By Amy Grotta, OSU Forestry & Natural Resources Extension – Columbia, Washington & Yamhill Counties

I’ve been taking part in an OSU Extension program called Oregon Season Tracker (OST) for about five years.  OST is a citizen science program where volunteers keep track of rainfall and plant phenology (seasonal growth patterns) and submit their records to national databases.  OST also connects natural resources managers, landowners, educators, and others in the community with researchers and their science.  At our office in St. Helens, we have an approved rain gauge which we try to check each morning, and a phenology “garden” consisting of two large Douglas-fir trees and some native shrubs.

When I first got involved in OST, my motivation was practical. I thought that having some consistent record of weather and phenology patterns would ultimately be useful in my work in Forestry & Natural Resources Extension.  I wasn’t quite sure exactly how it would be useful. But I figured that since weather affects trees in many ways, something would come of it; and even if not, I would be helping scientists with THEIR research questions. Continue reading

rain gauge
The Extension Office’s rain gauge (on a dry day)

By Paul Wilson, Columbia County Master Woodland Manager

My cats get me up every morning by 7:30.  They get fed.   I check the rain gauge.

Then I record the amount and other observations on a website.  After more than a year, I have a habit.   It’s simple, useful, and fun.

We’re five years into reforesting a clearcut.   The early spring after our first planting was unusually dry, but the effects varied a lot even on our small forest.  Clatskanie averages almost five feet of rain a year. Even so, we lost a lot of site-adapted seedlings because they dried out – in February and March.   Soil differences played a role.  But where we were able to irrigate a bit the trees thrived.

Last fall we saw a blurb in the paper about the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow (CoCoRaHS) network.  When we checked out the CoCoRaHS website there was only one regularly reporting volunteer in Columbia County.  There are official weather stations around – the City of Clatskanie, the Kelso airport, and others, but none seemed to describe what happens right here.    Continue reading

Feel like spring to you? It did to me earlier this week on a sunny walk in the woods. I spotted new leaves on many of our native shrubs, including Indian plum, huckleberry, elderberry, red flowering currant and salmonberry. These caught my attention particularly because I’ve just started dipping a toe in a new project – tracking phenology of a couple of our forest plant species through the National Phenology Network’s Nature’s Notebook. Continue reading

The holidays are winding down; gifts given and received, time spent with friends and family; Christmas trees soon will be un-decorated (and some will be repurposed for the fish).

Our rain gauge, officially known as OR-CB-16

This year I bought our Extension office a holiday gift: a CoCoRaHS rain gauge. CoCoRaHS stands for Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network. It is a national network of citizens who collect and report precipitation data using a standardized system. Having data collection points dispersed all across a region helps scientists understand localized weather patterns. In Oregon, the CoCoRaHS project is supported by the Oregon Climate Service, which is housed at OSU.

We set up our rain gauge a few weeks ago in a clearing outside our office. We put the data recording form on the fridge in kitchen. The first willing person goes out and checks the gauge in the morning. And now our data shows up on the CoCoRaHS map!

Based on our few weeks’ experience, participating in CoCoRaHS has been fun, easy, and educational. If you want to get in on it, the CoCoRaHS website has all the information you need to get started. We also plan to do some local workshops next year for Master Gardeners and woodland owners to help populate the map with more data points. Stay tuned for the dates and details.

As thoughts turn to the New Year, I’m pleased to announce that we will have a new contributor to this blog in 2013. Brad Withrow-Robinson, Forestry & Natural Resources Extension Agent for Linn, Benton and Polk Counties will be sharing the writing with me and sharing his insights on woodland management with all of you. You can share, too. Pass TreeTopics along to a friend, and pass your article suggestions on to us.

With warm wishes for a happy 2013,

Amy Grotta