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Vorster Center tackles critical hydrology questions

Monday, May 6th, 2019 by Geoff, Executive Director

For over 40 years, the Mono Lake Committee has pursued the best scientific understanding of Mono Basin hydrology. Last year we created the Vorster Center for Mono Basin Hydrology (see Fall 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter) to address new questions in an era of climate change and to serve as a hub for data collection, modeling, analysis, forecasting, and real world hydrology applications. The Vorster Center is not a physical space, rather (more…)

California Gulls at Mono Lake featured on Science Friday

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019 by Andrew, Digital Engagement Coordinator

It wasn’t long ago when Mono Lake’s unique alkali flies made a splash in the news, and today another iconic Mono Basin animal is making headlines on Science Friday: the California Gull. Beloved by some and unpopular with others, the California Gull is a bird that is sure to generate a reaction—whether it’s of awe of their seasonal migration to inland salt lakes, like Mono, or of irritation because a clever gull once stole your ice cream cone.

Regardless of how you feel about California Gulls, Mono Lake provides a critical nesting habitat for these birds as well as an abundant natural food supply of brine shrimp and alkali flies. In the video posted today on Science Friday’s website, Kristie Nelson, Mono Lake Gull Project manager for Point Blue Conservation Science, discusses her research on this important population of birds at Mono Lake, numbering in the tens of thousands—one of the largest colonies of California Gulls in the world. I hope this video gives you a newfound appreciation for the gulls and Mono Lake.

A growing problem for California Gulls: Invasive weed rapidly encroaches on nesting habitat

Wednesday, April 24th, 2019 by Bartshé, Eastern Sierra Policy Director

Last century’s water diversions from the Mono Basin greatly changed the ecosystem of Mono Lake, and that legacy continues to test successive generations of California Gulls. A falling lake level, the first emergence of the landbridge in 1979, coyotes crossing to Negit Island, and gulls abandoning their once-secure breeding colony—these were tragic events. California Gulls (Larus californicus) became one of the rallying points for saving Mono Lake, and while the colony suffered, the birds adapted and shifted nesting to the newly-emerged islets adjacent to Negit that provided refuge from coyotes because they were still surrounded by water.

By 2018, Bassia hyssopifolia had spread rapidly on the Negit Islets, significantly reducing California Gull nesting habitat. Photo courtesy of Kristie Nelson.

Challenges stack up

Because of lake level fluctuations the coyote problem never completely went away, and even (more…)

Wading into stream restoration: A conversation with the State Water Board-appointed Stream Scientists

Thursday, April 4th, 2019 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

The 2017 spring snowmelt runoff was over 200% of average. It was also the single largest peak flow event since the stream restoration ordered by the California State Water Resources Control Board began in 1998 (see Fall 2017 Mono Lake Newsletter).

During the peak of the 2017 record spring runoff, Mono Lake Committee staff and hydrology experts monitored the physical changes happening in Rush Creek. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Now, almost two years later, conversations and field observations continue to reflect on what is technically called an “Extreme-Wet” year type, validating the principles adopted by the State Water Board and restoration parties over 20 years ago.

The State Water Board appointed two independent experts, the Stream Scientists, to study Mono Lake’s (more…)

The Mono Lake Committee’s 2018 Annual Report

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018 by Arya, Communications Director

The Mono Lake Committee’s 2018 Annual Report is now available!

2018 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report cover

The 2018 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report is now available! Cover photo courtesy of Richard Erb.

The report is full of photos of the Mono Lake Committee in action in our focus areas of protection, restoration, education, and scientific research. It also has the Committee’s (more…)

Defending the public trust at Mono Lake

Thursday, November 8th, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director

2018 Defender of the Trust Peter Vorster. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

The California Supreme Court begins its landmark 1983 Mono Lake decision with these powerful words: “The public trust is an affirmation of the duty of the state to protect the people’s common heritage of streams, lakes, marshlands and tidelands…”

Every other year, to celebrate the history of the public trust at Mono Lake, we organize a special three-day Defense Trust Weekend for the Mono Lake Committee’s high donors. The weekend is full of field trips, good food, and time spent with fellow Mono Lake enthusiasts and Committee Board and staff.

This year we had an open house in the Committee office, a Rush Creek tour with experts including (more…)

A glimpse into Lee Vining’s nightlife: Foxes, raccoons, and more!

Sunday, October 21st, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Last week, diners at Epic Cafe at the south end of town observed a red fox running through the cafe’s lawn at night, sniffing for scraps dropped by messy eaters.

Here’s the red fox seen at Epic Cafe. Notice its black ears, black feet, and white tip of the tail. It is larger than a gray fox, with longer legs and a bushier tail.

Not only is this stunning creature beautiful for visitors to observe, it is also quite rare in the area and the sighting sparked the interest of local agencies, including Yosemite National Park and the California Department of Fish & Wildlife. It has the potential to be an extremely rare Sierra Nevada red fox (Vulpes vulpes necator), a subspecies of the more widespread red fox (Vulpes vulpes)It could also be a non-native subspecies with Great Basin or fur farm ancestry. The only way to tell for sure is to gather genetic data—either fur or scat. (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Mono Basin fisheries project with Ross Taylor

Sunday, September 23rd, 2018 by Joslyn, Project Specialist

Join us on Wednesday, September 26 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation.

Scientists electrofishing in the Mono Gate One Return Ditch. Photo courtesy of Ross Taylor.

Ross Taylor, State Water Board-appointed Lead Fisheries Scientist, will be here to discuss fisheries monitoring and development of flow recommendations for Mono Basin streams. If you can join us, register here for this free program! (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Effects of climate change on mountain ecosystems with Connie Millar

Sunday, September 9th, 2018 by Joslyn, Project Specialist

Join us on Wednesday, September 12 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation. Connie Millar, US Forest Service Senior Research Ecologist, will be here to discuss the effects of climate change on mountain ecosystems. If you can join us, register here for this free program!

A pika near Virginia Lakes. Connie will be discussing her research on pikas, which are particularly vulnerable to rising temperatures. Photo courtesy of Ken Hickman.

Connie will provide an overview of her research into the responses of mountain ecosystems—in particular, pines and pikas—to changing climates. With information on how species responded to (more…)

Mono Lake Committee initiates study of Mono Basin glaciers

Friday, September 7th, 2018 by Mono Lake Committee Staff

Jace Shuler, a junior math major at Boston College, started a study of Mono Basin glaciers when he worked at the Mono Lake Committee this summer. This post was written by Jace.

When I tell people that I spent the summer studying and mapping the glaciers in the Mono Basin, the question I always seem to get is, “There are glaciers around Mono Lake?” The short answer is, yes, there are, and they are of great interest to the Mono Lake Committee.

The first step of my project with the Committee was to identify what exists in the area, both in terms of glaciers and data about those glaciers. From there (more…)

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