Sunday, July 15, 2018

Orientation to Cave Rescue, Oak City, Utah

In June I helped teach a two-day Orientation to Cave Rescue class for the National Cave Rescue Commission (NCRC) in Oak City, Utah. This class introduces cavers and first responders to cave rescue terminology and techniques. (The recent cave rescue in Thailand would be the other end of the spectrum--the super complex and technical rescue.)

We started with part of the day in the classroom at the Oak City Community Center. Then we moved out to the pavilion to practice some patient packaging.

I noticed that in the Thai cave rescue they were using SKEDs just like this one, except a different color. SKEDs are good litters for small spots, as you basically wrap a person so they look like a burrito.

The nearby playground gave us a perfect opportunity to practice moving the litters. We had obstacles, but many of the "cave walls" were invisible, making communications much easier than in a real cave. Students still had to follow the "cave passage," though, which included belly crawling and climbing and sliding down slides.

The second day was a full day mock rescue. I was to be an "angel," or observer for one of the patients. My job was to make sure he was safe. We headed to the cave ahead of the students, geared up, and headed into the little hole.

The students had three patients to find, and Rodney was the furthest back in the cave. It didn't take them too long to find him and start doing a medical assessment. They realized they would need a litter to carry him out.

The litter came and they packaged him in it. Since it was such a warm cave, he didn't want the full packaging of a vapor barrier (tarp) and two blankets.

After a bit, it was time to start moving him towards the entrance.

It took lots of coordination to get him out of the small pit and to the next team that moved him forward. Rodney is checking to make sure that I'm getting some photos. :)

Then came more obstacles. Even though the students were new to cave rescue, they did a good job of moving Rodney carefully through the cave. At the same time, other students were dealing with the other two patients. Plus a couple students were on the surface, running the Incident Command Post and experiencing the very different situations top-side faces.

 A communications system using military field phones and a spool of wire was set up, and that helped get some communications out to the surface.

A few more maneuvers, and Rodney was out!

Because it was a mock rescue, he was magically cured and then freed from the litter.

We held a debrief so everyone would know what happened in other parts of the incident. The lead instructor, Bonny, led the debrief. The debrief also highlighted things that went well and areas that need more practice.

It was a great weekend, and I was impressed how far some of the students had come to take the class. We had students from not only nearby Utah and Nevada, but also California, Montana, and Wyoming. Some drove 14 hours one way! Fortunately, they all thought it was worth it and are looking forward to learning more about cave rescue. It's a type of rescue that isn't needed often, but when it is, it takes specialized skills.
For more on upcoming cave rescue training, check out the NCRC page. There's also an annual national weeklong seminar (next May in Indiana), plus various regional weeklong seminars (such as next February in Texas), plus there will be additional Orientation to Cave Rescues and Small Party Assisted Rescue classes listed.

To read more about actual cave rescues or to report one, here's the American Caving Accidents page.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

2018 Beetle BioBlitz

 June 12-14, 2018 were the dates for the Tenth annual BioBlitz at Great Basin National Park. A BioBlitz is a short-term event that focuses on biodiversity. This year the topic was beetles. Nevada State Entomologist Jeff Knight came out to the park to lead the event.

He started with a presentation explaining what beetles are and how to collect them. Then the group went out in the field and used forceps (tweezers), sweep nets, and other tools to collect beetles. They brought what they found back to Baker Hall, which had turned into BioBlitz Headquarters for the three-day event. Jeff put the beetles under his microscope, which was attached by a camera to his computer so more could get a view.

Meanwhile, handfuls of leaf litter were put into buckets with lightbulbs, with the heat, making the beetles retreat down into a bag that was later examined.

Everyone was so excited by what they found. The event was open to all ages, and there were definitely some budding young entomologists.

Some folks tried to puzzle out their finds on their own.

They used guidebooks and asked entomologists for some guidance when they got really stumped.

For two nights there was light trapping, where a white sheet was put down and a light put on top of it. Beetles (and other insects) came to the light, and we saw species that had been hidden during the day.
We also took a black light out to check out some nearby areas and found lots of scorpions!

 On the third day, Forest Health Specialist Danielle Malesky gave a talk about mountain pine beetles at the Wheeler Peak amphitheater.

Talk about a wonderful outdoor classroom!

After explaining how this native beetle has killed lots of trees, she showed how high value trees (such as those in campgrounds) can be protected by using a synthetic pheromone called verbenone. This pheromone mimics the smell that the beetles put out when telling other beetles that the tree is already full and they should look for a different tree.

Her colleague applied SPLAT, verbenone in a caulking tube.

The zig-zag pattern is applied to four sides of the tree and lasts for about a year.

Meanwhile back in Baker Hall, entomologists from as far as Los Angeles County Natural History Museum were working on their samples.

At noon we celebrated with a delicious hot catered lunch by Salt & Sucre sponsored by the Great Basin National Park Foundation and Western National Parks Association.

It was a great way for everyone to come back together again and share where they had been hiking and what they had found.

Following the lunch, Jeff Knight gave a talk about the preliminary results of the BioBlitz, which was more than 500 specimens representing at least 65 species added to the park list. Most of the work lies ahead, back in his lab.

The final part was a raffle of items donated by Western National Parks Association. Then it was time to clean up and say farewells. Participants will be updated as results come in.
If you're interested in participating next year, the topic will be bats and it will be held in August 2019.  To be added to the mailing list, send an email to BioBlitzes are a great way to learn more about an area and meet people who have similar interests. They are held all over the country (and world), and I highly recommend participating in one if you'd like to explore a place more thoroughly!

Many thanks to everyone who participated and helped sponsor the 2018 Beetle BioBlitz!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

4-H Sheep 2018

 After struggles with controlling his 4-H sheep at the 2017 County Fair, Desert Boy declared he wasn't doing sheep again. But after he got his check for selling his lamb, he changed his mind. So we got a couple lambs from Todd Holt in Delta at the end of May (thanks, Gwendy, for helping arrange this!). When I first saw them, I was impressed how good they looked already. One let Desert Boy touch him.

They are both ewes, and #144 ate food out of Desert Boy's hands immediately. #141 was definitely shyer.

Our current plan is that Desert Boy will show one lamb for 4-H, and Desert Girl, who is just a Cloverbud, will show one for open class. 

In an effort to get them tamer, we've been taking them into our yard frequently. However, they sometimes get loose, and then it can be a chore to get them back into the pen. 
We're hoping they will continue to gain well and tolerate being walked better!
4-H livestock projects definitely teach the kids (and parents) a lot, and overall it's been a good experience for us.
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