Tree Hugging, Literally


The sun is setting, the clouds beginning to turn various hues of reds and pinks. The saturation of color quickly increases as the sun retreats behind the mountains that make our sunsets so brief and yet so spectacular. It is quite seldom that I am to be found out in the sage at this hour of the day, my responsibilities with school generally keeping me in town until the late evening.

Today, however, it is the plants that keep me out of town. I am currently finishing up the last stage of data collection for my Douglas-fir study, and that is the vegetation surveys. As plants do not become more quiet or elusive as the day progresses–unlike birds–a lot of my work time occurs in the evenings. Additionally, plants do not mind the music blasting from the chest pocket of my flannel shirt, with Metallica, Nirvana, and the Beastie Boys keeping me company through the monotony of these surveys.


The data I am collecting from my summer field sites are rather minimal compared to previous studies I have been involved in, taking measures of only canopy cover, ground cover, tree size, and tree health. However, when combined with my avian surveys and the remote sensing work, it will become a powerful resource for the final analyses of my study.

If my shirt survives the frequent barbed wire fence crossings I must hazard, they inevitably become ripped and sticky with sap when taking the diameters of the larger Douglas-fir trees. This process often requires me to claw my way through low branches and shrubs, before bear-hugging the tree in a desperate effort to wrap a loggers’ tape around the trunk. I have yet to encounter anyone during the course of this entire study, and I am unsure who would be more surprised to see the other, the tree-hugging biologist, or the unusually adventurous hunter. Regardless, I am glad to have sole occupancy of the landscape, and to have this opportunity to hug the trees.


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