Natural Resources and Science

Natural Resources and Science

News articles ranging from water and energy issues, and restoration projects to science and technology are found here.

According to KMUD News Coordinator, Cyntia Elkins:       
"Sudden oak death was discovered for the first time in the Mattole River last year, and it has now been detected in an additional tributary of the watershed.  Scientists conducted water samples in the watershed earlier this year.  It was found in the mainstem at Whitethorn and Mattole Canyon Creek last year.  Results this year show it is also present in Grindstone Creek, and is affecting both the east and west forks of Mattole Canyon Creek.  Stream sampling uses leaves in the water that will become infected if the pathogen is present.  It’s a way to detect sudden oak death before it can be visibly seen affecting trees.  Dr. Dave Rizzo is a professor of plant pathology at U.C. Davis.  He was on the team of people that collected the first isolates that pinned sudden oak death on phytophtora ramorum.  That was back in 2000."  

Use the player below to hear or download an interview with Professor Rizzo talking about stream monitoring efforts in the Mattole and the Van Duzen watersheds.This story was aired on KMUD Local News, Sept. 19, 2012, by Cynthia Elkins.

Additional Links:
A paper co-authored by Dr, Rizzo
SOD Management Guidelines

According to a Press Release from the City of Arcata:
In honor of National Pollution Prevention Week, wildlife disease ecologist Mourad Gabriel will give a presentation entitled “Silent Forests: Impacts from Poisons Associated with Illegal Marijuana Cultivation on our Public and Tribal Lands” at the Arcata Marsh Interpretive Center on Thursday, September 27 at 7 p.m. The Interpretive Center is located at 569 South G Street in Arcata.

Gabriel and his colleagues are finding an alarming rate of rat poisoning deaths in fishers, a near-endangered member of the weasel family that live in some of the most remote forests in California. He and his colleagues are concerned about how pesticides and rodenticides used by illegal marijuana growers on remote public, private and tribal lands are affecting both the forest watersheds and the entire forest food chain, from rodents to carnivores like martens, spotted owls and the Sierra Nevada red fox.

Mourad Gabriel completed both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees focusing on wildlife diseases at Humboldt State University. While completing his M.S., he co-founded MGW Biological, an environmental consulting firm, as well as Integral Ecology Research Center, a non-profit scientific research organization where he is the president and senior ecologist. Gabriel is completing his Ph.D. this fall at the University of California Davis in comparative pathology and has authored several scientific manuscripts focusing on infectious and non-infectious diseases affecting wildlife of conservation concern. He lives in Northwestern California where he and his wife, also an ecologist, try to spend as much time as possible enjoying our public lands.

Seating is for this talk is limited so please call (707) 826-2359 or email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for reservations and information.

Gabriel’s talk will be videotaped and aired at a later date on Suddenlink/Access Humboldt Channel 10 and will be available for on-demand viewing online at: www.cityofarcata.org.

U.C. Davis wildlife disease ecologist Mourad Gabriel with pesticides found at an illegal marijuana cultivation site in a secluded forest area. Rat poisons are often used to protect young marijuana plants in remote illegal marijuana grow sites. The poisons are killing different animals in the forest food chain, many of which are already nearing endangered status.

U.C. Davis researcher Mourad Gabriel with one of his research subjects, a Pacific fisher. Fishers, a weasel-like forest carnivore, are being found with alarmingly high levels of rat poisons and pesticides in their bodies. These increasingly rare animals live deep in forests and are exposed to pesticides used by illegal marijuana growers.

A Pacific fisher in its natural element. Fishers and other animals in the forest and watershed food chain are unintended casualties of illegal pot farming. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Green, Hoopa Tribe.)



