Student Research

Lower Klamath

I currently work with students conducting applied research projects on a wide range of topics in wildlife and ecology in the Klamath Basin & Crater Lake

Wocus flower
Dispersal and phenology of the wocus beetle
Tosha Bunnell
, a senior in Environmental Sciences, is studying the phenology of the Wocus Lily (Nuphar luteum) and its obligate herbivore pest, the  Wocus beetle (Galerucella nymphaeae).  Wocus, also called the yellow pond lilly  is an iconic aquatic plant of wetlands and lakes in the upper Klamath Basin.  Of deep importance to the Klamath Tribes, it is a valuable food source for humans and wildlife alike.   Large-scale and rapid seasonal draw-down of lake water depth and draining of wetlands have drastically reduced and fragmented the populations of wocus in the basin.  The wocus beetle is a specialist herbivore which feeds exclusively on wocus leaves where it also lays its eggs.  Seasonal beetle outbreaks can have significant impacts on wocus growth and productivity and can hamper restoration efforts, however the ecology and movements of wocus beetles are almost completely unknown.  Tosha will be recording the phenology of all life cycle stages of the wocus beetle on upper Klamath Lake.  We will also be working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to help inform transplant projects aimed at restoring connectivity and cover of wocus in the lake. 
Swallowtail on red columbine
Diversity and phenology of butterflies at Crater Lake National Park
Chelsea Long
, a Crater Lake National Park Science & Learning Center Intern, will be studying the temporal and spatial distribution of butterflies at Crater Lake this summer.  In addition to providing valuable information on the presence and distribution of species in the park, she will also examine the synchrony of butterfly emergence and flights with flowering plants.  This research is very valuable to the study of climate change impacts across interacting species.  Not all species respond equally to changing climate, resulting in mismatch of key periods of species' life cycles with severe impacts on ecosystems.  Flowering of plants is highly responsive to advancement of warm spring temperatures.  It is unclear the extent to which Lepidopteran species can track the advancing phenology of key nectar plants.  Crater Lake and Oregon's southern Cascades witnessed an extremely dry winter this year, with snow pack at less than 30% this spring.  Early snow melt and flower phenology could have significant impacts on butterfly populations.  Chelsea will help to monitor the phenology of these poorly studied species.
Shorebirds foraging in water
Bird migration and wetland management in Klamath Basin IBAs
This spring a group of students are conducting collaborative senior projects on the lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge in northern California to help the Klamath Basin Audubon Society understand birds and bird habitat within Important Bird Areas (IBA) of the upper Klamath Basin.  Students are currently studying the phenology and distribution of migratory shorebirds and waterfowl relative to wetland treatments (e.g. discing), changing water depth from management activities and seasonal decline, and soil and water salinity.  Populations of waterbirds and the availability of habitat have declined dramatically over the past 100 years.  Water allocation and rights continues to be a highly contentious and hotly debated political, legal, and social natural resources issue in the Klamath Basin.  The research by OIT students will help inform and monitor management decisions focused on one of our most precious limited resources - water.
Woodpecker on tree
Black-backed Woodpecker distribution in Crater Lake National Park and Oregon
The populations of Black-backed Woodpeckers in the southern Cascades of Oregon are currently being considered for threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. The Black-backed is considered a fire specialist, associated with recent small-scale, high-severity burns as well as disturbance from forest pathogens such as Mountain Pine Beetle (MPB).  However, most of the research on this species comes from the eastern U.S. and boreal regions of Canada.  The southern Cascades are comprised of far more mesic ecosystems and thus habitat dynamics could be unique.  A better understanding of this species habitat associations in recently disturbed as well as undisturbed areas will help inform future management decisions related to fire and wildlife in the park and beyond.  OIT sophomore Andrew Robatcek has been using eBird data and annual aerial MPB survey data to assess relationships of Black-backs with MPB disturbance across Oregon.