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Refreshing ‘Ologists: How trout affect bird species at high-elevation lakes with Mary Clapp

Sunday, September 10th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Join us on Wednesday, September 13 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation. UC Davis researcher Mary Clapp will be here to discuss her ongoing research on the impacts of introduced trout on the native bird community in the high-elevation lake basins of the Sierra Nevada. Her work focuses on the connection between water and land by using acoustic recorders to remotely capture lakeside activity by birds and bats.

Researcher Mary Clapp is studying high-elevation lakes like this one to see if trout introduction is affecting the bird communities. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Introduced trout prey on native aquatic insects like mayflies and stoneflies, thus depleting the abundance and diversity of those insects in fish-containing lakes. These insects have a winged adult life-stage, at which point they become available to terrestrial predators (birds and bats) as a valuable food source.

Mary is testing the hypothesis that trout are therefore in competition with birds for this insect food, and that as a result, bird activity is greater at fishless lakes where aquatic insect emergences remain abundant. She will discuss a few different approaches to analyzing acoustic data, the benefits and limits of the technology, and how it compares with traditional survey methods. Her talk is entitled “Investigating the Impacts of Introduced Trout on the Native Bird at High-Elevation Lakes.”

If you’re interested, join us in the gallery at 4:00pm on Wednesday for this free presentation and free snacks!

Today’s Refreshing ‘Ologists: Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite with Mike McDonald

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Today at 4:00pm, join us in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to hear National Park Service researcher Mike McDonald speak about the Sierra Nevada red fox.

The Sierra Nevada red fox, a species that was thought to be gone from Yosemite, was re-discovered in the park in 2014. Researcher Mike McDonald is trying to find out why. Photo courtesy of the US Forest Service.

Mike will be presenting about Yosemite National Park’s effort this past winter to investigate the Sierra Nevada red fox, which was re-discovered in the park in 2014. If you are interested in these charismatic critters, come by the Mono Lake Committee today at 4:00pm for free snacks and this free lecture.

The Refreshing ‘Ologist talks aren’t over yet! We have one more talk scheduled for next Wednesday, September 13 with Mary Clapp, whose presentation is called “Learning by Ear: Investigating the Impacts of Introduced Trout on the Native Bird Community at High-Elevation Lakes.”

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Aquatic restoration & management with Colleen Kamoroff

Sunday, August 20th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Our refreshing ‘ologist for this week is researching techniques in parks to be used for monitoring and managing aquatic wildlife. Join us this Wednesday, August 23 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to hear about how scientist Colleen Kamoroff uses eDNA in water samples to learn more about an area and the species that occupy it.

A frog in the aquatic habitat Colleen is working to study and manage. Photo courtesy of Colleen Kamoroff.

DNA obtained from filtered water samples is often referred to as aquatic environmental DNA or eDNA. eDNA is a promising tool for monitoring (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Songbirds of Yosemite with Michelle Desrosiers

Thursday, August 10th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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If you have ever wondered about how songbirds are studied and why, you should come to the Mono Lake Committee this Wednesday, August 16 at 4:00pm to hear from this week’s Refreshing ‘Ologist, Michelle Desrosiers.

This week’s Refreshing ‘Ologist Michelle Desrosiers studies songbirds in Yosemite. Photo courtesy of Chris McCreedy.

Scientists in the park have been monitoring the status of songbirds as well as collecting information about their natural history to better inform conservation and management decisions. Songbirds serve as indicators of functioning ecosystem processes due to their position in the food chain, their diverse habitat requirements as a taxonomic group, and their accessibility to study.

In Yosemite scientists use songbirds to (more…)

Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spills

Tuesday, August 8th, 2017 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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Water courses down the Saddlebag Lake Reservoir spillway, possibly for the first time ever. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

For the first time since at least as far back as 1983, Saddlebag Lake Reservoir on Lee Vining Creek is spilling. This is a rare event—and possibly a first—for the highest lake you can drive to in California.

Saddlebag Dam, at 10,090′ elevation, was built in 1921 to enlarge an existing alpine lake for hydropower generation purposes. The dam was raised and a spillway was added in 1925. The reservoir is oversized compared to the volume of water produced in its watershed, and given the agreement between Southern California Edison (SCE) and the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP), which requires it to be very low every spring. It is unclear if it has ever spilled before now. Last week it was inches away from its spillway, at the end of the day on Monday it was very full at 9,400 acre-feet of water, and on Tuesday it spilled! (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Restoring carbon in Tuolumne Meadows with Lydia Baldwin

Saturday, August 5th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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Ever wonder about the carbon storing potential of Tuolumne Meadows? If you have, you’re not so different from our researcher for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists. Come listen to Lydia Baldwin present her research in Tuolumne Meadows on Wednesday August 9 at 4:00pm to learn more!

Tuolumne Meadows in spring 2015. Photo by Elin Ljung.