According to a Press Release from the Eel River Recovery Project, dated August 10, 2012:

At the same time the Eel River Chinook salmon run is resurging to levels not seen in 50 years, stream margins in dry years are becoming toxic to humans and animals due to blue green algae blooms. Although toxic conditions have not formed since 2009, eleven dog deaths have been documented by the Humboldt County Department of Public Health (HCDPH) that are attributed to toxic algae dating back to 2001, mostly in the South Fork Eel and lower Van Duzen River. Citizens of Fortuna and Redway expressed extreme concern about the public health risk posed by toxic algae at community forums in early September 2011 sponsored by the Trees Foundation. In response to this community need and others, the Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP) was formed and citizens are currently monitoring different river reaches as an early warning system to protect public health.

Humboldt County Public Health staff Harriet Hill samples toxic algae on the SF Eel River at Phillipsville in August 2009:   

The toxic algae problem is relatively new to the Eel River, but it is not unique in the region. It seems that water bodies out of ecological balance are subject to colonization by toxic blue green algae throughout the West. The Eel River toxic species are Planktothrix and Anabaena that can create neurotoxins that are fatal within minutes to dogs that play in algae blooms in stream edges and then lick their fur. Toxic algae does not form in all years and it looks like we may avoid the problem in 2012 due to late rains and a cool summer, but ERRP volunteers are surveilling conditions on the Van Duzen River, South Fork and lower Eel River.  Volunteers are taking pictures of locations that have been known to form toxic conditions and automated temperature sensors are being placed nearby. The hope is that a relationship between ambient stream temperature and development of toxic conditions can be established as part of an early warning system. Water temperature sensing devices used in 2012 are on loan to the ERRP from the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board and the Mendocino County Water Agency.

The ERRP is working with the Humboldt County Public Health and contact is made if conditions become threatening or if there is any evidence of toxic exposure of pets or people. The toxic species often are intermixed with other algae species and can only be identified with magnification. They County and State do not currently have a budget for testing for toxic algae except in emergencies, such as when dogs die. ERRP may try to help get grants so we can help the County to get more and better toxic algae data. In the mean time, the best strategy to keep pets and children safe is to make sure they avoid contact with stagnant stream margins that have algae abundant blooms.

It is assumed that nutrient pollution reduction and water conservation are needed to lessen toxic algae risk and to restore the Eel River’s ecological balance. Speakers at the ERRP sponsored a Water Day forum this past May 6 discussed ways to cut down on pollution and agricultural water use and grant funds are being pursued to promote more widespread implementation of the recommended strategies.

The ERRP operates under the umbrella of the Trees Foundation and the 2012 monitoring program is sponsored by a Rose Foundation grant as well as a private donation. The project also includes citizen assisted temperature trend monitoring of streams and fall Chinook salmon counts. More volunteers are needed and those interested participating in any activity can contact ERRP volunteer monitoring coordinator Patrick Higgins, at (707) 223-7200. See www.eelriverrecovery.org for more information.


September 2011 photo is of the same location on the SF Eel as photo at left and shows no sign of toxic algae:  

On saturday June 16 a group of folks assembled at the Sanctuary Forest office, in the Whitethorn Construction area, for a hike titled, “Sustainable Forestry Management”. The hike was the third in this summer’s 2012 series of hikes sponsored by the Sanctuary Forest. After participating in an opening circle with introductions, an overview of the hike, and descriptions of the Forestry Project, hikers carpooled to the Whitethorn Grove, a 40 acre parcel that straddles the County road and Road A, just north of the whitethorn Fire department. The three hour hike on this property, owned by the Sanctuary Forest, began with descriptions of the property and "light touch" logging practices that will be used.

           Group prepares to begin hiking:                                              Mid-hike learning aout light touch forestry:                              Tim Metz describes how to read tree rings:



Use the player below to listen to or download the KMUD News report by Community Journalist Bob Froehlich. the report aired on KMUD News June 19, 2012.

For more information about the  Whitethorn Grove Demonstration Forestry Project you can e-mail Noah Levy at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. There will be 7 more hikes offered this summer- the last one being "Sinkyone Indian Land and Culture" on Sept. 16.  For more information about the Sanctuary Forest hikes and projects you can visit their website at http://www.sanctuaryforest.org or can them at: 707 986-1087.

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