The OSU College of Forestry Research Forests Offers Many Opportunities to the OSU and Corvallis Communities

With over 155,000 visits a year, the McDonald and Dunn Research Forests are well known for the many recreational opportunities in the forests – from dog walking to trail running to horseback riding, thousands of people frequent the McDonald and Dunn Forests to enjoy the outdoors.

But, the McDonald and Dunn Forests are much more than a network of popular trails and forest roads. They join eight other forests across Oregon that collectively make up OSU’s College of Forestry’s Research Forests – which are all utilized for many different functions in addition to recreation, including public outreach, education and research.

“The OSU Research Forests offer many valuable outdoor learning opportunities,” said Holly Ober, associate dean for science outreach and professor in the department of forest ecosystems and society.

“Students can visit the woods on field trips to see and experience examples of topics covered in textbooks and lectures. Researchers can implement experiments that help increase understanding of issues of contemporary concern. Outreach specialists can host workshops that showcase demonstrations for woodland owners and professional forest managers. Visitors of all ages can take self-guided tours. And local community members benefit from opportunities to recreate and relax in nature.”

As their names suggest, one of the primary functions of the Research Forests is to serve as an outdoor laboratory for researchers. The forests have hosted projects that span many disciplines and much of the research considers how to actively and sustainably manage forests while addressing economic, social, and environmental factors. The hope is for the Research Forests to help advance the field of forestry through scientific inquiry.  

“We don’t want the forests to be focused on any single issue,” said Stephen Fitzgerald, director of College of Forestry research forests and professor of forest engineering and resources and management. “We want to explore the many different elements of sustainable forest management, including how managing forests affect carbon, wildlife, timber production, and water yield.”

Various research projects across the 15,000 acres of Research Forests have examined wildlife and wildlife habitat, carbon sequestration, forest resiliency amidst climate change, invasive species, recreation, biodiversity conservation, timber production, economic prosperity, ecosystem processes, and forest sustainability. Researchers have utilized the forests for this work for nearly a century.

A current research project, led by Cat Carlisle who is pursuing a graduate degree in the department of forest, engineering and resource management, is looking at the potential for Oregon’s forests to contribute to carbon storage and sequestration. Carlisle is analyzing the inventory of carbon stock in the McDonald and Dunn Forests – and projecting how different forestry management strategies might shift carbon levels in the forests over the next 150 years. This project will provide decision-makers with valuable information about how to optimize forest management to help mitigate climate change. 

“A lot of the focus in forestry right now is on identifying which forest management strategies will enhance forest carbon,” Carlisle explained. “The hope is to find ways to use forest management to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and sequester it in biomass, to contribute to climate change mitigation. I hope this project sheds light on how to manage a sustainable working forest in a way that considers ecological factors like carbon stock, especially as the climate changes.”

Because Carlisle is conducting this work in the Research Forests, she was able to immediately jump in and access a wealth of data that’s been collected over the years.

The Research Forests also serve as an outdoor classroom for students at Oregon State University – for classes offered through the College of Forestry and through other departments across Oregon State. Students are able to get a hands-on education and develop skills in subjects like silviculture, soils, wildlife, recreation management, prescribed fire, and ecology through the forests.

“We are fortunate to have these Research Forests located right here in Corvallis,” said Ober. “The close proximity to campus makes it possible for students to take field trips to the woods during scheduled lab periods, and allows both students and faculty to conduct outdoor research without extensive travel expenses.”

The forests also host a robust public outreach program and recreational opportunities. The McDonald and Dunn Forests contain 30 miles of trails and 110 miles of roads that are open for non-motorized use and enjoyment so the local community can explore the outdoors and enjoy nature. The many activities available in the forests include hiking, dog walking, horseback riding, hunting (only allowed on Dunn Forest), trail running, picnicking, bird watching, and mountain biking.  This all happens alongside educational programs that allow people to learn more about the Research Forests through self-guided tours, the Forest Discovery Trail, interpretive signs, and community events like Get Outdoors Day and seasonal guided forest walks.  

A record-breaking 196 students attended the November 9, 2022 College of Forestry Career Fair held for the first time in the Peavy Forest Science Center. 

The fair hosted 32 employers who generously provided students with four hours of networking and industry connections. Students were able to meet with employers representing all College of Forestry majors and academic programs and many students signed up for and attended interviews the following day. Among the employers, it was great to see so many College of Forestry alumni back on campus to share what they are doing post-graduation with current students. 

A big thank you to the variety of employers who attended and spent part of their day with us, including Boise Cascade, AKS Engineering & Forestry LLC, Hampton Lumber, Roseburg Forest Products, Washington State Department of Natural Resources, Miller Timber Services, Bartlett Tree Experts, Bureau of Land Management, Oregon Department of Forestry, Oregon Parks & Recreation Department, Starker Forests, Lone Rock Resources, Cascade Timber Consulting, Sierra Pacific Industries, Rayonier, Pacific Forest Management, Weyerhaeuser, and Northwest Management, Inc.

Another big thank you to Roseburg Forest Products for hosting a pre-career fair speed resume review session for students who wanted feedback and suggestions for improvement from an industry lens.

Members of student clubs at the College of Forestry were also on hand to support the fair, including the Forest Stewards Guild, Society of American Foresters, and the Forestry Club.

Interested in learning more about the career fair or connecting with the employers listed here? Please contact Britt Hoskins or Brooke Harrington. Alumni are always welcome to come to the College of Forestry Career Fair – whether you are representing a registered employer or if you want to attend and network for your own career. 

Destiny Pauls is a natural resources student focusing on conservation law enforcement who will be graduating in Spring 2023. She spent her summer in central Oregon as a wilderness ranger for the Deschutes National Forest, in partnership with AmeriCorps and Heart of Oregon Corps.

What was the focus of your summer job?
My position focused on stewarding in our wilderness areas within the forest, educating recreationists about the new Central Cascades Wilderness Permit system, checking for those permits, and instilling a few essential Leave No Trace principles for their journey. I was able to work in the Three Sisters Wilderness, the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness, Mt. Washington Wilderness, and the Diamond Peak Wilderness.

Describe the day-to-day of your job
I often spent my days geared up in uniform hiking our trails and interacting with the public. Early in the season with the late snow, our crew assisted the Trails crew with a bit of trail maintenance and helped crosscut and lop out a lot of downed trees and vegetation, then focused primarily on getting daily counts of permitted recreationists in the wilderness, counting cars at trailheads, hiking in the backcountry, cleaning up campsites of litter, and trying to disperse the impact from humans. It was such a dream to work for an agency I respect, admire, and aimed at working in an area that holds such a special place in my heart (and ankle – I have the Three Sisters tattooed there!). I am from southern Idaho and have lived in the Willamette Valley for the past 10 years and have driven that highway, recreated in that forest, and climbed those peaks during that time, so to see it come full circle- dream to reality was pretty amazing and couldn’t have asked for a better place and way to do what I love.

How will this job help you in your future career?
My focus in the natural resources program is conservation law enforcement, with the goal of being what I like to call a “tree cop” or wildland law enforcement officer in a future career. This summer job provided many opportunities to shadow other forest service programs, in which I was fortunate to experience several ride alongs with our forest service law-enforcement officers. This gave me a real face to face glimpse of what that position entailed and that was one of the primarily goals of what I was looking to get out of this experience. Lastly I want to share how hard it was for me to leave this position as I wished it could have continued past a seasonal position (future permanent job here I come!) but I will fondly look back at the people I worked alongside, the places I explored, and the connections I made within the industry, my university, and in some of the most beautiful wild places Central Oregon has to offer.

OSU Research Forests student worker Devon Swank recently met with forest ecosystems and society Ph.D. student Rachel Zitomer to learn about some of her research on bumble bee nutritional ecology in the McDonald and Dunn Forests. Rachel is a Ph.D. student within Dr. Jim Rivers’ Forest Animal Ecology lab.

