Category Archives: Fisheries and Wildlife

Characterizing off-channel habitats in the Willamette River: Fish need to cool off too!

During the summer, when the mercury clears triple digits on the Fahrenheit scale, people seek out cooler spaces. Shaded parks, air conditioned ice cream parlors, and community pools are often top places to beat the heat. If you’re a resident of Corvallis, Oregon, you may head downtown to dip your toes in the Willamette River. Yet while the river offers a break from the hot temperatures for us, it is much too warm for the cold water fishes that call it home.

Where do fish go to cool off?

As a master’s student in the Water Resources Graduate Program at Oregon State University, Carolyn Gombert is working to understand where cold water habitat is located along the Willamette River. More importantly, she is seeking to understand the riverine and geomorphic processes responsible for creating the fishes’ version of our air conditioned ice cream parlors. By placing waterproof temperature loggers along sites in the upper Willamette, she hopes to shed light both on the temporal and spatial distribution of cold water patches, as well as the creation mechanisms behind such habitats.

 

The cart before the horse: seeking to reconcile science and policy

Because the Willamette Basin is home to Cutthroat trout and Chinook salmon, the river is subject to the temperature standard adopted by the state of Oregon in 2003. Between May through October, Cutthroat and Chinook require water cooler than 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 degrees Fahrenheit). Currently, the main channel of the Willamette regularly exceeds this threshold. The coolest water during this time is found in side channels or alcoves off the main stem. While Oregon law recognizes the benefits these “cold water refuges” can provide, our scientific understanding of how these features change over time is still in its early stages.

Emerging stories

Data collection for Carolyn’s project is slated to wrap up during September of 2017. However, preliminary results from temperature monitoring efforts suggest the subsurface flow of river water through gravel and sediment plays a critical role in determining water temperature. By pairing results from summer field work with historical data such as air photos and laser-based mapping techniques (LiDAR) like in the image below, it will be possible to link geomorphic change on the Willamette to its current temperature distributions.

Between 1994 and 2000, the Willamette River near Harrisburg, Oregon shifted from a path along the left bank to one along the right bank. This avulsion would have happened during a high flow event, likely the 1996 flood.

No stranger to narratives

Prior to beginning her work in hydrology at OSU, Carolyn earned a bachelor’s in English and taught reading at the middle school level. Her undergraduate work in creative writing neither taught her how to convert temperature units from Fahrenheit to Celsius nor how to maneuver in a canoe. But the time she spent crafting stories did show her that characters are not to be forced into a plot, much like data is not to be forced into a pre-meditated conclusion. Being fortunate enough to work with Stephen Lancaster as a primary advisor, Carolyn looks forward to exploring the subtleties that surface from the summer’s data.

If you’d like to hear more about the results from Carolyn’s work, she will be at the OSU Hydrophiles’ Pacific Northwest Water Research Symposium, April 23-24, 2018. Feel free to check out past Symposiums here. Additionally, to hear more about Carolyn’s journey through graduate school, you can listen to her interview on the Happie Heads podcast.

Carolyn conducting field work on the Willamette.

Carolyn Gombert wrote the bulk of this post, with a few edits contributed by ID hosts.

A very Hungry Caterpillar, a very Tenacious Scientist

Tyria jacobaeae (cinnabar moth) caterpillars chowing down on Senecio triangularis at Marys Peak summer 2014

Tyria jacobaeae (cinnabar moth) adult Photographer: Eric Coombs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our guest this week is Madison Rodman who recently finished her Master’s degree in Botany and Plant Pathology. Growing up as the daughter of crime lab scientist and an ecologist in North Dakota, Madison told us that there was not a singular moment when she knew she wanted to do science; she always loved the outdoors. It is no surprise that Madison is a go-getter and a very organized scientist herself, but her science story is less than typical. Madison’s first research experience involved hiking through the jungles of Thailand surveying for tigers! While wildly adventurous, this trip taught Madison that field work is not all rainbows and tiger stripes, but that there are venomous snakes in the jungle and tigers are good at hiding. What drew Madison to this field trip was the opportunity to see the organism in its habitat, but she also realized that all the lovely jungle plants were hiding in plain sight and waiting to be surveyed as well.

