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Fred Swanson Oral History Interview, July 25, 2015

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SAMUEL SCHMIEDING: Good morning, this is Dr. Samuel Schmieding. I am here at the Forest Ecosystems & Society Department, Oregon State University. I am here in the home of Dr. Frederick J. Swanson, emeritus scientist, U.S. Forest Service, in his Corvallis home. We are going to do probably the first of two or three oral history interviews covering his work and experience with Mount St. Helens. Good morning, Fred.

FRED SWANSON: Good morning.

SS: Okay. Let's just start right away with when did you first become interested in geology and volcanoes? How did this interest evolve into what became a professional pursuit and passion?

FS: As I was growing up in the East Coast, I would visit my grandparents, on my 00:01:00mother's side, in Janesville, Wisconsin, where my grandfather was part of the Janesville Sand & Gravel Company. There was a geological connection, a company that quarried fluvial, glacial outwash in southern Wisconsin for construction. On my father's side, he grew up in a mining town in the northern peninsula of Michigan. When we'd go visit there, we'd go see people in that town, see their rock collections, and he'd take me out to waste piles from different mines and we'd collect minerals. My dad would take me fossil hunting at times, and, so, I had some geology roots back as a boy. I was sort of science oriented in high school. I did go to Penn State to be a geology major, although I didn't know much at all about what geology was because I had no exposure to it in K-12. I 00:02:00just sort of stuck with it all the way through until I got enveloped in ecosystem stuff. I did get to go to Mount St. Helens, a family trip, in I think it was 1962. I remember we didn't get to see the mountain because the cloud cover enshrouded the upper part, but we went to the timberline parking lot and went across Spirit Lake to the Harmony Falls Lodge and had a family style meal, and then walked back along the shores of Spirit Lake. My father gave me a few photos from that experience. That sort of set the stage. As a grad student, I 00:03:00went to the Galapagos with a team of 7 graduate students. We got a National Science Foundation interdisciplinary research grant and for $35,000 we took some students. We did projects in volcanic history, plant ecology, and seismology and ended up with a couple very nice publications. That really got me launched in volcano ecology, I think, although I didn't do that for my dissertation. It was a side interest.

SS: You gave me the nice little story there about visiting Mount St. Helens and I may ask you a question later about aesthetics and perception of the perfect symmetrical cone versus what it is now, but going back even earlier about reading books on geology or volcanoes: what were your earliest memories, from 00:04:00either in-person experience, readings, photographs, or art about volcanoes and eruptions that informed your original concepts and/or visualizations of volcanoes and volcanism?

FS: Well, I don't really have any specific memories. Like I say, I was growing up on the east coast, and, so, they weren't a part of my local landscape, whereas here in Oregon, living in Oregon or visiting Colorado, for example, I've always really appreciated being able to see the mountains, although they might be 60 miles away. Every day when I go out on my bike ride along the agricultural lands south of Corvallis, I love looking over and seeing the Three Sisters or Jefferson. I don't have any specific memories of volcanoes.


SS: You don't remember reading a book, for instance, like history, Roman history, where they always have a chapter on Pompeii, for instance, and Vesuvius. They recreate what they thought it was like, for instance.

FS: I don't really remember that. I wasn't a big reader.

SS: Okay. So, going to the second question that couples to the when did you first become interested in geology and volcanoes, when did you first become interested in ecology and ecological processes, and how did this interest evolve into what became later a professional pursuit and passion?

FS: Well, when I was a kid through fourth grade, my family was living in Bon Air, which was then a little village outside of Richmond, Virginia. It's now been enveloped in Richmond suburbia. I had a friend named Wendell Gaddis, who was a very much an animal sort of guy. I remember their family had a de-stunk 00:06:00skunk in their menagerie and they had dogs and so forth. Wendell and I would go out in the forest, the cutover forest, or down to some creeks and go exploring for animals and finding box turtles in the woods. I remember a period when they were very active. We would just go stand quietly in the woods and listen for them rustling through the leaves and go find them. I remember liking that sort of animal stuff and the environment, and just playing outside in those early elementary school days.

SS: Did you ever happen to read one of Rachel Carson's famous early books for the common person on ecology?

FS: I don't remember getting exposed to those sorts of things through reading. 00:07:00I'm not remembering much in the way of TV shows or movies. It's quite interesting. Our family just watched some of the David Attenborough Planet Earth videos just in the last couple of days, and Julia just ordered a few more for Gareth. He'll turn 18 in a few days and he's very interested in animals and he was just commenting on how important that these visual and fascinating stories sustained his interest. We go to a pond that's been in Julia's family with dwellings, it's been in Julia's family for about 90 years and Gareth just goes out there and he's just looking for turtles and salamanders and doing fishing 00:08:00just for the opportunity to connect with the ecosystem. Anyway, it's interesting to watch him, because he's having more intense interactions of that sort with nature than I had had through high school, for example.

SS: The time that you visited Mount St. Helens in 1962 would have been the first time you were up close and personal with the volcano, even though you couldn't see the top, correct?

FS: Yes, that's true.

SS: Okay. Do you remember just a sense of just mainly nature more than anything, rather than any specific thing about this is a volcano or something like that?

FS: Well, I was intrigued by it. I was just out of high school. I didn't have 00:09:00any formal geological training to fit things into. I do remember that tree wells were a safety concern. As you went down close to Spirit Lake on the north length of the volcano where mudflows or pyroclastic flows had come down into forest and knocked down the forest, but had buried its lower extremities and then the trees died and rotted out and left these wells which were sort of a safety hazard. We went down close to the shores of Spirit Lake because there was an old crank type telephone on a tree that you called over to the Harmony Falls Lodge across the lake and ordered your meal and asked them to come pick you up in a little 00:10:00motorboat. Anyway, and I had that sense of being in a subalpine environment with short-statured vegetation, which was still responding to the eruption from around 1800, which was the subject matter of D.B. Lawrence's work, before and leading up to the WWII period.

SS: Right. I've read some things that he wrote and even photographs he took that were I think even from the '20s and '30s, right?

FS: Yeah, at least the '30s.

SS: So, based on the fact you grew up in the east, you couldn't see St. Helens, was the Galapagos trip your first real hands-on touching with overt volcanism?

FS: Yes, in a way it was. In advance of that the two other geology guys that 00:11:00went, Jaroslav Lexa, a visiting geologist from Czechoslovakia, visiting the University of Oregon Geology Department and Center for Volcanology, and Hartmut Wolfgang Baitis, who was a beginning Ph.D. student. The three of us traveled over to Hawaii to the Big Island, which was where Kilauea was in eruption. We went over there as sort of training and warming up. It was fascinating because we got to go out with a USGS geologist and peer over the edge of crater rim where there was an active lava lake bubbling that was then draining out through some lava tubes. We could see active lava flows, including flow into the sea and 00:12:00this lava lake, and also look at the various features. That was the closest, that was one close encounter with volcanism, and active volcanism. Also, by the time of our Galapagos trip, which was around 1970, I'd been a graduate student at University of Oregon since '67, so I'd been in the Cascades and had some exposure to volcanology and hiked up in the High Cascades and so I'd seen very youthful volcanic features. Both the Cascades and the Hawaii experiences.


SS: What specific experiences did you have in the Cascades? Which volcanoes, what areas?

FS: I don't remember the particulars of the timing, but I'm quite sure I've been into the Three Sisters area. There was Sunshine Shelter we'd gone on a geology trip with Alexander "Mac" McBirney, who was the lead of the volcanology program at the University of Oregon, and so we'd been around the Three Sisters, for example. I remember somewhere in there climbing Hood and Middle Sister and almost to the top of North Sister and a winter climb with Jaroslav Lexa to Three Finger Jack. It was sort of wild, sort of blizzardy conditions, and we didn't have snowshoes, so we slogged our way in there. I remember coming out my beard, 00:14:00which was large then, large enough I could put it in a ponytail, it had ice and snow condensed and frozen, because I was breathing and the moisture from my breath would condense on my beard and then freeze. If I turned my head sideways it would sort of go "clunk" because it wasn't frozen all the way against my skin because of the warmth of my face. Anyway, that was fun trip. It wasn't very volcanological, but it was an adventure.

SS: What did you learn at Penn State about volcanology? More book learning, I would take it, correct?

FS: Yeah, I don't really remember learning anything much [about volcanoes]. I did feel that I got a good geological background. Penn State, east coast, a big 00:15:00center for coal research. Coal was big in Pennsylvania. It was called College of Mineral, may have been Geology and Mineral Industries. Mineral industries were a big part of the title.

SS: So, economic geology was a much more important track, for instance, than shall we say theoretical geology?

FS: The applied?

SS: Yeah.

FS: The applied to the mineral realm was a big part of the whole college. Volcanoes were far away. I did have some great experiences that were I think seminal in my interdisciplinary instincts down the road, including geology-ecology interactions, and possibly even with the arts and humanities 00:16:00that's really picked up in the last 15 years for me personally. But after my freshman year, a professor Robert F. Schmalz who was my advisor and instructor in historical geology and general geology as a freshman, arranged so that I could go to the Bermuda Biological Station. As a beginning undergraduate running some little experiments and also sit in on some of the activities of a graduate student class on organism-sediment relationships in a modern environment of calcium carbonate deposition, which is really the stuff ultimately of petroleum geology. It had near-shore marine ecologists, geologists, and seawater chemistry 00:17:00people. That was far removed from volcanism, but it was highly interdisciplinary, and I thought it was just very cool and it was literally an immersive experience, because a lot of times we were in the water. It was very neat.

SS: Was that experience in Hawaii, was that the kind of first shall we say visceral, strong visual aesthetic immersion of what a volcano looks like and lava? Or did you have other things that had been competing with it?

FS: Well, I'd seen movies and seen textbook stuff about volcanoes, but yes that was the first, wow, this is for real. Red hot. You've got to be careful. It's dangerous. A lava tube roof could collapse. As we looked over the edge of this 00:18:00crater at the lava lake the USGS geologist stationed a couple of us looking at the cracks, down the cracks of blocks that could spall off and cave into the lake, so we could warn our compatriots who were over at the edge, if we were seeing some orange lava appear in a crack, it might signal immanent collapse. It was an important and exciting experience.

SS: How did your impressions and sophistication in your understanding of volcanoes and the different kinds of volcanism actions and eruptions, how did that evolve from that particular time? You can include the Galapagos as well in that.

FS: Well, I was from textbook learning and some classroom learning becoming 00:19:00aware of the different styles of volcanism, like the Cascades chain versus oceanic island volcanism and fluidity of the basaltic lavas in Hawaii and then Galapagos setting. I was learning about all that. It's interesting to note that when I was an undergraduate at Penn State '62-'66, plate tectonics, which is the framework within which to view volcanism globally was being debated and just emerging.

SS: It was post WWII when it really became the paradigm, right, or gradually 00:20:00became the paradigm?

FS: Well, the first half of the '60s was when it really took off and things like the magnetic striping in the sea floor was being detected. It was the Cold War period and a lot of geophysical research in the marine environment was motivated by Cold War issues and was supported by the Office of Naval Research and that was critical in the revelation of sea floor spreading.

SS: A of the early ecology in the '40s and '50s of that era took place in, shall we say, radiated space, where they would see how radiation would move through the ecosystem, correct?

FS: Right, that did help with some of the early support for ecosystem science. 00:21:00Places like Luquillo [Puerto Rico], which is now Long-Term Ecological Research program and the Luquillo Experimental Forest and also at Oak Ridge.

SS: If you were going to characterize your understanding of volcanoes pre-1980 and St. Helens, how would you characterize your intellectual universe going into 1980? Start with geology and volcanism first and then transition into ecology and ecological processes.

FS: On the geology front, the experiences of Hawaii and some of the Cascades, including the mapping assignment at the Andrews Forest, so I began working at 00:22:00the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest in 1972 just as I completed my Ph.D. degree. The first job at the Andrews in '72 was to work with Mike James in mapping the geology of the Andrews Forest, which is obscured by so much forest cover. But it's all volcanic material of various sorts: lava flows, pyroclastic flows, lahars/mudflows, dikes, and sedimentary rocks of exclusively volcanic origin. I was interested in the experience from the Galapagos and experiences from the High Cascades, the Young Cascades, as opportunities to see modern environments of volcanic landforms, to view primary volcanic landforms, whereas 00:23:00the Andrews Forest is deeply eroded. Volcanic geology is very complex and, if it's old, if it's an old, deeply eroded forest shrouded, 99% forest-covered landscape, it's really tough to make good sense out of the bedrock. Anyway, I'd had all these kinds of experiences leading up to 1980 on the geology front.

