Nerds for Nature Storm the Fort

Nerds for Nature Storm the Fort

Nine AM, and the nerds (Nerds for Nature) gather in a cinderblock schoolhouse amidst the Fort Funston dunes. Spirits are high, cameras and binoculars slung, iPhones are at the ready. We get a quick primer on the day – three study areas: beach, uplands north, and uplands south. Liam O’Brien and I, friends and two lepidopterists in the group, are urged to split up! Our three teams distribute evenly, representing a good balance of plant nerds, bug nerds, birders, micro-photo nerds, and friends of nerds.

My group set out for the uplands north, traversing a cement path that has almost entirely been swallowed by shifting sands. Ingrid is on our team; she is a volunteer botanist who regularly surveys the plants in our area. As we walk past her transect, which she calls “my bowl”, we see the path has turned into a berm and the plants in Ingrid’s “bowl” are sinking into sand.

Fort Funston’s northern areas, especially the upper dune ridges, have been restored to a colorful textured mosaic of beach knotweed, lupines, dudleya, coyote brushes, seaside daisy, Indian paintbrush, dune tansy, primrose, and so much more. I’m still a beginner in the botany department, so it was a treat to be amongst those who knew a whole lot more and a whole lot less than me. At times, we were small social clusters admiring and sharing our discoveries, and at other times we were lone dune explorers – doing all we could to stay on trail, even when tempted by a distant plant, just beyond recognition.

At one PM, we converged at the wifi-capable building to swap stories and upload sightings to the iNaturalist database. In just a short few hours, an inquisitive bunch of nerds added a new layer of data to the Fort Funston historical record! How cool is that?

Have you ever seen a dandelion native to California’s coastal dunes? Well here’s one for you: seaside agoseris (Agoseris apargioides) pictured above.