Happenings at Hopland REC
During 2017 over 3800 hours of volunteer time were offered at HREC! Our incredible volunteer team helps across all areas from citizen science on our phenology project to working with children and adults at our educational events. The California Conservation Corps also volunteer their time and enjoy learning new skills such as chainsaw safety and technique with us.
We are thrilled to welcome a number of new youth volunteers to this program at the beginning of 2018, including 16 year old Hercules Almond who comes to us with a sharp mind and wonderful way of expressing himself and the world around him, enjoy this, the first blog post from Hercules as he expresses his first experiences on our site:
"Driving up through the light mid-morning mist that envelopes the hilltops on the way to the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC) is ever a joyous and smile-inducing trip to undertake from my home in Hopland. While I've only begun to truly frequent it, it has always been a place that I have enjoyed venturing to immensely, with its landscape rolling at points, being steep in others, sheep spotting the various fields and pastures as the sun may begin to shine through the cloud cover and bathe it all in a warm glow.
I find myself slightly taken aback by the sheer scope of activities and goings-on that occur here… between the vast diversity of flora, the myriad of fauna that can call it home, the enormous plethora of sheep, and how the local ecosystem works in concert with the factors that contribute to its development and evolution, the entire acreage holds so much potential for all manners of research, study, and boundless expansion upon our understanding of the natural world out here and all around us.
To be completely honest, I've been ecstatic about almost everything to do with nature and the wilderness since I was a small child, fascinated by the most miniscule of insects and most gargantuan of trees at the very same time, loving nothing better than to live out away from all the noise and congestion of both cities and towns in general. I'm at peace with little but the sounds of the wind and birds surrounding me as I stand in a damp forest or on the top of a high cliff that overlooks beauty that can seldom be found elsewhere outside places such as HREC... I feel genuinely lucky to have the opportunity to volunteer here and be in the midst of working side-by-side with the remarkable individuals who devote time to helping here."
submitted by Hopland REC Director, Dr. Kim Rodrigues
Since arriving as the Director for HREC in 2013-2014, I have been committed to protecting all of the amazing resources here at the Hopland Research and Extension Center (HREC,) with a dedicated effort to saving wildlife and reducing losses of sheep. As one of the last remaining sheep research facilities and one of the largest flocks in our immediate area, the sheep are prey to coyotes and other potential predators on the landscape.
With increasing numbers of wildlife across the region, state and nation, conflicts between humans and wildlife are increasing. Our workshop at HREC on August 31, 2017 focused on living with wildlife while managing livestock, with an overarching goal to seek a shared understanding of non-lethal tools through research, implementation and education.
Over 80 participants from a diversity of backgrounds including researchers, ranchers, community members and non-profits attended. All participants experienced demonstrations of several non-lethal tools, including some exciting applications of scary devices, such as Halloween decorations, collars to protect sheep with strobe lights and canine avoidance noises built into them, fencing with an electric charge, lion proof pens and flagging attached to deter movement across the fencing and more. Many participants wanted more hands-on field time with the ranchers using these tools and HREC is working to develop this for late spring/early summer of 2018.
We explored new and emerging research with Dr. Brashares and his team only to learn that it “depends.” Everything is situational and place-based and this is a key lesson or outcome from the meeting. The situational questions asked of each rancher on the panel may help inform the choice of tools and the mix of tools to reduce losses.
We learned that there are practical barriers – such as time, money and labor, as well as scientific barriers to fully implementing non-lethal tools. Yet, one common message was to mix and match tools and vary them frequently. “Match” the tools to your specific situation(s) and mix them up over time and space frequently. Many creative ideas came up to help share tools and other resources and the concept of a lending library with non-lethal tools available to ranchers emerged as a local action HREC will explore further with our community partners.
We understand the importance of strong working relationships and diverse partnerships and we will work with the participants who were able to attend and outreach to partners, such as local agricultural commissioner and staff, California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Wildlife Services to ensure we are all working together.
We learned from and valued the diverse perspectives and there was a tremendous sense of respect for all people present that allowed a dynamic and safe learning environment.
Already, HREC is moving forward with new research to better track and document the work of our large guard dogs (LGDs) as a tool to prevent losses of livestock. The concept of putting GPS collars on our dogs and tracking their movements over a variety of pasture types and sizes and landscapes is already being discussed and outlined by HREC staff and research colleagues. It is recognized that LGDs can and do kill wildlife, so they are not truly a “non-lethal” tool yet they remain one of the most important tools livestock managers rely on to protect their animals. Lethal controls are still used in combination with non-lethal tools – snares, calling, shooting – in most ranching situations but not all. Yet all ranchers shared their goals to reduce losses of both livestock and wildlife and agreed that preventing losses is the best approach in all cases.
I welcome you to visit our HREC site and you can review the amazing graphic art that captured the essence of the workshop, as well as the rancher panel interviews, the presentations and more online. Please join us for future events.