On the ecology front, and as I write about a little bit in the document that I sent you this morning, I sort of outline how the decade of the '70s, that is right before the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the International Biological 00:24:00Program era of the Andrews Forest and with some of our collaborators of the Seattle part of the Coniferous Forest Biome (the Andrews was the Oregon hub of the Coniferous Forest Biome under the International Biological Program), we had the decade of the '70s to work together across forest, lakes, streams, in the ecology realm and then the geophysical processes and landforms on which the forest, stream, and lake ecosystems are performing. We had a decade to develop our concepts of how that world works and over different timescales and different special scales and to develop personal relationships, and, in a bunch of cases, 00:25:00to publish together and find a shared vocabulary across our disciplines. I think that that experience of the '70s, especially in the ecosystem front, which included the geology, geophysical processes background all positioned us incredibly well to launch on this new stage of Mount St. Helens. It was hugely important. Some of the first things that we did under the leadership of Jerry Franklin were to help get members of the ecology community in there, in the summer of 1980.

SS: This would have been in the one month or so after the big blow, right? Which 00:26:00was May 18th, correct?

FS: Correct. I don't know if you're ready for me to start going into that earliest history of interaction.

SS: Let's do a little more prep before we go in too deep, but we're on the edge, yeah.

FS: Yeah. I've been very amazed to reflect on my own career, but that's also the career of community, members in the community in toto. We had the luxury of so many years in IBP in the '70s.

SS: Basically, in training for what you didn't know was going to happen, correct?

FS: Correct. There was tremendous importance and impact that we couldn't anticipate off in the realm of forestry, policy and practices, and so forth, regional and ultimately global perception of old forests and stuff like that 00:27:00that occurred from that decade of the '70s, based more at the Andrews and satellite sites and out of the Seattle group's work in places like the Cedar River Watershed. But, it also trained us, prepared us, for moving out of the green forest and the blue waters of places like the Andrews Forest into the gray landscape of the immediate post-eruption case at Mount St. Helens and for me, as a geoscientist who liked working with ecoscientists, it was just totally unbelievable that this geo-eco interaction would come together with such a bang 00:28:00on May 18th. It was just so amazing. For me then I could also push some of my relationships with geologist colleagues, particularly Dick Janda, a USGS geologist, into this new space of the volcano realm. Dick Janda was quite senior to me and he led a forest geomorphology project out of the Menlo Office of the USGS, Menlo Park, California, in the Bay Area in the Redwood Creek Country and his project had to do with the effects of logging and natural processes on erosion and in that highly erosive north coastal California landscape in the 00:29:00context, the highly charged political context, of the establishment and subsequent expansion of Redwood National Park. Dick saw me as an ally, and I picked up on stuff he was doing and applied it in the Andrews, and he was on the advisory committee for the Andrews Forest for a while and we have long-term stream cross-section measurement arrays that were begun at Dick's recommendation in the late '70s. He envisioned Redwood Creek, Andrews Forest, maybe the Elk and Sixes River country in the coastal area, down near Cape Blanco in Port Orford where I did my Ph.D. work, and possibly the Bull Run Watershed, the water supply for the city of Portland. Dick envisioned these sites as these major hubs for 00:30:00forest geomorphology research. Then Dick got deeply involved with Mount St. Helens and he was instrumental in me being able to go in there with a group of 4 on May 28th, day 10, which was on a USGS supported trip.

SS: That's very interesting that you're in the Andrews, which is a certain kind of landscape, but if you look over at the Three Sisters and the more youthful volcanic area and you're kind of looking at your future, and not knowing it though, right?

FS: That's true and then the landscape that Mount St. Helens eruption created, especially with the giant debris avalanche, all the ponds, Spirit Lake and the new lakes of Coldwater and Castle, and the variety of processes. That hugely 00:31:00informed me about what modern environments of deposition look like and where I might be seeing ancient examples in the bedrock of the Andrews Forest. A connection between modern volcanism and ancient volcanism has to do with all the lessons you can learn when you have a naked landscape, and everything is fresh right there in front of you. It helps you to make your interpretations when you go back and get these really tiny little windows into the past, these small outcrops looking at millions of years into the past. You're constantly wanting to tune your eye for interpretation of the ancient by looking at the modern.


SS: Now, going back to early 1980, Mount St. Helens starts to puff and show signs that it's waking up in March. Were there plans in motion or discussions that we should maybe be ready to send a team up there, or did that only happen after the big bang of May 18th?

FS: On one hand, we've done some planning for LTER. We turned in a proposal, which was funded in 1980 and incredibly remarkably LTER (Long-term Ecological Research Program) and Mount St. Helens both commenced in 1980. It was a wild 00:33:00year. It's been a wild ride ever since. I liken it to sort of surfing a tsunami. Here were two tsunamis. One was the old-growth battles and the other was Mount St. Helens. As I will convey later in the interview, and you can see in the Crisafulli, et al, volcano ecology chapter in the new edition of the encyclopedia of volcanoes, Mount St. Helens has a very distinctive place in the global picture of volcano ecology research. Anyway, it's just unbelievable that these things had happened. In the context of planning long-term ecological research in general, one wonders how we have preparedness for the big disaster, big disturbance, that's bound to occur, whether it's a big fire or windstorm in 00:34:00a place like the Andrews or a volcanic eruption.

SS: Or, the obvious one here would be a major slip in the Cascadia subduction and causing major tsunami.

FS: Yes, subduction zone earthquake would be another thing. These types of events that have 50-, several-hundred recurrence intervals. They're totally expectable, but you can't predict them as to when they occur.

SS: A complete segue, but I'm just curious about what happened-has there been any substantial ecological research in the Indian Ocean area or even in Japan about the ecology? Have they been more concerned with disaster response and getting the human societies back up and running?


FS: I am not aware of it, but I am not tracking research in those settings. However, I do think I have seen some indication that, especially in the Indian Ocean case, that the presence of natural vegetation, like mangroves, can help mitigate some of the impacts. Let's see, you had a question that I was going to go back to, which is did we prepare to go to Mount St. Helens after it started puffing. I do not remember any preparation from the Corvallis scene. I just think my guess is that we didn't think there was anything we could really do. I 00:36:00didn't really, in the first month, I didn't really expect anything big. Once the bulge really started growing, then it looked like something [SS interrupts].

SS: Big might happen.

FS: Yeah. On the other hand, as I mention, some of the limnology people I think scurried in there and got some, what turned out to be pre-eruption data. They were dealing with the components of the ecosystem that had the potential to undergo abrupt change and then change quickly thereafter and that they could go in and make some measurements rather quickly. I think we were mostly awestruck and viewing it from a distance.

SS: So, March, April, and then leading up to May you were watching it and of 00:37:00course everybody that knew geology saw the bulge as a very ominous sign. But still you really weren't prepared for how incredibly powerful and gigantic this eruption was.

FS: That's true. Even the experts, such as Barry Voight, who was a Penn State prof and on what's called WAE or "when actually engaged" status with USGS because he'd been a big landslide specialist and also interested in volcanism, he was enlisted by USGS to help. They had a bunch of the world's experts stationed right there in the Vancouver area and they were doing their work on 00:38:00the volcano. Mount St. Helens is so incredibly well-known because the world's experts were at the foot of the volcano when it blew up and could immediately go in and make all kinds of observations from the get-go, including making measurements of the temperature of the deposits when they were only a few days old.

SS: Was David Johnston the only one that was killed, though, the only scientist, or were there others?

FS: I think he was the only scientist.

SS: You and your colleagues were mostly just watching and obviously the USGS scientists were closer. They were in Vancouver, or like in David Johnston's case right there by the mountain doing their active monitoring, correct?

FS: Yeah.

SS: But ecosystem scientists weren't like preparing a plan to study. You just 00:39:00basically reacted after the big blast happened, correct?

FS: That's my recollection. It'd be good to ask Jerry how he was thinking about it. There were interesting goings on and sort of competition for access and the State of Washington, under Dixy Lee Ray, the governor, had an interesting set of dealings and declared a zone to restrict access for public safety.

SS: The red zone, right?

FS: Yeah. A lot of that is described in this new book by Richard Waite.

SS: This is the one from Washington State University Press?

FS: Yeah, In the Path of Destruction: Eyewitness Chronicles of Mount St. Helens. 00:40:00There's a lot of description in there of the circumstances. Academics wanted to get in and USGS people had their access systems and I think there was some turf - bureaucratic and other kinds of turf wars, especially in geo circles. There's concern about giving technical information to the public and how should that proceed.

SS: This is pre-eruption?

FS: Yes. Or, pre, during, and after. There's an interesting book, which I used to have, I can't find it anymore-Volcano Cowboys, in which each chapter is about 00:41:00a different eruption and it's told by I think it was a Time magazine reporter who has some colorful descriptions. I think he went out with USGS guys to the tavern and got some stories that some of them wish had not been put in print. But a key issue there is that the USGS approach is to provide information to local officials.

SS: For safety concerns more than anything correct?

FS: Then [for them] to make decisions about communicating with the public. They've had to do this in various settings around the world as a consequence of their Volcano Disaster Assistance Program, which was born after the eruption of Mount St. Helens. That's a whole other story that I shouldn't be the one to go 00:42:00into. It's described in interesting ways and there were some National Academy of Sciences, National Research Council studies and reports on the Volcano Hazards Program of USGS, which is a very interesting story and has had powerful and important positive influences in many countries around the world which have to deal with volcanoes and states of unrest.

SS: Regarding the first trip in there of ecologists, 10 days after, correct?

FS: The trip I went on I was the only person who was ecologically oriented, but it was only 4 people. It was a USGS [SS interrupts].

SS: This was the helicopter in trip and things were still warm?

FS: Yes. There were muddy geysers on the shore of Spirit Lake. There was 00:43:00volcanic tremor and there were splatters [of tephra-laden raindrops] on the screen of the helicopter and it was very interesting and exciting.

SS: Since we're there, let's get right into it. You get in the helicopter with 4 other people and the pilot?

FS: Three other people and the pilot. There were Barry Voight, who was the Penn State professor who had done some instruction in a field course that I had taken when I was an undergraduate at Penn State. A guy named Ray Wells, who had been a grad student at the University of Oregon at the time I was there. He was a cool guy. He went on to have a career with USGS. Harry Glicken, who was field 00:44:00assistant to David Johnston. He had been stationed on May 17th at the site where David Johnston's camp was. The camp consisted of a camper and maybe a tent and a pickup. David Johnston took over for Harry the night of May 17th so Harry could go down to town and do his laundry and meet with a prospective grad student advisor, and David Johnston took over and then was killed the next morning. Harry was enlisted to help look for David Johnston's camp in the first few days [after the eruption], maybe even on the afternoon of May 18th.

Then he went on this trip and Barry Voight had been to that camp. We spent a 00:45:00little bit of our helicopter time looking for it. But we also were making geological observations along what became known as Johnston's Ridge and at the north end of the west arm of Spirit Lake. Our mission was to try to figure out whether the blast or the giant landslide reached those sites first. Harry seemed like he still had, you know, he was still traumatized and may have been partly suffering survivor's guilt. It was quite amazing that then he completed his Ph.D. on the giant landslide deposit.

SS: Of St. Helens?

FS: At St. Helens at University of California Santa Cruz, I think it was. Then he went over to Japan and was studying similar deposits from big volcanoes 00:46:00resulting from sector collapse of big volcanos over there. He was looking for a way to get back to the U.S. I remember he called me up one time in the context of a search that was going on for a new faculty member in geology at OSU, Oregon State. But then he went out with three other people, a Japanese scientist and the Kraffts, a French couple that made movies of eruptions and they went out to Mount Unzen volcano and they were killed in a pyroclastic flow there. He dodged the bullet at St. Helens, but was then killed. David Johnston had dodged a bullet as described in this book by Richard Waite up at an Alaska volcano.

SS: Redoubt?

FS: Yeah. He-I think it was Redoubt. He lived to tell the story there, but then 00:47:00was killed at St. Helens. Anyway, the four of us went in and we made a few stops and it was just a totally amazing and overwhelming experience.

SS: Where did you take off from? Where was the original helipad, the location? Vancouver or?

FS: I think it was Pearson Airstrip in Vancouver. I remember we went out to, it may have been Woodland, for refueling. Helicopters, I think it was an AStar, and I think it only had a few hours of fuel capacity and I think we were in the very 00:48:00early days you needed to keep the rotor going in case there was more eruptive activity and you had to boogie on out.

SS: That was the rule, though, of going into the red zone?

FS: Yeah.

SS: Was it still called the red zone after the eruption?

FS: It was, yeah.

SS: Okay, so to be able to go in there you had to continue to have the rotors going so you could quickly escape?

FS: Yeah.

SS: As you're going from Vancouver to Woodland and you're going over a lot of full-sized forested areas, describe the process of going over and then the arrival shall we say.

FS: To travel in from Vancouver, you do fly 15 or maybe 20 minutes over for the most part green forests. A lot of it's industrial forest. You may catch a little 00:49:00Forest Service. Been pretty heavily managed, but then you pop into the blast zone and it is just absolutely stunning. You have the gaping crater and then just valley upon valley, Clearwater and Bean and Smith and the upper Toutle and the Green River, these monstrous valleys that have all been overridden by the blast with these amazing patterns of toppled forest and some cases monstrous, 600-year-old forest. For years since, if you drive in from the east side, it's just totally mind-boggling the immensity of the blast disturbance. It's really 00:50:00an amazing scene to behold.

