Dams, plankton, crabs, and bears: colloquium shares student findings

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Dr. Jonathan Armstrong from Oregon State University. Anamika Vaughan/PSU Vanguard

The Association for Environmental Science Students held its 2017 ESM Research Colloquium at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, May 17 in Smith Memorial Student Union. The event was held in collaboration with the Environmental Science and Management Department and featured Dr. Jonathan Armstrong from Oregon State University as the keynote speaker.

Over 100 people were in attendance, and around 21 students displayed their research during the postering session in the first hour. The student projects covered topics ranging from climate change, marine protections, and microplastics to bacteria in natural bodies of water and forestation.

The keynote speaker, Armstrong, presented his research on salmon breeding and temporal variation in rivers. In addition, Armstrong discussed the eating habits of consumers, such as bears, in the Alaskan ecosystem. Armstrong explained the sometimes unexpected grazing habits of bears, such as their choice to leave a densely populated stream of salmon alone in favor of lower-protein dense elderberries.

“I think the broader implication of shifting habitat mosaics is we’ve got to be careful about making conservation and management decisions based on short-term assessments of the landscape,” Armstrong said. “What we increasingly find in long-term studies is that habitat patches that we don’t think are important end up being really important later in time.”

Armstrong is currently researching local Oregon salmon in Klamath Lake.

Three student researchers presented their studies during the second hour of the event. The first graduate student, Erin Poor, spoke of her findings about the effect of beavers on storm flows.

“This larger study will help to provide a better understanding of how beavers influence urban landscapes since there is currently no published research on how they affect urban settings,” Poor said. “Hopefully it will support some more strategic planning and management decisions so they can really harness the power that beavers could possibly provide.”

The second speaker, graduate student Brian McGann, presented his research on the recovery of zooplankton communities following whole-lake disturbance by Rotenone.

McGann was followed by Dr. Brian Turner, whose work looked at the inducible defenses of clams, or Nuttallia Onscurata, against their novel predators, the Dungeness crab. Turner and his team tested the clam’s inducible defenses by measuring the burrowing depth of clams from different countries.

“Based on the evidence I found, it doesn’t seem like inducible defenses play much of a role in the initial establishment of nuttallia obscurata in the Pacific Northwest,” Turner said. “It’s possible it did, but since the Japanese ones did not recognize or respond to the Dungeness it seems unlikely.”

There were three student winners of the postering event announced at the conclusion of the event. Brooke Cassell won third place with her poster about forest fire management and Kristen Gulik won second place with her research on ecological merits of backyard patches and green spaces for urban avian species. Rachel Parksdale took first place and a prize of $200 with her poster on the effectiveness of riparian restoration on stream shading.

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