Joseph Batom, Bird Beholder/Salmon Shelter Searcher

Hi! I am Joseph Batom, Golden Gate hydrology intern, and I am delighted to share my latest adventures and newfound knowledge with you in the fourth edition of my blog. As is the case with my previous blog posts, I have lots of exciting things to report on!

I got to participate in a bird count at Alcatraz Island, where we saw over 500 gulls! It was by far the most gulls I’ve ever seen in one place. Alcatraz is a bird hotspot in the GGNRA, providing essential habitat to Brandt’s and Pelagic Cormorants, majestic Great Blue Herons, mysterious Black-crowned Night Herons, and striking Peregrine Falcons, to name a few species. In addition to having a stunning bird population, Alcatraz also has an incredibly rich history and a thriving plant community, both of which were wonderful to learn about while I was there. I would highly recommend making the trip out if you ever find yourself in the area!

On the topic of wildlife hotspots, I was also able to participate in the planting and monitoring of a wetland restoration project site. The once flourishing Upper Rodeo Wetland was heavily degraded by infrastructure instituted by the U.S. Army, leading to a loss of native species and hydrology. The project aims to restore the lush wetland by regrading the landscape, removing invasive species, and replacing them with natives. Planting is fun! It is hard work, but I feel grateful that my position offers the freedom to participate in planting events. Wetland restoration instills a sense of pride within me unlike any other. 

I got the opportunity to monitor a significantly different restoration project during winter habitat mapping in Redwood Creek with the Point Reyes fisheries crew in Muir Woods. Our team was composed of three people with different roles: one person to measure habitat features and flag habitat, one person to measure maximum water velocity and depth, and one person to annotate the basemap to be digitized later. I found myself measuring velocity and depth using an instrument called a “Marsh-McBirney Flo-Mate”. It measures the velocity of water using a sensor attached to a rod, which is also used to determine the maximum depth of a given habitat polygon. This was hard to do at first because water moves in strange ways. The quickest-moving water may actually be a lot slower underneath the surface, and the maximum depth was often located at an inconspicuous location within the pool, scoured out by underwater currents. After doing multiple days of habitat mapping, I feel a lot more familiar with Redwood Creek and stream morphology in general, which is exciting! I am eager to get back to Muir Woods to walk around and see how things are changing as the rainy season continues.

From birding at Alcatraz to feeling water creep into my waders during habitat mapping at Redwood Creek, each experience has proved to be a valuable lesson, further developing my knowledge. Stay tuned for my next post as I make new discoveries and overcome challenges as a hydrology intern in the GGNRA! 

Check out these awe-inspiring photos:

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