Your question about the ecologists going in early on, I think Jerry got, I think it was $50,000 from the National Science Foundation for a type of grant that was at one time a Sugar grant. Now it's called a Rapid grant, where you can get funding quickly to study something where you really need to capitalize on it and it bypasses the formal peer review system, which takes months and months. We got some Forest Service research funding and some National Science Foundation 00:51:00funding. Jerry spearheaded that. Then, Jim Sedell, who had led the stream team and was good buddies with the lakes people up at the University of Washington from the IBP era of the '70s, so Jim led the charge on the aquatics front, which was lakes, ponds, streams, and hydrothermal environments. Jerry was leading the overall charge and then on the forest vegetation front, and then I played a role of helping to bridge to the geology community, especially people like Dick Janda and others at USGS. We were trying to facilitate interactions to encourage interdisciplinarity.


That's so critical in that context, as I like to say you can't tell your best geology story unless you're reading all the messages that you can that the ecological conditions have to tell you. You can't tell your best ecology story unless you really have the geology straight. The geo-eco interactions, which had become the dominant theme for my career at that point, geo-eco interactions really came together in spades and with a boom there. Some of the first activities of the ecology scene were to contract with a big Greyhound bus type 00:53:00helicopter, that could carry like 16, 18, 20 people.

SS: A big Sikorsky, workhorse kind of one?

FS: Yeah, well, it wasn't a Skycrane type, but it was one of those big troop transporters. Most of our pilots were Vietnam veterans and then take people in and stop at various places and get out and say, well, what the hell's happening here? What was probably here before and what's happening now? There were some of these early trips, and then we had the first Pulse and Pulses are a very important theme for Mount St. Helens. Jerry had run Pulses before to places like Mount Rainier, the Hoh River in the Olympic Peninsula, west side, and Sequoia 00:54:00Kings National Park. Many of these are national parks. He wanted to do them with his crews of people, students and technicians and volunteers and others. He roped Jim Sedell and Jerry and I and our colleagues in and Jerry was doing it partly for team building. Also, he was having his work crews put in these hectare-scale big permanent sample plots in native forests and I've accused him of wanting to get an aluminum numbered tag in every tree in the northwest. This was part of his effort to do that.

When Mount St. Helens erupted and there were the challenges of getting in there, 00:55:00we organized Pulses in the summer of '80 and '81. They ran 2 weeks. They were based out of the Cispus Center, which was an environmental learning center mostly for schoolkids in Washington. There were bunkhouses and a big mess hall, cafeteria style. We could travel into the blast area from there. We arranged for radios that had the right frequencies. Forest Service had passes for getting in and we got some four-wheel drive vehicles to help with transportation and also contracted helicopters.

SS: Let's go back, though, to that first day. Give me some more details about 00:56:00that first day. You talked about the personal angles and about the reaction of David Johnston's colleague and that kind of thing, but tell me about you're looking around a little bit for remnants of his camp, correct? Then you decide to land somewhere to look at something. What decisions do you recall that made into where you landed and why?

FS: Well, Barry Voight was our leader, and he's a specialist of big landslides. We were interested in looking at the landslide deposits. It's interesting that Bezymianny volcano had blown up in Kamchatka in the '50s and there was a good report on it, but no American had ever been there because [SS interrupts].

SS: Because of the Cold War.

FS: It was the Cold War and that's where ICBM's (intercontinental ballistic missile) bases were set up for launching at us. But, it was said that he had a 00:57:00photo of Bezymianny which showed a gaping crater and a big rubbly, hummocky landslide deposit [in his office]. It seemed like it had erupted very much in the style of Mount St. Helens. Anyway, he was interested in this matter of the timing of the landslide versus the blast. The place that I most vividly remember for several reasons was a saddle towards the east end of Johnston's Ridge, where some of the landslide had ridden over the thousand-foot high ridge and spilled into the next drainage of the headwaters of South Coldwater Creek and then 00:58:00run-down South Coldwater Creek, scouring the hillsides and leaving deposits in the bottom [of the valley]. I remembered we stopped in that saddle. We dug a pit that was about a foot deep. Two things I remember observing there that were geo-eco interactions things. One is that we found a big chunk of a Doug fir tree in the deposits. It had the sort of lacy, alectorid lichens on the bowl. If you go into an upper elevation forest and you look on the tree boles and they're a little hairy with light green lichens and I remember noting that they did not 00:59:00look scorched, heated. They were probably in the landslide deposit, which had arrived first, because there was this granular [SS interrupts].

SS: Before the pyroclastic flow.

FS: Before the big blast deposit. Because then there was this finer, better-sorted blast material on top of it, but only a few tens of centimeters thick. I commented on that interpretation, which was a reading of the biology, you know, to Barry and he said, "Oh, man, that's way cool." He said, hey Harry, if you study this landslide you need to talk to the ecologists and see what they have to tell you.

SS: You remember that exact geology ecology like must be talking to each other from the very, very first.

FS: Yes. First stop. The second thing of that note, which I had a chance only a 01:00:00month or two ago to discuss with one of the world's experts in mycology, Jim Trappe, second thing was after we'd been there a few minutes some of the granule sized particles in the deposits on the walls of our little pits, you know, little rock fragments maybe 5, 6, 7 mm across were dangling from spiderweb-like filaments in the breeze, and, so, later in talking with some mycologists, I came to think that they were probably mycelia of burn-site fungi; and Jim Trappe, I 01:01:00stuck my head in his office the other day, and I was asking him about that and he and colleagues had gone in there right at the get-go, and they had found several tens of species of fungi that had those properties that, if they're heated, if the spores are heated significantly, but not too much, then they will germinate and start sending mycelia through the soil and they've adapted to wildfire, which is a frequent part of our northwest forest landscape, whereas blast deposits and blast processes are extremely rare and not frequent enough to 01:02:00be an evolutionary force, whereas fire [SS interrupts].

SS: They're rare in human historic time.

FS: They are.

SS: In that context, right?

FS: Right. But they're probably not an evolutionary force and so here may be an adaption to wildfire with these fungi that can help sop up nutrients that are released by first burning fire and then the first rains would mobilize nitrogen and other critical nutrients. If you have these fungi all ready to go, they may help retain those nutrients in the terrestrial ecosystem, rather than having them flushed out of the system. The effect of the steam-driven blast, when the superheated groundwater flashed to steam to create the blast, had both heat and 01:03:00moisture. After the blast occurred and the blast cloud expanded off to the north, the water could condense, that steam could condense on the rock fragments in the atmosphere. You had both the heat and the water come together in that context and I think produce what I'd say [SS interrupts].

SS: A perfect medium for regeneration or continued growth, right?

FS: Yeah. They may not have, you know, survived because of inadequate organic matter. I just don't know. Those are the kinds of things that occurred on that first afternoon of May 28th and I was just totally stoked by it.

SS: So, you were there only one, part of one day, correct?

FS: At that very early stage.

SS: Like what, a few hours?

FS: Oh, we might have had four or five hours that we were out there.


SS: You went to how many locations? You went to that one you were talking about, the little saddle on the edge of Johnston Ridge, and then did you go down more into the Pumice Plain area or anywhere like that?

FS: I only remember two. Maybe I could find my notebook. I should go back and see if I can find it. It was quite a scramble.

SS: But more than anything, it must have been just a massively overwhelming processing of this experience, even for somebody like you or other people who are serious scientists, but you're humans, too.

FS: Oh yeah, you know there had been a few things. First time going into the little blast zone at Chaitén Volcano down in Chile or going out for a few days during the '96 flood to the Andrews and watching things over the course of a 01:05:00couple days. Gordon Grant was doing some video work. He got about 25 minutes of the video coverage and we're commenting on what we're seeing. These are cases where, as a specialist in this kind of stuff, you are seeing so much and you're making rapid-fire interpretations and it's just, there's just so many things to observe and interpret and over that whole summer of 1980 and '81 I was still finding amazing things. Other people were observing them, too, and making their interpretations. But, it was just a constant barrage and delight of all the little mysteries that were going on. In the context of these Pulses, so for [SS interrupts].

SS: So, you're moving forward to the more formal Pulses later in the year and beyond, correct?

FS: Yeah. In the Pulses, for example, people go out and do their fieldwork. We 01:06:00had, I think, it was like 160 people or so over the two-week period with up to 100 at a time. Some people were coming and going. We had a film crew from NOVA for a while. At one point we had 5 helicopters taking off. It was like Apocalypse Now, but in the evenings then we would have just a big, open forum in a gym at the Cispus Learning Center and people would just share their stories. Then the limnologists might be staying up all night processing their samples in a makeshift lab. It was just really a charged environment and there'd be some media people. A big part of it is communicating to the world via the media the 01:07:00stories as they were unfolding and so that's where the decade of training of the '70s, and how to tell stories and how to see the connectivity amongst ecosystem components and where disturbances fit in ecosystems - all this kind of training was incredibly important in the first period, which has run for years, and actually continues today in media communications and other kinds of communicating. It's very interesting, because that training in the early days at Mount St. Helens proved to be extremely vital when the forest wars emerged yet another decade later. There's this sort of play off between what we were experiencing in the context of the Andrews and how basic science over the period 01:08:00of 10, 20, 30 years played out big time in public and policy. Same kinds of things for Mount St. Helens.

SS: Now, I think Jim Sedell in his chapter in his chapter in In the Blast Zone, called them the science tribes. How do you remember the tribes, the different disciplines, initially interacting? Then, eventually maybe, or not maybe, maybe not seeing the fact that this was a transdisciplinary, interdisciplinary effort at least on some level?

FS: Well, for our tribe, however you define it [SS interrupts].

SS: I'm just saying, I'm stealing his language from the book.

FS: Yeah, I know. There's a whole interesting little story about how we got that essay. I'll do "tribe" first, and then I'll try to remember to go back to that 01:09:00essay. He was very emotional in 2005 in the four-day experience of going to Mount St. Helens with a group of writers and a few veteran scientists. It's documented in our book In the Blast Zone from OSU Press in 2008. Anyway, he was very emotional because he'd left the science-doing world and had gone deeply into the science-administration world, and when he was there, he realized how much he missed that.

But, an interesting thing in the early Mount St. Helens period, and to some extent it continues, in the forest wars period of the latest '80s well into the 01:10:001990s in the period of the President's Forest Summit, which Jim performed with Clinton and Gore in Portland in '93 and then on through the formation of the Northwest Forest Plan. You know these were really big phenomena, social phenomena and science had a big play in it, and it was so big that for the most part there didn't have to be turf wars. There was stuff for everybody to work on and it was still bigger than all the stuff we were working on. Also, because of our humble roots in the early '70s as a bunch of shaggy postdocs working for some guys who seemed older, like Jerry Franklin and Dick Waring, but really 01:11:00weren't very much older, but they just happened to be leading the show on these innovative, wild, and wooly things and this is post, not too far from the '60s and sort of peace and love revolution type stuff. Anyway, that was a little bit of the mood. People were just working hard and having a good time and learning a lot and we, like on the forest-stream-geomorphology interactions in the '70s or work on the role of wood in streams was highly integrative and each party brought something to the story and no one party, no one discipline, owned the story. Same thing at St. Helens. Nobody owned the story. It was a big story. I 01:12:00think that was really powerfully important in the degree of comradery and mutual support.

SS: I want to go back and clarify and frame the progression of the scientific trips, Pulses, whatever you call them, that happened after that initial foray, shall we say, in a few days after the eruption.

FS: Yeah, I'm speaking from my own experience here and I'm sure other things were going on, especially to try to get it from Jerry, and if you get to talk to somebody like Roger del Moral or Jim MacMahon you should ask them, because their experiences are different.

SS: They're going to be at the Pulse?

FS: Jerry will be there the first few days. I think Roger del Moral will be 01:13:00there. He's retired and is I believe not continuing his field studies. Virginia Dale may be there, and you should ask [SS interrupts].

SS: She's one of your coeditors on your ecological response in the book, correct?

FS: Right, she's at Oak Ridge. I think she was a grad student at UW at the time. Each of these people will have different experiences. Some of the activities would have been in common. I had that first trip that I described on May 28. I think I went up there with Dick Janda at USGS on some other trips. I remember 01:14:00that the Forest Service, the National Forest, made it difficult in some ways to get in there and was discouraging of their own staff to go in. I remember we on the Forest Service research front wanted to take in a soil scientist for the National Forest and the National Forest staff didn't want him to go in. My impression was they were familiar with fires, but that they weren't familiar with volcanoes. That made them [SS interrupts].

SS: Nervous?

FS: Nervous. Anyway, I remember going on a trip, and actually there's a picture from it in this US Geological Survey Professional Paper 1250 of a trip with Janda on the Toutle River looking at mudflow impacts, for example. Anyway, there 01:15:00was various field tripping that was occurring and then there was the Pulse and I forget the dates of it. Now we're doing them generally at the beginning of August, although this year it's a little bit early. When the vegetation is in a pretty good state for plant ID and phenologically and before the Ecological Society of America meetings. I'd be curious to learn, and I expect we have records of it. Somewhere I may even have all the notes on who all the participants were. I don't know if you've found that in any of the files you've looked at.

