Forest Community School – Wild and Productive in the Forests

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Building on the outstanding work that they’ve done over the past five years, level 2 students and teachers came to both the Timber Forest and the Manning Forest for study and exploration this fall. While the primary focus was on answering ongoing questions about the status and trends in creek health, they also explored a wide range of natural history topics. This was the first student led research on Kuder Creek and we and others in the Dairy Creek Watershed are excited to learn from their results. Stay tuned!
Update – Dec. 1:
Naturalist in the Timber Hyla Woods
Charlie Graham’s 5th /6th grade class

For some years now students from the Forest Grove Community School have done a variety of studies in the Timber Hyla Woods, including water quality monitoring, ‘reading the land’ for social & natural histories, elk management experiments with decoys, and science inquiries around phenology. This year we did something different, but breaking into “Naturalist” teams to explore and investigate the overall environment from the point of view of different science disciplines, all on the same day. This tied in well with this year’s focus on exploring how naturalists view the world and the impact they make. What follows here are the reports from each group of ‘Naturalist’.

The Hydrology team took many measurements in and around Lousignaut Creek. It was a cold day and the air temperature was 2 degrees C and the water was 1 degree C. Fact: when the water is warmer than the air, it creates fog. Next we tested the Dissolved Oxygen (DO) and the pH (parts Hydrogen) of the water. The DO was excellent at 11ppm (parts per million) and the pH as pretty neutral at 6.5. Last but not least, we measured the flow rate of the stream. To do this we had to measure the average width and depth at three points over 50 feet. We then tried to time how long a plastic ball took to travel the 50 feet. That did not work because the ball kept getting stuck on branches and debris. We then did the same thing with some cool (but harmless) florescent green dye. We timed with stop watches how long it took to travel the 50 feet. We now had the rate of velocity which we plugged with the other figures into a formula ( r = w x d x v x a , note- “a” was a multiplier to reflect the stream bottom being mostly gravel, cobble, and bedrock). The result was a flow rate of 14 cubic feet per second. The stream level was very low on that day, so it was fun to imagine what it will be when the streams fills with rain soon.

We are the Geologists, but we call ourselves the “Soilogists”. Our study is important because the soil is the foundation of the forest environment. So everything on the soil depends on it. We took three samples of soil (what some call ‘dirt’) – from the road, the meadow, and near the creek. We added H2O to them in jars and shook them for a couple of minutes. While we waited, we took other measurements, such as temperature, wetness, and pH. We found out that there is a big variety of different types of soils. Eventually, in the jars we were able to view the different composition of the soil samples. It seems that the soil at Hyla Woods is very healthy.

We in the Biology group feel it is important to study animals because it is the only way we can know if they are extinct or not. All animals are a vital part of the ecosystem and need to be preserved. We can also learn about how adaptations help them survive and see if they have any natural enemies. We study them to see how intelligent they are and we hopefully can learn what we can do to save their habitats. It takes patience and skill to get close to them. The more we know about them the more we marvel at nature’s ingenuity.
During our day at Hyla we explored the forest and the meadow, looking for animals or animal signs, such as tracks, scat, or disruptions left behind. We did see some scat, but were unable to identify them. What we did find was a lot of insect life, especially in the meadow. We also looked at newts and their adaptations. There were many types of spiders. Even though we didn’t see many animals, we know that they are there.

We are the botanist team and we studied plants because plants are a big part of the ecosystem. Plants help us breathe by giving us oxygen (and we give them carbon dioxide). We explored all over the forests, riparian zones, and the meadow. We looked at different canopy covers in different areas and used an ‘incremental borer’ to take two tree ring core samples, from a pine and a maple tree. By counting tree rings, you can determine how old a tree is. We had the most fun discovering the many mushrooms that we found growing, such as “Shaggy Man” and “Amanita”. Back in the classroom, we made some “spore prints” of other mushrooms we found. We learned that there are many kinds of mushrooms at Hyla Woods, which we think indicates that it is a healthy forest.
Special thanks for Patricia Edmonds for guiding our group.

Our group study insects because we believe that there is more to insects than what you see when you just glace at them. Many of them are important because they are great decomposers.
During our day, we got to go into the stream to catch ‘macroinvertebrates’ that live in the water. We caught ‘Stonefly’ and ‘Caddisfly’ larvae. We then got to tear through dead logs looking for other insects, most of which were decomposers, breaking down the log. Insects are very important to a healthy forest and are needed to make soil. There are a lot of interesting insects in logs.
And More About Their Ongoing Monitoring Work:
This year marks the fourth year of Leaf Pack water quality experiments at Hyla Woods. During the previous years, we have investigated in the Fall and again in the Spring, producing an impressive amount of data over a significant amount of time. This year, the weather was kind to us, providing crisp fall days. At Both visits the stream level was quite low, making access relatively easy.
On September 28th, we arrived at Hyla Woods (Timber) for our placement trip. There are primarily two types of trees that ‘feed’ Lousignant Creek- Red Alder and Vine Maple, so we collected these leaves to fill 6 mesh bags of equal amounts. The bags were carefully weighed to meet the Leaf Pack protocol of 30 grams. These packs were placed in the stream in locations that simulated real ‘leaf packs’ that naturally occur. These needed to be in the current but up against a rock, tree root, or stable branch facing upstream (not wagging downstream in the current). Essentially, we created a trap to sample what macroinvertebrates are living in the stream. We also placed 2 “experiment packs” of leaves of only Big Leaf Maple, a once plentiful tree that seems to be missing in this riparian zone. Once our packs had been placed, we spent the rest of our time exploring or working on our nature journals.
We returned on October 26th to collect our packs and analysis what macroinvertebrates had taken up residence in them. This was again a beautiful day, but surprisingly cold. The packs were carefully removed and the contents were filtered through screens to capture the largest macros. Then each leave was gone over with brushes several times, in order to be sure that all critters were capture. The macros were identified, sorted, and (once every agreed on the id), quantified. The results were recorded for later analysis. It seems that ‘not all macroinvertebrates are created equally’. Some of them are very intolerant to any pollution at all, making them great indicators of the streams overall health.
This year, while our overall numbers of the most important macros (mayfly, stonefly, & caddisfly) were consistent with previous years, we also found an huge number of aquatic snails. This threw off the ‘biotic index’ indicator , as well as the EPT % substantially. The stream’s rating was only “good”, not the usual “excellent” rating. We were not convinced by our data’s outcome, so we consulted the experts at Stroud Water Research in Pennsylvania. We were able to determine that the snails were “gill breathing” rather than “lung breathing”. These ‘gilled’ snails actually have a high level of intolerance to pollution, which apparently the ‘biotic index’ charts do not take into account. It was recommended that we remove the snail count and recalculate. The results easily fell into the ‘excellent water quality’ range. The scientist at Stroud plan to revisit and perhaps redesign the charts to rectify this problem.
The results of the our Leaf Pack data can be found in the charts below, or can be view at the Leaf Pack Network website: