Oregon Season Tracker retreat at HJA a huge success

Brad Withrow-Robinson, OSU Forestry and Natural Resources Extension agent for Benton, Linn and Polk Counties.

About fifty Oregon Season Tracker citizen scientists, teachers, Extension personnel and researchers gathered to exchange ideas and inspiration at the Oregon Season Tracker retreat in mid-August.  OST is a joint program of OSU Extension and HJ Andrews Experimental Forest https://andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu/, so the beautiful 15,000 acre HJA forest in the mountains east of Springfield was the perfect location to take a deep dive into ecology and climate science.

HJA Researcher Dr. David Shaw (left) discussing forest dynamics with a group of Season Tracker volunteers (photo by Mark Schulze, OSU)

The retreat created an unusual opportunity for OST volunteers to visit with OSU and US Forest Service researchers in the field to learn about the work they are doing.  We visited complex weather stations, learned how cold air flows and pools in the mountains much like water, and how that effects the timing of growth and behavior of plants and animals.  We learned about how precipitation is stored in the watershed and used by plants, or joins a stream on its way to the ocean.  And we learned about the decades of research conducted on the HJ Andrews on forest dynamics, and its influence on stream flows, and the animals that live there.  “It was interesting to get a glimpse of the large number of different approaches (to research) and areas being studied.”  said one volunteer. “I had no idea of the depth and breadth of data collection and what was being done with the data.” said another.

Stream gage station 1, collecting water data as it moves through the watershed. (photo by Mark Schulze, OSU)

We spent an evening talking about communication about science observation and discovery and honing our own skills in field Journaling.

Most importantly, the retreat was a chance for the OST volunteers to see how their observations at home, woodland or school yard contribute to work being done at the Andrews forest and elsewhere.  It made a strong impression. “I feel that I am contributing important data and observations that matter to researchers.”   said one OST volunteer.   All seemed to be heading home with renewed enthusiasm and dedication to their science work. “I became a volunteer because I felt there was a need and a value, but it was here that it became real for me.” commented a volunteer at the end.

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