SS: There are so many files in there. I did make notes of what the St. Helens stuff was, but we're still focused mainly on the Andrews. They weren't as detailed as the other ones.

FS: Right. The Pulse was so central in getting everybody together. I think that 01:16:00that sense of community that occurred that was fed by the Pulses was important in making it possible to get this year 25 book done. I was trying to lead to charge on it, and I was not successful in getting closure, but Virginia Dale, who had done a bunch of books with Springer and had an editor that she liked working with, you know, got it done. That was great. There were also some symposia and workshops and we got some workshop support funds from NSF. I forget the dates of those. I have them and I can dig some of them up. But that helped 01:17:00communications within the ecology community. There was really a smattering of activities over the course of the summer that weren't, summers of '80 and '81, they weren't highly integrated.

SS: Specifically, how did the Andrews team, if you could characterize as such, become involved and how did they become involved that first year and beyond?

FS: A bunch of people from the Andrews did go up there and I think if you talk with Charlie, some of the Andrews people, like Mark Harmon and Kermit Cromack, who had been postdocs in our group, and Jim and myself, people on the stream front, Norm Anderson and then others, Chuck Hawkins who had been a postdoc in 01:18:00the River Continuum Project in the late '70s. He went and did work and has continued in conjunction with Charlie Crisafulli in his capacity as a Utah State prof. Many Andrews people went there. We did not have an integrated Andrews group effort. Many people who started work then let it slip and have not persisted with it in some cases, creating problems and projects that fall to Charlie to get [SS interrupts].

SS: Because he's there, right?

FS: Because he's there and he is extremely attentive to keeping long-term 01:19:00measurements programs going. That's not in everyone's instinct, including my own. I started some erosion studies and ran them for some years and then let them go for several reasons, including at some sites bioturbation by elk and snow creep were disrupting my measurement approach with erosion pins and stuff like that.

Anyway, what has become the science program is partly somewhat corporate and Charlie's personal energy and instincts, both socially within the science social 01:20:00network and logistically. These have been exceptional in making possible the monstrous amount of work that has been accomplished there. Plus, there are other individuals. Early on Larry Bliss and then Roger del Moral and some of their students have kept quite a bit of work going in close to the volcano, particularly on the Pumice Plain and some on the south side, south flank and the upper flanks of the volcano, and just tons of other work now under a LTREB (Long-Term Research in Environmental Biology), an LTREB grant that keeps Charlie and John Bishop from WSU, Vancouver, and Bill Fagan from Maryland going on a 01:21:00bunch of studies. It's nucleated by Charlie and then run by a bunch of individuals.

SS: How would you describe the interactions in the first year between the USGS people and all the ecosystem science people?

FS: It's very interesting to look at the USGS Professional Paper 1250 and they've been writing about it. That's their quick, out of the blocks, published in 1981, which is hyper fast for USGS, which is notoriously slow in its publication process.

SS: Glacial, to use an obvious metaphor, for them.


FS: Yeah. But it is amazing to me. I've just been writing about it in this chapter for the Mount St. Helens year 35 book, how much observation of damage to vegetation the geologists of many chapters used studying many processes in the 1250 volume - the amount of charring, the amount of abrasion, the damage to the cuticle waxes on foliage of trees in the scorch zone and all kinds of biothermometry, for example, that these geologists use.


SS: In other words, they were studying geology, but they were referencing the other in their descriptions?

FS: The damage to the vegetation informed their interpretations of the physical processes. In some cases, they were collaborating with ecologists, but I think in most cases they were not. We did have, and we continue to have, some USGS guys show up at our Pulses to help inform us of stories that are interesting and important.

SS: So, the USGS doesn't have Pulses, just more an ecosystem science thing?

FS: Correct. It was interesting that at Chaitén we (Charlie, Julia, and I) had the good fortune of timing one of our visits, I think it was our 2010 trip, at 01:24:00the same time that some of the USGS guys were going, including volcanologists and also a couple of the hydro-geomorphology guys with whom we have closer contact, partly because of the debris flow flume at the Andrews, like with Jon Major. That was a really interesting and exciting trip. I mention it because, in a way, it was a Pulse. It was an interdisciplinary trip and we shared views and then we have a collection of papers in an issue of Andean Geology that includes our dominantly ecological paper, although it's in a geology journal, but it's in this set of papers. A really important part of it was that they had a helicopter 01:25:00under contract that had to come a long way, because this is a pretty remote place in terms of helicopter support.

SS: You're talking about down in South America?

FS: Yeah. A major reason for having a helicopter was after we'd been there for a while some more people showed up from the Chilean counterpart to USGS, the SERNAGEOMIN. These technicians showed up because they were going to install web cameras and seismic equipment for monitoring Chaitén volcano in the future, but there were some days there when the geologists had access to the helicopter and they let us tag along and get dropped off in these places we never would have 01:26:00gotten otherwise, so we could see some damage at levels that we weren't getting directly exposed to by foot or car. That was the inadvertent Pulse. Actually, it was written up as such in a short piece in EOS.

SS: So, the Pulses started in 1980, maybe August or so, July, August?

FS: The Pulse as a general phenomenon Jerry had been running in earlier years in other places. But we applied the technique of a giant group [SS talks over FS].

SS: And that happened-?

FS: In '80, '81 and then not again until, I don't remember if we did it in 2000. We did it in 2005 and '10 and... [trials off].

SS: Now what were the different studies for instance of the records that I've seen down in the Forestry Sciences Lab that have '80, '81, '82, '83, '84, '85 01:27:00and some of them even continue up to '89. What are those from do you know?

FS: Well, there are many studies that were going on out there. The ones that you probably found, I don't know if these are those or not. There were many vegetation plots that were put in, some in the context of riparian zones along the mudflow, so there are mudflow related studies. Peter Frenzen and Joe Means were involved in those. There were the uplands studies in the blast zone that included paired up plots of downed timber and salvaged timber and pre-eruption clear-cuts. In some cases, there were three plots that were adjacent in those 01:28:00three circumstances. Those have been difficult to keep going. Then there's [SS interrupts].

SS: Funding or access, or both?

FS: Funding and a champion who is really attentive to keep them going. Then there are just all kinds of other studies, many of which are managed by Charlie. They include birds and ponds and amphibians and fish in Spirit Lake and a bunch of veg stuff. Some of those are arrayed along a disturbance gradient from the Pumice Plain right in front of the volcano through the blast zone, including toppled tree and standing dead and the various levels out in the tephra deposition out in the green forest.

SS: What kind of permits did you have to get to do studies back in the early days? Obviously, you needed to have access, the red zone thing. Beyond that was 01:29:00it kind of the wild west? There was pre-monument, pre-how do we manage this new landscape kind of thing. They just mainly were concerned with your safety?

FS: There was a permitting and reporting system for studies and that was a time when the National Forest were trying, and they still do, try to keep track of what's going on where, so they minimize damage to research efforts. We were familiar with that from the Andrews where we have to be attentive to where 01:30:00people are working because we want to maximize synergies and minimize footprint in control areas and not have people interfere with other people's work. There was an effort on the part of the National Forest to track who was doing what where. I don't remember the particulars. I vaguely remember some form. Then there was in the Monument Act-so, congress passed Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Act, was that '83? [1982] That established some kind of 01:31:00science advisory board and that ran for some years. I remember Jack Winjum was one of the leaders of it. Here you've handed me the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument Draft Environmental Impact Statement Preemptive Management Plan, October 7, 1984. This plan was produced in accordance with the directives in the National Volcanic Monument Act of '83. I remember several of us and I was one and Joe Means was another and I think Jim Sedell may have had a role. We 01:32:00worked up in Vancouver. I remember staying at the Shilo Inn and eating at the Spaghetti Factory and so scientists were involved in the development of this management plan. One thing I remember from the early days, that is probably '80 or '81, during the Pulse. I remember a day when Jerry and maybe Jim and I stayed in, didn't go to the field. We were outlining a map features of special interest for research. We'd outline Spirit Lake but then we needed to outline the contributing watershed to Spirit Lake. I remember interacting with Dick Janda, 01:33:00who was very keen on having the upper Green River included in the monument, because he was hoping the USGS would put in a gauging station there so we could look at what the sediment production and runoff was like in basins with different disturbances. He and others in USGS were involved with quite a bit of that, particularly off on the Toutle River drainage side. In that area, in part it related to what the Corps of Engineers might do for control of sediment and runoff down into the Cowlitz, lower Toutle, Cowlitz Columbia system and the effects on communities down there, for example.

SS: Incredible that it stopped shipping in the Columbia for a short period of time.


FS: Well it was [SS interrupts].

SS: A month or so, didn't it?

FS: --quite an amazing phenomenon because the Interstate 5 and the railroad line, which is a major north-south [transportation] corridor, was closed down as the monstrous North Fork Toutle mudflow approached. That was a very brief shut down, but then the shipping channel was closed and there was great concern about Trojan Nuclear Power Plant, which was just upriver from the confluence of the Cowlitz and the Columbia. In terms of monster infrastructure and commerce, the reach of the volcano was 60, 70 miles.

SS: How would you compare this eruption to other historic eruptions? I mean, 01:35:00macro-geographically, also in the Cascade Range.

FS: Well, clearly in terms of Euro human presence, it's far and away the biggest deal in the Cascades in the past centuries.

SS: Mount Mazama would be the last just gigantic blast, or more recently than that?

FS: That's where I would go, you know 7,000 or so years ago. Cascades have been relatively quiet compared to say some Indonesian and southern Chilean volcanic systems, which are quite active.

SS: In terms of intensity, you'd have to go back to Krakatoa or Tambora?

FS: Oh, it wasn't that, those were real big. You can just look that up and look 01:36:00at the Volcanic Explosivity, VEI, Volcanic Explosivity Index. St. Helens ranks up there, but it didn't [SS interrupts].

SS: Not in the top tier.

FS: Right. It was a little steam-driven blast and a pretty good-sized landslide. But it pales in comparison with the landslide from 100,000 or 300,000 years ago from Shasta that you drive through on I-5. I think it's at least an order of magnitude, maybe several orders of magnitude bigger volume of that landslide.

SS: Off to the west side there, right?

FS: To the north.

SS: The north side, okay.

FS: How big a deal is Mount St. Helens in ecological research terms? Charlie and I, especially Charlie, have been working on that and we have one very brief 01:37:00documentation at the end of our Encyclopedia of Volcanoes chapter based on only 400-some publications from 44 volcanoes that have erupted since, including Krakatoa, in 1883, which really launched this work in a way. We had 44 volcanoes since 1883, which have had published studies of plant and animal response to the eruption, and Mount St. Helens counts for more than [SS interrupts].


SS: 70%, would by my guess, of the literature?

FS: Let's see, I don't have the number here, but it's a lot, and [SS interrupts].

SS: It's kind of timing, really, I mean it's the fact that it happened in 1980 right as ecosystem science was becoming developed and the fact that it happened in the middle of a developed country, where everybody, there was a huge cadre of trained scientists ready to go in, correct?

FS: Correct. So, we're going to write more detailed description of this. Here we're looking at this figure that has a timeline of these 44 volcanoes beginning in 1883 up through Caulle in 2011, which have published plant and animal studies from them, and, so, Mount St. Helens in this documentation has 177, and, so, 01:39:00there are many aspects of St. Helens that make it so heavily studied, and it's one of only 3 highly-studied, of the highest class of study intensity, which include Krakatoa, Surtsey, which erupted from the sea south of Iceland in the early 1960s, then St. Helens. These are the three biggies. St. Helens for reasons such as you just described: a high level of access; many processes, volcanic processes involved affecting a wide array of ecosystem types: forest, alpine meadows, lakes, ponds, streams, rivers; lots of access, lots of 01:40:00scientists in the neighborhood tuned in on these kinds of phenomena and sustained public interests and a good interpretive program which feeds science stories to the globe through programs such as NOVA and so forth. Mount St. Helens has a very special place in society and in culture.

SS: We're getting a little ahead of ourselves with a legacy and influence and things like that, because I really do want to go into the real details of the ecosystem science and different sub-disciplinary and different subject areas, but the legacy factor is enormous in ecosystem science. Obviously, it's part of 01:41:00the geological study that's been going on for a long time, and that still remains the primary for a lot of scientists regarding volcanism, but in terms of ecosystem science, its legacy is hard to match. Or it's unmatched.

FS: Well, we have a picture of the place of Mount St. Helens in disturbance ecology from volcanoes. That's pretty easy to see and document, and that's what Charlie's been working on. The stuff that we have in the Encyclopedia chapter is based on only 400 some publications and now he's expanded that to over 800. We got to go back to the analysis. I don't think that the broad outline of a story 01:42:00will change, but it'll be a richer and more nuanced story. But the impact of Mount St. Helens on ecological thinking in general is harder to weigh, for me. I just can't speak to that with authority. I'm too deep in these particular weeds to see that and I'm not really any kind of historian of ecology itself. I'll leave that to others to sort out.

