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Meet Ross Adams: Restoration Project Manager

Ross Adams
Ross Adams has helped support and lead our restoration crew through a wide variety of projects over the past year with Sonoma Ecology Center. Whether it’s pulling broom or wielding a chain saw we’re grateful to have such a competent and knowledgable project manager on our team. 

Ross joined us from a stint working in Yosemite National Park (see the Tenaya Lake in the background of his photo?) where he leading an invasive plant crew with the Great Basin Institute. He has a passion for restoration work in the field and for exploring our local parks!

Ross answered some questions for us all about working with the Sonoma Ecology Center Restoration Crew and the perks and challenges that come with the job:

What’s your educational background? How has that led you to work in restoration science?

I grew up in Auburn, Alabama and earned my bachelor’s in Zoology from Auburn University in 2015. I consider my time with AmeriCorps afterwards as part of my educational background as well, since those programs were how I found my passion for restoration out in the field. I served terms in Colorado, Florida, and Iowa. Using the education award money from my AmeriCorps terms, I was able to complete my Master of Environmental Science from Indiana university in 2020. I think my experiences working in beautiful places was really what led me to work in restoration science. I was fortunate enough to go to school along the way, but I think anyone with a passion for science and nature can get involved through volunteer events, local non-profits, and parks. 

What role/job were you in before your time with SEC, how did that work bring you eventually to Sonoma County?

I was leading an invasive plant crew at Yosemite National Park through the Great Basin Institute before my time with SEC. I was living in the park, but my permanent address is in Sonoma County with my partner, so I was always looking for opportunities to get back home!  

What have you learned about the specific restoration needs of Sonoma Valley in your time here – how are these needs different from other areas of the country where you have worked?

I have spent most of my time in the Southeast and Midwest U.S., and what strikes me as most different here in the Sonoma Valley is the need for fire resilience in restoration efforts. The other areas I’ve lived do have fire-adapted ecosystems and practice prescribed fire, but California has a much tougher time putting safe fire on the land due to legislative hurdles, liability issues, historic fuel loading and large wildfires, general fear of fire, and a very dry climate in the summer. Furthermore, timing restoration efforts is far more important here than elsewhere. If plants are planted too late in the season and aren’t irrigated after the rains have stopped, they don’t stand a chance. Similarly, trying to manually remove invasive French broom is best done in the wet season when soil moisture is high and plants come out of the ground easily. 

What do you wish community members knew about the SEC Restoration crew and the work that you do?

I wish community members knew the variety of projects and project partners we work with. Most people think of restoration efforts as happening on the large scale in parks or mitigation areas, but we have worked with private landowners and homeowner’s associations on projects ranging from a single day to several weeks in addition to projects with county entities and state parks. 

What’s your favorite part of working on the Restoration Crew?

I enjoy the variety in our work – some days we’re cutting down dead fire hazard trees with chainsaws, sometimes we plant trees, sometimes we are removing invasive Himalayan blackberry or French broom. Whatever we’re doing, it’s almost always outside and I enjoy that part too. 

What’s your least favorite part?

Work is roughest in the summer heat – people get dehydrated, tensions flare, muscles and equipment don’t cooperate as well, and inevitably you find yourself a victim of poison oak. 

What’s the project you’ve felt most proud to work on with SEC – what were the particular restoration applications you used on this project?

I was most proud of a project we did with a homeowner’s association reducing fire fuel along a creek corridor through the neighborhood. Several houses were burned during the last big wildfire and the rest of the neighborhood was lucky to come out unscathed, so there was a big push to manage their fuel load better and create a more resilient landscape. Instead of just clear cutting the entire creek corridor, SEC took care to leave vegetation important for wildlife habitat and species diversity, but eliminate ladder fuels and large, overgrown ornamental bushes. It was tough at first to have a good vision for the end result of the project, but as the crew became more familiar with the site, we gained understanding of what would best serve our objectives. The project involved a lot of chainsaw work, limbing of branches with polesaws, detail-oriented pruning of mature plants, and creation of vegetation islands for wildlife to still have cover. 

What kind of work would you like to do in the future?

Parks have always been my passion, and in the future I’d like to “get back to the basics” for myself, and really master one parcel of land again. I would love to get into park management, with some opportunities to jump into education and biology every once in a while to keep things interesting. 

What do you do for fun outside of work?

I have a regional parks pass, so you’ll often find me out on the trails! My fiancé and I have also been getting into home improvement projects lately in between weekend trips to new places. I also enjoy reading, board games, and outdoor sports like frisbee, basketball, and softball 🙂