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.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A goodbye to our crewmates, Tara and Emma

It's official! The temperatures have plummeted and plants have senesced for the year, so the field season has come to a close. For the permanent staff here at IAE, one of the greatest (and hardest) parts of our job is getting to know, (and then say goodbye to) the phenomenal people that serve as our seasonal field crew. The Institute for Applied Ecology relies on interns, seasonal staff and volunteers to complete projects in the field, greenhouse and office. The Conservation Research Program usually enlists 1-2 crew leaders, 2-4 IAE/NPSO interns, and 1 high school ASE intern, who are invaluable to the program, especially during the busy field season. With the ending of the field season, we have said goodbye to our remaining seasonal additions, Tara Callaway and Emma MacDonald.
Emma MacDonald monitoring Calochortus coxii. Photo credit: Erin Gray

Emma "Southwind" MacDonald was one of two 2014 IAE/NPSO interns that began in early April. Emma quickly proved herself as an important part of the 2014 CR Crew, with an honest, hard-working attitude that will make you smile. She had recently graduated from Portland State University with a B.S. in Environmental Science and Management as well as a minor in Biology and was looking to gain plant conservation experience. Having been a Wilderness Park Ranger at Olympic National Park the prior summer, she came to IAE with extensive backcountry experience and a strong enthusiasm to learn as much as she could about plants. During her time at IAE, she has helped on over fifteen field projects, conducting research in all corners of the state.  Emma's love for the natural world was contagious and she was an excellent naturalist inspiring interest in all of nature's curiosities- including but certainly not limited to- fungi, mammal tracks, plants and birds. She will be remembered for her excitement for strange looking insects, particularly one named Jebediah (see photo below), and her sassy sense of humor. Emma  will be missed extremely because of her spunky personality, and positive 'can-do' attitude (even when poison oak is touching her face!). We wish her luck in her future endeavors and look forward to hearing about all the great adventures she will go on!

IAE interns, Amy and Emma, holding their new friend, Jebediah, whom they found in eastern Oregon. Photo credit: Erin Gray 
It is also that sad time of year when we have to say goodbye to our 2014 Crew Leader, Tara Callaway. Tara came to us with a B.S. in Biology from Northern Illinois University as well as an M.S. in Plant Biology from Western Washington University. Tara also worked for the National Park Service as a naturalist/interpretive ranger at both Joshua Tree and Mount Rainier National Parks. She is an avid outdoorswoman and spent many weekends this summer climbing at Smith Rock and elsewhere. Aside from leading many of our field projects (including coordinating supplies, rental cars, overnight accommodations, and wrangling interns and volunteers), Tara also analyzed heaps of data and wrote  many of this year's reports.

Tara also made it to the winner's podium at our first ever IAE Field Olympics last August. At this grueling competition of physical ability and mental stamina Tara's mean haggis hurling abilities and speed in the relay race landed her second place overall. Her strong arm comes from all her rock-climbing adventures as well as a summer of whipping the interns into shape (no interns were actually harmed ((by Tara)) during the 2014 field season).
The prestigious winner's podium at the 2014 IAE Field Olympics. Photo Credit: Stacy Moore.
Tara's strong will, levelheadedness, positive outlook, and ability to persevere for the sake of the project made her a superb crew leader. One particular memory is from one of our trips to Roseburg to monitor Kincaid's lupine. Vague directions took us down an unmarked driveway, which led us to the property of some very unfriendly residents. As the interns were imagining all the horror movies they had seen with a similar beginning, Tara calmly explained to the suspicious residents that we were lost and we'd be on our way. Tara wins a gold medal for getting us out of that one. We will also miss Tara's Midwestern vocabulary lessons. No one here will ever refer to changing into pajamas ever again, this office "gets baggy" instead.

