Mountain Lake Field Trip: Teresa Vignale, Vanessa Fonti, and Cristina Scott

Mountain Lake Field Trip: Teresa Vignale, Vanessa Fonti, and Cristina Scott

We started off our trip at one of the Presidio buildings, and made our way past some of the old military quarters turned into housing over the years as means to preserve them. We then walked down to marshlands connected to mountain lake that had been restored in the last couple years, and met with Jason Lizenby, who is a Biological Science Technician for Mountain Lake and more specifically the Presidio Land Trust. Jason then introduced us to Bryan Hildebidle. He talked to us about the restoration process of Crissy Marsh while showing us pictures of the land before and after. It was quite amazing to see the difference that restoration can really make!  They were working on storm water pollution prevention because of a predicted wet winter. Previously, the land was degraded by the runoff from the highway nearby and almost no plants thrived there. Now, it is a green oasis of a marshland. There were also signs put up by a 6th grade class as a citizen science project around the fenced off site. The signs included scannable QR codes to learn more about the ecosystem and what was being done to protect it.

After this, we headed over to another restoration site made up of sand dunes where we met Lou Stringer; a restoration ecologist for Presidio Trust, a Federal Agency. It was so interesting to hear the history behind the sand dunes. Apparently it was an area where the military dumped the dead bodies of the men that passed away in the old hospital. Then it was used as a landfill. Contaminated waste and lead were dumped on top of the cemetery, then after trying to clean that up years later they put down native dune sand to try and bring back native plants. Presidio Trust is trying to eliminate pine and eucalyptus trees. There were 4 endangered plants when they started this project. One being the San Francisco Lessingia, more commonly known as “yellow fog” and another being the San Francisco manzanita. There are a few different types of habitat on their grounds, such as salt marshes, sand dunes, and oak woodlands. They also have the last free flowing creek in San Francisco known as “Lobos Creek.” There is also a golf course that they are trying to make more sustainable by mowing the lawns with a herd of 15 goats. This eliminates the need for pesticides.

Lastly, we went to Mountain Lake and learned about Western Pond Turtles (emys marmorata). A problem they have been battling is the fact that the water is stagnant which allows algae to grow and suffocates the life in the water. To avoid this, they have installed devices to aerate the lake so algae can not bloom. This results in other plants establishing and keeping the lake clean and clear. After the lake is cleaned, they can start introducing animals.

There has been a big issue with San Franciscans abandoning their unwanted pets near the lake which is not good for the ecosystem.To fix this problem, the Presidio Trust put a rescue box in place so that people can come drop off their pets (i.e. goldfish/turtles) without any consequences. They will then donate the animals to the reptile rescue organization and then they are given to wineries. This way, there are no unwanted or unmonitored introductions that could alter their progress.  The turtles themselves are all tagged and monitored daily. Each turtle has a little antenna attached to their shells, and they have satellite-like equipment to keep track of where they all are. Our guide caught two small turtles that we got to hold and look at up close!

All photos courtesy of Teresa Vignale.