Current Research

OSU College Forests started funding research projects directly, in an effort to support research on the Forests studying questions with management implications for us. We are currently funding the following projects:

  • Assessing the Consequences of Herbicide Use on Animal Pollinators in Early Seral Forests (James Rivers and Matthew Betts)
  • Improved Aggregate Management: Evaluating Factors in Extending Forest Road Lifespans(Kevin Boston, Ben Leshchinsky, Erica Kemp)
  • Treatment Options for Controlling the Spread of Brachypodium sylvaticum: Risks, Implementation, Effectiveness, and Impacts on Native Vegetation (John Bailey, Taylor Fjeran)

Nesting Habitat for Purple Martins on the McDonald Dunn Forests

Utility Pole Research Cooperative - Improving the performance of utility poles through research on treatment, specifications, maintenance and disposal.


Pollinators Research - Excerpt from Spring 2014 College Forests Newsletter


Photos by Jim Rivers

Have you heard the buzz? Birds, bees and flowers are waking up all across the valley, because spring is finally here!  As the pollen flies, one man is paying close attention to that buzz in the air— OSU Research Associate Jim Rivers is waiting to begin his latest study here on the College Forests. Rivers, along with students from OSU, is setting out to conduct a study to quantify ecosystem services of pollinators in regenerating forests. Rivers hopes to shine light on this topic and begin a dialogue about the importance of pollinators in forests growing back after a disturbance.

Rivers explained, “We hardly know anything about invertebrate pollinators in the Pacific Northwest. Very little research has been done on the  topic. We are trying to establish what the benefits of these insects are, and we need more information about what they’re doing.”

One thing the team will look at is the relative contribution of different types of bees to pollination. “If you ask people what kinds of bees we have here in the valley,” said Rivers, “most people will say honeybees and bumblebees.”

It turns out that other buzzing pollinators are often overlooked. In actuality, mason bees (Osmia sp.) and leaf cutting bees (Megachile sp.) are suspected to be responsible for pollination to a greater degree than those invertebrates we more commonly associate with the word bee.

Rivers is planning to observe bees in a number of ways. One is by building shelters that the insects will find and nest in. This will allow the researchers to learn about how well the bees are eating and reproducing. Another technique is to insert simple hollow rods, cut down the middle, into mason bee nesting areas. The female bees will lay their eggs in the rods, separating each egg from the other with a protective, wall-like seal. The team also plans to set up GoPro cameras to gain a better sense of which pollinators are visiting the flowers in what numbers. Other pollinators observed will include hummingbirds, butterflies, hoverflies, and beetles.

The research team spent the colder, wetter months configuring a budget, purchasing materials, and discussing the details of the study. “We’ve been honing in on what we’re going to do in terms of how and where to sample and what’s reasonable to accomplish in the amount of time we have,” said Rivers.

The start date for fieldwork will depend completely on weather. Rivers and his team will keep a close eye on temperature patterns as May approaches. “You hear talk about an early spring,” said Rivers, “but really we just have to wait and see.”

Pollinator sampling will end in August, but on-site data collecting will continue into September. At that time, the researchers will be able to learn about what animals benefit from the pollinators by observing berry browsing activity.


Purple Martin Study - Excerpt from Spring 2014 College Forests Newsletter

The purple martin (Progne subis) is the largest swallow in North America, and it is found right here on the McDonald and Dunn Forests! Through the 1940’s—1980’s a number of factors were causing the population of these birds to decline. However, recent data show they may be making a comeback.

Since 2009, local birders have been watching two purple martin colonies on the Forests. The Oregon Wildlife Institute (OWI) began monitoring these colonies in 2011. View their final report to the Oregon Wildlife Heritage Foundation here.

Most purple martins nest in artificial gourd colonies, as can be seen on near the 200 Road on the Dunn Forest. However, the College Forests are fortunate to support a population of purple martins using natural cavities for nesting. 


False Brome Research - Excerpt from Fall 2013 College Forests Newsletter

While not many Forest users recognize the name Brachypodium sylvaticum, many people are familiar with the invasive grass called false brome. Recent projects conducted in the McDonald Forest by OSU researchers such as Seema Mangla (Ph.D) and Taylor Fjeran are looking more closely at the effects and preventative methods associated with this ecologically damaging grass.

Mangla, a Research Associate with a Ph.D from India, is working on a project titled: A new threat to western forest productivity and ecosystem services: The aggressive invasive false brome. When asked, she described her research:

“The project aims at understanding how false brome achieves its strong competitive ability against other plants. We are testing plots that have Douglas-fir forests of several ages in which we’ve used herbicide to decrease the amount of false brome cover. We’ve then planted in nothing, a native grass or a common understory herb.”

Mangla said she and her team aim to understand situations in which competition between the tree and grass species is most intense and determine whether the element most sought after between the species is light or soil. They will also be looking at whether or not false brome has harmful effects on tree growth and wood quality in Douglas-firs of different ages.

Mangla said, “This project will enable managers to adapt to the threat of this new invader by informing them about false brome’s effects on forest functions. This information will avoid the many costs of a new pan-regional invasion.”

Fjeran graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Washington and is currently working towards a Master’s of Science in Sustainable Forest Management from OSU. She is working on a project titled: Treatment options for controlling the spread of Brachypodium sylvaticum: risks, implementation, effectiveness, and impacts on native vegetation.

“This research aims to develop and refine efficient, cost-effective techniques for controlling [false brome] populations in the College Forests and surrounding Oregon Coast Range mountains,” Fjeran explained.

Protecting native vegetation from false brome invasions is another priority for Fjeran’s team. They  have applied herbicide and prescribed burning treatments, both individually and in combination,  to areas with false brome present. Beginning next summer, they can begin to examine and compare the regrowth of false brome and native vegetation before and after the various treatments.


Willamette Valley Reptiles - Excerpt from 2013 Year's End Edition College Forests Newsletter

Dede Olson and Na-than Breece began a pilot study of reptiles in the western Willamette Valley and eastern coast range of Oregon this year. Olson and Breece have four study areas each in the Dunn and Oak Creek vicinities. Their study of the basic ecology of regional reptiles will bring in new knowledge to contribute to the identification of priority areas for species persistence to inform decision-makers heading management operations that may affect reptile habitat. 


Above: Northwestern garter snake (Thamnophis ordinoides) captured during cover board sampling. Photo by Nathan Breece.


Unmanned AircraftExcerpt from 2013 Year's End Edition College Forests Newsletter

Assistant Professor Michael Wing (Ph.D) and his team used both planes and helicopters to collect data from the Forests this year. They are interested in the abilities of unmanned systems in assessing forest inventory, search and rescue, forest fire, and forest hydrology. OSU is at the forefront in developing newly emerging technology for data collection.