SS: Well, it would seem to me that just the mere fact that so much energy went into studying ecosystem science at this place sends a powerful message that that's an important part of studying any volcanic process. Obviously, some countries and situations are more or less situated to be able to do that, especially with the intensity that this happened. It seems to me that the study 01:43:00results and the continuing study would offer many valuable comparisons, contrasts, analogies to certainly temperate zone coniferous forests. Japan would come to mind as a more obvious analog, in terms of latitudinally, but also even to more tropical zones you just have to make exceptions for certain conditions that are different. But, still, you could still make those analogies and comparisons. It would seem like even though that stands alone, just like in any scientific history of any scientific discipline or study area, we often go from a certain place and then we go out and we either reject or we challenge or we change the language, just like the geologic language was all based in European nomenclature, and that's gradually changing a little bit. The outcome from 01:44:00basically eastern Europe and central Europe and the history of geology really well. The same thing would be true for ecosystem science in this context, as this spreads out and it applies or it doesn't apply and then it gets changed, morphs and turns into something different, maybe.

FS: Yeah, I think like you say in a way it's a bit of a perfect storm in the sense that big, diverse eruption occurred in an area with federal lands where there's a strong commitment to research and learning and in a cultural context where that's possible and there was a big investment. There's been a big investment in interpretative facilities and programs, which really actually had 01:45:00an overreach because not all those facilities have been self-sustaining, but they're still beautiful and some of them are really offering a lot of information delivery to the public. Then the value of the science as content for interpretive programs is well-recognized because the leadership of those programs and interpretive programs recognize and capitalize on it. A lot of great stuff is happening. It's sort of an archetype. On the other hand, I kind of look at LTER programs and I'm thinking, well, there's certainly a lot more that can be done at Mount St. Helens. It deserves to be an LTER-like site that 01:46:00has the level of Forest Service and [SS interrupts].

SS: Has that ever been proposed?

FS: I don't think it was ever formally proposed when there had been opportunities. But the magnitude of what's happened on the science-doing front is a big role of Charlie and his personal energy. There's the power of the place in continuing to attract the interest of scientists.

SS: Because it is what it is.

FS: It is what it is as a phenomenal landscape. But, on neither the NSF nor the Forest Service Research fronts has there been a commitment to infrastructure at the scale of an LTER site for data management, for corporate data collection, 01:47:00you know stream gauging in one thing or another, and a lot of this stuff is getting done, but it's a bit catch-as-catch-can and it's understaffed relative to the impact of the program and it takes stomach lining from people like Charlie, who constantly sweat the bureaucracy and fight the budget wars to keep things afloat.

SS: It seems to me like once Charlie retires there's going to be a void.

FS: There's a succession thinking and planning underway now.

SS: Okay, good.

FS: He's in better shape now than he has been in the past because we have a 01:48:00station director [PNW Research Station] that recognizes the importance of the impacts of the program.

SS: We are going to take a brief break right now and we'll come back. This is file 31. When we come back it'll probably be file 32. [Transition from Phase 1 to Phase 2 of the interview.]

SS: Okay we are back on the record, basically phase 2 of this interview today on July 2, 2015, between Samuel Schmieding and Fred Swanson in his Corvallis home. We will basically recommence where we left off and we will continue talking about his experience with Mount St. Helens, ecosystem science, and his career. 01:49:00Now, where would you say that Mount St. Helens fits in the overall constellation of your science career projects, in the kind of, shall we say, vector of your career?

FS: Mount St. Helens has a very important place in my career, but I have had lots of activities that have occurred elsewhere. I can think of a number of features of my career, some of which had origin points well in advance of the eruption, but had important play in the Mount St. Helens context. First, is the interest and instinct for interdisciplinarity which really began in my experiences at the Bermuda Biological Station after my freshman year at Penn 01:50:00State in 1963. Of course, Mount St. Helens has been a wonderful venue for practicing interdisciplinarity among science disciplines and with the science and humanities and in other contexts. Second, volcanology and volcano ecology, of course, Mount St. Helens has been hugely central to that, but I'd been launched by my work at the Andrews Forest and studies of young Cascade volcanoes as I tried to do the work on the old volcanic rocks in the Cascades, as found in the Andrews, plus the Galapagos work in about 1970. The concepts of forest and stream ecosystems and the teamwork involved there had tremendous play at Mount 01:51:00St. Helens, but it really was really formed in the IBP era in the '70s at the Andrews, which for me began in '72. But Mount St. Helens was particularly important in challenging and broadening disturbance concepts and for me a disturbance person that was really important. Fourth, amazingly, Mount St. Helens eruption and the Andrews LTER both began in 1980. I've sort of been bouncing back and forth between those two worlds and seeing what can be done with LTER like science and then hoping that that could happen at Mount St. Helens, including infrastructure issues, such as information management. The 01:52:00forest wars and the Northwest Forest Plan formulation and implementation was a big distraction for me and probably others in the Andrews group, a distraction from Mount St. Helens work, particularly in the late '80s and the first half of the '90s.

SS: Is that responsible, perhaps, for a waning of the intensity from your group in terms of studying St. Helens because they were distracted by, shall we say, pressing political issues?

FS: There could be some of that for sure, I think, although some of the waning may have occurred even earlier. But I do see important complementarity between the Andrews and the Mount St. Helens experiences particularly with respect to learning about communicating with the public through the media and other ways. Then, for me, there was some waning there in that period of the forest wars, 01:53:00which for me were based more out of my Andrews experience. But, a return to Mount St. Helens for synthesis work on the Mount St. Helens year 25 book and the work on the Chilean volcanoes in 2009 through 2013 and more recent volcano ecology synthesis with Charlie Crisafulli and actually a bunch of my arts and humanities efforts have a substantial root in the trip to Mount St. Helens with Gary Snyder, a poet, in 2000 and we didn't really get our activities going at the Andrews on humanities concertedly until 2002, so Mount St. Helens helped seed those efforts. That's a little bit about the larger dimensions of my career 01:54:00and how Mount St. Helens fits.

SS: It seems like a rather fortuitous or coincidental, or however you want to characterize it, that the LTER date, the initiation of that program, and Mount St. Helens. That's interesting historical happenstance.

FS: Well, both of them are very interesting and unlikely. The establishment of the LTER system by the National Science Foundation was a radical change for the NSF. It was a human constructed change, whereas Mount St. Helens was an out-of-the-blue geophysical thing. I consider them both quite unlikely and their juxtaposition in that year is all the more unlikely, therefore.


SS: If you were going to describe the interplay between those two, the Andrews and its satellite of research sites and St. Helens, how would you describe that interplay?

FS: Well, there were some really tangible aspects of the interplay with some of the same people in the tribe, as Jim referred to them, and the same spirit and there was a familiarity, an emerging familiarity, of communicating our messages in simply, broadly understood terms. There were these behaviors and science questions and things like that that were in common between the two places. I do 01:56:00have the feeling that, through Jerry Franklin's model and mentoring, we all got used to stepping up and doing things that were sort of public things on big stages. Those two places ended up being big stages for performance.

SS: How would you describe his mentoring?

FS: Well, there is a little story. I was, it's probably on a tape from the Andrews oral history, but that I went with a class that he was taking around touring the Northwest and he came to the Andrews. I was with him in this class of University of Washington students, I think some undergrads and some grads. We 01:57:00went up to the Carpenter Mountain lookout. He told a story while we were up there looking out across the landscape of the first time that he set out to hike up there and this was in the '50s before there were any of the roads that we could see from that vantage point. He described how he was very aware of the point of which he had passed the point of no return, that is, if he wanted to go back and sleep in a bed in the cabin where he was staying, he needed to turn around then, because if he went further it would be too dark to make it back.

SS: He didn't have a sleeping bag. He was just out there, right?

FS: Well, I think he was prepared physically to sleep out, but he wasn't confident that he was prepared mentally. But he pushed himself and he slept out and he did fine and he slept out a lot since then. But my reaction, was, hey, 01:58:00you son of a bitch, you take us out there on a limb past the point of no return and making arguments about the policy implications of science or one thing or another like that and we had to go with you.

SS: Was that a conscious thing he did to pull you along or was that just the force of who he was and if you were with him, that's where you went?

FS: I think he felt that that's where things needed to go, and, so, that's where he was going, and he wanted us with him. We have not always followed him, though we have greatly benefited by doing so. He mentored by example, especially in storytelling and enthusiasm for what you're doing and the importance of helping 01:59:00the next generation along so that they can go do the good work in the future. Things of this nature.

SS: He's very inspirational to people, isn't he?

FS: Oh yeah. You know he's got a knack for picking big things to do, sort of monumental experiments like the 200-year log decomposition experiment in [SS talks over FS].

SS: That was actually his idea before Mark's or Mark was-?

FS: Correct, Jerry, my understanding, and you can check this with both Jerry and Mark, that it was Jerry's idea to put down the stake [in the ground] and say this is what "long-term" is all about. We'll shoot for 200 years, the decay lifetime of the logs of this size in some of these species. That was to make an 02:00:00emphatic commitment to thinking and working on this timescale. Mark was a graduate student, a very good and determined one. His task was to implement it. So, he did it.

SS: And he continues to.

FS: Yeah, and here we are in year 30.

SS: Yes. Along that, and this was something I was going to talk to you about later, but we'll go into it now, what could be some specific programs, products, intellectual tracks, theorems, axioms, that directly came out of the Andrews or St. Helens and one impacted and interplayed back on the other? Some specific examples? The log decomp [decomposition] would be an obvious one to me in a different environment, but still log decomp and a lot of downed wood.

FS: For decomposers there's a feast of downed wood in a landscape like the blast 02:01:00zone at Mount St. Helens. For me, as a disturbance ecology person with an emphasis on physical processes, the disturbance thinking was hugely amplified by the experience of Mount St. Helens and to try to think about what is the common ground and what are the differences between volcanic and non-volcanic disturbances and are volcanic processes very unusual and not worthy of a lot of attention or do they have really important things to teach us? So, my experience 02:02:00in the Andrews of looking at fire, wind throw, slow landslides, rapid landslides, flood-induced channel change, root throw, all of these different processes provide a nice counterpoint in a suite of non-volcanic processes to compare with the volcanic processes of pyroclastic flows, lahars, monster debris avalanche, blast, tephra fall at Mount St. Helens. I feel like we've learned a lot of interesting things about the importance of biological legacies, the timing of disturbance events at multiple scales and how that aligns or does not align with the state of the vegetation, for example, or animals' behavior and 02:03:00thinking about disturbance mechanisms and not just types. All of these ideas are a product of the experiences at both of those places.

SS: Who else other than yourself is still at the Andrews that was involved way back then?

FS: Is that question who is now involved, both at the Andrews and Mount St. Helens?

SS: Or either or. I mean just who is still around that did some of that work back then? I know Al Levno was there on some, he took pictures on some of the early trips. Some of the other people, I'm forgetting their names right now, but what's some of the other people, the H.J. people, that took large roles, especially in the '80s.

FS: Well, Jerry was pretty instrumental in helping get some of the science going in the '80s, especially the overall. Then he's tried to pass that on to various 02:04:00disciples, including Peter Frenzen and now Mark Swanson, but his main engagement with St. Helens of late I would say is to be inspired about the importance of early serial plant communities, plant and animal communities. He's sort of off working in the forest policy realm and drawing lessons from the great Zen master, Mount St. Helens, or Zen mistress I should say.

SS: Yes, it must be feminine in the gender reference as for mountains. Ships and mountains.

FS: Like Al Levno and George Lienkaemper, both well-retired, worked with me early on the erosion studies, but are no longer involved. There are people like 02:05:00Art McKee was involved with some of the earliest riparian work, but has long been separated from that. Charlie Crisafulli got there through his working for Jim MacMahon out at Utah State. Then there are a bunch of University of Washington people who have early and lasting roles, such as Roger del Moral and his academic offspring.

SS: Now, we've already talked about various aspects of that first year, the first visit, something about the structure of the science, the Pulses, the different things that happened. May I ask you a more philosophical question: 02:06:00what were some of your central assumptions, axiomatic/paradigmatic, about ecological processes and recovery from major disturbance events, volcanic eruptions in particular, before you studied at St. Helens and the surrounding region and how were those changed, impacted, reinforced, etc.?

FS: Well, I felt like I wasn't really trained, or very well-read in ecological theory and in fact that reminds me of, with Stan Gregory, visiting Jim Sedell in his home in his last couple of months [before his death to pancreatic cancer] and we were trying to see if he agreed with some of the stories we had about 02:07:00him. I said at one point, "What is the significance of your having gotten your bachelor's degree in philosophy?" which he did at Willamette University. And he said, "I wasn't trained," and I said, "Oh, no, you mean you weren't constrained by having been trained." That was the real fun thing about Jim is he wasn't constrained. His thought processes were very open.

SS: Eclectic, yeah.

FS: So, especially that lack of training on my part and also being sort of a 02:08:00geological rootedness. I was much more of an observational than hypothesis testing with experimentation kind of guy.

SS: Just because you really were trained as a geologist and your field training was in this interdisciplinary thing that was happening at the Andrews.

FS: Right.

SS: You kind of took what you had there and went into this new place.