Madison Rodman poses with her research organism Senecio triangularis summer 2016

Upon returning to Minneapolis to continue her undergraduate studies at the University of Minnesota, Madison focused on Plant Biology and realized that plant-insect interactions were something that interested her. She applied for a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at the University of Michigan, and spent the summer investigating the impact of atmospheric CO2 levels on plant chemistry and how changes in leaf defense chemistry affects herbivores. This was the pièce de résistance of a science project combining: whole organism science, plant-insect interactions, and climate change biology. Things were really coming together for Madison, and she knew she wanted to go on to graduate school and continue studying plant-insect interactions.

Manipulative experiment in action near Big Lake summer 2015

 

She did just that, and much much more, at Oregon State. Madison defended her Master’s thesis this winter, through which she studied the risk of a biocontrol agent, the cinnabar moth, on a native plant, Senecio triangularis, or arrow-leaf groundsel. These biocontrol caterpillars, will chomp the European tansy ragwort, an invasive weed, to the ground and look pretty cute doing it, but in some parts of Oregon they have recently switched to feeding on the native arrow-leaf groundsel. The good news: the tansy buffet is in low supply; the bad news: arrow-leaf groundsel is on the menu. How risky is the annual feeding of cinnabar moth caterpillars on arrow-leaf groundsel populations? Can caterpillar feeding have negative effects on the reproduction and survival of arrow-leaf groundsel? Both the arrow-leaf groundsel and the cinnabar moth are here to stay, but this native plant might be in trouble as annual temperatures continue to rise. You’ll have to tune in to hear more about the cinnabar moth and Madison’s field work in the high Cascades and Coast Range of Oregon. We promise it is all rainbows and moths…

Madison in her native habitat near Mount Hood summer 2016

Also at Oregon State, Madison has also been able to practice and boost her teaching skills through the Graduate Certificate in College and University Teaching (GCCUT) program. She has always loved communicating science, from being an undergraduate teaching assistant at U of MN to intern at Wind Cave National Park. Madison hopes to stay involved in teaching and community outreach after grad school when she relocates to Minnesota. We’re so excited to present her perspective on graduate school and share her science story.

Tune in to KBVR Corvallis 88.7FM this Sunday February, 5 at 7 pm PST to hear Madison’s story and learn about plant-insect interactions. You will not want to miss her take on graduate school, biocontrol, and beyond.

Not a local listener? Don’t fret, you can stream this episode live at www.kbvr.com/listen.

Inspiration Dissemination is happy to announce its addition to the KBVR archive as a podcast! Listen to this episode whenever and where ever you have internet access. Link TBA.

Birds to bacteria and kickstarting research boundaries

Did you know us humans have a background army of microbes that work to keep us healthy, turns out these microbial cells outnumber human cells 10 to 1 in a healthy human body! The human microbiome is beginning to be elucidated that shows most of these microbes have a mutualist relationship such as helping us to digest food or producing anti-inflammatories that our human genome can’t produce. Similar to humans, other mammals are expected to have a similar microbiomes that can contribute to a healthy species. However this area of research is in it’s infancy, our guest is spearheading this effort and pushing the boundaries of avian-microbe interactions in tropical environments that can help us understand what contributes to a healthy bird population.

Felipe after sampling a baby trogon (Trogon melanocephalus). This species only nest inside termite nests.

Felipe after sampling a baby trogon (Trogon melanocephalus). This species only nest inside termite nests.

Felipe found his way to these avian-microbe questions while pursing a masters degree at a Chamela biological field station in Mexico. He noticed that some young birds he found in termite-associated nests were dirty and grimy, but they were very healthy! How could this be? His curiosity continued to drive his motivation to pursue a PhD in the Biology Department at the University of Oregon. Yes that’s right he’s a duck, but science holds no grudges because all that really matters is what kind of knowledge this research can produce.