Rachel’s doctoral research examines native bee health in early successional conifer forests. Specifically, Rachel explores how characteristics of timber forest landscapes impact bumble bee health and reproduction across time. “Essentially, this research aims to provide forest managers with information about what flower species are most important for bees and what time of year the flowers are being used”, says Rachel. This information is beneficial when planning for vegetation control and restoration plantings, and can make forest management decisions more bumble bee friendly.

Why do we need pollinators?

Pollinators like bumble bees are responsible for fertilizing most of the world’s flowering plants and play a crucial role in our ecosystems. Pollinators influence our food and agricultural industry, too: wild insect pollinators are estimated to contribute about three billion dollars to the U.S. agriculture industry through pollination every year.

Unfortunately some species of bumble bee, such as the western bumble bee (Bombus occidentalis), once a common species of bumble bee in Oregon, have experienced rapid population decline over the last few decades. These declines can be attributed to a variety of factors, including climate change, pathogens, and impacts from human uses. These varied factors may contribute to bumble bee nutritional stress and decline.

Bumble bee nutritional needs

When bumble bees forage, they collect pollen and nectar by traveling from flower to flower. Nectar provides carbohydrates which fuels movement in adults and provides essential energy. Pollen provides lipids and proteins which are vital to reproduction and the development of young bees.

Male Bombus flavifrons nectaring on bull thistle (photo by R. Zitomer)

Pollinators in conifer forests

Generally, bees prefer open habitats with warm ambient temperatures, nesting sites and flowering plants. Given these habitat requirements, research on bees in conifer forests is lacking. This gap in research may be attributed to the fact that conifer forests are typically assumed to be shaded environments with cooler temperatures and few flowering plants. This assumption is certainly accurate for closed-canopy forests. However, there is growing evidence suggesting that bees can be quite abundant in early seral conifer forests.

Early seral forests contain key characteristics that are beneficial for bees, including low canopy cover, warmer understory temperatures, and higher flower counts. Additionally, early seral forests may provide abundant nesting opportunities, but further research is needed in this area.

Ultimately, understanding seasonal changes in bee foraging preferences and nutritional intake in actively managed early seral settings will help land managers better identify what species are most beneficial to bumble bees after a harvest and across planting seasons.

Field sites and data collection

Rachel identified twenty early seral stands in the McDonald and Dunn Forests. These were sites that had been harvested within the last 10 years. At these locations, she measured three aspects of bumble bee foraging across the foraging season (May through August) in 2020 and 2021: 1) The floral preferences of foraging bumble bees; 2) The number of flower species visited by individual bumble bees and by all bumble bees collectively; and 3) The macronutrient ratios (e.g., protein to lipid concentration) of bumble bee-collected pollen.

“We are interested in examining bumble bee nutritional ecology across time because the diversity and density of floral resources changes substantially throughout the foraging season. These seasonal shifts could affect bumble bee foraging behavior and nutrient intake” says Rachel.

Map of pollinator research field sites in the McDonald and Dunn Forests. Map provided by R. Zitomer.

What’s next?

Rachel is now analyzing the results and we are eager to write a follow up article with some of the findings! This work is of high importance to the OSU Research Forests and to other forestland managers across the state hoping to conserve and promote habitat and resources for our native bees.

This article originally appeared in the OSU Research Forests newsletter. Thanks to the OSU Research Forests and Devon Swank, OSU Research Forest student communications and outreach assistant, for allowing us to reprint this article. Devon is a senior in the College of Forestry studying natural resource management. Get updates from the OSU Research Forests.

Forest engineering undergrad Casey Warburton (class of 2023) did field research throughout Oregon and California during the summer of 2022.

Where and who did you work for?
I worked in many research forests all over Oregon and California including the HJ Andrews Experimental forest, Hinkle creek and even down in the redwoods. As for who I worked for, I assisted many grad students under Catalina Segura and Kevin Bladon while also doing tasks that they had specifically for me.

