California Against the Sea is a Way to Think Forward

If there’s one takeaway from the Deer Creek Watershed study project, it is that all watersheds are interconnected parts of Earth’s circulatory system.

In her book, California Against the Sea: Visions for Our Vanishing Coastline, Rosanna Xia travels along California’s coastal towns interviewing city, county, and state land policy managers, as well as Native People, Black communities, activists, and private homeowners as she investigates how people think about coastal erosion and property defense tactics.

This subject applies to all places where people live. Do we adapt to change or fight it?

How do we develop governing policies that encourage desired behaviors?

So many people still seem to be estranged from nature – unaware, or unwilling to see, how much we’re holding onto land meant to burn or drown. ‘We love what we have, and we always want it to be the same forever, but it’s just not going to be.’

As I read about high-priced sea walls, diminishing sand, and underserved communities, I couldn’t help but think about home insurers pulling out of California, ongoing Nevada County fire-hardening work, and our Nisenan Tribe.

“I exist because my ancestors resisted multiple and sustained sate and church sponsored efforts to eradicate us physically, culturally, and spiritually,” she said. “They resisted, and they continued – continued to love, laugh, speak their language, sing their songs, build and sustain their communities through all the violence.”

The book takes a while to get through; it is information-dense. It might seem like the subject would be depressing, but it’s not. Xia leaves readers feeling hopeful.

The sooner we arrive at a consensus about ecosystem-specific environmental adaptation, and set plans in motion for forward movement, the less loss of life, housing, commerce, and investment there will be.

Rosanna Xia is an environmental reporter for the Los Angeles Times, where she specializes in stories about the coast and ocean. She was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 2020 for explanatory reporting, and her work has been anthologized in the Best American Science and Nature Writing series.

Deer Creek Film & the January Circle

We’re approaching mid-January, the time of year when the Following Deer Creek (FDC) Project first came into being (2017).  Like the Earth circling around the Sun and the planetary water cycle, we’ve completed a journey.

I set out to tell the story of the Deer Creek watershed from its tectonic and cultural origins to the people and animals who live in it today. Working backward, I posted blog articles as I researched in preparation to compile the film.

Aerial Views & History
of the Deer Creek Watershed:
Journey from Headwaters to Confluence 
a thirty-minute fly-over film

In early January of 2021, the film was complete. Like the FDC blog posts, it’s a birds-eye view of the watershed that hints at depths.

I smile when I think back to the initial idea seed. Of course, there is no one story, there are more than can ever be told.

FDC and the Aerial Views film is a decent outline, but it also illustrates how much more remains for investigation and study.

I hope this journey inspires yours!

 

 

 

 

Lichen: Exploring Microecosystems in Your Backyard

Lichens are tiny farming biomes that live on rocks, soil and trees.

Fortunately, with a magnifying glass or macro setting on your smartphone, you can explore these systems within a few steps of your door.

A Lichen is a Symbiotic System

Lichen is composed of fungi, algae, and bacteria. The fungus captures plant cells, taking it inside its body where it nourishes and protects them. When the algal cells photosynthesize, they produce sugars that the fungus eats.

Very resilient, lichens have survived space experiments and can lay dormant for up to ten years in wetter California climates. Some species are over 1,000 years old!

 

What Lichens Need to Grow

Lichens need air, water, light, nutrients, and something to cling to (substrate).

Air: Like sponges, lichens absorb everything they need from nutrients to moisture. They’re so sensitive to environmental pollutants, temperature shifts and water conditions that the U.S. Forest Service uses lichen surveys as indicators of forest health, providing hot spot data and conservation priorities.

Water: Lichens don’t have the ability to regulate moisture levels (poikilohydry).  When they lack water, they dry out, go dormant and look dark. When water is available, they plump-up, look green, grow, and reproduce.

Light: The algal cells that the fungi farm need light to photosynthesize. Lichen species have different light requirements. Some prefer full sun on rocks while others like shady, cooler subclimates. Brightness and coloring are also affected by light. Species adapted to hotter and brighter conditions are generally more colorful.
 