His passion for the outdoors started young while growing up visiting small towns in the seasonal dry jungles of Mexico. He recalls playing with his siblings but would always stop and look at cool rocks, or to show his friends all the creepy crawly insects he found! Only recently did he discover his siblings thought this was annoying because he was more focused on observing his surroundings than playing games with them; sound like a scientist in the making!

Felipe is teaching two field assistants (Rosi and Jesus) how to take body measurements of chicks.

Felipe is teaching two field assistants (Rosi and Jesus) how to take body measurements of chicks.

He is now in his 5th year of his project but has run into a sort of barrier; his research interests are the boundaries of where other researchers have ventured. If he is successful he will be one of few who will assess how nesting behavior influence bird-biomes in a tropical setting. Pushing boundaries may sound glamours but it comes at a cost, literally, because few agencies are willing to fund such a new exploration he’s chosen to pursue other means of obtaining funding.

Experiment.com is a way of combining a grant submission easily understandable to the public, and they can fund your work similar to a kickstarter. As Bill Gates said, “This solution helps close the gap for potential and promising, but unfunded projects.” Felipe’s campaign to raise enough money to help process 500 samples collected from the Mexican jungles has just started and will continue until the end of November. You can learn more about his project on his Facebook page. If you’re interested in this ‘crowd-sourced’ version of research funding you can read about how the process works.

Flycatcher chick after being sampled and measured.

Flycatcher chick after being sampled and measured.

You’ll have to tune in to hear the current state of his research as well as how this new funding venture could provide him the avenue to finish his PhD! You can listen October 30th 2016 at 7PM on the radio at 88.7FM KBVR Corvallis, or stream live.

Mosquito soup in the Brazilian rainforest

Fieldwork in the Brazilian Amazonia meant continuously trying to outsmart their savviest opponents…ants!

Fieldwork in the Brazilian Amazonia meant continuously trying to outsmart their savviest opponents…ants!

Deforestation in Brazil due to cultivation of monoculture crops, such as soybean, has profoundly impacted wildlife populations. In the lab of Taal Levi in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, wildlife biologist Aimee Massey has adopted a quantitative approach to studying this impact. During her first and second year of graduate school, Aimee traveled to Brazil for fieldwork and data collection, collaborating with researchers from Brazil and the UK. During this trip, she collected 70,000 biting flies, including mosquitoes and sandflies, by engineering 200 fly traps constructed from 2-liter soda bottles, netting, and rotting beef. Aimee installed biting traps throughout 40 individual forest patches, which are regions delineated by their physical characteristics, ranging approximately in size from the OSU campus to the state of Rhode Island.

Who knew fieldwork could be such a balancing act?!…especially when trying to avoid poisonous insects and thorns. Let’s hope the next branch Aimee reaches for is not of the slithering snake kind!

Who knew fieldwork could be such a balancing act?!…especially when trying to avoid poisonous insects and thorns. Let’s hope the next branch Aimee reaches for is not of the slithering snake kind!

Subsequent DNA analysis on biting flies provides a relatively unbiased source of wildlife tracking, since mosquitoes serve as a repository of DNA for the wildlife they have feasted upon. DNA analysis also provides information regarding diseases that may be present in a particular patch, based on the bacterial and viral profile. For example, sandflies are carriers of protozoa such as leishmania, which cause the disease leishmaniasis. To analyze DNA, Aimee uses bioinformatics and metabarcoding, which is a technique for assessing biodiversity from an environmental sample containing DNA. Different species of animals possess characteristic DNA sequences that can be compared to a known sequence in an online database. By elucidating the source of the DNA, it is possible to determine the type of wildlife that predominates in a specific patch, and whether that animal may be found preferentially in patches featuring deforestation or pristine, primary rain forest.

Learning about human/wildlife interactions while drinking tea with camel’s milk in Laikipia, Kenya.