Was there a favorite project?
Yes, two that I particularly enjoyed were doing synoptic sampling of the HJ Andrews watersheds where we hiked up the 2 main streams collecting water samples and also hiking up most every tributary that flowed into the 2 main streams. The second project was looking at how water flows through the soil after large storm events. To get this project setup we dug 3 soil pits along a hillslope near streams in 3 different locations to install sensors that detect water in the soil.

What is one memory that sticks out?
One memory that sticks out to me was when my partner and I were taking samples out of one of the main creeks in the Andrews forest and looking around at the water, the trees all the rocks and downed logs and thinking how we were probably the 3rd or 4th people to ever see the stream right where we were. It was like we were pioneers or early explorers seeing new land that had never been touched before.

What did you enjoy most about this job?
What I enjoyed most about the job was the variety of work I was able to do and how many different projects I got to help with. Seeing all the different research that was going on just in our lab was eye opening to all the different parts and pieces of a watershed and how they interact.

Zach Menegat (class of 2023) studies outdoor recreation management and GIS, and he spent the summer working as a fly fishing guide for his second season in West Yellowstone, Montana for Madison River Outfitters.

What was the focus of your job?
My summer is focused on teaching people from all different backgrounds to fly fish on the Upper Madison River in the state of Montana as well as going into Yellowstone National Park for my clients choice of river to fish.

Describe the day-to-day of your job.
My days consisted of getting to the shop at around 8am and meeting my clients for the day. After that we would shuttle down to the water, I would give my little lecture on an introduction of what they needed to do for the day, and have a great day of fly fishing netting big brown and rainbow trout!

What is one memory that sticks out?
One memory from this summer I had was having the opportunity to take professor Dave Stemper out of the water and he absolutely killed it!

How will this job help you in your classes or future career?
Other than showing people my knowledge that I’ve gained over the years, this job has taught me so much in regards to resource management and fisheries sciences. Most importantly it has taught me the necessity of communication in any field. 

What was the hardest part of this job?
The hardest part of my job is consistency. In the guiding industry, when you are booked for a trip by your boss or shop staff, there is not much you can do to get a day off. As a part time guide I would still have 2 days off a week, but for next year as a full time guide I will likely be 13-16 days on, 1 day off. 

What did you enjoy most about this job?
The best part of this job was calling the river my office. As someone who grew up in the river fly fishing, this is a dream job and I could not have asked for anything better as a start to a career.

Where and who did you work for?
This summer, I spent time in Salem, Oregon’s enchanting Minto-Brown Park. Freshwater wetlands, thimbleberry patches, alder groves, and waterfowl ponds dominate this urban-proximate park. Marshland Minto-Brown resides in southwestern Salem, and it abuts the mighty Willamette River. I worked, researched, and learned under the tutelage of Ashley D’Antonio (OSU College of Forestry associate professor) and Gareth Hopkins (Western Oregon University assistant professor) throughout my experience. Gleaning insight from their years of experience in the field and academic settings, I researched recreationists’ impact on freshwater turtle species. To accomplish this task, I deployed observational methods, carefully monitoring human and wildlife interactions throughout a series of field sites, selectively chosen by the principal investigators, Ashley and Gareth.

Was there a particular project or focus?
I focused on classifying the types of recreationists and turtle species within five field sites, marking data sheets with information pertinent to the study design. A major goal of this study comprised whether recreationists (kayakers, bikers, trail-runners) have a substantial impact on (a) turtle species, (b) non-native vs native species composition, and (c) the general acceptability of habitat conditions. This co-facilitated project also involves the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife (ODFW), due to their investment in healthy and suitable human-wildlife relationships throughout the state. The management recommendations from this field season will assist in current and future planning initiatives regarding freshwater turtle habitat and species health.

One facet of this field research that I took a special liking to included the usage of a portable decibel meter. I used this device to quantify the level of physical noise that pulsated through our field sites. Acoustics play a vital role in wildlife behavior, hence allowing many species to communicate and develop, but they also act as barriers for species such as turtles that might need quieter environments to concentrate on selecting suitable habitats.

