR staff will develop recruitment packages as well as select the final candidates for each internship. Because of both Killeen and Maggie’s efforts South Slough has hosted over 17 interns over the past two years, seven of who were from the local area and/or attending Southwestern Oregon Community College.
Four students who completed science internships at South Slough Reserve in 2013 have returned to their homes, or else moved on to their next steps of career development. Before they left the Reserve, they provided brief summaries of their work for staff and members of the Friends of South Slough, including Kevin Kuhl, MacKenzie Litts, and Sam Stroebel.
As the program is implemented in 2014, SSNERR staff will be fine tuning the internship descriptions and recruitment process and work is being done to obtain more funds to provide stipends for some of the research and stewardship positions. Additionally, a reach to high school level students who need to acquire a Career Related Learning Experience (CRLE) will be part of the effort this year.
To find out more about how to become an intern or if you are willing to help sponsor an internship, contact Deborah Rudd, SSNERR Public Involvement Coordinator firstname.lastname@example.org, (541)-888-5558 ext. 58. You may also go to our website: www.southsloughestuary.org and click on “internships” from the left column.
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Fish Habitat Partnership to begin Coast-wide Estuary Assessments
In January 2014 in Seattle, the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership (Partnership) will host a meeting of estuarine biologists, ecologists, and other researchers from Washington, Oregon and California to begin three assessments of fish habitat in West Coast estuaries.
South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve is a member of the Partnership.
The work includes an assessment of rearing habitat for juvenile fish in estuaries; an assessment of conditions and key threats to the habitat of fish and shellfish stocks important to commercial and sport-fishing (as required by the National Fish Habitat Plan), and an assessment of changes in the habitat affecting the distribution and abundance of nine species of forage fish that inhabit estuaries and nearshore waters. Forage fish are important as food for larger predatory fish.
The assessments will help West Coast communities and natural resource managers better understand how habitat in estuaries helps in sustaining plentiful native fish and shellfish, including those most important to people and prioritize areas for conservation or restoration, the threats to that habitat, and prioritize efforts for restoration (and demonstrating thereby both the ecologic and economic benefits of conserving and restoring fish habitat).
Funding for the assessments is provided by the National Fish Habitat Action Plan. Much of the work will be done over the next several years by scientists working for NOAA and The Nature Conservancy.
About the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership
The Pacific Marine and Estuarine Fish Habitat Partnership (Partnership) took root in 2009, when a group representing private organizations, sovereign tribal nations, and natural resource agencies from California, Oregon, and Washington met to explore the feasibility of a fish habitat partnership focused on West Coast estuaries and nearshore waters. The Partnership would be sanctioned under terms of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan, a program that provide financial support for habitat restoration to locally- and regionally-organized fish habitat partnerships.
The group formed a steering committee to determine the scope, goals and objectives of such a partnership and describe how it would function. As South Slough’s Coastal Training Program coordinator, I was invited to serve on the steering committee. Estuarine habitat restoration is among South Slough’s training priorities for coastal managers. In 2012, the National Fish Habitat Board approved the application. The steering committee met to develop bylaws, policies, and strategies, and began to provide funding to support local habitat restoration projects.
Depending on the region, the fishes of concern, the degree of community involvement, and the priorities of the partners, each partnership addresses different issues and needs. One partnership may focus on only a single species of fish in a portion of its range; another on the habitat of several fishes in a region, and a third on an entire ecosystem. The Pacific partnership’s area of interest extends from the Mexican border to the Canadian line, California to Washington, and from the heads of tide of most west coast streams to the 100-fathom depth contour.
Eight of the partnerships emphasize coastal fish habitat issues, but the Pacific partnership is the only one primarily focused on estuaries.
In December 2013, South Slough took on a leadership role of the Partnership when I was elected as co-chair. After an 18-month term a new co-chair will be elected, and I will roll into chairmanship for another 18 months.
The mission of the National Fish Habitat Action Plan is to protect, restore and enhance the nation's fish and aquatic communities through partnerships. This mission is achieved by supporting 18 fish habitat partnerships, mobilizing support, setting goals and measuring progress, and conducting outreach on the importance of fish habitats to the U.S. economy, natural resources, and quality of life.
The National Fish Habitat Action Plan is an unprecedented attempt to address an unseen crisis for fish nationwide: loss and degradation of their watery homes. The plan was born in 2001 when the Sport Fishing and Boating Partnership Council began exploring a partnership effort for fish on the scale of what was done for waterfowl in the 1980s through the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. The waterfowl plan, also known as the Joint Venture for Waterfowl, has worked wonders during the past two decades to boost waterfowl populations by forming strong local and regional partnerships to protect key habitats.
Habitat Restoration a Coastal Training Priority at South Slough
South Slough Reserve is a national leader in techniques for restoring estuarine habitat, and habitat restoration is a priority of South Slough’s Coastal Training Program. We work with restoration scientists, watershed councils, universities and community colleges, Sea Grant, tribal nations, Oregon’s Ocean and Coastal Management Program, and other resource agencies to provide training, education and other information to address specific needs.
In 2012, the Coastal Training Program assisted restoration scientists and practitioners in the following ways:
• Co-sponsored a GIS (geographic information systems) training workshop in mapping coastal inundation. Co-sponsors included Oregon’s Coastal Program and Southwestern Oregon Community College.
• Helped to produce and host a national, online series of webinars about living shoreline habitat restoration techniques. Co-sponsors included National Estuarine Research Reserves in New York, Virginia, Florida and North Carolina, and NOAA’s Coastal Office.
• Organized a workshop to explore carbon sequestration (also known as coastal blue carbon) in Oregon estuaries. Partners include Restore America’s Estuaries and the NERRS Science Collaborative.
• Assisted the Lower Rogue Watershed Council in Gold Beach in developing a framework for habitat restoration in the Rogue River estuary (on-going). Partners include the Lower Rogue Watershed Council and Oregon State University Extension/Oregon Sea Grant.
• Sponsored a workshop and tour of the Ni’les-tun Marsh Restoration Project at Bandon National Wildlife Refuge on the lower Coquille River for restoration scientists. Co-sponsor: the Bandon National Wildlife Refuge.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2009 the U.S (not including Alaska) contained about 110.1 million acres of wetlands—an area about the size of California. That is only about half of the estimated 220 million acres of wetlands that likely existed in the lower 48 states in 1600. Extensive losses have occurred since then. More than half of the nation’s original wetlands have been drained and converted to other uses. The mid-1950s to the mid-1970s was a time of major wetland loss. Since then the rate of loss has decreased.
The need for habitat restoration stems from this historical trend of loss, and continued long-term threats to the sustainability of the nation’s fishery resources. Over 75 percent of commercially-caught fishes, and 80 to 90 percent of recreationally-caught marine and migratory fishes, depend on estuarine, coastal, and riverine habitats for all or part of their life cycles.
Mark Your Calendars!
South Slough Summer Science Camps 2014
Registration begins March 1st
June 24 to 27 Megalops (grades 2-3)
June 30 to July 3 Instar (grades 4-5)
July 8 to 11 Zoea (grades k-1st)
July 22 -25 Megalops (grades 2-3)
July 29-August 1 Instar (grades 4-5)
August 5-8 Dungeness (grades 6 and above)
Summer Camps offer four days of activities with an estuary theme.