Week 6: Beaver tales

This week I continued exploring the Oregon wilderness. Wednesday, I headed back to Beaver Creek state park for an evening kayak tour of the marsh. The cool evening weather was perfect for kayaking. Our guides had the group pull up and float together at different points along the creek stopping to point out a beaver lodge, an eagles nest and the nutria, or river rats, that have begun to invade the creek.

Kayaking on Beaver Creek

Kayaking on Beaver Creek

Nutria are an invasive species native to Latin America, introduced to North America in the 1930’s in an attempt to bolster the fur trade that was running out of over-hunted beavers. Unfortunately, the nutria furs were not particularly appealing to consumers and they further threatened the beaver populations by both competing for habitat and damaging existing habitat. In Beaver Creek nutria have started causing issues by consuming the vegetation that holds the marsh together.

We spotted about 10 nutria during the tour and learned the key differences between the strikingly similar species. Nutria have white whiskers and lack the telltale beaver tail, while Beavers are nocturnal, more skittish and bob their heads when they swim. We were beginning to think we would leave beaver creek without seeing a single beaver, luckily, one bobbed across our path just as we were heading around the last bend. He gave a loud warning slap of his tail and then slipped underwater as we passed by.

As far as work at the EPA goes, I had a slight change in research focus. My mentor asked me to look into upwelling conditions along the Pacific coast and see how seasonal pH values compare to the global average. Ocean and wind circulation patterns cause seasonal upwelling along the eastern boundary of northern hemisphere ocean basins. This process brings low pH water to the surface. It is possible that organisms that have evolved in these comparatively lower pH conditions will be better adapted to survive low pH brought on by climate change. The pH data I have looked at so far indicate that pH values at the surface down to 200m are on average much lower than the global ocean mean pH of 8.1.

Picturesque Crater Lake

Picturesque Crater Lake

I spent the weekend exploring Crater Lake, Oregon’s only National Park. After hiking down and going for a swim in the cool clear blue water we made our way back up the chipmunk-lined switchbacks to fit a few more sites into our nature packed weekend. We hiked to Toketee Falls and lounged in the Umpqua hot springs before heading back to Newport.

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3 thoughts on “Week 6: Beaver tales

  1. An evening kayak tour of Beaver Creek sounds lovely, and glad you got a glimpse of the native beaver. I didn’t know nutria have white whiskers! Your research on seasonal upwelling is very important to the Oregon coastal ecosystems and communities. Looking forward to your final presentation.

  2. I second the idea that upwelling along the Pacific coast can be very important for local populations, and their ability to respond to changing ocean conditions. Seems like a change (in focus) for the better!

  3. That’s awesome to hear that you’re gaining experience both on the social and ecological sciences this summer! Amazing what you can accomplish in such a short time frame :)

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