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Mono Lake webcam restored to life

Thursday, September 20th, 2018 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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High atop the Mono Basin National Forest Scenic Area Visitor Center resides the Mono Lake Committee’s webcam overlooking Mono Lake.

The author ascending into the upper story of the Scenic Area Visitor Center to retrieve the camera. Photo by Geoff McQuilkin.

This camera offers a small glimpse into the magic that is the Mono Basin with stunning sunsets and sunrises, as well as seasonal fall colors that emerge along restored Lee Vining Creek. Sometime in February 2018, as the sun was setting and a beautiful glow surrounded the lake, the Mono Lake webcam stopped communicating with us.

Why had our beloved webcam abandoned us? We called out to it every way we knew how, using command prompt. (more…)

Lee Vining Creek Trail repair work begins this month

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Ever since record high streamflows washed out a section of the Lee Vining Creek Trail in June 2017, the Mono Lake Committee has been working with several agencies and organizations to create a plan to fix the trail. We’re excited to announce that the trail repair work will begin this month!

Mammoth Lakes Trails Coordinator Joel Rathje and his crew check out the hillside where the rerouted portion of the Lee Vining Creek Trail will go. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

The trail will not be closed as the repair work takes place, but hikers may see trail crews and signs about the work happening. The trail damage was in a section of (more…)

The million-grebe question

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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More than 90% of all Eared Grebes in North America stop at either Mono Lake or Great Salt Lake to feed on brine shrimp before continuing their migration to wintering grounds in the southern United States and Mexico. Each year more than a million Eared Grebes depend on Mono Lake’s abundant supply of brine shrimp in order to successfully complete their southbound migration.

Aerial surveys are conducted each fall to estimate the peak population of Eared Grebes stopping at Mono Lake during their migration. Photo by Jess Horn.

Efforts to quantify the number of Eared Grebes at Mono Lake started in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1996 that a reliable methodology was developed. By flying over the lake in mid-October (when grebes were assumed to be at peak abundance) and using aerial photography, researchers were able to more accurately estimate numbers. Dr. Sean Boyd, a Research Scientist with Environment & Climate Change Canada, has coordinated grebe surveys at Mono Lake since 1996, which have provided invaluable data for understanding the Eared Grebe fall migration through Mono Lake as well as the overall health of the species in North America. Recognizing the value of this research, and our ability to help by being the local, on-the-ground coordinator of flights and volunteer photographers, the Mono Lake Committee began assisting Dr. Boyd with the Eared Grebe surveys in 2008. (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…)

A skiing adventure to check Mono Lake’s level

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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This January is proving to be the wettest January in our weather recording history. In Lee Vining, we saw 5.5 inches of snow on January 4, and we received a combined 3.92 inches of rain on January 8 and 9. With all this water pouring into Mono Lake, I set out with my coworker Andrew to measure the lake level on cross country skis.

Mono Lake Committee Project Specialist Andrew Youssef. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

An amused Andrew shuffles towards Lee Vining Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

It was Wednesday, January 11 at 10:00am. The sky was blue, the wind was calm, and the day before had enveloped the basin in (more…)

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #10

Saturday, December 31st, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the tenth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #10

capture-10c

(more…)

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #9

Saturday, September 3rd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the ninth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #9

Capture 9a

(more…)

New Mono Lake Committee monitoring programs for best management

Monday, August 8th, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Over the last two years working for the Mono Lake Committee, I have been collecting a variety of hydrologic data in the Mono Basin and it’s been really inspiring to see how this data leads to real and positive changes for Mono Lake. By measuring streamflows, water table depths, and most recently water temperatures, the Committee is able to use scientific evidence to suggest management actions.

Mono Lake Intern Gabby measuring streamflow on Mill Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Last summer was the first year of our Grant Lake Reservoir monitoring program, which measured temperature and dissolved oxygen throughout the water column at key (more…)

Caltrans Hwy 395 rockfall project report #8

Saturday, July 2nd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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Caltrans-rockfall-update-graphic

Caltrans has released the eighth road report for the Lee Vining Rockfall Safety Project on Highway 395 along Mono Lake just north of Lee Vining.

Lee Vining Rockfall Safety project update #8

Capture 8a (more…)

Native plant conditions at Mill Creek improve

Monday, May 23rd, 2016 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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On May 18, 2015 I wanted to assess the types and quantities of invasive plants that were present at Mill Creek. Melilotus albus (sweet clover) was quickly identified as the most prolific and abundant invasive plant species present along Mill Creek, which I documented with GPS points and photos. With the help of volunteers and school groups, we were able to remove over 730 pounds of sweet clover from Mill Creek in 2015 from mid-June to mid-August by manually pulling and clipping the invasive plants. Now in 2016 the difference is noticeable.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive Sweet Clover on May 18th, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13th, 2016 with only a small patch of Sweet Clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, and willow saplings.

Image on the left shows an island in Mill Creek totally dominated by invasive sweet clover on May 18, 2015. The image on the right shows the same island on May 13, 2016 with only a small patch of sweet clover in the center of the island; the rest of the vegetation consists of native clovers, moss, grass, and willow saplings. Photos by Robbie Di Paolo.

Areas of Mill Creek where we focused sweet clover removal efforts in 2015 are now showing native plants retaking the prized riparian habitat in 2016 (as demonstrated by the photo above), which is exactly what we want to be seeing.

Unfortunately, we can’t take all the credit. Seasonal variation has a big impact on what plants dominate a landscape year to year and compared to the last three years, we had much more snow this year. That snow probably helped a lot with inhibiting sweet clover growth and development. But I believe with continued efforts, we are giving the native plants a chance to secure their place along Mill Creek for years to come.

Special thanks to outdoor clothing company Patagonia Inc. for their support of the Mono Lake Committee’s restoration stewardship program.

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