Tara running the gauntlet at the IAE Field Olympics. Photo credit: Chris Johnson.
Even though the 2014 field season is over, many great memories were made that will rank this among the best jobs ever! We were all fortunate to spend a summer outside rain-or-shine, hiking around the hills and mountains of Oregon searching for rare and endangered plants.
Taking in the views at Cape Arago. From left to right: Denise, Tara, Suzanne, Emma, Erin and Amy
Photo credit: 10-sec timer on Canon camera.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Rubus bartonianus (Bartonberry)

Rubus bartonianus in the wild.Photo
credit: Mark Turner. To see more amazing wildflower
photos, please visit Mark's website.
Say hello to one of our newest species of interest here at IAE, Rubus bartonianus (Bartonberry, RUBA). This diminutive little berry is a member of the genus Rubus, which encompasses a wide variety of aggregate fruiting berries such as blackberries, raspberries, marionberries, and salmon berries (to name just a few). Rubus bartonianus grows exclusively on the steep talus slopes and rocky river banks of Hell's Canyon, along the Snake River and it's tributaries. Currently, this plant is endemic to just 45 river miles!  Rubus bartonianus has seen habitat reduction due to damming, fire, rock slides, livestock grazing, and competition with the exotic Rubus ameniacus (aka Himalayan blackberry). It's shrinking habitat range has led to it being considered "imperiled" as well as a federal species of concern. 

Untreated RUBA seeds. Photo credit: Erin Gray
Through our efforts we hope to explore the best methods for germinating and propagating R. bartonianus seeds, which can then be out-planted in historical R. bartonianus habitat along the Snake River. Currently, it is unknown what the optimal conditions are for R. bartonianus to germinate. Many Rubus species require scarification and/or stratification of the outer seed shell before they can germinate. In the wild, many of these species rely on birds to eat them for this process to happen. The strong acids in the animal's stomach effectively scarify the hard outer shell, leaving the actual seed intact after passing out of the digestive system. In lieu of force-feeding a bunch of birds these seeds and waiting for nature to do its business we are looking into other ways to recreate this scarification. We are currently exploring three different scarification treatments: sulfuric acid, bleach, and mechanical sanding. 

Adding sulfuric acid to a batch of RUBA seeds.
 Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
Burning off the outer shell with sulfuric acid.
Photo credit: Emma MacDonald

After chemical scarification, the seeds still
have their burned outer shells, which must
be mechanically scraped off.
Photo credit: Emma MacDonald 
Up-close view of a scarified seed.
 Photo credit: Erin Gray

Intern Emma MacDonald with Dr. Sugae Wada at the
National Clonal Germplasm Repository. Photo credit: Erin Gray.

We are also trying to determine the optimal cold and warm stratification periods for this species. Many Rubus species have been seen to germinate better and faster after enduring a warm stratification followed by cold. Naturally, these conditions are met as the maturing seed endures a warm summer and early fall; then a cooler, wetter period through winter. To find R. bartonianus's optimal warm and cold periods, we are subjecting treatments to 30 days of warm followed by 120, 90, and 60 day cold-stratification periods.

Some of the seeds undergoing warm stratification have already
begun to germinate! Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
Once stratified, the germinated seeds will be planted in the greenhouse until they are ready to be taken back to Hell's canyon for reintroduction. Our main goal for this project is to determine the best method(s) for propagating Rubus bartonianus.We hope to use this information as well as the products of our experiments to replant R. bartonianus in the wild and maintain the species historic range within the Snake River Valley.  Funding for these efforts was provided by the Vale District Bureau of Land Management, and we thank botanist Roger Ferriel for his support.  Thank you to Dr. Kim Hummer and Dr. Sugae Wada, at the USDA ARS National Clonal Germplasm Repository in Corvallis, who have offered their expertise in germination of Rubus species and use of their laboratory facilities.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Goodbye, Good Luck, and Good Riddance (just kidding)

As the field season comes to a close, we say goodbye to our Conservation Research interns Amy Comstock and Suzanne Joh. The Institute for Applied Ecology relies on our interns and seasonal staff  to complete field work on time (before the plants senesce), enter data, propagate plants in the greenhouse, and write blogs and articles about their experiences. Our interns are an invaluable asset to the organization and each year we have difficulty saying goodbye.

