Virginia Dale Oral History Interview (2 of 2)

Interviewee: Virginia Dale
Interviewer: Samuel Schmieding
Interview Date: August 12, 2015
Location: Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, Maryland
Duration: 1:23:47
 

Virginia Dale began her engagement with Mount St. Helens while a graduate student at U. of Washington and continued through the time of this interview as a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and now into retirement. Her science at the volcano focused on vegetation on the debris avalanche, and she was a leader in the two Springer books providing overviews of ecological research at Mount St. Helens on ca. 25th and 35th eruption anniversaries.

Part 2 of the oral history was conducted in Baltimore MD at the Ecological Society of America meeting where Dale was presenting on this research. She presents a succinct summary of the early years of research on the debris avalanche deposit – how the program was funded, staffed, and conducted, and then some of the surprising findings that ran counter to ecological theory of that time. She discusses the importance of the two Mount St. Helens ecology books that she had a leadership role in bringing to completion. Having trained botanists over the course of the project has been critical to consistent identifications and dealing with changing names of species, and having well curated collections is part of this also, which is challenging, given the limited resources. She goes on to emphasize how random was the species representation of arriving seeds relative to “textbook” expectations of plant succession, and when findings from Mount St. Helens did appear in textbooks, they would be treated in an aside. She emphasizes the complexity of events at Mount St. Helens with its many types of processes and their respective ecological consequences. She goes on to describe the grass seeding efforts for erosion control instigated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which ecologists opposed. She explains the rational and the problems with it, such as not having seeds of native species and little chance it would suppress erosion. Non-native plants still, at year 30, exceed natives in the plots that were seeded. She addressed the complex of various disturbance processes at Mount St. Helens and the complexity of large, infrequent disturbances in general. Many issues were involved in vegetation establishment, including grazing by elk, and the powerful urge of humans to “fix” disturbed sites which may be counter to the messiness of nature.

Dale describes her leadership roles in promoting establishment of the National Volcanic Monument, including rallying the science community, dealing directly with Congress, and the many points of view concerning access and use of parts of the area. Then she returns to discussion of the science and science community, noting the special role of Jerry Franklin in fostering the community, even young people such as herself. The work itself was dangerous, especially travel on logging roads. On the lighter side, she describes her annual creation of volcano cakes to share with family and students. In closing, she reflects on the value of her work on the debris avalanche and, especially, leading compilation of the two book on ecology at the volcano, and her hopes for more whole system research in the future.

Dublin Core

Title

Virginia Dale Oral History Interview (2 of 2)

Description

Virginia Dale began her engagement with Mount St. Helens while a graduate student at U. of Washington and continued through the time of this interview as a scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and now into retirement. Her science at the volcano focused on vegetation on the debris avalanche, and she was a leader in the two Springer books providing overviews of ecological research at Mount St. Helens on ca. 25th and 35th eruption anniversaries.

Part 2 of the oral history was conducted in Baltimore MD at the Ecological Society of America meeting where Dale was presenting on this research. She presents a succinct summary of the early years of research on the debris avalanche deposit – how the program was funded, staffed, and conducted, and then some of the surprising findings that ran counter to ecological theory of that time. She discusses the importance of the two Mount St. Helens ecology books that she had a leadership role in bringing to completion. Having trained botanists over the course of the project has been critical to consistent identifications and dealing with changing names of species, and having well curated collections is part of this also, which is challenging, given the limited resources. She goes on to emphasize how random was the species representation of arriving seeds relative to “textbook” expectations of plant succession, and when findings from Mount St. Helens did appear in textbooks, they would be treated in an aside. She emphasizes the complexity of events at Mount St. Helens with its many types of processes and their respective ecological consequences. She goes on to describe the grass seeding efforts for erosion control instigated by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which ecologists opposed. She explains the rational and the problems with it, such as not having seeds of native species and little chance it would suppress erosion. Non-native plants still, at year 30, exceed natives in the plots that were seeded. She addressed the complex of various disturbance processes at Mount St. Helens and the complexity of large, infrequent disturbances in general. Many issues were involved in vegetation establishment, including grazing by elk, and the powerful urge of humans to “fix” disturbed sites which may be counter to the messiness of nature.

Dale describes her leadership roles in promoting establishment of the National Volcanic Monument, including rallying the science community, dealing directly with Congress, and the many points of view concerning access and use of parts of the area. Then she returns to discussion of the science and science community, noting the special role of Jerry Franklin in fostering the community, even young people such as herself. The work itself was dangerous, especially travel on logging roads. On the lighter side, she describes her annual creation of volcano cakes to share with family and students. In closing, she reflects on the value of her work on the debris avalanche and, especially, leading compilation of the two book on ecology at the volcano, and her hopes for more whole system research in the future.

Creator

Virginia Dale

Source

Mount St. Helens Oral History Collection (OH 50)

Publisher

Special Collections and Archives Research Center, Oregon State University Libraries

Date

August 12, 2015

Contributor

Samuel Schmieding

Format

Born Digital Audio

Language

English

Type

Oral History

Identifier

oh50-dale-virginia-20150812

Oral History Item Type Metadata

Interviewer

Samuel Schmieding

Interviewee

Virginia Dale

Location

Baltimore Convention Center, Baltimore, Maryland

Original Format

Born Digital Audio

Duration

1:23:47

OHMS Object

Interview Format

audio