Learning about human/wildlife interactions while drinking tea with camel’s milk in Laikipia, Kenya.

Aimee completed her undergraduate studies at University of Maine, where she quickly discovered she wanted to study biology and chemistry in greater depth. She planned to attend med school, and was even accepted to a school in her junior year; however, an introductory fieldwork course in Panama spent exploring, doing fieldwork, and trekking made a deep impression on her, so she decided to apply to graduate school instead. Aimee completed a Masters degree in environmental studies at the University of Michigan, during which time she spent 4 months at the Mpala Research Centre in the middle of the Kenyan plateau, just north of the Masai Mara. Following completion of her Masters degree, Aimee spent a year as a research assistant at the University of New Hampshire working with small mammals. Before beginning her PhD studies at OSU, Aimee spent two months in Haines, Alaska doing fieldwork with her future PI, Taal Levi. After she finishes her PhD, Aimee plans to focus on conservation work in New England where she is originally from.

Having fun after fieldwork; Aimee’s eulachon fish catch of the day in Haines, Alaska. One is better than none!

Having fun after fieldwork; Aimee’s eulachon fish catch of the day in Haines, Alaska. One is better than none!

Tune in on October 23rd, 2016 at 7PM on the radio at 88.7FM KBVR, or stream live, to hear more about Aimee’s adventures in Brazil, and why her graduate work is shaping our understanding of how deforestation impacts biodiversity.

 

Fishing for Improvements

Movies have a way of portraying ecology as a battle between tree-hugging scientists and the large corporations that want to destroy the natural world. The companies are shown with their giant boats and nets full of fish or with a tree removal machine ripping apart a forest in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, the scientists and environmentalists are putting their own lives on the line in protest. While this image of the battle for the environment isn’t totally inaccurate, it certainly doesn’t represent the experience Alex Avila has had in her life and she’s working to make sure both the fisherman and the environment can live in harmony.

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Alex helping out with Salmon sorting for the ODFW

 

Alex grew up in the Andes mountains of Ecuador. When you ask Alex about her childhood, the first thing she brings up are her family trips to the ocean. She talks about the fisherman and watching them unload their full nets of fish and pick through the day’s catch. These experiences played a large role in defining Alex’s path. After moving to the United States from Ecuador, Alex’s life and work has continued to revolve around the water. She pursued a degree in coastal studies and environmental policy at Hood College in Maryland and went on to work many, many, many different jobs for the park service and other government research organizations. All of these experiences have cycled back around, and Alex is now researching fish populations to help the fisherman she grew up watching on the coast of Ecuador.

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Alex getting to know her study specimen, the rockfish

During her master’s research, Alex returned home to Ecuador to study the grouper population off the western coast. Her master’s research led to a better understanding of how the grouper population was distributed in this area, and inform the local fisherman of better fishing practices. Alex is now a Nancy Foster Scholar, part of the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, pursuing her Ph.D. in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife with Scott Heppell. She is working to understand the distribution of rockfish off the coast in the pacific northwest. By recognizing how the ocean currents affect the rockfish distribution along the coast, we can better inform fisherman how, when, and where to fish. This type of collaboration between scientists and fisherman mean that both the fishing industry, and the rockfish, can keep thriving for generations to come.

Tune in Sunday, June 19th at 7pm on KBVR Corvallis to hear all about how Alex is working to making fishing sustainable. We will also have a special guest, Meryl Mims, on at 6pm to talk about the transition from PhD to Postdoc to PI.

Adrift in a sea of noise

Imagine walking around your neighborhood in a dense fog as night settles in; you may be familiar with the layout, but everything seems different. Innocuous obstacles like low-hanging tree branches and broken sidewalks become invisible right until you stumble upon them. You must be extra vigilant in order to avoid blindly injuring yourself as visibility drops.