Entering data for Fritillaria gentneri. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald 
As one of the 2014 IAE/NPSO interns, Amy Comstock has been a Jill-of-all-trades, helping out anywhere the Conservation Research Program needed things done. We began our field season in April, and have worked our way through over fourteen field projects as well as mountains of data entry and organization.

The interns kicked off the field season by monitoring the endangered and endemic Erigeron decumbens (Willamette daisy) at multiple sites in the Willamette Valley. Other projects included the removal of invasive Brachypodium sylvaticum (false-brome) at Maxfield Meadows and propagation of Rubus bartonianus (Bartonberry) seeds under various germination conditions. The interns conducted population monitoring of Fritillaria gentneri (Gentner's fritillary), Lomatium cookii (Cook's desert parsley), Sidalcea nelsoniana (Nelson's checkermallow), Lupinus oreganus (Kincaid's lupine), Astragalus mulfordiae (Mulford's milk-vetch), Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris (Point Reyes bird's-beak), Limonium californicum (California sea lavender) and Frasera umpquaensis (Umpqua green gentian).

Looking for Lomatium cookii in all the wrong places.
Photo credit: Emma MacDonald

Amy's cheery personality, positive attitude, and (lack of) pop culture knowledge really pulled our crew together and made long car rides out to our study sites much more enjoyable. Amy Comstock will be leaving us to start graduate school at Oregon State University in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society (FES). This self-proclaimed "Bird Nerd" will be focusing on nesting habits of Purple Martin populations of western Oregon. Before school starts, Amy will be taking a well-deserved respite from us continuously asking "Hey Amy, what bird is that?"

Suzanne came to us as part of the Apprenticeships in Science and Engineering (ASE) program through the Saturday Academy. This program aims to connect high school students with local scientific and engineering companies to provide them with professional work experience. These students then create and present a synopsis of the summer's efforts at a culminating symposium held at the University of Portland campus.

Suzanne counting Cordylanthus 
maritimus ssp. palustris in Coos Bay.
Photo credit: Amy Comstock
 Over the course of her eight week internship with the Conservation Research Program at IAE, Suzanne assisted us with field research for our projects on Erigeron decumbens, Lupinus lepidus var. cusickii, Cordylanthus maritimus ssp. palustris, Frasera umpquaensis and Lupinus oreganus. She was also our invaluable tech support for all of our cell phone and mp3 player problems. Suzanne was a superstar intern, braving fire and ice (on our trips to Eastern Oregon and Coos Bay, respectively) in the pursuit of ecological research. Getting to know her over these past eight weeks has been a real pleasure.We wish her luck as she begins her junior year of high school. For more information on the ASE program please visit their website.

Beating the heat in Unity, Oregon. Photo credit: Tara Callaway
While we have to say goodbye to these two, we get to keep the company of Emma MacDonald, IAE/NPSO intern extraordinaire, and Tara Callaway, our fearless crewleader, for a while longer.  Stay tuned for more adventures in conservation research!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Frasera umpquaensis (Umpqua green gentian)

Figure 1: Frasera umpquaensis. 
Photo credit: Denise Giles-Johnson.
Our field season is slowly coming to a close as the mercury rises and plants begin to senesce. Luckily, we have managed to get a little relief from the heat as we study Frasera umpquaensis  in the Cascade foothills near Cottage Grove, Oregon. Also known as the Umpqua green gentian, this plant is endemic to northern California and southern Oregon, west of the Cascades. Typically found between 4,500 and 6,500 feet in elevation, F. umpquaensis is a cold-loving species which naturally occurs in areas with relatively long and cold winters.

Frasera umpquaensis
Photo credit: Denise

F. umpquaensis is a long-lived species which has the potential to live up to 80 years! It's longevity makes it susceptible to a lot of environmental change including disturbance periodicity, canopy closure, and changes in forest community composition, as well as short and long term climate cycles. Some of the most common causes of population decline are habitat destruction, genetic isolation, and low recruitment rates. Habitat destruction and alterations have divided this species into small and isolated remnant populations. IAE's research focuses on factors associated with recruitment and survival, such as plant vigor, litter depth, and microclimate temperature.

