For my field work for my master’s, I was in Haida Gwaii, British Columbia. I talked a bit about it in my previous post (Home Sweet (mobile) Home) but this place is so amazing I will be writing quite a few posts about it to try to convince you how this place receives names such as “Islands of Beauty” or “Place of Wonder”.
The winter before I went to Haida Gwaii was full of major storms that caused a lot of damage to the islands. Reef Island, where we spent most of our time, got hit very hard by storms, where massive Sitka spruce, western hemlock, red and yellow cedar trees were knocked down including trees that were completely uprooted. Here is a picture of me standing under one of the roots for size comparison (and yes I understand I look a bit too prepared –rain boots, rain pants and jacket, extra rain coat that was way too big for me, PFD, binoculars –but when you are in the ocean on a tiny zodiac this is the only way to stay dry (mostly)).
These fallen trees made it for a fun obstacle course to find all of the nest boxes of seabirds we were looking for. The other researcher I was with is quite a bit older and I thought I would be fit enough to keep up with him. But even with the climbing over and under trees and running beside the edges of the cliffs, he would disappear up the mountain and I would be stumbling behind trying to figure out which way he went!
Unfortunately, the cabin that was on Reef Island was destroyed by the storms and thus we were stuck really “roughing it”. Our 5 star accommodation included tents and a big tarp for our kitchen (based on the views alone I am not joking about the 5 stars). Although we were limited in some luxury items (for instance, I lost my water bottle and was left with a mayonnaise jar filled with water which surprisingly is very hard to get the taste out of) we did have an oven in which we baked a cake. The most simple pleasures always seem so much better when you are out in the field!
While I was stumbling after the other researcher, I became fascinated with how the fallen logs provided habitat for new growth. Commonly known as “nurse logs”, the fallen and dying trees provided perfect habitat for new saplings. The coolest nurse logs are the ones that used to be totem poles or structures in the old villages we visited. The purpose of totem poles is to document stories and to represent the family’s status. Although these stories had fallen to the ground, they provided new habitat for other species to begin to grow. I think this is a neat way to look at conservation.
The Haida could not have said it better themselves:
“We do not inherit this land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”
-Haida saying, anonymous