Dismembered dead trees “donated” for education

Have you ever considered that fallen, dead trees might be able to donate their old parts for education?  Indeed they can, i.e. with the help of a chain saw and a friend.

The Cavity Conservation Initiative has been searching for bits and pieces of dead wood that show signs of wildlife use.  Senior Park Ranger, Ed Bridges, at Riley Park in Coto De Caza, CA said he could help!  He authorized his park maintenance staff, Janice Urrutia, to use a chain saw to section out pieces for us.  (Be aware!  This requires permission, and is authorized only under special conditions, partly because transporting wood is ill-advised due to risk of spreading tree pests.)  So what exactly were we looking for?   And why did we want these items?

These photos tell the story.  And the destination for the wood is Pitzer College in Claremont, CA, specifically their Department of Environmental Education.  We are developing a teaching kit for students to use with 120 5th graders who annually visit the College’s biological field station to learn about natural science.

Acorn granary (top), beetle gallery (below), work of termites (bottom right)

The golden minutes of the experience at Riley was the time spent with the fallen champion pictured above.  It is only one of their majestic oaks. Can you imagine how the earth shook and critters scattered in all directions when it fell to the ground?!

Stunned by its “resting” size, stilled by the history locked in it, I was bursting with joy over its second life.  You see, the tree will continue to provide habitat for wildlife in all stages of decay.  Eventually nature’s decomposers and recyclers will return its nutrients to the soil, but In California’s dry climate it might take hundreds of years of course.

Woodpecker nest cavities (two large pieces).
Beetle exit holes and lichen (two small pieces).

If you are fortunate to visit Riley Park and the graveyard of this oak, you will witness a fallen castle of wood, one of our largest, oldest, and most valuable natural resources.  Please applaud Orange County Parks for allowing this giant and others like it to rest in place.

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