One of our long-term study sites for F. umpquaensis is Elk Meadows, which is located along the Calapooya divide, near Cottage Grove, Oregon. These meadows are nestled into secondary growth forests comprised of white, Douglas, and grand firs. Research on plants in this area indicates that the populations in north-facing areas, which receive less intense solar radiation and longer snow cover duration, are more successful. Additionally, individuals that were germinated in the greenhouse and were exposed to longer cold treatments were found to be more robust than those that were grown in warmer temperatures. This research shows the direct effect that microclimate temperature has on plant vigor, seedling success and plant recruitment.

Figure 2: Frasera umpquaensis being propagated in the greenhouse.
Photo credit:  Denise Giles-Johnson.
One of the ways that IAE studies the effects of microclimate conditions on plant growth and recruitment is by using a tool called Solar Pathfinder. Commonly used to install solar panels, this instrument estimates the annual solar radiation for a particular location. By aligning the Solar Pathfinder properly and taking a photo directly above the Pathfinder's face, you can estimate the sun's annual path across the horizon as well as average solar radiation per month. The reflection on the Pathfinders face shows the area that will receive direct sunlight (see the red outlined portion of figure 3). The Solar Pathfinder Assistant (a computer program) takes this photo and calculates the area of open canopy, and then extrapolates this information across the entire year using the known solar pathway and radiation intensity for that location's latitude and longitude. 

  Figure 3: Left: Taking an image of the Solar Pathfinders' reflection for later analysis. Right: Tracing open canopy in the image to compute total annual solar radiation. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald

Climate change plays a role in all systems and certainly has an impact on fragile species such as F. umpquaensis. Monitoring changes in survivorship and recruitment will help us to track population trends and determine the best methods for future management to protect populations found in these cooler microclimates as well as promote connectivity to reduce genetic isolation of these populations. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Let's hear it for the birds

After the long hours of staring at the ground, it's nice to give that neck a stretch and look up! In this weeks' blog, I (Amy) want to give a shout out to those little flying machines that have been serenading us with sweet melodies during our long work days.
American goldfinches perched near a field site in Corvallis, OR. Photo credit: Emma Macdonald

I came to IAE as a long time bird enthusiast. By spending time working with plants and plant communities, I have become even more aware of the strong connection between plant communities and bird diversity. Much of the work done here at IAE, such as clearing invasive species and opening up meadow habitat, improves habitat quality and increases plant species diversity. These improved plant habitats are also important nesting and foraging grounds for many species which are threatened by habitat loss and fragmentation. Working in these unique areas provides an opportunity to hear (and occasionally see) birds that are less common in more urban spaces. To give you an idea of how many species can be heard during any given day, here is a bird list that I made on May 7th:
common yellowthroat

American crow
American goldfinch
American robin
barn swallow
Bewick's wren
black-capped chickadee
black-headed grosbeak
brown creeper
brown headed cowbird
common yellowthroat
lazuli bunting
great blue heron
house wren
lazuli bunting
northern flicker
orange-crowned warbler
pacific-slope flycatcher
purple finch
red-breasted nuthatch
red-winged blackbird
rufous hummingbird
savannah sparrow
savannah sparrow
song sparrow
spotted towhee
violet-green swallow
warbling vireo
western tanager

These birds were all heard at our Sidelcia nelsoniana sites at Tyee Wine Cellars. Tyee is just outside of Corvallis, and has committed 246 acres of wetland habitat into a Wetland Reserve Program. The program is a part of a conservation easement in cooperation with U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Science that protects wetland habitat for 30 years. This site has become a plant and bird haven. Birders have spotted over 150 different species on their property. You can visit Tyee and hike the 1.5 mile loop around Beaver Pond.

Now to test the birder in you. Do you know who this bird is?

Photo credit: Emma Macdonald

It's a western tanager! He certainly is a stunning little songbird and easy to distinguish by his bright red head and yellow body. Unfortunately, you can't always get a look at them! The song of the western tanager is a three part melody and can sound similar to the American robin. One way to tell them apart is that the tanager's song is shorter and more gruff. They also have a very distinctive call note which sounds like "piterick". Have a listen to these two songs and see if you can tell the difference.

