Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Beavers, Bisons, and Prairie Dogs, Part 1

I have a stack of reading that I'm going through to research for my Fluid Dynamics exhibit next August at Waterstone Gallery in Portland, Oregon. I decided to start with what is probably the most fun, easiest, and least depressing of the bunch, Water: A Natural History, by Alice Outwater (I assume that last name was completely coincidental). And it has proven to be a fun and informative read.

Just for fun, here's the back side of the state flag of Oregon:

I have lived in Oregon for 30+ years, and had never really fully appreciated the state mammal, the beaver, until I started reading this book. I knew, of course, that they built dams, that they had powerful teeth, that they had an unusual tail, and that they were hunted almost to extinction for their pelts when Europeans started to settle in N. America. (Their pelts were prized for coats and hats, but it was the hat trade that did them in.)

What I didn't know was how big an impact they had on managing rivers and the riparian zones (habitats for fish/insects/birds), and ground water. When the beaver population was decimated, the rivers flowed faster, provided fewer shelters and less organic materials as food for fish/insects/birds. And not only that, by cutting down trees near the water, the beavers created more diverse habitats. And for humans, the faster flow meant that less water seeped down to the aquifer to be stored for future use.

Coming up in the next few days, some process images of Beavers vs Hats.


gl. said...

i couldn't find your original comment on facebook to respond to, so this is as good of a time as any: i just learned the oregon flag is the only 2-sided flag in the US!

fingerstothebone said...

Yes, Carye mentioned that when we went on the tour with her. I was surprised to learn that, thinking that more states would do it.

Maryah AN said...

thanks for the interesting beaver facts :) ... really enjoyed reading your blog... blog more !

fingerstothebone said...

Hi Maryah -- thank you so much for your note! It's so hard to keep up on so many fronts, and I admit, my blog has suffered. I post on facebook more often, and on occasion, also on g+ and twitter. But I really should pay more attention to the blog, shouldn't I? Thanks for the reminder.