Beavers are amazing. Artemis is diving straight into the beaver pond with Dr. Emily Fairfax, ecohydrologist, science story teller, and beaver dam enthusiast. Join us to hear how this keystone species shapes our landscape, supports wildlife, and improves our watershed wherever they slap a tail. 

  • 2:00 “Beavers are a keystone species, which means they modify their environment in a way that influences the whole ecosystem.”
  • 3:30 First beaver experience… when your animal guide finds you
  • 5:30 Idaho’s beaver reintroduction efforts involved parachuting them in the Frank Church
  • 7:00 Hauling a canoe over a beaver dam (over and over) in the Boundary Waters makes you realize what incredible engineers beaver are
  • 9:00 Beavers are masters at helping lands retain water longer, which benefits a slew of other animal species – including fish, birds and ungulates!
  • 11:00 In Nevada, beavers started improving cattle grazing land… but their real hero moment was during a drought, when areas with beavers stayed greener longer.
  • 14:30 Now there’s just two species of beaver: North American Beaver and the Eurasian Beaver. They’re different enough that they can’t interbreed, but both are dam-builders
  • 15:00 There used to be 20-odd beaver species… some dug spiral burrows into the earth, others were Pleistocene-size beavers as big as linebackers! 
  • 16:00 Dam-building was a hugely advantageous skill, evolutionary-wise… it meant beavers could build their own habitat pretty much anywhere there was water
  • 17:00 Beaver populations remained stable pre-settlement, when some indigenous cultures had ways of self-regulating harvest. The European fur trade marked the start of beaver decline
  • 19:30 “Ecological amnesia”… when people can’t remember whether or not an animal is native to a landscape
  • 21:15 Beaver dams generally don’t stop the flow of water completely. Beavers then dig channels out from the dam, dispersing water, and also giving them routes back to the dam (so they’re not just chicken nuggets waddling around on land). This is the chief mechanism of how beavers turn streams into wetlands.
  • 26:00 Water retention, water temperature, and soil health in beaver habitat
  • 28:00 How beavers overwinter… it’s brilliant
  • 31:30 Beaver family units… they mate for life! 
  • 33:00 Adult beavers can be enormous… up to 110 pounds, especially in northern climates. (They’re also a favorite food for some wolf packs.)
  • 38:00 BDA = beaver dam analog (basically a human-constructed beaver dam to replicate the species’ effect on the landscape)
  • 39:00 Beavers and people/private lands… we have some tricks for management, like the “beaver deceiver”
  • 41:00 Beaver presence in Nevada… it’s a big of a mystery how they got there. Beaver dispersal is difficult because they’re not well-adapted to moving over land
  • 45:00 Beaver misconceptions are a huge obstacle for beaver conservation. Education is an important arm of conservation.
  • 48:00 Beaver ponds are remarkable fire deterrent, and they’re refuges for wildlife, “emerald sanctuaries”
  • 51:00 The West has lost 60-90 percent of its natural wetlands… this has likely affected how fire behaves on the landscape
  • 52:00 Beaver ponds = duck city!
  • 53:45 “Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter” by Ben Goldfarb
  • 55:00 How accurate is our perception of what a Western stream looks like? Those smooth-banked places we like to fish? They’re not as natural as they look.
  • 58:00 Find Emily @emilyfairfax on Twitter, or by email emily.fairfax@csuci.edu
  • 59:00 Emily’s film on beavers and wildfires
  • 59:30 Beaver ponds are full of pointy sticks! But they’re very stable to walk across
  • 1:00:00 Beaver slides… THE COOLEST. 
  • 1:00:02 “The Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd on the Cairngorm Mountains in Scotland