What is one memory that sticks out?
About three weeks into the summer season, I came across a convocation of golden eagles soaring through a narrow channel of water. I came upon this rare sight just minutes after arriving at the third field site. While unrelated to the focus of this study, the golden eagle’s presence demonstrated the splendor of avian life that Minto-Brown offers. After this occurrence kicked off the season, I went on to observe osprey, red-tailed hawks, bald eagles, and other birds of prey, of course in addition to turtles roving the surface waters of the park.

How will this job help you in your classes or future career?
I think about this question frequently, and I would eagerly say this experience taught me about field-based occupations. I also gleaned insight into the mental and physical endurance required to work/research as a field recreation and ecological scientist. This specific line of work requires adaptability, resilience, and patience, not to mention a knack for weather fluctuations! Going into this experience, I saw myself (down the road) working in a field ecology position, somehow connected to academia, and this summer certainly solidified my passion.

What happens now with this research?
Since the field season came to a close, the research team will embark on the subsequent data analysis stages, producing a series of metrics and values from the observational measurements. This stage will tie together loose ends from the sampling season, ultimately yielding baselines for management planning. After analyzing the data, we plan to write an academic paper, outlining human-wildlife conflicts throughout urban parks with threatened freshwater turtle populations. A management plan and paper will only conclude one part of this long-term partnership among the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Western Oregon University, and OSU’s College of Forestry, as the years and researchers ahead of us will continue to examine the critical linkages among human disturbances, turtle species, and community-based conservation science.

Name/ Major/ Where you consider home to be or where you currently live: 
My name is Rona Bryan, and I’m about to graduate with a post-bacc B.S. in natural resources with an individualized specialty option in art, education, and outreach and a minor in fisheries & wildlife sciences. I was born and raised in Hood River, Oregon and currently live in Salem.

Why did you choose the NR program and OSU College of Forestry? 
After I finished my first degree in art, I ended up serving and bartending for many years and always felt like I was missing a part of myself. As soon as I realized that I wanted to go back to school to study the natural world, OSU was my #1 choice. The fact that I could get a degree through Ecampus without entirely disrupting the life I had already built was even better. I chose the NR program because I wanted to apply my art background to my science studies, and the College of Forestry was open to that kind of interdisciplinarity in ways that set them apart from other options.

What do you hope to do after graduation? 
After graduation, I’ll be jumping right into OSU’s Master of Natural Resources program to delve deeper into my research on art and design in natural resources. Once I complete that program, I hope to work in an outreach and education capacity to increase the accessibility of science communication, bolster ecological literacy, and foster public engagement in environmental issues. 

What was your favorite experience or class or professor and why? 
I’ve had too many amazing classes and professors to pick just one, but any class that incorporated getting out in the field as a regular part of the curriculum never failed to recharge and inspire me. Collectively, engaging in hands-on work with the soils, waters, fish, vegetation, and ecosystems that are right in my backyard has been one of the best experiences of my life.

Nathan is a double major in renewable materials and forestry in the College of Forestry. This summer, he participated in our faculty-led program to the Italian Alps. Tradition and Innovation in the Wood Construction Industry: A Journey in the Italian Alps explored the past of European wood architecture and the future of timber engineering in the beautiful Dolomites of Italy.

What originally interested you in studying abroad?
I really wanted to go to Italy, and I thought the program sounded interesting.

What surprised you most during your travels? Why?
Everything. I felt almost constantly surprised. If I have to pick I would say I was most surprised at how purposeful the wilderness is. In the United States, I am never quite sure if a wild place is protected, or just hasn’t been built on yet. In Italy, it was clear by the resort-style “huts” deep in the mountains that they mean to leave that forest a forest. It was also interesting to me to see how close each town was to the next town. It seems like it would make it harder to get horribly lost.