Wet meadows throughout the Sierra Nevada that were historically disturbed are currently losing both soil-water holding capacity and the ability to store carbon. These wetlands formerly functioned as sinks of carbon dioxide, but now they could act as significant contributors of CO2 into the atmosphere. Furthermore, the maintenance and addition of carbon to soil can also enhance its capacity to hold water. This refreshing ‘ologist is testing whether the reestablishment of a sedge-dominated community at Tuolumne Meadows, a high-elevation wet meadow in Yosemite National Park, will restore the meadow to a carbon-accumulating ecosystem.

Join us to hear Lydia explain how she monitors gross primary production and plant respiration to create a model of growing season carbon dynamics to determine if these treatments increase the meadow’s carbon storage. Be ready to learn and ready to eat because admission and snacks are both free!

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Carnivore management & research with Jonathan Fusaro

Saturday, July 29th, 2017 by Molly, Mono Lake Intern
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If you’re interested in how carnivores are being managed in the Eastern Sierra, join us this coming Wednesday, August 2 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery.

Coyotes, like this one scampering through Mono Lake’s shallows, are one of the many carnivores in the Eastern Sierra. Photo courtesy of Justin Hite.

California Department of Fish & Wildlife (DFW) environmental scientist Jonathan Fusaro will explain carnivore research and management, as well as what DFW’s Bishop field office is doing for research and management of carnivores locally. Jonathan studied black bear populations for his master’s degree in wildland resources from the University of Utah. Now Jonathan works closely with researchers to manage black bears and is heavily involved with the Eastern Sierra Black Bear Project.

If you want to find out more about the management and research of carnivores, come to the Committee gallery this Wednesday afternoon. Admission and snacks are free. Hope to see you there!

Counting snowflakes—all of them: Talking with Dr. Tom Painter about the Airborne Snow Observatory

Tuesday, May 30th, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director
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Just how much water is contained in the Sierra Nevada snowpack? NASA and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, along with the California Department of Water Resources and the USDA Agricultural Research Service, have developed the high-tech Airborne Snow Observatory (ASO) to answer that question with greater precision and clarity than ever before.

Using a plane with an imaging spectrometer and a precise LIDAR measurement system, ASO scientists can calculate how much water is contained in every square meter of snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. Photo courtesy of Tom Painter, NASA/JPL-Caltech.

Flying out of nearby Mammoth Lakes, a plane equipped with an imaging spectrometer and an incredibly precise LIDAR laser measurement system has been gathering vast quantities of data that allow scientists to calculate how much water is contained in every square meter of snowpack in the high Sierra. Knowing how much water is stored in the snowpack and waiting to flow down Rush Creek, for example, is incredibly valuable. The details of how ASO works are fascinating and the big-picture implications for Mono Lake and all of California water management are exciting. I talked with ASO Principal Investigator Dr. Tom Painter in May during a break in his schedule between flights, project development, and a roster of presentations worldwide. (more…)

Record winter snowpack melt underway

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017 by Geoff, Executive Director
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Mono Lake, and all of us here at the Mono Lake Committee, have just been through the biggest winter on record. It is an abrupt and welcome end to drought conditions (though not to all the effects of the drought), made all the more enjoyable by the way it crept up unannounced and surprised us with its intensity.

So much snow arrived in the Mono Basin this winter that even ephemeral streams far east of the Sierra flowed with water this spring. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

Stories abound of Highway 395 being closed for days, snow blanketing every facet of the Sierra Nevada crest, and backcountry snowfields that measure taller than any building in Mono County. Speculation about an opening date for Tioga Pass—certain to be among the latest ever—is a popular springtime guessing game in town.

So what does it all mean for Mono Lake, its tributary streams, and the operation of the Los Angeles Aqueduct? Here’s the exciting outlook:

Mono Lake on the rise

With a deep snowpack fueling runoff that is forecast at 206% of average, Mono Lake is expected to rise (more…)

April 1 Mono Lake level: 6378.3 feet above sea level and rising

Monday, April 10th, 2017 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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April 1, the beginning of the runoff year, is a particularly important day for Mono Lake. Each April 1 Mono Lake Committee and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) staff walk down to Mono Lake and read the lake level, together. It is particularly important because it is the April 1 lake level that determines how much water is allowed to be diverted from Mono Basin streams to the City of Los Angeles for the year.

Brian Norris from DWP and Robbie Di Paolo from the Mono Lake Committee read the lake level gauge together on April 1, 2017. Photo by Bartshé Miller.

The first time I participated in one of these April 1 lake level readings was in 2015 when the lake had dropped to a level that triggered a 70% reduction of water exports. The second time, the lake narrowly cleared the level that would have halted water exports altogether. Years of drought lowered the lake and heightened concern over available exports, but this year was different. This year Mono Lake is on the rise. (more…)

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