In all that we do, it is important to look at the big picture and to remember the interconnection between all species and processes. IAE's research and restoration plays a part in preserving the diversity of ecosystems, from the ground all the way up to the birds!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Calochortus coxii- Crinite Mariposa Lily

Members of the genus Calochortus, more commonly known as mariposa lilies, are often considered overlooked gems of forested and grassland ecosystems. These diminutive lilies are found along the North American Pacific coast, from Southern Canada to Central America. Species can vary greatly in both appearance and habit.
Calochortus coxii. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
Calochortus coxii, also known as Cox's or Crinite (hairy) mariposa lily, is endemic to a 10 mile serpentine ridge line in Douglas County, Oregon. No more than 30 cm tall, this lily is white with pink and lavender striping near the base. The lily's inside appears to be yellow due to the yellow and white crinite hairs which line the inside of the petals and give this flower its name.
Close up of inner petal hairs. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald

Calochortus coxii has been listed as an endangered species by the state of Oregon, a Species of Concern by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and is a Bureau Sensitive Species by the Bureau of Land Management. This plant remains federally listed as a "Species of Concern," which excludes it from some protective measures ensured by the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Through existing policies created by the state and BLM, the lily has received some protection from further habitat loss on public lands. However, this protection is superseded by federal regulations which allow exploratory mining operations and development.

Calochorus coxii is threatened by various aspects of human land development.  Canopy encroachment due to fire suppression, noxious weed invasion, logging, land development, and grazing have all diminished available C. coxii habitat.  A proposed plan to construct a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) pipeline through Bilger Ridge, one of the largest remaining populations, could further impact and fragment remaining habitat of this rare endemic.

IAE's Conservation Research Program, in collaboration with the Roseburg District BLM, has been monitoring C. coxii since 2011.  Using a combination of long-term monitoring plots and surveys of historic habitat, we have been able to document the current status and extent of the largest populations on BLM land and monitor population trends over time.  Our research has indicated that C. coxii populations have been steadily declining since the initiation of these long-term studies. Carefully executed canopy thinning has been shown to increase the number of flowering individuals in some parts of the population. However, this treatment must be conducted in a way to prevent damage to habitat as well as to prevent the further spread of invasive weeds.  Continued monitoring of this species over time will enable us to understand long-term population dynamics and to document threats to this unique serpentine endemic.  To read more about our research, please see the 2013 report:  Survey and evaluation of population trends, 2013 report

While our studies take place on public lands, cooperation and collaboration with local private landowners has been vital to the success of our monitoring. Through the years, the Institute has created relationships with land owners adjacent to our study sites. Our mutual respect and concern for the land has brought us together. One such local ranching resident fondly refers to us as "Earth Babies". Through these friendships we have learned a little bit more about the area and the concerns of local residents; some are worried about potential gas pipeline construction through or under their property. Some residents have also taken an interest in our study and have learned to identify the C. coxii on their own property. With any luck, we might be able to prove there's a little Earth Baby in all of us.
Westward view from Bilger Ridge. Photo Credit: Erin Gray

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Snapshots of the season

This month has been a busy one! With all of the projects that we have to tackle, there just isn't time to write about each one. So for this week's post, here are some snapshots from our busy month of surveys and monitoring. We may talk more about some of these projects later on--but for now, enjoy the pretty pictures!

Astragalus mulfordiae: Population dynamics and the effect of cattle grazing in the Vale District, BLM

Astragalus mulfordiae with seed pods. Photo credit: Amy Comstock

View down the road near one of our remote field sites in Vale, Oregon. Our crew was in Vale for 4 days monitoring the effects of cattle grazing on an endemic population of Astragalus mulfordiae (Mulford's milkvetch).
Photo credit: Amy Comstock 

The crew searching for plots.
From left to right: Erin Gray, Tara Callaway, Emma Macdonald, and Scott Orr. Photo credit: Amy Comstock 

Sidalcea nelsoniana: Testing propagation methods for recovery efforts of Nelson's checkermallow