For many humans, sight is our most valuable sense, but for marine mammals like dolphins, whales, and seals, their hearing is most precious. As sound travels better through water than air, the ocean is already a noisy place with atmospheric activity and other animals passing around, but their senses have had millions of years to evolve in such an environment. Unfortunately, because of an increased human presence in the ocean, like a fog bank rolling in, the ocean is getting noisier and putting these already threatened animals in danger.

Samara ready to deploy a hydrophone

Samara ready to deploy a hydrophone in the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary.

Samara Haver, a Masters student of Holger Klinck in Wildlife Science is interested in knowing about how the noise is affecting marine life. To do this, she must first characterize the ocean soundscape with hydrophones (pictured right) situated in various parts of the globe. With these data, she hopes to understand how loud the ocean is, how much noisier it’s getting, and where the noise is coming from. Tune in on Sunday, February 28th at 7PM PST on 88.7 FM in Corvallis or stream us online at http://kbvr.com/listen to hear Samara’s journey into the sounds of science.

Are You Listening? For Whale’s Sake, Keep it Down!

Our guest tomorrow night, Selene Fregosi PhD student in Fisheries and Wildlife, investigates noises produced by marine mammals and in particular, whales. Selene employs an under water microphone to record the bioacoustics produced by marine mammals over large spatial and temporal scales. Attached to remote controlled marine gliders, these microphones can record bioacoustics of marine mammals, some of which produce sounds of inaudible frequencies. Marine gliders limit the time and expense of whale monitoring from the deck of a marine vessel. This cost effective alternative allows Selene to collect oceanographic measurements like temperature and salinity and her audio recordings remotely through satellite transmitted programing. Selene’s explorations through her project will provide information about the effectiveness of this technology for future research with marine mammals.

Selene getting the glider ready.

Selene getting the glider ready with the help of Alex Turpin.

In addition to the practical aspects of this research, Selene is interested in how noise pollution from ships, submarines, and other vessels affects the behavior of charismatic mega fauna. By examining the sound spectra of an audio recording, Selene can identify each species by their characteristic sound patterns. After deciphering bioacoustics obtained from the microphoned-gliders, Selene can understand whale behavior during different times of year or different locations around the world. In fact, some of Selene’s recordings are the first ever to record whale behavior and movement off the coast of Guam!

Characteristic sound pattern of a beaked whale.

Characteristic sound pattern of a beaked whale.

Selene hopes that in the future, her work will aid the conservation of whales and other marine mammals. Deciphering bioacoustics can allow for the identification of when and where specific species are breeding, and conservationists can then work to reduce noise pollution. As our oceans become noisier from human activities, Selene’s research could provide accurate and specific information to limit disruption of crucial population maintenance and growth.

Learn more about Selene’s and other interesting research from the Klinck lab at OSU by visiting their blog.

Join us Sunday, November 22 at 7 pm to hear more about Selene’s research and her unique journey to graduate school. Tune in to KBVR Corvallis 88.7 FM or stream the show live!

Adélie Penguins and the fight for survival on the final frontier

There are very few places on the earth’s oceans that have not felt human impact. In Antarctica, just south of New Zealand, the Ross Sea is one of the most pristine marine ecosystems, host to a vast array of marine life including sea stars, jellies, Orca whales, and Adélie penguins. This final frontier, away from human influence, makes it the perfect place to study the impacts of climate change.

Adiéle penguin jumping on to an ice sheet.

http://ocean.si.edu/slideshow/trip-south-antarctica%E2%80%99s-ross-sea (4th image) Photo Credit: John Weller

On Sunday, July 12, 2015 at 7PM (PST), Peter Kappes of the department of Fisheries and Wildlife will tell us about his journey that lead him to studying Adélie penguins on the Ross Sea. From endangered suckers in the Klamath to seabirds on remote islands in the pacific, we will learn how his >10 year journey led him to his research on how the change in sea ice levels might affect the breeding success of Adiéle penguins. In Antarctica, the land is protected, but the sea is not. This research has the potential to change that.

Be sure to tune in at 7PM (PST) on 88.7FM in Corvallis or stream us on the web at http://kbvr.com/listen.