How did your time abroad influence your thoughts on your field of study?
I feel like this trip really cemented in me the idea that my career could be international, and that I would like to do that, at least for part of it.

If you had to pick one, what was your all-time favorite experience while abroad? Why was it so meaningful?
Just talking to people on transit. I feel like I am supposed to have a flashier answer, but I met so many interesting characters in between activities for the program. I was surprised at how few Americans there were, but how many other friendly English-speakers wanted to get to know someone far from home. I guess everyone on transit is a traveler, no matter how many kilometers they cross.

What advice would you give to students considering an international experience?
Stay longer if you can, and rest one of the days you are gone. Don’t be afraid to apply.

What I did this summer is a profile series of students, faculty and staff in the College of Forestry. Did you have a great job, vacation, or field research experience? Contact and we will be in touch!

Sophia Brownlee, Class of 2024, is a natural resources major (ecological restoration option) in the College of Forestry, and this summer she worked for Chaco on their Fit For Adventure tour. This tour travels around the country offering on site repairs to keep their sandals on feet (and out of landfills) longer.

Describe the day-to-day of your summer job.
Our activation typically runs 12:00pm to 6:00pm which allows us a leisurely morning. I’ll either bike to work or catch a ride with the rest of the crew in one of our vans. Once we arrive at our activation, where the Chaco bus is staged, we begin to unload all of our equipment and set up the activation space. This includes a large table for checkout, a display table with the try-on Chacos and Chillos, and a design table featuring webbing options for folks’ custom sandals. Once activation begins I’ll either work on the ground getting people fitted in their Chacos, diagnosing Chaco repairs, completing transactions, and sharing stories and fond memories involving Chaco footwear. Otherwise, I work on the bus making and repairing the sandals themselves!

What’s one memory that stands out from your experience working this summer?
One thing that’s really stuck with me from working this summer is how excited people are to repair their Chacos. We offer free repairs to customers to promote sustainability and longevity of the shoes. I’ve worked with a few customers who were overwhelmed with joy that we were in their city and could repair their sandals, saving them from the landfill. They share stories of how important their Chacos are to them; how many states, rivers, trails, and countries their shoes have traversed. We get people who are so emotionally attached to their Chacos, they have a hard time saying goodbye! It brings us a lot of joy to salvage such a sentimental thing.  

What was your favorite place you traveled for this job?
Bozeman, Montana. Without a doubt. The people there were just lovely, and they were incredibly stoked to have us visit. On the bus, we have a capacity of 45 custom sandals/repairs, any additional orders we send to our factory in Michigan. On one of the days in Bozeman, we hit our capacity just an hour after opening! Bozeman has a great community of outdoor adventurers, and we felt right at home. The scenery was also spectacular, and we even got to witness an epic thunderstorm while rafting on the Gallatin river! I can’t wait to visit again, hopefully for a ski trip.    

How will your job this summer help you in your classes or future career?
This job opened my mind to the world of marketing and promotion, something I hadn’t been exposed to. It also piqued my interest in product development and design, which I’m considering adding to my curriculum at Oregon State. Besides the job itself, traveling and experiencing new cities has given me an appreciation for what we have in Oregon that may seem so commonplace, but does not exist, or is less accepted in other places. For example, bike lanes, quality tap water, a $13.50 minimum wage, and government-funded programs to help students access quality, local food are not available in most of the places we’ve traveled.   

Describe your perfect pair of Chacos.
This is a tough one! My favorite style of Chacos is the classic Z/1. I haven’t owned a pair of Chacos with the toe-strap (a Z/2), but I’d be willing to try ‘em out. The perfect pair of Chacos starts with a perfect fit, which is contingent upon the size, of course, and how the straps are adjusted. As for the design, it would be paralyzing to try to pick out even a handful of webbing options I’d consider my favorite, however, off the top of my head, the NRS, National Parks, and Grateful Dead collections are super rad.

What I did this summer is a profile series of students, faculty and staff in the College of Forestry. Did you have a great job, vacation, or field research experience? Contact and we will be in touch!