Together, we may find innovative tools and solutions and keep ranching viable in our communities to prevent further fragmentation and conversion to other uses, saving both livestock and wildlife.
In December 2016 we held our first workshop to share research and allow community conversation regarding ranching in an area rich in carnivores and the challenges that this poses. On August 31st we will be offering the follow up to this event, explaining current research efforts and the new data that has been collected on various methods of predator prevention.
We hope you can join us!
Date: August 31, 2017
Time: 9:00 AM - 3:00 PM (Registration from 8:30am)
A series of brief research updates by UC ANR and other UC colleagues will detail ongoing work in the science and history of non-lethal carnivore control. Field demonstrations will allow direct experience of traditional and emerging non-lethal tools, including fencing types, guardian dogs, turbo fladry, Foxlights and e-Shepherd collars. Facilitated dialogue among diverse participants will be integrated throughout the day's presentations including a rancher panel with representatives from the beef and lamb sector and from the coast to further inland. We look forward to hosting a range of speakers and participants, understanding new findings, building new partnerships, and moving toward solutions to manage for livestock and natural resource conservation.
This workshop promises to be of value to ranchers, agencies, non-profits, researchers and all those with an interest in tackling the challenges associated with ranching in a landscape rich in wildlife.
We hope you can join us at Hopland for this important and exciting event!
$25 per person, includes lunch.
No one turned away due to lack of funds - email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details
Contact: Hannah Bird (707) 744 1424 ext 105 email@example.com
Sponsor: Hopland Research and Extension Center/UC Berkeley
Location: Rod Shippey Hall, UC Hopland Research and Extension Center 4070 University Road, Hopland CA 95449
On Monday morning a group of 25 strangers gathered in front of the lambing barn at the UC Hopland Research and Extension Center. “If you survive the week, you'll be in a rare group” commented John Harper, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor to the class. This heralds the beginning of the sheep shearing school, an intensive week long class, which is so eagerly anticipated that space on the class was filled in just 6 minutes from the opening of online registration.
The participants are varied and have traveled from as far afield as Washington, Virginia and Texas. As they introduce themselves they explain their motivations for joining this class and a common theme begins to emerge “there's just no one else to shear my sheep”. Many of the participants work with smaller sheep flocks and it is not economical to employ traveling shearers, used to shearing flocks or hundreds or thousands, for just a few sheep. These small flocks are increasing across Mendocino County and the need for qualified shearers who are sympathetic to the needs of small producers is high. The group mix might surprise some, with over 20 female participants and number of the group using vacation from their “day job” to attend this class including a tax accountant, fashion designer, environmental restoration consultant and an art gallery manager. During the introduction it is made clear to all that shearing is not as easy task “a full day of shearing is equivalent to running a marathon” completed Harper as he led the class into the barn to get started.
“One of my favorite things about this school is the range of people who are brought together for such an intensive experience” commented Hannah Bird, HREC community educator. “At the end of the week you always see such pride in their achievement, and the possibility of a new economic string to their bow, we're proud to see that being expressed in our community through Matt Gilbert and his family, a past shearing school participant who has now opened Mendocino Wool and Fiber, our local wool mill”.
Alongside a renewed interest in keeping small flocks of sheep, there has also been increased practice of fiber arts such as knitting and felting in the last 20 years, particularly amongst millennials. Celebrity knitters such as Julia Roberts and Cameron Diaz might be partly responsible, but the many qualities of wool as a fiber are greatly appreciated by local spinners, knitters and artists.
To get a taste of the entire process from sheep to scarf, HREC invites the community to their 3rd annual Barn to Yarn celebration on Saturday, May 13th. There will be displays and demonstrations from herding sheep with a sheepdog, performed by Kevin Owens from the Redwood Empire Sheepdog Association, to shearing, knitting, felting, spinning and weaving.
“Our amazing team of experts and volunteers will help attendees at Barn to Yarn to try their hand at working with wool – this is such a great day for all the family from kids to the committed fiber artist. We'll even be creating a beautiful shawl in the 5 hours of the event which will be offered at silent auction through the day. What could be a better Mother's Day present?” added Bird. Guest of honor, Jean Near (102) will be adding to the event with stories of over 100 years living in Mendocino, ranching merino sheep which are prized for their wool over many of those years.
Admission is $10 for adults, children under 12 $5. HREC asks visitors to leave their pets at home to protect the site and the sheep resident there. Bring your own picnic and all utensils; tea, coffee and water will be available. Visit http://bit.ly/BarnToYarn to find out more and purchase your ticket. Barn to Yarn will be held at the Rod Shippey Hall, 4070 University Road, Hopland, CA 95449 from 9am-2pm on May 13th. For more information contact Hannah Bird, (707) 744-1424, Ext. 105, firstname.lastname@example.org.