Breath of Clarity

Ecology Discussion #2: B

Stakeholders: California Exotic Pest Plant Council, Department of Parks and Recreation, State of California, Visitors

My sampling strategy is aligned with Leopold’s land ethic, as well as the park’s family legacy. Leopold’s “Land Ethic” supports protecting the environment, and noting the degree non-native plant species are invasive to the ecological community is a way to practice stewardship (Leopold 2013). Further, Leopold views humans as a subset of the animal population rather than being only a source of disturbance to the space (Leopold 2013). An outlined purpose of the park is for human recreation and environmental education. Nisene Marks, a woman who instilled the sense of stewardship in her children, was the original owner of the confines before it was deeded to the State of California via The Nature Conservancy in 1963 (The Forest of Nisene Marks 2003).

A principle embedded in the study that Leopold would agree with is that humans have the ability tochange their relationship with the land from one of exploitation to one of management and stewardship. Between 1883 and 1923, over 150,000,000 board feet of lumber flowed down the railroad line and out to markets the world over (The Forest of Nisene Marks 2003). Afterwards, the loggers abandoned their buildings, pulled up the railroad rails, leaving behind a scarred and brutalized landscape (The Forest of Nisene Marks 2003). That is why I chose to focus my study in getting to know the non-native species and their effect on native plant species through systematic grid sampling. Leopold would agree with returning flora and fauna communities to their interdependence with other native plant and animal species (Leopold 2013). The specificity involved in the systematic grid sampling methodology is going to provide precise, useful information to the California Exotic Pest Plant Council as it is going to verify an understanding of where the contamination is present in the park and provide information on spatial and temporal patterns. Based on the given data, it is going to thoroughly communicate the need for invasive species management to the Department of Parks and Recreation with a high level of confidence needed to acquire funds necessary for managing the identified invasive species. As mentioned in other posts, the State of California and local regions will be concerned about NEPA and CEQA.


Leopold, Aldo. 2013. A Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Ecology and Conservation. New York: The Library of America.

The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park. 2003. “Preliminary General Plan”. Accessed September 21, 2020.

Response by Professor Fenton Kay:

Very good, Mary. Your stakeholders should derive, as you have stated, substantial value from your data.



Response by Laurel Golden:

Hi Mary,

Another project that utilized no-longer-used rail lines is The Highline in New York city (The Highline 2020). They created a public walking and recreation area, replacing an industrial eyesore with much needed urban space. While clearly not the same, your project may increase recreation area and reclaim space for the residents. And using California natives will only increase the meaning to the community. Sound like a great project.


The Highline. 2020. The Highline. Accessed September 26, 2020.

Response by Mariah Rivera:

Hi Mary!

I know the state of Oregon has had years of fraudulent logging in the Northern forests, it might be interesting or helpful to take a look at the studies they have done, it might be useful to compare different states. Another thing is the California native plant protection act of 1977 has a collection of past cases working with logging and trials that are similar to your project. I am excited to follow along your research!


Comment #1:

Original Post by Amanda Ruffini:

Expected Stakeholders include:

Local Community living within walking distance

City and Valencia Region residents visiting wetland

Bird Watchers

Government Officials (local, regional, national)

Non-profit wild and environmental organizations

Natura 2000 Network

Sod and Agricultural Farmers

The sampling methodology I chose can be important to some of the stakeholders as the location studied is an important bioreserve for the Valencia region and is included in the Natura 2000 Network. The sampling methodology then should minimize or prevent disturbances from occurring. At the same time, the sampling methodology requires sampling to take place within the entirety of the quadrant. If local and traveling visitors come for bird watching, the chosen methodology could disrupt bird activity and behavior while sampling is taking place, resulting in a short-term disruption for visitors.

In this case, I believe stakeholders would care about the sampling methodology used if it causes too much disturbance to the ecosystem. The wetland is set up in a way to help prevent the spread of invasive species that was introduced into the wetland by the dumping of unwanted pets. In this case, the American Box Turtle has become incredibly invasive and is outcompeting the European Box Turtle. Projects were implemented to help stop its spread from sections it was introduced into. Any sampling technique used would have to prevent the spreading of this invasive species or of others found in the area. We would also have to be careful about preventing the trampling of endangered species as well.

