Yesterday I got a sneak peak at an upcoming something I’m not allowed to talk about yet, but believe me when I say you will be very, very interested. I sure was. Then it was time to dash off to virtual school with the Bren masters students who had put together a model for beaver dams in the Jemez watershed in New Mexico using Joe Wheaton’s BRAT tool.
The Bren School is the environmental division of UC Santa Barbara, so within walking distance of the salmonid restoration conference, where they could have heard all about beavers restoring watershed if they were interested. The project was a discussion of theoretical beavers in the Jemez, which is a tributary of the Rio Grande in New Mexico where there aren’t too many beavers to spare. They did not talk about actual beavers. They built the 40 dams themselves based on a model of where beaver dams should be expected to go. Using a tool from the Army Corp of Engineers they measured how much water they preserved with the dams. Then calculated the effect on two species of special concern, a rare native trout and a aquatic mouse. The idea being that you have to prove that beavers are a good idea before any will actually sponsor them. There aren’t too many beavers in New Mexico but there are some. I had to wonder what would happen if any slipped into the Jemez study area by mistake?
I honestly tried very hard to not think like a crazy beaver lover and follow the science behind their presentation without getting annoyed that there were no ACTUAL BEAVERS in their BEAVER thesis. But then they showed this slide and I really couldn’t help myself.
How could they know what a beaver looks like if there’s not any in their beaver research? They’d have no way of knowing that photo actually wasn’t one. And it’s not like Dr. Tim Robinson of the Cachuma Conservation Release Board counted 300+ actual beaver dams on the lower Santa Ynez River a half hour drive from their school. There are certainly no resources on the internet that would help them learn the esoteric difference.
Let’s not suggest that WildEarth Guardians whose writing them grants to fund this project should know any better. I mean just because they have an audited statement from 2012 with a end of year balance of six digits doesn’t mean they should know what an animal they’re funding looks like, right? Stop being so picky, Heidi.
There were questions and answers after the presentation and some nice discussion about native fish versus non natives getting around beaver dams. Byran from Earth Guardians talked about the recent legislation in New Mexico about climate change and beaver management, which was largely the work of Wild Earth Guardians and their legal struggle to make the state take beavers seriously.
Since I know what its like to be a graduate student presenting your work, I politely didn’t ask anyone about the nutria or the decision to study hypothetical beavers (rather than the actual ones USDA says they killed in New Mexico), but I did write them privately that they might want to change that photo before putting the presentation on line.
For whatever reason that didn’t happen. So let this be a cautionary tale (tail).