Sidalcea nelsoniana (Nelson's checkermallow). Photo credit: Scott Orr

Peter Moore (Restoration Ecologist with IAE) laying down transects to monitor plantings of S. nelsoniana at one of our 6 field sites near Corvallis, OR. For this study, S. nelsoniana were planted using 3 different methods (seeds, rhizomes, and plugs) in order to compare propagation rates. Photo credit: Scott Orr

Rows of S. nelsoniana plug out plantings. Photo credit: Scott Orr

Lomatium cookii: Monitoring population trends of Cook's desert parsley in Josephine County

Lomatium cookii (Cook's desert-parsley) in flower. Photo credit: Emma Macdonald 

Working with one of our volunteers to measure L. cookii. This population is located in the Illinois Valley, OR, and is monitored in order to track population dynamics and trends. From left to right: Denise Giles-Johnson, Maressa, Amy Comstock.
Photo credit: Emma Macdonald

All of the volunteers and IAE crew posing with a cardboard cutout of John Wayne. John Wayne has connections with the Siskiyou Field Institute, which is where we stayed while in Selma. From left to right back: Tom Kaye, Emma Macdonald, Marcia Locke, Wanda Manning, Sandy Poinsett, Bets Stover, Jackie Shaw, Mark Darrach, Scott Orr, Ian Pfingsten, Clay Gautier. From left to right front: Tara Callaway, Gale Baker, Denise Giles-Johnson, John Wayne, Amy Comstock, Marisa Wampler. Photo credit: Tom Kaye

Monday, July 14, 2014

Managing and monitoring Lomatium cookii in the Illinois River Valley (aka driving ourselves LOCO in Cave Junction)

Lomatium cookii, or Cook’s desert parsley, is a native parsley endemic to wet grassy meadows and along vernal pools of Southwest Oregon. Many of the largest federally managed remaining sub-populations are located in the Illinois River Valley in Josephine County.  Lomatium cookii has been listed as an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as the state of Oregon due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Several sub-populations occurring on publicly owned lands have now been listed as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC). However,  previous mining and land development have permanently disturbed the hydrological patterns of many of these meadows. Currently, these remaining populations are still threatened by illegal off-road vehicle use, as well as proposed mining operations on these lands.

Denise Giles-Johnson and Tara Callaway hiking to L. cookii study sites in Illinois Forks Valley State Park. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
We are currently working on several studies in the Illinois River Valley, looking at different aspects of Lomatium reintroduction and recovery on federal and state managed lands. Our first trip aimed to collect data for two projects; one concerning population monitoring and demographic modeling of existing native populations, and the other assessing the efficacy of population augmentation efforts. Several extant populations of L. cookii in the Illionois Valley are included in this study including; French Flat (ACEC), Reeve’s Creek,  Rough and Ready Creek (ACEC), and Indian Hill. For further information on these projects please see our previous blog entries from 2012 and  2011. To learn more about developing reintroduction techniques for L. cookii in the Illinois River Valley, please read our 2013 report.

Denise Giles-Johnson monitors community diversity and  estimates percent coverage within a meter squared plot at Illinois Forks State Park. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
In the spring of 2014, in a joint effort between the BLM and the Oregon State Parks and Recreation Department, we initiated a study to test the efficacy of several methods of removing invasive grasses in L. cookii  habitat. Annual and perennial invasive grasses are a major threat to this rare species, and appropriate habitat management will be key as we look towards recovery of the species. Experimental plots were established in both occupied and unoccupied habitat and baseline data recorded, including community composition of all plots and detailed demographic data for each L. cookii in the occupied plots. Upon approval by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (pending), these plots will be treated with grass specific herbicide in the fall (when the L. cookii has senesced). Monitoring will be repeated in 2015 to assess the efficacy of treatments on invasive grasses, and  L. cookii.

Morning view from Deer Creek Center, our beautiful home-away-from-home. See more about Deer Creek  here. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald

Monday, June 9, 2014

Loopy for Lupine!