FS: So, I wasn't trained in botany or forest ecology, I wasn't formally trained in soil science. I was just there in this interdisciplinary group in this very dynamic landscape, be it Mount St. Helens or be it the Andrews Forest or the other places I would go and work. I did work a bunch of other places, too. 02:09:00Anyway, I'm just there trying to figure how's it ticking? How's this system working on different timescales? I was much more of an observational, sort of natural history type.

SS: Almost in the old mold.

FS: Oh, definitely.

SS: I mean, like [FS continues].

FS: I look back at my publication record. It's sort of textbook-ey in the sense that it doesn't really deal with data and experimentation. It's quite descriptive.

SS: Now, we already talked about the general outlines of St. Helens that first year, the first couple of years, but could you go into some of the details of some of the experiments and things that you did, and even some of your memories and memorable experiences, fun, dangerous, scary, whatever, that happened that first year? What experiments did you set up? Did the mountain start speaking to 02:10:00you in a way that made you nervous? Just any of the things you did that first year, or first couple of years. Whatever you would like to cover.

FS: I'll mention three things. One is just the opportunity to go explore. It's a vast area in which many different things happen, so I sort of assume my role would be to connect geological stories to the ecology community and help the ecologist try to get the geological story as straight as they could as necessary for the work that they were doing on components of the overall landscape. I used that as an excuse to get out to as many places as possible by foot, by vehicle, 02:11:00by helicopter whenever I got the chance. The second thing is my actual research stuff had to do with erosion processes, as had been a major feature of my Andrews Forest work, and that included processes that I worked on at the Andrews quite a bit, which involved small, rapid landslides in different parts of the blast zone for the most part. I did some landslide inventories along with Peter Morrison, who was a friend and colleague, and we tried to look at how much land sliding had occurred in the pre-eruption landscape on the east side of the blast zone based on air photo analysis and then the landsliding that proceeded in the same area during and after the eruption. That was one fun project.


A second component of the erosion story had to do with processes that we don't see operating significantly in the green forest of places like the Andrews and the Cascades and that is surface erosion and gully incision, but at Mount St. Helens the landscape was so modified by the blast that within the blast zone there was a good deal of water runoff in the first storms and there was cutting of rills and small gullies. So, I had some Forest Service money, some of which I routed to Tom Dunne and then a student who worked with him, Brian Collins, University of Washington, and we did studies, me in the east side of the blast 02:13:00zone and they in the north side of the blast zone. There were some differences in the texture of the deposits in the two areas and we had a common study design where we put rebar in, drove it into the ground, so we had erosion pins and we measured the cross-sections of the little erosion channels between successive pieces of rebar and then we measured the height of the rebar above ground level and then we'd do this repeatedly, and then we could estimate the amount of deposition or erosion by seeing whether the [above-ground parts of] stakes were getting longer or shorter as material was eroded or deposited. We had these lines of erosion pins crossing the slope at different positions downslope from the drainage divide. We'd do that in areas where there had been a pre-eruption 02:14:00clear-cut or in areas of downed timber, so we were wandering around on these dusty, steep, hot slopes through downed timber.

SS: Crawling over big, big logs, right?

FS: Yeah. It was challenging.

SS: It wasn't your fun hike in the woods.

FS: Right. But we got to fly in on helicopters to some pretty wild and crazy areas. One further comment on adventures is one day, and it might have been as late as '85, a couple of us got dropped off by a helicopter in the mouth of the crater and we got to spend the day circumambulating the dome.

SS: The whole dome, huh?

FS: Yeah. There had recently been like the week before a dome-growth eruption. A big blob of new lava would be squeezed out, sort of like out of a tube of 02:15:00toothpaste and grow a new lobe on the flanks of the dome, and then some big boulders would roll off the dome. It was really interesting. At that time there was a crater floor there. It was very interesting. You had rockfall coming in off the crater wall on the one side and you had the big, hot rocks rolling off the dome on the dome side, and I remember walking towards one of these dome rocks. It was about 20 feet tall and when I was still tens of feet away from it, I could feel the radiant heat from its extrusion the week or so before. Also, the dome growth then was heaving up the floor of the crater, forming cracks from 02:16:00which fumaroles were emitted and there were some amazing and bizarre streams, hot streams with filamentous algae of different colors, depending on [streamwater] temperature. You had little snowfields that were melting nearby. You had a lot of steep thermal gradients and thermal complexity in the water, hence biotic complexity and visual complexity. That was a day.

SS: That is a day. What was the mineral composition in general of the soils around St. Helens before and how did that change from the major eruption, or certainly the series of eruptions in '81, the type of magma that came out-what was the chemical composition in general? How did that enrich or impoverish the soils? Or, as base material for what would become soils?


FS: As Jerry would like to say, "The soil falls from the sky." Mount St. Helens had this very vigorous eruptive history, and, so, northeast of the volcano, east and northeast, there were many tephra units [deposits] from earlier eruptions, including a couple, the Y and the W units, of Crandell and Mullineaux - feet-thick, 10 miles from the volcano, of popcorn size pumice, and it had very popcorn character to it: light and fluffy. That fell into the forest. There were places where you could see the forest had survived because the trees had layered root systems in the different buried soils. Some of that was pretty high in 02:18:00silica content and there wasn't very fertile material, but it looked like trees had persisted in a bunch of cases. Then in some of those areas you had the blast deposits. The blast was different from an eruption of popcorn pumice. It was shattered mountaintop. It was a mixture of rocks from earlier eruptions.

SS: How fine was it generally?

FS: Well, it all depended on how far you were from the vent, but towards the edge of the blast zone on the northeast trajectory, then the blast deposits that 02:19:00were maybe 10, 20 cm thick, you know the grain size was probably half a centimeter. A very fine gravel or coarse sand was pretty common, although there'd be a layer of silt on top and then there were subsequent eruptions, let's say during June and July of 1980.

SS: The June 25th one was the one that dumped a lot of ash on Portland, I remember.

FS: Right and so there was a little crater in the big crater and small domes would grow and then get sort of plug their own vent and then get blasted. I remember one of the most interesting events for me was I went back to a meeting in Virginia on forest succession. I was going to D.C. for some reason and I got 02:20:00to give a talk at NSF, just a general talk, and a colleague, Chuck Rosenfeld who worked for the National Guard, was a pilot and a geography professor. He was flying during the eruption on May 18th and had some amazing photographs and this I think it was June, might have been July 13th.

SS: You're talking about the June eruption, though.

FS: One of the June or July 13th eruption, one of those, you know, I'd gone in on that May 28th trip that I described and had some on the ground photos. I had some good illustrations. I remember the room was just totally packed. It was a very big room. So much fun to talk about this event out West, well, it was 02:21:00erupting that day. You there was a lot of attention to that story. It's just been so much fun to be able to tell stories about that volcano in these different settings. Another very interesting opportunity to about some of the Mount St. Helens story was at a meeting at Snowbird in Utah when the debate about whether the dinosaurs were extinguished at the end of the Cretaceous by giant volcanic eruptions, perhaps the Deccan Traps in India, or whether it was from the bolide impact in what's now the Yucatan.


SS: The meteor, right?

FS: Yeah. I was invited to talk about lessons from Mount St. Helens. Well, that was the wildest God damn meeting I had ever witnessed, where the people would get up and give a talk and then they had an open mic for questions and challenges and the lineups at the mic were long and the challenges were very vigorous and the whole meeting schedule got totally out of whack. I was supposed to talk late in the afternoon, and I remember Stephen J. Gould was there and he was talking too. Well, anyway, they said okay we've blown the schedule, but the bar is set up. We're going to take a little break and you can go out and get a beer, and then we're going to come back and we're going to have a couple more talks before we have dinner. People went out and I saw people coming back with 02:23:00two beers and then I got to talk. It was fun and people really enjoyed it, because they had a beer in each hand, I think. I got some very positive feedback, but my general point is, if you have the great fortune to work in a place like the Andrews Forest or Mount St. Helens, these are amazing stages and the analogy with theater is so interesting. For people like Jerry who are big time performs or Stan or Jim, you know, I like doing it, although I'm really an introvert. They are great places to perform. People expect a show and the stage 02:24:00setting is totally overwhelming.

SS: They like a good story and a good wit, and some science all mixed together.

FS: And it's just an amazing place where we all feel honored and blessed to be able to just be there.

SS: Back to the question-now describe the succession processes that you observed and studied and Mount St. Helens. Starting from the first lupine, or whatever little-

FS: Well, there are lots of ways of viewing succession and one of them is ecological succession. Another is sort of social succession and response to big disturbances. That aspect came into sharp focus both through the history of 02:25:00human reactions at Mount St. Helens and also at Chaiten Volcano where it erupted violently and unexpectedly in 2008 in southern Chile. It's sort of like stages of grief. First, denial. Was that a dream? What happened? Then onto gradually on to the acceptance of the reality of it and then accommodation and finding some of the positive things that it has created. There are forms of societal succession of feeling, but on ecological matters it's been a really amazing thing about Mount St. Helens. For one thing, we have so many processes, physical, geophysical processes operating in these very different systems: forest, meadows, shrub fields, ponds, lakes, streams, and there are gradients 02:26:00within any one of the physical processes, like the tephra fall. There's a gradient from just a trace that didn't do anything to fairly severe impacts. You can work along these disturbance intensity gradients and say well, when the tephra's at least this thick, then you lose all the bryophytes, and, if it's this thick, then you're going to lose all the perennial herbs and so forth. You have to get at least this thick before you start killing trees of this species and age class. What that means is that there's a tremendously complicated mosaic out there where the different pieces are on successional pathways of different, 02:27:00with different degrees of influence of biological legacies, alive and dead, and trajectories into the future. Some of the key points that are of interest and surprise to me. One is that on the erosion front we have some examples where erosion of the new deposits got down to the old forest soil and one of my key study places that have a chronosequence of photos in the Mount St. Helens 25th year ecology book, the erosion got down to the old forest floor and then stopped for various reasons. That made possible the liberation of buried plant parts 02:28:00from root systems and maybe seeds from the gully floors and also seeds blowing across the landscape could get trapped in those little gullies, either just sort of aerodynamically or after the plants had come a ways out of the gully floors by the plants that are already there trapping the seeds. And the seed bed of the old forest soil is much superior to that of the surface of new deposits that don't have much water holding capacity and don't have nutrients worth a damn. We have pieces of hillside with this vigorous plant growth in years 2, 3, 4, 5 out of these gully floors. Erosion helping revegetation? Now, that's a surprise.


SS: That's a paradigm shift, at least in common sense understandings, right?

FS: Right. Then some of the ideas that spilled out of that is there's a succession of geophysical processes of erosion and modification of small-scale landforms over time at the same time biological succession is occurring. There are interactions between the succession of geophysical processes and landforms and the succession, biotic succession such that you know vegetation development can suppress erosion, but erosion can also redistribute seeds and things of this nature, influencing the patterning of vegetation slope. That had some practical implications, because the then Soil Conservation Service, now NRSC [Natural Resources Conservation Service], wanted to spend $12 million to spread grass 02:30:00seed over the landscape for erosion control.

SS: This was immediately afterwards, right?

FS: Yes.

SS: This was like they're going to say, oh my God, we're going to have mudflows and floods and we got to seal it up almost like it's a beach, right?

FS: Right. We'll throw a blanket over it.

SS: That idea was entertained by not-?

FS: It was put forward. The ecologists argued against it because they didn't want exotic plants spread widely in the landscape where they were trying to get a National Volcanic Monument established, but also from the erosion processes perspective and consideration of the pace of vegetation would likely be developed, it didn't make much sense because the first rains would wash the seeds off the slope and it would collect down in the lower parts of the drainage.


SS: There would be all this grass all over the other area polluting that area and not doing what they intended it to do.

FS: Right and the major source of sediment was from incision of the major river channels in the giant landslide deposit where grass seeding is irrelevant to the dominant erosion processes. There were theories that became evident in tracking some of these things, but also there was application that became obvious points of application. It was interesting that Calbuco volcano just erupted down in the vicinity of those that we've been studying down in Chile, and people have seen some of our work at St. Helens and from Chaiten, and, so, owners and managers of the local private park on the north flank of Calbuco have written to us for advice about reestablishing forests and things of this nature. A general issue 02:32:00also is that the notion of restoration and reestablishment, and there was this strong human instinct from the engineering point of view we had a beautiful forest here before. If we can get out there and control erosion and plant trees, we can hasten the recovery or restoration of this place, but a bunch of the landscape at Mount St. Helens is so modified we aren't going back. For example, right in front of the volcano parts of that area are more than 600-ft higher in elevation than [before the eruption], and the substrate, the soil parent material, like the new pumicious pyroclastic flows, is a long way from being 02:33:00ready to support the kind of ecosystem that was there before.

SS: Thousands of years.

FS: Yeah. It's important to just be attentive to our vocabulary and what it might reflect in our expectations and how realistic they might be for the near future of the ecosystem.

