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Kayaking for Science!


Matt Urbanski, Saunders Conservation Fellow, back with a question. Why did our science team go kayaking on a work day? Keep reading to find out!

Last Tuesday the Crane Trust's science team visited a piece of Crane Trust land between Gibbon and Shelton, Nebraska, with limited road access. Bethany Ostrom-Wildlife Biologist, Josh Wiese-Range Manager, Megan Soldatke-Lila O. Wilson Biological Monitoring Fellow, and I, took inventory of plants and birds, observed the landscape, and began assessing its ecological value.  


The morning of our journey consisted of placing a truck at our final destination, strapping our kayaks onto a trailer, and driving to our launch point. Upon arrival we dragged our kayaks to the river and started paddling. We were dodging sand bars and observing Bald Eagles, Blue Herons, Belted Kingfishers, and countless other birds on the Platte. 

After pulling our kayaks onto the riverbank we prepared to take inventory of the birds and plants on our new land. Bethany Ostrom and Megan Soldatke surveyed birds, listening and watching for each individual species. They found 27 species of birds who call this area home. Josh Wiese and I identified plants, walking a couple transects through the new area. We ended up finding 113 species of plants including five species of milkweed (Asclepias) and a massive Cottonwood Tree (Populus deltoides) located on the river's historic edge.   

To be fully transparent when I say “we surveyed birds” or “we identified plants” it translates to Bethany surveyed birds or Josh identified plants while Megan and I recorded their findings and did our best to help and learn. They have spent years identifying plants or birds and Megan and I aspire to be better by the time our fellowships come to an end.

We hit the river around 10 AM and were picked up at 4:30 PM. By the end of our journey we had kayaked 14 miles, been roasted by the sun, and strengthened our shoulders. Oh yeah, and we flipped one kayak, lost a hat, and were forced to stop about seven miles short due to strong headwinds and had to be picked up far from the planned destination. Trips like these do not always go to plan, so it is good to be prepared for the worst!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our adventure!

I’ll see you in the next blog,

Matt Urbanski, Saunders Conservation Fellow