This study fits into Leopold’s “Land Ethic” because of the way the Valencian community treats its land. While not every meter is cherished, there is a sense of community here that revolves around protecting the environment. Leopold states, “The practice of conservation must spring from a conviction of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as economically expedient” (2013, 740). This is that ecological conscious we had previously talked about. But, what this includes is the idea that we, as humans, are also part of the community, not conquerors. As Leopold puts it, “it implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such” (2013, 248).

While agriculture exists around the study site, care has gone into the freshwater wetland to preserve and protect it, alluding to Leopold’s idea that conservation is a state of harmony between men and land (2013, 251). The study location itself is a big ecotourism spot for bird watching, so local residents do economically benefit from it. At the same time, however, residents recognize that the value of the wetland goes beyond just what it can economically offer. This was included in helping to include it into the Natura 2000 Network and setting up a visitor information center that walks you through the endangered species located on site, the local projects implemented to restore these species, and the number of classes they offer to help live with the environment, not conquer it. Even the people within the surrounding community follow this mindset. In visiting the location with a friend who lives down the road from the study site, him and his father explained how valuable the wetland was and how important it is we treasure pieces of land like this as it was part of the community. Residents actively help in restoration and preservation efforts, thus allowing the continued migration of the birds to the location.

Of course, to get to this point, the freshwater marsh went through many man-made changes, such as the introduction of freshwater cannels and invasive species. However, development has been stemmed back and the location helps to show that this ecosystem has been able to successfully readjust to Leopold’s “pyramid” due to the presence of man-made changes that are considered less violent. Instead, the health of the land is considered, and organizations and residents take on a more Group B mentality, where the land functions as something much broader than just its soil (Leopold 2013, 265).


Leopold, Aldo. 2013 Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Conservation and Ecology. London: Penguin. Ebook.

My Comment:

Hi Amanda,

Awesome post!

I agree- sampling the entirety of the quadrats could disrupt bird activity and behavior. I am glad you are paying attention to the bird watcher’s viewing experience. Particularly in the case of bird watchers who repeatedly attend this specific site, it may be useful to explain to them the scope of your project if you see them while the sampling is taking place. It may help them to have a respect for the overall purpose of the activity and therefore they are going to understand the disruption more clearly. Explaining the project to them may result in them providing you with additional insight that would enhance the quality of your project. The same rings true in the context of other stakeholders caring about disturbance to the ecosystem. Perhaps, gaining specific knowledge about how your project disturbs the ecosystem and presenting it to anyone who inquires will help stakeholders not assume a worst-case scenario and show them you care about your impact on the space. Since you already understand the way the wetland was set up and past projects, the stakeholders will see you as an informed ecologists who is aware of her surroundings, and selected the sampling methods with all things considered. Leopold definitely emphasizes having a balance between learning about the land, economically reaping its benefits, and conserving it. I agree, ultimately, it is important to understand the human’s role in the sense of community. Humans are a part of nature, rather being separate from it. The ability for humans to live with nature, instead of conquering it, still involves carrying out these projects and having the ecological conscience you described while doing so.

Response by Amanda Ruffini:


In the case of my particular location, it would be extremely hard to miss the bird watchers! But, with that said, due to the numbers, especially with covid restrictions here in Spain and the number of people participating in outdoor recreational activity, this can cause a disturbance to the research as well as the birds, just as much as I could. Interestingly, research seems to always be taking place in this location due to the environmental organization that maintains the bioreserve and research being conducted for the Natura 2000 Network. I think, in the case of the locals, they may be use to seeing sampling occurring in the wetland and do seem to very knowledgeable of the location and the importance it has.