Nutrients: Lichen nutrients include; oxygen, carbon, and nitrogen. Lichens use cyanobacteria to “fix” nitrogen from the air which is then used to organic acids and proteins. 
Species types – acidophyte & nitrophyte – that flourish or diminish under certain climate conditions are used in lichen surveys.
 
Substrate: Any non-moving object the lichen can hold onto – rocks, trees, soil, tombstones, houses, farm equipment, etc. 

Types of Lichen

 

Foliose: Leafy lichens that use tiny rhizines to attach to substrate.

Folios lichen – Plitt’s Xanthoparmelia plitti, Lettuce lichen/Lobaria oregana & Rhizine Photo by Ed Uebel – NOTE: Lichens are not parasitic. They  do not hurt trees.
 

Forage: Hair-like and hanging species that are eaten by animals and humans

Forage lichen – Willa/Bryoria fremontii – eaten by squirrels, western voles, wild turkey, slugs, snails, mites, springtails, certain caterpillars and Mule deer. Photo by Jason Hollinger

 

 

Crustose:  Lichens grow flat on their substrate surface

Crustose lichens – gold cobblestone/Pleopsidium flavum and Firedot/Caloplaca trachyphylla – Photos by Jason Hollinger

Fruticose: looks like a shrub, bush, or coral

Fruticose lichen – Old Man’s Beard/Usnea Photo by Rhododendrites & Wolf lichen/Letharia vulpina Photo by Jason Hollinger

Reproduction

Lichens have multiple reproduction methods. If they reproduce sexually (by way of fruiting bodies) they create spores. If they reproduce asexually, a powdery substance – soredia –  is released. Both methods use, wind, water, and animals to transport the newbies.

The fruiting body of the Pixie Cup lichen

MYTH: Lichen do not harm trees. 

Other Lichen Uses & Users

Clothing, wound absorbent, diapers, model train shrubbery, and an ingredient in concrete, perfume, and deodorant. Some lichens are being studied as new sources of antibiotics and medicines.

Camouflage for; lizards, moths, tree frogs and other insects.

Insect larva camouflage

 

Nesting Material
At least 50 bird species use lichens as nesting material.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like Bird’s Nest Fungi – Spores Spread by Raindrops

 

Click on image to purchase or view more Life on the Creek art
Click on image to go to a FREE downloadable coloring sheet
Click on image to purchase or view more Life on the Creek art

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources:

Acidophyte & Nitrophyte Lichen Species  (air quality indicators)

Bay Nature – Identifying with Lichens

California Lichen Society – Observations  |  California’s State Lichen

Consortium of North America Lichen Herbaria 

Field Guide To California Lichens 

 

Live Science – What are Lichens?

The Scientist – Not One, Not Two, But Three Fungi Present in Lichen 

Marin County Lichens (Introduction to)

National Lichens & Air Quality Database and Clearinghouse

North American Mycological Association

OPAL Identification Guide (PDF)

Sharnoff – Lichen uses by people: Perfume & Misc. | Dyeing

Sierra College Natural History Museum – California Lace Lichen

UC, Berkeley – California Lichen Society

University of Minnesota Extension – Non-harmful tree conditions

USDA – Lichen Bioindication of Biodiversity, Air Quality, and Climate: Baseline Results From Monitoring in Washington, Oregon, and California

U.S. Forest Service – About Lichens

U.S. Forest Service – Lichen Habitat 

Wikipedia – Lichens of the Sierra Nevada U.S.

Books

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lichen Photography

Lichen Photography by Stephen Sharnoff

Lichen Photography by Tim Wheeler 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drone Filming Behind the Scenes with Titus Davis

In the fall of 2019, Titus Davis of Lodestone Drone Productions, joined me to help tell more of the Deer Creek Watershed story. With his drone and special flying license, we met at several locations to film. Titus is a longtime Nevada County resident. Taking him hiking through the Black Swan Preserve was a pleasure because he enjoyed the new scenery and was thinking about other people he could share it with.  The old Cotton Brothers bridge near Bitney Springs Road was another first.

