South Slough

Tuesday, May 15 –  The Biological Oceanography students from Florida Tech visited the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (SSNERR), which was the first reserve in the nation-wide estuarine research reserve system.  We had a mix-up on the meeting time, but the South Slough staff scrambled and accommodated us in excellent fashion.

Our interpreter was Tom Gaskill, a Master Naturalist and director of the Slough’s educational program.

Tom took us on a four hour hike starting at nature center, which is located at the top of the riparian system.

Pausing in the high elevation riparian zone to examine vegetation and talk about storm damage to the stream system.

Florida Tech Biological Oceanography students were able to observe multiple shifts in vegetation as we worked our way down through the different elevations – highland…

Checking the salinity and oxygen content of the stream.

… lowland …

Skunk cabbage along the boardwalk in the freshwater marsh.

… freshwater marsh, and, finally…

Discussing invasive sea grasses in the salt marshes.

… saltwater marsh. It was great to have the identity of common trees revealed to us and the names of songbirds based on sound alone.

Terrestrial snail in the riparian zone during our South Slough hike.


Oregon millipede on mossy turf.


Spores on the underside of sword fern frond.

The vistas were grand, but the sights were equally enthralling when you looked close at a rock or a mossy log. The skunk cabbage signaled our descent into freshwater shady wetlands. In the salt-marshes, Tom educated us about local invasive species issues, such as Japanese Eel Grass, and also the effort to restore the tidal salt-marshes which were diked for pasture land by early settlers.

Some of the oldest trees in the local forest may be found here, approaching 200 years old, but still having grown since the first western settlers came and cleared the land – even these enormous trees are not really “old growth.”

150 to 200 years old, the largest lateral branches on this tree are themselves as large as some of the bigger trees in this forest – what would true old growth look like?

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