After 12 fast weeks of data collection, cultural immersion, and natural resource monitoring, the 2020 TRAYLS season has come to an end. It was a very successful summer despite the challenges COVID-19 thrust upon us- the crew dipped their toes in various fields of natural resource management, learned from new experiences and opportunities, and strengthened their soft and hard skills. In addition to our routine work like water sampling, Moby maintenance and recreation site cleanups, we spent the last few weeks of the season wrapping up some ongoing projects and completed some other ones.
Traditional Food Harvesting and Processing
Our work with Huna Heritage Foundation (HHF) concluded with the end of the summer harvesting season. We spent a couple days harvesting, cleaning, and processing blueberries into blueberry jam- 72 jars to be precise! Additionally, Ted and Dylan got to assist HHF in the production of a “How-To” blueberry jam video for the community. We also went out to Upper Game Creek with HHF a second time to harvest more fireweed flowers on another partially cloudy day, with which we put up another 35 jars of fireweed jam. We were happy to make so much jam in preparation for the Traditional Food Distribution later on.
The last traditional food we harvested this summer was Hudson Bay Tea. We were graced with the presence and wisdom of William “Ozzy” Sheakley on a beautiful sunny morning as we snipped Hudson Bay Tea leaves from the muskeg. Afterwards we followed his instructions and enjoyed some delightful Hudson Bay Tea! The bit of Shore Pine added a nice minty touch to the tea. You can learn how to make your own Hudson Bay Tea by watching HHF’s “How-To” video here.
Tree Coring at Pavlov Marsh Trail, Long Island, and Freshwater Bay
If you have ever been out the road to Pavlov Marsh Trail you know how huge those old growth trees are! Their immense size is what enticed us to go there to collect tree core data and see how old those trees really are. We also got cores from Shore Pines along the road to Long Island (where a fire burnt a lot of the forest), as well as Shore Pines, Yellow Cedars, Hemlocks and Spruces along the road to Freshwater Bay.
Our partners at the College of Wooster recently analyzed our data and unlocked more cool information— the oldest tree we found this batch was a Shore Pine on the way to Freshwater Bay dating back to 1594! That tree is a whopping 426 years old and it was only about a foot in diameter. Compare that to the oldest tree we cored at Pavlov: a Spruce tree more than five feet in diameter dating back to 1784, making it 236 years old. The relationship between tree diameter and age is interestingly counterintuitive. We hope to discover more about the relationship between abiotic (nonliving) factors in a tree’s environment and how well they grow in the future.
Stream Temperature Monitoring in Spasski
One of HIA Environmental’s ongoing projects is monitoring stream temperatures in the Spasski watershed. Collecting this baseline data is necessary in order to see how stream temperatures are changing and to understand those effects on salmon populations. We went out with Ian on a beautiful day and thoroughly enjoyed playing in the water while collecting this important data. Read the blog post that Ted and Dylan wrote themselves about this project and our day here!
On a very rainy day, the TRAYLS crew got to help HIA and the City by collecting snowpack data up one of the mountains nearby. Hoonah gets its drinking water from the mountains, therefore it’s important to monitor the mountain’s water levels from the winter’s snowpack if we want to ensure our community’s water supply is abundant. It was a wet, steep bushwacking hike but we persevered nonetheless!
Wood Products for Culture and Heritage Interviews
We continued our Wood Products for Culture and Heritage (WPCH) project by interviewing more locals about the value of cedar and spruce for cultural and heritage practices. We got to talk with experts including Owen James, Ernestine Hanlon, and Sonya Johnson-Koenig about their experiences with gathering and using wood products like spruce roots and cedar bark for carving and weaving. It was inspiring to learn about traditional weaving and carving practices and to see some of the amazing work done by these artisans.
The crew also got to practice their formline art skills with Gordon Greenwald! It was fun to learn the steps and history of formline drawing, and we were very fortunate to practice with an experienced artist like Gordon. I am very proud of Ted and Dylan for pushing themselves out of their comfort zone by practicing formline art and developing those skills- facing something you view as a challenge is usually the hardest part.
Geomorphology Surveys with the HNFP Crew & Forest Service
One of our favorite activities was conducting geomorphology surveys along a stream in the Spasski watershed with the Hoonah Native Forest Partnership (HNFP) crew and Forest Service (FS). We did these surveys to evaluate the changes in the stream after the HNFP crew did some stream restoration work in order to improve salmon habitat a few years ago. Geomorphology surveys assess the changes in a stream’s shape, size, and water flow. There were three parts to our surveys: tier two habitat surveys, gravel surveys, and cross section analysis using a long-pro. On the first day we completed the tier two habitat and gravel surveys. This consisted of checking the water depth of the stream’s pools, riffles, and pool tail crests, identifying large woody debris in the stream, and randomly selecting rocks along transects across the stream to evaluate the average gravel sizes of the stream. On our second day we completed the cross section analysis, where we used a tool called a long-pro to evaluate the changes in the stream’s overall depth profile.
Outdated logging practices done in the stream’s riparian zone had a large, negative impact on the stream. Removing trees along the stream also eliminated the possibility for trees to fall into the stream and create pools, which are essential for salmon to rest and spawn in. Without trees to slow the water, the flow of the water increased and cut into the ground until the stream bed was a six-foot deep, “V” shape. Salmon have a very hard time swimming upstream against consistently strong currents. Not only that, but the gravel was primarily large rocks since the small sediments like sand got pushed away. Salmon need beds of sand for spawning, which they wouldn’t have found in this stream three years ago. Thankfully the stream now has many pools, the water isn’t too deep or too strong, and there is plenty of sand along the sides of the channel. Stream restoration work is extremely important in order to provide suitable habitat for salmon, a resource our community highly values.
Evaluation Week: Resume Building, Interview Practice & the Traditional Food Distribution
Our last week quickly snuck up on us, even after a two-week extension! We did some evaluation activities to identify how we grew, what we learned, and what we liked and disliked about our projects and activities this season. Additionally, we spent a couple days translating the TRAYLS season and activities onto Dylan and Ted’s resumes and practiced answering interview questions with Laurel Stark from Spruce Root.
Finally, after harvesting and processing traditional foods all summer long, we had our Traditional Food Distribution! We ended up with nearly 300 jars of traditional foods and distributed them to almost 100 elders in the community as well as the Senior Center for our last couple days of the season. Everyone’s gratitude was incredibly heartwarming, as was witnessing Ted and Dylan hand out traditional gifts to their elders.
The season ended with a small party consisting of snacks, card games, and fun. It was an absolutely amazing season doing good work for the community, and I will very much miss seeing Dylan and Ted grow every day. Thank you to our partners and Ted and Dylan themselves for making this TRAYLS season so successful and fun!!
Written by Arianna Lapke