SS: Along that train of thought, there was also a lot of salvage logging or plans to do salvage logging all around, including in private forests, but certainly National Forest, some of which or a lot of it was in the blast zone. How did that dynamic play out in terms of the companies and people wanting to come in and salvage log? How much did they do? How did it affect things? What were the politics surrounding it, especially regarding the science and the role 02:34:00of science in trying to make sure that didn't go overboard when they disagreed it with it for whatever reasons?

FS: Well, there are many interesting facets to that story. The blast covered about 125 square miles. Close to the vent it's complicated, because you have the giant landslide deposit and other things within 5, 6, 8 miles of the vent, but pretty close to the vent the trees were blown away, but over a lot of the area the forest was just toppled. Some of it had been logged before and some of it was in old, native forest and young native forest, young post-wildfire native forest.

Then as you got closer to the perimeter of the blast area, the blast had lost its vigor, dropped the big rock particles, but was still hot enough, a couple of 02:35:00hundred degrees centigrade, to scorch the foliage on the conifers, which killed them. There was this big scorch zone of standing dead. There was a variety of conditions, and closer to the vent you had thicker deposits and then, as you went further out the blast trajectories, the deposits got thinner and thinner, less than a foot, for example. On the west side of the blast area there was a lot of Weyerhaeuser land and there was some state land and then some smaller private holdings. Directly north of the volcano and to the east it was mostly Forest Service. The section, the square mile, that included the summit actually, 02:36:00belonged to Burlington Northern Railroad. It was part of the alternate section ownership scheme.

SS: The summit of the mountain?

FS: The summit, yeah.

SS: Only in America, right?

FS: It was part of the alternate section ownership scheme of the railroads, trying to encourage development of the West. So, Weyerhaeuser got going hot and heavy and had something like 20 logging sites going at a time, so they pulled a lot of their workforce and their resources into the area to salvage as much as they could as fast as they could before decay set in and the quality of the wood went down. Then they trucked out up to 400 log truckloads a day and they had to truck as far as Springfield, Oregon [SS talks over FS].


SS: Because they didn't have the mills the process it.

FS: --to find the mill capacity. That was a wild and wooly time and then call people in off desk jobs to help with the planting of all this acreage. Meanwhile the Forest Service was putting up timber sales, but did it more slowly in its bureaucratic context. On the east side of the blast zone, like in the Clearwater drainage they had a bunch of in parts of Bean Creek and off in Green River country to the northeast they had a bunch of sales, some of them were helicopter sales. That took a while and then you were into '82 and '83 and there was a real downturn in the market. It was a bubble. People had been bidding up $600, $700, $800 per thousand boardfeet and then the market crashed and so people were 02:38:00holding onto these sales and it wasn't standing green timber, it was down dead timber and so if there was [SS interrupts].

SS: Eventually you had to get it, or it would rot, and you couldn't use it.

FS: Yeah. So, there were a lot of goofy shenanigans. Meanwhile the extent and the boundaries of the National Volcanic Monument were being negotiated and disputed. Crowell, who was a Secretary of Ag at the time [SS interrupts].

SS: Under Reagan.

FS: Under Reagan was from Louisiana Pacific Timber and a lawyer, he wanted a small monument and then environmentalists were pushing for a big monument. I remember the science group, a few of us, like Jerry and Jim and me giving some input on it, and we had this one idea of having a corridor that ran from the 02:39:00crater north all the way through the blast zone and into green timber and one that went to the northeast out into green timber, but on the northeast one there was the heaviest tephra fall on the green forest, whereas to the north there was minimal tephra fall in the green forest.

SS: That damaged the soils enough to hurt the trees, right?

FS: It affected the forest vegetation, particularly the understory.

SS: Okay.

FS: So, some of the thinking did find its way, I think, into, at least it's apparent, in the boundaries of the National Volcanic Monument, which also was the boundaries were gerrymandered to take in other places that had, you know 02:40:00like the Mount Margaret high country that environmentalists had been advocating for wilderness designation. It was up high [elevation]. It didn't have timber value, although there were mining claim issues. There was a lot of complexity there. There was a bunch of land trades between Weyerhaeuser and the Forest Service, and maybe the state forestry, to try to get a meaningful monument and deal with a bunch of other land ownership.

SS: Political realities.

FS: Yeah. There was a bunch of salvage logging, but then a lot was left out there.

SS: The problem must have been a lot of the roads were covered up or destroyed, right?

FS: Yes.

SS: And that's access for you guys doing science, but also for any of the timber 02:41:00people as well, even more so for them.

FS: Yeah, and also for public access for interpretive programs. The road system was gradually reopened and then after a while, after the salvaging was completed, then there were some storms. The road system was beat up by storms, floods, and some of it was not reopened. It's interesting to note there is a bunch of issues about the continuing management of the Monument, and, so, in the Monument Act it says that natural processes should proceed substantially unimpeded, which is quite a wild concept for the US Congress, but there were and there remain, still, very tricky issues there. One has to do with drainage of 02:42:00the lakes, the new lakes, like Castle Lake and Coldwater Lake and the preexisting lake of Spirit Lake, and there was concern that these are lakes that have new blockages by the landslide deposit, which was very unstable, including issues such as it included some pieces of glaciers. There had been 13 named glaciers around the summit. Then these melted out over subsequent years, forming cavities in these dams.

SS: The big chunks of ice were still just sitting down there.

FS: They were embedded within the debris avalanche.

SS: They were just so massive they just didn't melt. They had to melt slowly, even though they were 3 or 4,000 feet or maybe 6,000 feet or more in some cases, right?


FS: Some thousands of feet lower, and, so, then they constructed stable outlets for Coldwater. They created an outlet over bedrock. I'm not sure exactly how the design goes for the Castle one, and then for Spirit, after some interesting arguments, they ended up drilling a mile-long tunnel and emptying Spirit Lake out through Coldwater Creek, but now there's a problem, because parts of the tunnel are in unstable material that had 30 years to pick up water and clays have expanded, and the tunnel is being constricted. One thing I heard is there's 02:44:00a $10 million job to stabilize the tunnel. The concern is, if Spirit Lake were to flow over the landslide deposit, it could end up creating a monstrous mudflow.

SS: And having another version of what happened in 1980.

FS: Right and in the geologic record down valley there are suggestions that that happened in the past. Another big issue, which isn't so much a public safety one, is fishing in lakes. There are 30 some lakes that are alpine lakes, which had been stocked and fished before the eruption. The Forest Service owns the land and manages the habitat. The state manages the fish. The state is very fish and game oriented. This is a state vs. federal [SS interrupts].


SS: State versus federal rights thing, right?

FS: Yeah.

SS: Now what happened [FS continues].

FS: But let me finish this-part of it is, so there was sort of a compromise where only a few lakes would be left fishless and others would be stocked, and Spirit Lake was one to be left fishless. But, then, after some years somebody illegally stocked Spirit Lake, and, because of its peculiar ecology, monstrous fish have grown, and, then, the fishing groups were really eager to get in after these trophy fish. The Forest Service didn't want them in. For one thing, there's big floating log mat and it's quite a dangerous place. Another thing is the ecologists didn't want them in there.

SS: So, they're still not in there?

FS: Official fishing is not in there. The fish are still in there, although the fish have been getting smaller progressively year by year, and Charlie is 02:46:00tracking this. There are several competing hypotheses.

SS: Are there mutations because of weird chemical mixes, or?

FS: It may be that there was abundant food relative to the fish population and there may be some other things.

SS: Looking at 35 years of post-1980 ecological research at Mount St. Helens, how would you rate or compare research and findings in terms of their importance to understanding ecosystem processes and their respective impacts on ecology and ecosystem science? If you were just going to say what are some of the really important findings and why?

FS: Well, I think that now that we're 35 years out, some of these things we picked up on quite early, some of them are still being refined. There are a 02:47:00number of themes, like the importance of biological legacies and what they can do. The importance of timing at the scale of time of day, time of year, or phenology, seasonality, the stage of succession of the affected season-all of these temporal scales need to be brought into the fore and then the importance of work on disturbance gradients and the importance of thinking about disturbance mechanisms as distinguished from disturbance types, a disturbance type being something like mudflow or a volcanic blast, a disturbance mechanism being things like degree of heating, depth of deposition [SS interrupts].


SS: The mechanics of erosion, what have you?

FS: Yeah, the vigor of abrasion, impact force that may lead to toppling of trees, for example. These are all concepts that have come into sharp focus from the Mount St. Helens experience and then comparing the Mount St. Helens lessons with those from other volcanoes or places like the Andrews and non-volcanic disturbances. Another thing relative to succession and having the opportunity to track things year by year and now for 35 years is just all the goofy little things that can happen along the way. There's not a single or simple trajectory of successional change. You so modify the landscape that there are physical 02:49:00changes that continue to occur in the landscape and then there are biotic changes. For example, a willow took off pretty strong in a bunch of areas, but then there's a willow borer larvae that's munching, a stem borer, that's really knocking the willows back. Or, if you're studying a particular plot and a herd of elk comes through and eats all the lupines and poops all over the place, it can set the successional trajectory off in a new direction. It was interesting talking with the photographer Gary Braasch, who was photographing there during the eruption, one of the photographers who fortunately survived. He's doing a bunch of chronosequence photography and he said oh he was sort of miffed when he got back to one of his chronosequence sites, and it was all messed up, because of elk going through. There are all these secondary disturbances that can cause 02:50:00adjustments in the trajectories of change.

SS: What has surprised you the most about what research has revealed at Mount St. Helens and ecosystem processes?

FS: Well, interesting surprises keep coming along and they come along in different ways. An early one was: wow, the erosion of the new deposits was actually a positive in terms of getting some plant cover back in the land. It took a particular set of circumstances, you know confluence of 3, 4, 5 sets of circumstances that made that possible. After you realize them all, then it's like, oh, well it's not a surprise. In retrospect, it's understandable that I was, and others were surprised. But it also, it influenced some of the 02:51:00management decisions. Then, when it came time to replant those places that I mentioned in our discussion of salvage logging, that was part of the motivation for making sure that the roots of the plant and seedlings reached into the pre-eruption soil. One thing that has impressed me, I wouldn't say surprise because at least at this stage of my career I've seen enough examples of stuff that seems like a very basic finding, ends up having interesting application. Two key examples from that are things that Jerry Franklin has worked on where the early aha moment of the biological legacies of seeing the fireweed emerge from the cracked surface of the new deposits [SS interrupts].


SS: When you thought it had been so incinerated and so destroyed that how could this happen so quick, right?

FS: Right, and it was there in the first few months in the summer of 1980 led to you know his thinking about "new forestry" and put more attention to what we leave and what we take, and it had a big influence on a policy in forest management. Then 20, 25 years later, viewing the very slow succession in the area in front of the volcano and yet it's a very rich community with a lot of diversity in the plant component, hence in the lepidoptera and bird and other components of the system, led him to change his thinking about the nature and the value of early-successional plant communities, ecosystems, and how we need 02:53:00to be attentive to that in the forest management arena. And he uses this in the context of his current efforts with his colleague the policy expert Norm Johnson to pitch for what they call "ecological forestry," which at the landscape level includes wanting to have some early-serial habitat be present for the broader landscape objective of retaining biological diversity. That was a lesson from the great Zen mistress Mount St. Helens.

SS: Now, he used the concept metastasized to describe the spread of organisms in opposition to the traditional metaphor or construct to describe ecological succession, which was waves. Is that how you would describe that yourself?


FS: This was the part of the landscape ecological perspectives as applied to Mount St. Helens. It's interesting the two key concepts are frames of ecology. One is landscape ecology and the other is disturbance ecology. The major textbooks, the major books for the U.S. in both of those areas came out I think it was '85 and '86, five, six years after Mount St. Helens erupted. I don't think that they were informed by Mount St. Helens, knowing their authors, editors (they were very east coast kinds of guys).

But it's interesting that those views of the world, landscape ecology and 02:55:00disturbance ecology, have really been taking off, and Mount St. Helens I think has had a role in shaping that thinking. So, metastasis versus waves, you know, like in the blast zone my impression is that we haven't had a real strong landscape perspective looking at development of the landscape over time in a rigorous research kind of sense, but what you can see out there is, especially looking across the blast area, there were sites that were rich in legacies. There are many little hot spots. Rather than just waiting for the march inward from the periphery of the vegetation [SS interrupts].


SS: Which is the traditional model and expectation that people trained in ecology, like Jerry, would have thought at the time, correct?

FS: Right. There are many different things going on out there and the metastasis is the notion of zones of infection or hot spots that then plant and animal species can spread out from. We have residual hot spots and legacy sites and then we have invader hot spots where new communities are forming by immigration from outside, and then they can expand and maybe coalesce. We've got a lot of different things going on out there in different parts of the landscape.

SS: In your view what ecological research remains undone at Mount St. Helens?

FS: Well, as I just mentioned I think we need, and the time is probably just 02:57:00getting really ripe for it, some of these things we had to wait for them to be nicely manifest on the landscape, and my first example would be a good landscape ecological investigation, using remote sensing in any of the plots that we have that are useful and may be necessary to have some field sampling, but a lot of it could be with remote sensing in existing plots and look at how the landscape is being assembled and configured.

