FT 1 - Messages from the Mountain: Reflections on 36 Years of Ecosystem Responses Following the 1980 Eruption of Mount St. Helens

Saturday, August 5, 2017: 7:00 AM-6:00 PM
M.L. King Jr. Lobby, Oregon Convention Center
Charles M. Crisafulli, USDA Forest Service
Frederick J. Swanson, USDA Forest Service, Pacific NW Research Station; and Virginia H. Dale, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
On May 18, 1980 Mount St. Helens underwent an explosive eruption that dramatically disturbed a 600 km2area containing forest, meadow, riverine, and lake habitats. This spectacular display of earth’s geophysical forces captured the attention of media and people globally. Dozens of scientists representing numerous disciplines arrived to the volcano within days of the eruption to establish hundreds of studies aimed at understanding initial and long-term responses of the biota and ecological processes to this remarkable event. In the 36 years since the 1980 eruption, Mount St. Helens has become one of the most thoroughly studied large infrequent disturbances in the world. Lessons from the volcano have help shape the field of disturbance ecology.

Participants will travel up the Toutle River, a drainage severely altered by the largest debris avalanche in recorded history, where most life was obliterated from the upper watershed. Along the way, there will be several stops or short hikes to locations where trip leaders will discuss their research on hydrology and sediment transport, colonization and management of fish populations, patterns and rates of plant succession, including the role of invasive species, the invasion and reassembly of amphibian, mammal and arthropod assemblages, and general natural history of the area. The trip offers spectacular views of the volcano and close inspection of the unusual hummocky landscape and ponds created during the eruption. Participants will stop at Johnston Ridge Observatory, where they can purchase books and maps of the area and learn more about Cascade Range volcanic ecosystems.

Registration Fee: $125

Equipment and Attire: The weather is likely to be cool (50oF) in the morning hours and warming to about 75-85oF during the afternoon. However, the weather may be much cooler with fog and rain. Consequently, participants should have lightweight trousers (consider packing shorts), short-sleeved and long-sleeved shirts, sweater or polar fleece layer,and a lightweight rain jacket and rain pants. Tennis shoes or lightweight hiking boots are appropriate footwear. The trip will include a 2.25-mile hike along a gravel trail that has a few relatively short inclines (15-20% slope), and other shorter walks along relatively flat ground. Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are recommended. Binoculars and cameras are definitely worth bringing along. Biting insects are few or absent.

7:00 AM depart Oregon Convention Center and travel to Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Coldwater Lake Visitor Center where participants can use restrooms before they begin their first hike (7:00-10:00 AM, 2.5 hour drive and 30 minutes for restroom use).
10:00 AM Board buses and travel to Hummocks Trailhead (10:00-10:15).
10:15 Hike a 2.25-mile loop trail where plant succession, amphibian colonization, elk and salmon management, and river hydrology will be discussed. The hike will be at a leisure pace and will take about 2.0 hours to complete (10:15- 12:15).
12:15 PM Lunch at Coldwater Lake Recreational
1:15 Board bus and drive to Johnston Ridge Observatory (1:15-2:00 PM)
2:00 PM Hike east on Boundary Trail from Observatory to discuss plant primary succession, plant-herbivore interactions, mammal and arthropod colonization, biogeochemical transformations of spirit Lake, and the enduring influence of tephra fall on forest understory communities.
4:00 PM depart Johnston Ridge Observatory for Oregon Convention Center, arrive by 6:00 PM.

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