Toads here, shrews there—the scattering of volcano survivors and opportunists suggests that the return of life occurs simultaneously in thousands of places at once, says Jerry Franklin an ecologist at the University of Washington in Seattle. The lesson applies to other damaged ecosystems, he says. Loggers shouldn't clear-cut the land, for instance, but instead leave behind "lifeboats" such as snags and living trees that will sustain other organisms and foster recovery.
Mount St. Helens' recovery has had many setbacks since the 1980 eruption. Stream erosion washed away some of the research plots. Landslides buried emerging forests. And other eruptions unleashed devastating pyroclastic flows. This past fall, Mount St. Helens erupted for the first time since 1986, sending up a cloud of steam and ash. The rumblings have continued unabated, but Crisafulli and Dale don't mind. They welcome disturbances.