SS: I know there's been some of that done.

FS: There's been some, yeah. That's one thing. Another thing is just make sure we keep doing what we're doing because change is occurring both endogenously by succession, but also changes are being imposed by new disturbances for example 02:58:00or invasions of new species, exotic or native, and then are we going to have a wolf wander in some day and change the behavior of the elk, which are an important component of the ecosystem? We've got wolves wandering into the Cascades in Oregon and you know there are two mating pairs, or at least there's ORR-7 and his mate [SS interrupts].

SS: Where are they now?

FS: They're in southern Oregon and they have their pups, but at least one more has shown up down there, and, so the Mount St. Helens landscape is interesting because that private land is now heavily, densely forested in young planted forest, especially to the west in the Weyerhaeuser land. The open area is sort of being constrained and there are a lot of elk in there. If we get some wolves 02:59:00in there and it changes elk behavior, that could have some interesting play. Plus, how's climate change going to play? There are a bunch of aspects of wanting to take on new studies of things that are clearly being manifest in the landscape that weren't early - continuing the existing work and ask if we're making the right kinds of observations to see the effects of some of these new components of the system.

SS: In the comparative context, how have any of these lessons learned at St. Helens been applied to the research and understanding of Lassen Peak and its eruptive cycle, which is the other U.S. historic period major eruption?

FS: I don't really know anything about that. I don't know of any, if there's any research at Lassen.


SS: I'm talking about ecology, though.

FS: I guess there, yeah, I see that there are two published papers on Lassen, the last one in 2000. I just don't know anything about that.

SS: What is your impression about the research on St. Helens preceding 1980? How it might have compared to other volcanoes in the Cascade Range in terms of scientific interest? Across the disciplines. Whatever comes to mind.

FS: Well, a very interesting feature is that Mount St. Helens had been recognized as a very active volcano and Dwight ("Rocky") Crandell and Don 03:01:00Mullineaux, USGS tephra stratigraphers, people who study the volcano excrement, detritus from the volcano. If you look at the topographic map of the larger Mount St. Helens area, it's really evident how the surrounding landscape, which had been carved by glaciers and other processes, has been substantially inundated by detritus from the Mount St. Helens vent over the previous tens of thousands of years, although the cone itself was dominantly or maybe exclusive of only the last 4,000 years or so. Anyway, Crandell and Mullineaux had been 03:02:00doing a very detailed history of the eruptions of St. Helens and the shedding of various flowage deposits. I remember going on a field trip there that they led with the Pacific Cell of the Friends of the Pleistocene.

SS: Pacific Cell of the Friends of the Pleistocene?

FS: Yes.

SS: Okay. I just wanted to make sure I got that. Can I join?

FS: Sure. I remember camping out along one of the big reservoirs on the south side and going up and looking at some of the thick deposits that are exposed in the deep cuts of the streams that flow off the south flank of St. Helens and 03:03:00they published a U.S. Geological Survey bulletin. It was 1978. It said something like we expect that there will be another significant eruption in the next century, possibly before the end of this century. Very prescient. Based on the eruptive history in 1980 it had been 123 years since there had been a burp, you know, so I think it was quite well-known in that regard. It was probably typical of a lot of the Cascade volcanoes on the ecology front and, perhaps, with D.B. Lawrence's several publications, it might have been one of the more studied in an academic sense on the ecology front. I don't know about the scientific publications for places like Spirit Lake in the limnological world. There may 03:04:00have been.

SS: The reason I ask is that my impression would be that just because humans tend to gravitate towards the biggest and the most spectacular that I would think that there'd be more studies done at Rainier, for instance, and you know glaciology, certainly, but a lot of other areas too, Baker perhaps, and Hood, too, and lesser maybe on some of the Oregon volcanoes. Is there a comprehensive bibliography reference for Mount St. Helens?

FS: I am not sure what its status is. I expect Charlie has one. There were several efforts early to produce them and publish them and the USGS may have something on the geo front, so I'm not sure. The State of Washington may have 03:05:00quite a bit, but there may have been some slacking off after a while.

SS: Since St. Helens produced the most explosive eruption in the U.S. since the republic's conception, how do you believe that the eruptions, plural, of St. Helens have affected people's views about geology and history in the U.S., but, especially, in the Pacific Northwest?

FS: Well, I'm only guessing, but I think it's important that the people be reminded of in some ways our tenuous hold on the surface of the earth, that in other big earthquakes and their volcanic eruptions and their monstrous storms, 03:06:00so it's important for us to be humbled and be reminded that we aren't in control of everything. This was a very dramatic reminder. It's somewhat unique in the history of Euro presence. There have been some really bad hurricane impacts.

SS: Floods. Tornados all the time.

FS: Yeah. We've had some bad earthquake damage, but we haven't had the big Northwest subduction zone earthquake and we probably haven't had a big San Andreas one in the San Francisco Bay area really that will be arriving soon, especially given the nature of development in those areas since there the last 03:07:00ones of any significance. Anyway, I do think "nature bats last" is an important reminder.

SS: They're the home team. I thought you didn't like baseball. Okay. Mount St. Helens is certainly a powerful, physical place, but it is also a cultural place with a range of human connections, attachments, and interpretations based on individual and group experience. Referencing your personal experience, how would you characterize your sense of place in regards to Mount St. Helens?

FS: Well, I haven't considered sense of place in a real scholarly manner. I sense it more in my gut and I really am attracted to the landscape. I can just 03:08:00sit and stare at it and try to comprehend it, sometimes in an analytical, geomorphology, ecology, geology sense, and other times just taking in the textures and colors and so forth. I'm also intrigued by its role as an icon of our bioregion and telling us about our volcanoes. That's an important theme to me for the kinds of work that we do at places like Mount St. Helens and the Andrews where we study our bioregional icons of ancient forest and cold clear rivers and volcanoes; and I have this hope that our kinds of work in science and 03:09:00increasingly in arts and humanities in these places will help the public also respect them and understand their complexities and the non-technical ways of engaging with them and have this sense that will give us as a society more motivation and umpf to take good care of them, not just those places but the natural world in general. I just think that these are super important places and that our work has already and hopefully more so in the future influenced how the public perceives the world.


In that regard, I'll go ahead and go on into my arts and humanities take. I remember early after the eruption being a little appalled at how it was being treated in such a narrow manner in terms of death and destruction in the early days, and yet I could get to go in there with the luxury of being a science type and just how amazing and beautiful and special it was, how awe-inspiring. I had this fantasy of trying to write a grant to the National Endowment for the Humanities and/or Arts and try to get enough money to get half a dozen artists and writers to come up to Mount St. Helens and drop them off in the Pumice Plain 03:11:00with a bit helicopter [support] and let them sit there and [SS interrupts].

SS: Ponder.

FS: Ponder and paint and write and drop their jaws. Of course, that never happened, but 20 years later do to a chance circumstance I had the good fortune to go up there for 3 days with a poet, Gary Snyder, whose work I had been very interested in since college days, undergraduate days, and I was interested in his work and his perceptions of landscapes and our place in them and other poets, such as one his mentors, Kenneth Rexroth. I felt like, as a field scientist, I had an opportunity to experience little poetic moments out in the 03:12:00land and in other circumstances, and I was intrigued with how they [the poets] received them and what they did with them. Anyway, in 2000 I got to go out [at Mount St. Helens] with Gary Snyder and that really helped set me up to work with my colleagues on the humanities front, especially Kathy [Kathleen Dean] Moore and now Charles Goodrich of the Spring Creek Project for Ideas, Nature, and the Written Word, as we couple humanities (and increasingly arts) and ecology to understand some of the dimensions of these places. In 2005, 2010 and later this summer, later this month, we'll take groups of writers and a few artists and 03:13:00combine with a large group of scientists out to Mount St. Helens and explore new ways of knowing and sensing these places. I'm pleased with the book In the Blast Zone that has 20 some authors contributing. It came out from the 2005 Pulse and that that's for sale at the Johnston Ridge Observatory. I think some of the poems are used in interpretive programs, and I recently took part in a middle school program in Vancouver, Washington, where the kids had been reading in that book and then they did a big project about Mount St. Helens. Their teacher has a master's degree in history and oral history specialty, and he was so stoked to 03:14:00have, you know, people like Charlie Crisafulli and me, who are veterans of some of these things, and we gave comments and we were interviewed.

SS: How stoked were the students?

FS: Oh, the students seemed quite stoked and they produced a very nice webpage or multiple webpages of the work they had done, which included the interviewing and videoing, and inquiries that they had made on their own. They clearly read parts of In the Blast Zone book. SS: Would you sense that maybe a past generation or two generations would almost look at St. Helens in the glass is half empty context more often than not versus young kids who did not ever see its perfect symmetrical cone and they didn't have those long memories of Spirit Lake and hiking and camping or whatever in that area?


FS: I did sense a bipolar polar opposite responses early on of the people [SS interrupts].

SS: Not bipolar, polar. They were off their lithium, right? [Laughs].

FS: There were polarized responses early on, where people who felt they had lost so much, didn't want to go back, but others, people like myself and Charlie for whom it was like a playground, you're eager to go. Christine Colasurdo, who was on our previous Pulses, she has her book, Return to Spirit Lake, which is from that sense of loss side.

SS: But that's easy to see why. You look at the beauty, it's almost Fujiyama-esque in its pre-eruption sense. It's very, very iconic.


FS: Yeah, but Charlie just forwarded me an email that he'd gotten from a high-powered STEM student from Seattle that had come to Mount St. Helens and he spent a Saturday with him, and she was so stoked. Thank you so much. You've transformed my life! Just to see your excitement and all the amazing ecological stories, it's just so exciting. You do get the sense that it's a place that's impacting these new generations who have had a very different context of experience with it.

SS: Right. Exactly. From the perspective of a geologist and ecologist, is Mount St. Helens more beautiful now, post-eruption, than before when its graceful, symmetrical cone symbolized a traditional alpine mountain aesthetic? That's a 03:17:00loaded question.

FS: From my perspective, and the reason I'm still doing this stuff while I'm 3 ½ years into retirement (retirement means you're doing stuff because you love it) is because it's sort of to pay back for all that Mount St. Helens gave me. I think we've got a lot of beautiful volcanoes out there, and Mount St. Helens has a very special place because of her behavior and all of the lessons that she spewed across the landscape. Now we're learning so much and we're so attracted and have this amazing stage for conveying stories and look at this pile of books 03:18:00we have here. Yes, there were sacrifices, like in Richard Waite's book. It's about the people who were directly killed and then a bunch of eyewitnesses who suffered and family members who suffered loss.

SS: Whole families were killed just killed in a couple of cases, right?

FS: Yeah.

SS: Like they were out there camping in the red zone and they got just [mouth noise].

FS: Yeah. Or even outside the red zone. I think it's a very special place in aggregate and I'm glad it's there.

SS: Taking the phrase made famous by Wallace Stegner, Geography of Hope, how would you apply that to St. Helens and its environs?

FS: Well, I think it applies in several respects, the resilience of life is so 03:19:00amazing and some components of the system, like some of the water bodies, just came back. They did recover in the sense of you know many of the components of the ecosystem are back there. Life is vibrant and complex and making interesting things happen. I think in terms of human perception and attitude succession, we move beyond disbelief and despair, and now you go to the Johnston Ridge Observatory. I like going there. For me it's as fascinating to look and listen to the people.

SS: What's your impression about how, or just some of the responses that you 03:20:00could maybe characterize or remember right now from what you hear and listen?

FS: I was just up there with two Chileans and a Canadian, a South African via Canada, I took them up there for a day and just told stories. We went to the visitor center and we went to some of the lookout places and were just eating lunch and overhearing people. I'm fascinated hearing people speaking German and Japanese and Chinese. It's a global phenomenon. I went to the movie that I've seen video 16 minutes; I've seen it a bunch of times. Some of it stuff was filed during the last Pulse, and we interacted with the producer. In the Blast Zone 03:21:00book is on the counter there. Then I overhear people telling other people, other citizens taking visitors out there or reading the interpretive signs or having discussions where both members of the conversation are present for the first time. I'm impressed. People are sophisticated in getting stories.

SS: They're engaged.

FS: Yeah.

SS: Generally speaking, the visitation there is not that high compared to a lot of other places, or is that untrue?

FS: I don't know how the numbers stack up, but I think they have several hundred thousand per year. It looks well-visited.


SS: Before St. Helens erupted, what was your favorite volcano in the Cascades and why?

FS: I don't know that I had a favorite. I climbed Hood a couple of times and Shasta and at least Middle Sister. I sort of like the Sisters. They were three right together and they had a nice glacier and it was nearby. Hood really stands up and stands out. I like that.

SS: Ever climbed Rainier?

FS: No.

SS: That's a dangerous mountain, actually.

FS: Yeah.

SS: A lot of people get killed on that mountain.

FS: Yeah.

SS: Okay, we're going to sign off for now for phase 2 of our conversation about Mount St. Helens ecosystem science, geology, etc., and the arts and humanities. 03:23:00We will probably have a third session at some time, Fred, I would anticipate, but we are going to sign off for right now.