Duckin' Around with Wetland Restoration

Cinnamon teals: photo credit to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

As a bopping tune blared me into consciousness this morning, I absently gimped across a swath of fading beige carpet. This ruggery coats the floor of a room I now rent from the loveliest of professional women, and upon reaching across the 5’ expanse from my (also rented) twin-sized bed, I managed to smash my fingers in the correct order to silence my phone alarm. However, before this rousing entry into the world of productive humans (if that’s what you call waking up at 5am to hit the Y before the office work begins), these sore eyes stirred to find my right-hand digits fixed into a familiar and inspiring position. Assuming the poised pen-holding alignment of an author, a phantom pen hovered delicately betwixt my forefinger and thumb on a hand that only just began to receive signals from my waking brain. It would seem the Body knows best, in the case of honing one’s creative outlet. I knew then with startling clarity that my substantial bout of the dreaded writer’s block was nearing its end.

Then I stalled for three and a half weeks and slapped this together from my recent professional exposures.

This excitement (can I get an amen?) plopped you and I exactly where we are in the Here and Now, where I dispense the following window into this Rock Rat’s shiny new day job! Right now, my actual position description is not important, as the project descriptions below have been altered to prevent the flagrant disruption of my stately biologist peers.

These modified meeting minutes will transport you to the second floor of a wildlife management office building, wherein there is a collection of conservation specialists discussing a long-term wetland restoration project for an expansive section of habitat.

This work is important and widely applicable to like…. well, migratory bird conservation on many levels but also The Water Crisis. ‘Nough said, amirite? So get to skimming, and Let’s Talk afterward about your impressions and effectuated zeal for avian habitat restoration.

With love and nothing else,

Rock Rat

Waterfowl Meeting

4 November 2011


Started off a bit late, waiting for Roger Waltman.

Thanked everyone for showing up, passed out packets, expressed presentation intended for February meeting, asked for their input, this is my understanding of where the project is now, mostly including maps of routes and rudimentary representations of survey efforts and comparative counts right now.

Asked about starting with round-robining before going through the packet (since some are short on time and they can take the packet with them).

Dan Stevens has nothing to report, but would like to circle back to discuss scheduling for next year, and also our level of satisfaction in classifying wetlands.

Leo Rangold has some things to discuss about his talk with Stacy McAlvian, she’s looking at mapping wetlands using depressional data (especially useful in some Google Maps tools and LiDAR data, if we have that available). Stacy can identify congregations of waterfowl in sheetwater and flooded ag, PAPI imagery analysis could be potentially used to replace LiDAR, Stacy has mapped the entire Highland Plateau, but not the Dowley Flats. Challenges with LiDAR are the volume of data and the computer processing required to conduct these kinds of datasets.

The general opinion seems to be that the Federal Wetland (FW) maps some areas rather well, but the issues come into play with the agricultural lands and how to accurately identify the sheetwater and shallow flooded ag lands that are so valuable to the birds. Stacy will likely not attend the January meeting, if we are sticking to this kind of review, and will likely attend only if we begin to embark on some of these analyses. Stacy is incredibly busy with her post-doc, working different jobs, tribes work, and work in the Seven Lakes area, she also has a new program and new skills that allow her to process data in a matter of hours that previously took her days or weeks to go through. They are still planning to work her into the Wetland Migratory Bird (WMB) budget to pay her for services, this may require setting a specific amount of money aside and petitioning her for services according to what we can get for our money. Leo will ask Stacy to provide a budget for her projected services in time to work this into the WMB proposal. Roger is working on getting things together for submitting the WMB grant documents. The timing of WMB meeting and such is in progress. Roger has already spoken to Sean Taar about setting aside 30 or 40k for her.

Scott has some things to go over. He has a packet summary of the aerial flight data. This was sent out in an email. There is some cleaning that needs to be done. He also passed out two maps. This dataset is the input for the GIS dataset, the map handout is just a working example of some of the things we went over at the last meeting. The triangle shown is the area discussed in October. Rough estimate is that only about 5% of aerial observations are included with the buffered areas. Each point in these tables represents a point in the GIS dataset. There are issues in consistency due to passing the data to be processed by different interns at different times; Steve has had to recode several times to address some of these. It is an on-going process.

Leo questions: Do you have any idea how many points within the buffer have no FW reference?

Scott: No.

Leo thinks it would be more interesting to determine how many buffered points include no FW, as some with at least 50% representation in FW are relatively accurate to the true landscape. LP wetlands are those that have a good model fit that could be run to predict climate change, in other words, LP wetlands are a subset that could be used as the entire dataset was intended.

Scott: I showed this to you all b/c if Stacy is going to map wetlands for us, it would be nice if we could tell her where we want her to map. If we knew where there was water, we could give her some kind of reference to bird location, activity, how much water, what kind of water, etc.

Dan points out the transect lines DO VARY BETWEEN YEARS, each year the transects are flown close enough to be effective for what we need, but they are several hundred meters apart.

René: Is Stacy able to investigate where there was water when we saw birds? It would be interesting to see if she picks up anything differently from the FW.

Everyone seems to agree that the wetlands represented in these maps are heavily underrepresented.

Dan: None of these processes are going to be perfect in detecting wetlands. Everyone agrees no process will be, but WHAT IS OUR ACCEPTABLE MARGIN OF ERROR?

René: Is there a way we can help her compensate for the variation between years?

Dan: Can we give her an estimate of the amount of FW we were able to survey based on our surveys to address HOW MANY DUCKS ARE USING THE DOWLEY FLATS BASED ON THE WETLANDS WE KNOW ARE THERE AND BEING USED?

Kyle: That is the most valuable question to be address & highest priority to take this to the funders. When can we have that answer to take to the funders?

Scott thinks the transects were systematically put down based on random generator used to select strata from the statewide SOP to be sampled. The previous GIS guy was asked to generate transects randomly that still include an encompassing picture of wetlands represented across the entire landscape.

Leo thinks striking this accurate representation for the entire area is “pretty doable.”

Dan did not think the transects being flown were as far physically off as they appear to be in the map that Scott provided.

Everyone agrees each flight is a little bit differently, but they are all tracked using data “bread crumbs.”

Roger: The point on the map is where the time was recorded, therefore the outlying circles are now where the birds was actually observed, it is where the observation was made inside the “original 200 m buffer.” Roger can still record the birds within the transect and recorded it. This is a change according to the observational area discussed between those present at the last meeting. Roger Waltman has a field sampling methodology to address this observation question. He does this to include the birds in the transect.

How does this update from Roger affect the work that Scott has been doing on the triangle-transect GPS trail bird observation ‘solution’? There is universal recognition that there is disconnect between the location of the plane, bird, and wetlands.

Leo: We cannot really use the GPS point data. Everyone agrees. We cannot use this polygon analysis b/c the margin of error considering the observation protocol is too great.

Scott: We know where the transect is, we can find the point on the transect closest to the GPS point.

Leo: For anything that we or Stacy would need to do, we will need to stick to the individual transect, we can use individual points with KNOWN bird densities, but drawing other conclusions is not really feasible. If we can identify spatial clusters of ducks, send that to Stacy, she can tell us what kind of wetland was there at the time of sampling.

Dan questions: There are areas that we KNOW ducks are using, that there is water there, but that no water is shown in any of our maps. Those are the problem areas.