The Institute for Applied Ecology (IAE) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to conserve native species and habitats through restoration, research, and education. Here, we describe some of our projects working with the Conservation Research Program at IAE. The Conservation Research Program conducts research and montioring of native species and ecosystems in order to determine population trends and effective methods for restoration and management, conducts research on invasive species in order to determine effective control methods, and develops plans for the management and restoration of native ecosystems.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Welcome to the 2013 Field Season!

The 2013 field season is starting up and the Conservation Research crew will be back on the road to conduct annual monitoring and research on plant species and ecosystems in the Pacific Northwest.  Projects scheduled for this year include researching management techniques for the Bradshaw's lomatium, establishing monitoring protocols for coastal grassland restoration, and monitoring populations of Kincaid’s lupine throughout its range.  Keep an eye out for new blog posts about these projects (and many more!) from this year’s NPSO interns, Andrew Heaston, Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, and Tobin Weatherson.

Andrew Heaston graduated in 2012 with a BS in Plant Sciences from University of California, Santa Cruz.While at UCSC he interned with Younger Lagoon Reserve (YLR), studying the effects of topical mulch application on native flora cover in a coastal grassland / prairie. The following summer he was employed at YLR as a Natural Reserve Field Assistant, following up on his research and participating in active restoration efforts on site. Andrew plans to pursue a graduate degree in plant ecology, with the hopes of eventually teaching in a university setting.

Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz graduated in 2011 with a BA in Environmental Science and Archaeology from Willamette University in Salem, Oregon. While at Willamette, she worked with the Zena Ecological Restoration Initiative where she developed an affinity for the Oregon white oak. In 2012 she worked as an AmeriCorps Conservation Team member with The Nature Conservancy in Eugene. After spending this spring and summer exploring the flora of Oregon, she plans to pursue an MS in a conservation ecology-related field with an emphasis in paleoclimate reconstruction and climate change impacts.

Tobin Weatherson graduated from Humboldt State University in 2012, majoring in Environmental Science: Ecological Restoration.  He has worked as a research assistant in the Klamath River watershed on a project evaluating the relevance of step-pool systems to stream restoration.  Tobin hopes to eventually pursue a master's degree in plant ecology or restoration ecology.

Our 2012 interns, Guy Banner and Charlotte Trowbridge, have continued working with the Institute for Applied Ecology.  Guy is now a Field Technician with the Habitat Restoration department working to enhance native habitats and monitor restoration sites.  Charlotte is the crew leader for this year’s Conservation Research crew and will begin her graduate education at the University of British Columbia in the fall.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Reintroduction and management of the Willamette daisy

Vegetative E. decumbens in the greenhouse
The Willamette daisy (Erigeron decumbens var. decumbens) is an herbaceous perennial in the Asteraceae family that is endemic to Oregon’s Willamette Valley.  Although it was once common throughout wet prairies and upland meadows in the region, habitat degradation and fragmentation has caused a severe decline in population numbers.  There are currently fewer than 40 known populations of Willamette daisy in existence, a quarter of which cover less than one acre.  This is concerning due to the loss of genetic diversity, which results in inbreeding depression within populations.  The decline was severe enough to warrant protective listing by both state (Oregon Department of Agriculture) and federal (US Fish and Wildlife Service) agencies, as well as federal designation of critical habitat.  The Willamette daisy can be identified by its tall, pink to purple flower and its slender, lanceolate leaves that turn glaucous in the spring.  The genus name Erigeron is derived from the Latin words eri- (meaning early) and -geron (meaning old man).   The name describes the grey-green coloring that the leaves develop in spring before the flowers bloom in June and July.  In its vegetative state, E. decumbens can be confused with Plantago sp. but can be correctly identified by the three parallel veins running up the leaves.

Willamette daisy capitula
The Institute for Applied Ecology has undertaken several experiments to identify the threats to the populations, as well as management techniques and reintroduction methods that could prove beneficial to species recovery.  Recovery prospects are poor without intervention, so it is important to establish effective reintroduction and management strategies.  IAE initiated experiments in 1999 focusing on determining ideal habitats for reintroduction efforts.  Seeds were collected from populations in both wet and dry habitats and redistributed in experimental plots that were classified as wet, intermediate, and dry habitat.  Seeds from both source habitats fared equally in the introduction plots, indicating that there isn’t a specific habitat type that would be more suitable than others for seeding projects. 

Eugene fire crew burns a treatment plot near Fern Ridge
Another round of experiments is currently being conducted to determine the best management practices for E. decumbens populations.  Threats that must be managed include encroachment of shrubby and woody species and invasion by non-native forbs and grasses. Initial experiments tested the effects of the common management activities of mowing, grazing, and burning, but in 2011 additional treatment plots were created to test other options such as carbon addition (pouring sugar on plots), use of grass specific herbicide, and application of glyphosate.  An additional set of treatment plots has been established this year to increase data collection locations.  IAE has grown over 1800 E. decumbens individuals that will be outplanted this month.  Propagation of this species required allowing 16 weeks of cold stratification in germination boxes, followed by one week in greenhouse conditions before the seeds were carefully transplanted into containers and tended to in the greenhouse for several months.  Although the process is intensive, IAE has been very successful at growing robust plants for use in experiments.

(L) Seeds in germination boxes, (R) Plants growing in greenhouse