This past week, we took a trip down to the Umpqua River basin near Roseburg, OR to monitor Lupinus oreganus (Kincaid's lupine), which is a federally threatened species and an obligate host plant to the endangered Icaricia icarioides fenderi (Fender's blue butterfly). This area is home to the southernmost populations of L. oreganus.  Lupinus oreganus typically occurs in native upland prairie habitat. With it's large, upright inflorescences and dark green palmate leaves, it's hard not to admire the grandeur of this plant. The flowers of L. oreganus range in color from bluish/purple to yellowish or cream.

Lupinus oreganus (Kincaid's lupine)

The goal for this project was to monitor 6 different sites where L. oreganus populations exist on land managed by the Roseburg District BLM. These sites have been monitored by IAE for the past 12 years in order to track changes in these rare southern populations and their responses to management treatments. Each morning began with a healthy dose of Oregon Sunshine (a local coffee shop in Canyonville) and a short (or sometimes long) trek out to one of our 6 field sites.

The crew hiking out to one of our field sites. Photo credit: Amy Comstock
 It was interesting to see the variability that the lupine displayed between each of our sites. At our first site, for example, the lupine population is genetically polyploid. That means that they have too many sets of chromosomes, and in this case, has resulted in a sterile population. In contrast, another one of our sites contained several plots with new seedlings and even required expansion of our monitoring area to include lupine that had spread beyond the original plots. The habitat is also variable and ranges from open meadows to roadside ditches and slopes.  If you are interested in learning more about the population trends from these sites, check out IAE's report from 2012:

Lupine growing along a road side slope
Polyploid lupine populations growing under oaks in a meadow
 Some of the factors that are thought to be contributing to the variability and decline of this species are human disturbance (especially near roadsides), depletion of native prairie habitat, encroachment by woody plants, and climate change. IAE has been conducting our own research at the common gardens in Corvallis to mimic the effects of climate change on L. oreganus. To learn more about climate change effects, and the experimental design at the common garden, check out this previous blog: Although our days were long and hot, you really can't complain about this view! All in all another great and successful week.

View from our site at Callahan Meadows. Photo credit: Amy Comstock

From left to right:
Denise Giles-Johnson, Amy Comstock, Emma MacDonald, Scott Orr, and Tara Callaway

Friday, May 9, 2014

Battling Brachypodium sylvaticum (false-brome)

We’re at it again! This time, however, instead of scouting out a rare flower, we are attempting to eradicate the all too familiar Brachypodium sylvaticum (false-brome). Although B. sylvaticum may not be as ostentatious as other invasives, such as Himalayan blackberry and Scotch broom, do not underestimate the effect that this intruder can have on a landscape. It can grow well in shade or sun and can thrive at elevations of 200 feet all the way up to 3500 feet. Just a few small clumps of this grass can displace the native forbs and grasses (such as Bromus vulgaris) in a very short period of time. For more information on the differences between B. sylvaticum and B. vulgaris, check out last year’s blog on Maxfield Meadows.
The dreaded false-brome, Brachypodium sylvaticum. Photo credit: Scott Orr
With the “Oregon sun” beaming down on us (lightly cloudy with a chance of rain) we once again ventured out to Maxfield Meadows, a site managed by the Salem District BLM, that has been under restoration since 2007. Although most of the lower portion of the site had just a scattering of B. sylvaticum, its resilience became evident as we began venturing further up the drainage that runs through the site. Some of the larger patches were around 600 meters squared.
A whopping 240 lbs. of false brome collected over the course of two days. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
To be honest, pulling false brome is not the most engrossing sort of work. We had plenty of time to check out other flora and fauna in the area. With the recent rains and high soil saturation, the newts and salamanders were out in force. 
Rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
We also passed our time enjoying the songs of Wilsonia pusilla (Wilson’s warblers), Troglodytes pacificus (Pacific wrens), and Empidonax difficilis (Pacific-slope flycatchers), along with the low drumming of a Dendragapus fuliginosus (sooty grouse) in the distance. Emma even stumbled upon this sizeable antler shed which blending in with the encroaching moss and debris.

Deer shed covered in moss. Photo credit: Emma MacDonald
All in all, it was a very successful couple of days as we work towards restoration.