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Sunday, October 11 • 4:00pm - 5:30pm

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Please click the VIDEO STREAM to view this class as a recording! This program is being presented exclusively for conference attendees, and is not to be shared or copied without permission of the presenter and conference organizer.

Take a field trip through time and explore an ecosystem after a wildfire. We will start with the fire, wander through the burned canyon, and then observe and draw as plants, animals, and fungi regrow and return to the area over the next five years, with many examples and strategies from Robin’s sketchbooks.

SUPPLIES: Journal, pen, colors and brush if you have them.


Hello Nature Journalers!
What an amazing experience we all shared last week at Wild Wonder. I am so grateful to have been able to learn with you. And in awe of the work done by Jack, Beth, Roseann, and all of the hosts and moderators.

I am writing to follow up on my workshop yesterday, "EcoReportage - Fire Ecology and How to Draw a Changing Landscape." Thank you so much for traveling with me on a journey through time to explore fire and ecosystems. I loved all of your insightful questions. There are a few there was not time to answer (thank you, Melinda, for capturing these!), so I wanted to send you my responses. I’d like to encourage anyone who has further questions about fire ecology, ecoreportage, or my specific projects to email me. Please also let me know if you would like to be involved in future workshops or discussions about these topics. You can reach me at: robinleecarlson@gmail.com.
Here are the questions:

1. Can you visit burn sites after or do you need permission?
This is entirely dependent on the site. For example, Stebbins Cold Canyon Reserve was closed to the public for nine months after the 2015 fire and is closed again now after the fire this August. As a University of California Natural Reserve property, it is managed to ensure public safety, and there are dangers at the site like easily erodable hillsides and dead trees that might fall unexpectedly. In contrast, the Cache Creek Conservancy, where I participated in the prescribed/cultural burn, remained open to the public the entire time. The burned area was small and did not have any of the dangers that might be created by larger fires.
2. How do the rodents/small creatures survive/reappear?
Rodents that burrow are often able to survive the fire underground as long as the heat does not penetrate too deeply into the soil. Many rodents, of course, will not survive, and these species will eventually repopulate the area by moving in from surrounding areas as soon as their food plants have started to regrow in the burned area.
3. Did invasive species become an issue as the area progressed past the fire event?
Invasive species responses to fire are a fascinating topic! While it is absolutely true that fire creates a disturbed environment that can be ripe for exploitation for invasives, it is also the case that fire (especially regular, low-intensity fire) can favor native species that have adapted to this type of fire regime, and can help remove invasives that come from climates where fire is not as regular an occurrence. At Cache Creek Conservancy, they have observed important reductions in some widespread invasives, like nonnative grasses and thistles, and they see natives like deergrass, purple needlegrass, gumweed and more coming back strong!
4. Is safety a concern with the ash in terms of getting exposed to carcinogens and such?
The ash is fairly rapidly incorporated into the soil, so unless you are visiting right after the fire (which is not advisable for the safety reasons mentioned above), visiting periodically after fire is not likely to expose you to greater levels of carcinogens. Certainly, as those of us living in fire-prone areas saw this summer, we are exposed to far more smoke cumulatively from fires across the region than we would need to worry about visiting a single site.
5. Do the Tortoiseshell butterflies live in the Bay Area or only in the mountains?
California tortoiseshells (Nymphalis californica) are migratory. They overwinter in foothill canyons like Stebbins, where they lay eggs on various species of California lilac (Ceanothus sp.). The new generation heads north and upslope in the spring, where they lay eggs on higher-altitude species of Ceanothus. When these eggs have hatched, fed, and pupated, they return to the foothills in the fall to start the cycle over again.
All the best,
Robin Carlson

avatar for Robin Lee Carlson

Robin Lee Carlson

Natural Science Author & Illustrator, Robin Lee Carlson Illustration
Robin Lee Carlson is an author and natural science illustrator with a particular interest in how landscapes and ecological communities change over time. Her first book, The Cold Canyon Fire Journals, was published in 2022 by Heyday, and her work has also appeared in The Common, the... Read More →

Sunday October 11, 2020 4:00pm - 5:30pm PDT
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