Treetop Studies in the Coastal Evergreen Rainforests

by Head Hunter YD Bar-Ness

1. Location details:

This research project took place in the Northwestern USA forests of spruce, hemlock, and cedar, in the southwestern corner of Washington State.  These are some of the very largest trees in the world, and some of the most fertile landscapes for growing trees. The site was at the Ellworth Creek Preserve run by The Nature Conservancy, and in the Willapa Region.

2. What are the purposes / aims of your plant hunt?

I was employed by The Nature Conservancy, an international environmental organisation. We were looking at some of the last ancient forest remnants in a landscape that has been heavily impacted by logging over the last century.  We compared the arthropod fauna of the forest floor and the treetop environment between the old-growth and regrowth forests.

3. Is this a unique program, what’s so special about it?

While forest age-related studies are a basic element of forest land management research, very little has been done in this regard for canopy arthropods.

4. What do you need to take with you? 

There was so much equipment it makes me laugh to remember it! Treeclimbing gear, lots of ropes, plastic bags for samples, little jars, lots of cord, safety orange vests so as to not get shot by the hunters who also visit this place, wading boots for trekking kilometres upstream, GPS units, radios, notepads, tents, and more. It wasn’t a very large study site but it was still very difficult to access.

5. What limiting factors influence your ability to do this work?

Our tree climbing time was severely limited by the presence of an endangered seabird, the marbled murrelet. This species lays its eggs directly on the branches of giant trees, and we couldn’t access these trees during the season.

6. How long were you there for?

It was approximately a nine month job, including a bit of office time in Seattle and a bit of lab time at Oregon State University. I wish I had had more time to work on wrapping up and writing up this amazing project, but I was leaving the country for another field study and had to move on.

7. How many people do you take and why are they there?

I was blessed to have the help of four interns, who generously offered their time and expertise to the project.

8. Is it very expensive to go on a plant hunt?

This was a relatively high-price tag study, and was only a segment of a larger project.

9. What organisations are involved in your plant hunt?

This project was funded by The Nature Conservancy, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Weyerhauser. We had help from the University of Washington, the Oregon State University, and the US Forest Service.

Keep hunting…