Comment #2:

Original Post by Casey Kahler:

When thinking about my study my stakeholders include the following:

Government Officials

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Officials

Department of Natural Resources

Visitors to Tucker Lake

Surrounding landowners/residents

Bird and Wildlife Watchers


Boaters (Non-motorized, canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard)

Tying in my sampling techniques from the previous discussion I do believe that they relate to my stakeholders. By using systematic sampling via a quadrant to measure and quantify plant life government officials, locals, and boaters will be interested to learn whether or not there are invasive species that could either be transferred to their homes, throughout the parks, or into other waterways if boats are not cleaned properly between each entrance into a new waterway. The use of analyzing which fish are present is relevant to fishers in order to gain knowledge on what fish can be caught or found in this lake. Mainly through observations conducted, bird and wildlife watchers will gain a better knowledge on which animals reside in this ecosystem and understand more about the system as a whole. Stakeholders may care about this method due to wanting the most accurate and detailed description of my findings. For instance, if I don’t randomly sample or only test which plants reside along the path to the water that’s doesn’t create a fair representation for stakeholders.

One of the concepts I gained from Leopold on land ethic is how it can’t prevent the alteration, management, and use of resources but can affirm their right to continued existence and furthermore their continued existence in a natural state (Leopold 2013, 173). This idea will be prevalent in my study to determine what the natural state of my ecosystem is and furthermore how it has been altered over time due to the presence of invasive species and man. Another major takeaway from the reading is how Leopold defined land as an energy circuit via three ways including: Land is not merely soil, how native plants and animals keep the energy circle open, and how man made changes are of a different order than evolutionary changes, and have effects more comprehensive than intended or foreseen (Leopold 2013, 183). I personally was really moved by this idea and I feel as if our national lakeshore truly respects this idea and works hard to keep our area pristine and also limit impact of humans. For instance, Tucker Lake allows individuals to access the lake but no motorboats are allowed. By respecting this idea there is less chance of overcrowding, scaring or harming wildlife, and also limits gas spills or leaks. Leopold also mentioned how conservation is a state of harmony between man and land (Leopold 2013, 175) and I truly believe that Tucker Lake is a great opportunity for individuals to learn and connect with nature, in a quiet, isolated area and as a result also makes for a great ecosystem to study.


Leopold, Aldo. 2013. A Sand County Almanac & Other Writings on Ecology and Conservation. New York: The Library of America.

My Comment:

Hi Casey,

I appreciate the way your project considers the results of a specific inaction- boats not being cleaned properly between each entrance into a new waterway. Your interest in understanding the difference between man-made and evolutionary changes is useful in relevance to your proposed problem of human inaction. At the same time, you are acknowledging your role as an ecologist is to depict the ecological community and present the stakeholders with that information. Going into the study assuming it is definitely going to change the alteration, management and use of resources would expand the project’s scope to a very difficult level. Am I correctly perceiving that point you are making in this post? Narrowing your project’s focus to determining the ecosystem’s natural state function and how it has been altered is smart as simply gathering that information can inform management changes in the future even if it does not result in an immediate solution to the specific problem you described. To me, it is about understanding the scope of one’s project is part of identifying the sampling method in the context of its stakeholders and also balancing economic gain with preserving harmonic interaction amongst native species.

Also, while many of our posts discussed the projects impact on local residents and visitors, a strength of your post is highlighting how the spread of invasive species could be transferred to their homes. As we discussed in environmental policy this quarter as well, making a problem personal to the stakeholders involved is a strategic way to generate interest in your study’s results. Further, great job in distinguishing the strength in accuracy of your method relative to random sampling.

Response by Casey Kahler:

Hi Mary,

Thank you for your reply. Our lakeshore has definitely dealt with its fair share of invasive species so I am really curious to see whether or not this ecosystem is also dealing with this too. I completely agree with you in regards to how it’s important to narrow one’s focus on a project and that is definitely something I’ve struggled with in this project. I feel as if there’s so many concepts I’m interested in pursuing that I’ve had a hard time narrowing in on an idea for this course. I am definitely intrigued with the spread of invasive species and think it could be a great way to connect stakeholders. Thank you for your encouragement!