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    • February 16, 2021

    Dr. Brent Helm is a wildlife biologist, botanist, and ecologist who specializes in wetland ecology.  He is a leading expert in the ecology of California’s seasonally inundated wetlands, with over 30 years of vernal pool research experience.

    Brent’s professional career in biological consulting began straight out of university, conducting rare plant surveys for EIP Associates on the Lincoln-Highway 65 Bypass Project in the spring and summer of 1989. His journey progressed with ground-breaking vernal pool branchiopod research at Jones and Stokes Associates, completion of his master’s and doctorate degrees in ecology at UC Davis, growing a startup consulting firm (May & Associates, Inc.), and teaching at San Joaquin Delta College and Sacramento State University.

    In 2001, Dr. Helm founded his own firm, Helm Biological Consulting (HBC). He started a second company, Wetland Development Team (WET), in 2009 to meet the growing need for wetland restoration, enhancement and construction work. He incorporated the two companies under the name link opens in new windowTansley Team, Inc. in honor of Sir Arthur George Tansley, an English botanist and pioneer in the science of ecology who introduced the concept of the ecosystem.

    “Though the organisms may claim our prime interest, when we are trying to think fundamentally, we cannot separate them from their special environments, with which they form one physical system.”

    ­Arthur George Tansley (1871-1955)

    Inspired by the legacy of Sir Tansley, Dr. Helm regards ecosystems as the basic units of nature in which communities of living organisms and the nonliving components of their environment interact as a system. His ecosystem-centered approach has produced many successful restoration projects. These include flagship vernal pool restoration projects on SMUD’s Rancho Seco property in Sacramento County, and Stillwater Plains in Shasta County.

    CNDDB is grateful for the plethora of branchiopod data Dr. Helm has submitted over the years: over 600 reports and field survey forms! If you feel you’ve got some catching up to do, report your rare species detections on CNDDB’s website today!

    An adult and a child walking across a wetland wearing boots and holding dipnets on their shoulders.

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • January 21, 2021

    CNDDB recently contacted LJ Moore to submit rare species detections to our project on iNaturalist. We learned that LJ is an artist and poet who draws inspiration from California’s unique wildlife. She agreed to share some of her artwork with our blog. We hope it motivates you to continue your explorations of our state’s remarkable biodiversity!

    Painting of a California newt looking to the right with its tail coiled beside it.
    A California newt emerging during the first rain of 2020 at China Camp State Park: a welcome sight during a very difficult year.

    Painting of a baby turkey vulture
    Portrait of Lethe, a turkey vulture hatched in California in 2000 and now part of the Education Team at the Cascades Raptor Center in Oregon.

    painting of a Mojave green rattlesnake coiled in front of a Mojave fishhook cactus
    Mojave green rattlesnake and Mojave fishhook cactus: both seen near Rainbow Basin Natural Area, Barstow, California.

    About the artist: LJ Moore-McClelland was born in Southern California and used to ditch school to go boogie boarding. Introduced to the Mojave Desert at a young age, she gained a deep love and respect for organisms able to thrive in extreme environments. Her adventures include sailing the arctic circle with a group of artists in 2013, and a 2010 residency at Marin Headlands Center for the Arts. She now lives in Marin County and is an avid naturalist and illustrator committed to documenting, celebrating, and preserving biodiversity.

    Many thanks to LJ for the beautiful artwork. Check out more of her content on Instagram link opens in new window@xenofiles.

    If you, too are active on iNaturalist, we encourage you to share rare plant and animal observations with link opens in new windowCNDDB’s project. And, as always, you can submit detection data directly to CNDDB via our Online Field Survey Form.

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • January 7, 2021

    Santa cruz long toed salamander on damp leaf litter
    Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum
    – Santa Cruz long-toed salamander
    Submitted by Noah Morales

    Noah spotted this juvenile Santa Cruz long-toed salamander crossing a road and some train tracks northwest of Watsonville in Santa Cruz county. This salamander sub-species is endemic to California and can be found under rocks, logs, or wood around the Monterey Bay coast in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties. It is listed as endangered under both the federal Endangered Species Act and California Endangered Species Act, due to loss of habitat to land development. Adults spend most of their lives underground, using tunnels created by burrowing mammals to get around, only coming out during breeding season. These creatures may be tiny, but they are completely carnivorous! Their diet consists of small crustaceans, worms, spiders, and other invertebrates. Larger Santa Cruz long-toed salamander larvae have also been known to cannibalize smaller larvae. Currently, CNDDB has 26 occurrences across their native range. Many thanks to Noah for snapping a picture of such a rare and incredible species!

    Veratrum fimbriatum flower stalk with buds and white lacy flowers
    Veratrum fimbriatum
    – fringed false-hellebore
    Submitted by Ayla Mills

    This month’s amazing find was discovered by Ayla Mills in Mendocino County. Ayla is an ecologist working for Prunuske Chatham, Inc. on natural resource assessment, vegetation monitoring, and reporting for parks and preserves throughout the North Bay. She shows her passion for California’s native plants through her experience in invasive plant research, native plant propagation, and her participation in California Native Plant Society conferences as well as Jepson Herbarium workshops.

    Veratrum fimbriatum was first listed in the CNPS Inventory of Rare and Endangered Plants in 1974 and is currently considered a California Rare Plant Rank 4.3 species (plants of limited distribution; not very threatened in California). It is found growing in mesic bogs and fens, coastal scrub, meadows and seeps, as well as North Coast coniferous forests. The flowering structure is known as a panicle, meaning it has several branching points with flowers off each branching point. In V. fimbriatum the flowers are deeply fringed which is one of the defining characters for this species. These fringed blooms can be found in late summer from July through September. Thank you, Ayla, for sharing your amazing photo and the passion and experience you contribute to rare plant conservation!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight