D. Monitoring Beaver Activity - Understanding the Beaver Dam Cycle


Synopsis of Topic

Monday afternoon we are taking you up to Beaver Creek to learn some field techniques for monitoring beaver activity and interpreting conditions. As time permits, we will also use this to take a space for time subsitution of  field tour of the beaver dam cycle originally proposed by Naiman et al. (1999). The main objectives are to:
  • Teach you how to monitor for both current and historic beaver dam activity in the field
  • Re-enforce the topics covered in the morning on beaver ecology and complex ecosystem and hydrogeomorphic feedbacks.
We will also look at a variant of the Naiman et al (1999) beaver dam cycle developed by Welsh & Wheaton shown below that emphasizes the role of abandonment, dam breaching and dam failure.

As we make our way through the watershed, we will point out different examples of each stage of these cycles. We will visit sites in Right Hand Fork, the mainstem Logan River, Franklin Basin and spend most of the afternoon in Beaver Creek.

Why We're Covering It

We're spending this time in the field to both reenforce the concepts of beaver ecology and ecosystem feedbacks from the morning as well as to give you an up-close appreciation of how these systems function. We will have a few brief lectures, but most of the afternoon will be discussion and time for you to explore on your own and reflect on what you're learning. We will walk a couple mile stretch of beaver creek asking you to classify the dams and sites you encounter. All of the instructors will be on hand to chat with you individually as we make our way down the creek.

Learning Outcomes

This topics helps us with the following learning outcomes for the workshop:
  • An appreciation of beaver ecology and the complex feedbacks between beaver activity, hydrogeomorphic responses, riparian vegetation and fish ecology; 


We will use both a digital version and paper version of the monitoring form at right (available here as PDF). The digital version is a form built inside of FileMakerPro, to work on iPads using the free FileMakerGo. These monitoring Apps are built by Eco Logical Research's Nick Weber and are very flexible and powerful monitoring tools. See here for more information on the iPad spec and accessories we use. Regardless of whether or not we go paper or digital, the information we collect is rich and helps us infer a lot about processes, potential limiting factors and condition. Observation information is broken into:
  • Positional Attributes
  • Dam Attributes at time of survey
  • Dam Condition
  • Recent Beaver Activity
In the field, we will begin to teach you how to identify, measure and make rapid estimates of each. You fill out one form for each dam. A form can be filled out in 1-5 minutes.

Album from Beaver Creek 2011 Field Visit

Beaver Workshop - Day 1 Field Trip to Beaver Creek


Here's the stretch of Beaver Creek you will inventory and monitor:

Beaver Creek Monitoring

Potential Stops on way Home for Tour of Dam Cycle (map stops are from 2011):

Monday Tour

Relevant or Cited Literature

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