The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction. - Rachel Carson
Black-backed Woodpecker Ecology & Distribution The populations of Black-backed Woodpeckers (BBWO) in the southern Cascades of Oregon are currently being considered for threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. The BBWO is considered a fire specialist, associated with recent small-scale, high-severity burns as well as disturbance from forest pathogens such as Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB). However, most of the research on this species comes from the eastern U.S. and boreal regions of Canada. The southern Cascades are comprised of far more mesic ecosystems and thus habitat dynamics could be unique. A better understanding of this species habitat associations in recently disturbed as well as undisturbed areas will help inform future management decisions related to fire and wildlife in the park and beyond. I have had several students from OIT Environmental Sciences programs do independent research projects on BBWO distribution and ecology. Andrew Robatcek used eBird data and annual aerial MPB survey data for his sophomore project to assess relationships of BBWO with MPB disturbance across Oregon. A poster we presented at the 2014 AOU conference in Estes Park, CO which included data collected by an undergraduate from Southern Oregon University, and surveys conducted by the Klamath Bird Observatory can be found here. Most recently, Alyssa Gunning studied the post-breeding relationship of BBWO with large wood-boring beetles within the National Creek Fire in Crater Lake. A talk we presented at the 2017 Northwestern Scientific Association meeting in Ashland, OR can be viewed here.
Climate Change Scenario Planning for Whitebark Pine and American Pika I am excited about our new research project jointly funded and undertaken by the Klamath, Upper Columbia Basin, and Sierra Nevada National Park Service Inventory & Monitoring Networks. Current and projected climatic change impacts on ecosystems are threatening montane and subalpine species in National Parks and protected areas throughout the western U.S., including those within the Klamath, Upper Columbia Basin, and Sierra Nevada regions. Resource managers and policy makers can be overwhelmed by the complexity and uncertainty in climate change projections and often lack applicable knowledge of local effects and apparent ways to respond. Scenario planning integrates scientific knowledge in context of environmental, social, political, economic, and technical factors to explore and describe a range of plausible futures that enable managers to consider how to define and meet their desired conditions under changing circumstances with greater efficiency and confidence. Under some scenarios, it may be possible to develop effective conservation and management strategies using familiar tools, whereas in other scenarios, novel ecological conditions may preclude “business as usual” and require paradigm shifts in protected-area management. Please visit our project website nwclimatescenario.weebly.com for more information and the most recent updates. A recent talk I gave is available here.
Phenological synchrony of wocus and wocus beetles Tosha Bunnell, a senior in Environmental Sciences, is studying the phenology of the Wocus Lily (Nuphar luteum) and its obligate herbivore pest, the Wocus beetle (Galerucella nymphaeae). Wocus, also called the yellow pond lilly is an iconic aquatic plant of wetlands and lakes in the upper Klamath Basin. Of deep importance to the Klamath Tribes, it is a valuable food source for humans and wildlife alike. Large-scale and rapid seasonal draw-down of lake water depth and draining of wetlands have drastically reduced and fragmented the populations of wocus in the basin. The wocus beetle is a specialist herbivore which feeds exclusively on wocus leaves where it also lays its eggs. Seasonal beetle outbreaks can have significant impacts on wocus growth and productivity and can hamper restoration efforts, however the ecology and movements of wocus beetles are almost completely unknown. Tosha will be recording the phenology of all life cycle stages of the wocus beetle on upper Klamath Lake.
Diversity and phenology of butterflies at Crater Lake National Park Chelsea Long, a Crater Lake National Park Science & Learning Center Intern, will be studying the temporal and spatial distribution of butterflies at Crater Lake this summer. In addition to providing valuable information on the presence and distribution of species in the park, she will also examine the synchrony of butterfly emergence and flights with flowering plants. This research is very valuable to the study of climate change impacts across interacting species. Not all species respond equally to changing climate, resulting in mismatch of key periods of species' life cycles with severe impacts on ecosystems. Flowering of plants is highly responsive to advancement of warm spring temperatures. It is unclear the extent to which Lepidopteran species can track the advancing phenology of key nectar plants. Crater Lake and Oregon's southern Cascades witnessed an extremely dry winter this year, with snow pack at less than 30% this spring. Early snow melt and flower phenology could have significant impacts on butterfly populations. Chelsea will help to monitor the phenology of these poorly studied species.
Bird migration and wetland management in Klamath Basin IBAs Students are conducting a series of projects on the lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in northern California to help the Klamath Basin Audubon Society understand birds and bird habitat within Important Bird Areas (IBA) of the upper Klamath Basin. Students are currently studying the phenology and distribution of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl relative to wetland treatments (e.g. discing), changing water depth from management activities and seasonal decline, and soil and water salinity. Populations of waterbirds and the availability of habitat have declined dramatically over the past 100 years. Water allocation and rights continues to be a highly contentious and hotly debated political, legal, and social natural resources issue in the Klamath Basin. The research by OIT students will help inform and monitor management decisions focused on one of our most precious limited resources - water.