Monday, February 8, 2010

unsung victims of the DC Snowpocalypse

The +2' of snow that hit DC this weekend has surprised and wreaked havoc on many. For example, the federal government, city schools and universities, and many other businesses have been closed over the weekend, Monday, and Tuesday, at a significant economic loss (partially recovered in sales of snow shovels and hot chocolate?). But the unsung victims in this storm, in my opinion, are the Washington street trees.

As the snow started to accumulate on Friday night, I heard a loud *crack* in the courtyard of my building, and saw the first fallen branch. A large branch from an >80 year old tree had smashed another small tree below it. Several other trees in my courtyard also lost large branches, bending and breaking under the weight of 26" of wet snow. Walking the city streets, I saw other casualties.

A few years ago in Providence, RI, they had a tree tally, where volunteers (including me!) identified and counted the street trees for a public record. (There are nearly 25k street trees in Providence, in case you were wondering.) I haven't found such a dataset for DC, although there is a city Urban Forestry Administration. Beyond my anecdotes, it'd be interesting to know the scale of the damage to the city's trees from Snowpocalypse 2010.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

winter in the intertidal

I was out in the sub-freezing weather in Rhode Island this weekend to set up succession plots and settlement plates to measure barnacle recruitment, which has already begun! (See a slideshow of last year's recruits here.) There's nothing like seawater freezing on your double-gloved hands to make you feel alive!

I expected the rocky intertidal fauna that had the option to ride out the extreme cold buried in the mud, but I was surprised to see many of the mobile critters out and about during the extreme low tides (-0.5 m or -1.6 ft, nearly 0.5 m lower than the predicted low tide, probably due to wind). Seastars were remarkably abundant, and I also saw a lady crab, Ovalipes ocellatus, a swimming crab that I rarely find in the intertidal (the Kunkel lab at UMass Amherst has a good lady crab photo here).