As we went through the filming and set-up process and sorted out how to transfer data, he explained some of the intricacies of drone operation. He generously shares these below.

Drone Operation Considerations from Titus Davis:

[While filming the Cotton Brothers Bridge, the drone had a little difficulty staying on course. This was caused by…]

Ferromagnetism is a phenomenon that occurs in some metals, most notably iron, cobalt, and nickel, that over time causes the metal to become magnetic. This is a natural process that can be caused by electrolysis, which is part of the corrosion process. Ferromagnetism can also be increased by the earth’s magnetic field, vehicles passing over, vibration, etc.

Most drones used for photography have a sensitive compass to help orientate the drone, allowing it to fly in a straight line. The drone I use has two compasses to ensure it has an accurate reading on the earths magnetic field. If the iron bridge has a magnetic field that is different than the earths field, the compass will be affected. This effect can be seen when the drone has difficulty flying in a straight line near the bridge.

Another challenge to flying is the drone’s GPS system feature which helps stabilize it and hold a position in the wind. Anything that affects the GPS signals will cause the drone to drift. Flying near iron objects or under them can cause a loss of the GPS signal. This will cause the drone to drift and not accurately hold altitude.

Drone Filming Precautions

Flying under the Boulder Street Bridge.

When we met at Lefty’s Grill (on a day the restaurant was closed) to film dusk over the creek and Nevada City, Titus had already communicated with Lefty’s management asking if it was OK to film there and notified the Nevada City Police Department. (If they received calls from concerned citizens, they’d already know what was going on.)

When we were at the turtle ponds on the Black Swan Preserve, he was watching for hunting birds after explaining that birds of prey sometimes attack drones. (Drone color may affect bird attraction.)

Deer Creek Bridge Films

Click here to watch Titus’s drone footage – Deer Creek Bridges – Elevations & History.

Davis Drone Footage to Appear in Deer Creek Flyover Film

Lisa is currently producing a flyover film she plans to submit to the 2021 SYRCL Wild and Scenic Film Festival. It’s taken a year to collect the footage for the project; Davis’s drone footage will highlight key features along Deer Creek. 

Resources:

 

Titus Davis Lodestone Drone Productions lodestonedrone.com lodestonedrone@gmail.com

 

*Fortunately, we had no attack bird skirmishes, but after we were done, I had to research what a confrontation would have looked like. See the video below. 

Deer Creek Bridges – Elevations & History

From the highest elevation to lowest, here are views of bridges crossing Deer Creek along with some history.

Boulder Street Bridge, Nevada City – Elevation 2,512′ 

(Near Lefty’s Grill & the Stone House)

Pine Street Bridge, Nevada City – Elevation 2,445′

 

Tribute Trail  – Angkula Seo  Suspension Bridge – Elevation 2,400′

(built by Seattle Bridge LLC)

Tribute Trail – Chinese Tribute Bridge  – Stocking Flat (Champion Mine) – Elevation 2,247′

Bitney Springs – Cotton Brothers Bridge – Elevation 2,010′

 

“NEVADA CITY, CAL –  Cotton Bros. & Co, Oakland, CAL were awarded a contract April 14 by the county supervisors for constructing the following bridges; steel bridge over Deer Creek, $2,248.” – Engineering News and American Railway Journal, Volume 39, April 28, 1898, pg. 145

“The Cotton Brothers and Company was an important California based bridge builder of metal truss bridges in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. They built several bridges in Nevada County during the 1890’s, including the Purdon Bridge.” – Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service – Wolf Creek Bridge PDF

click image to see more Life on the Creek art

Resources:

American Bridge Building Companies PDF

Bridgehunter.com – Cotton Brothers Bridges

Bear Yuba Land Trust – Deer Creek Environs Trail

Historic American Building Survey, National Park Service – Wolf Creek Bridge PDF

Installation of Chinese Tribute Bridge (Champion Mine area).

The Sierra Fund – Deer Creek Tribute Trail

South Yuba River State Park – California Bridges – Purdon Bridge

Titus Davis, Loadstone Drone

Tribute Trail Building

The Union – Through the years: Deer Creek’s many bridges

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