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KWERI Projects

Wetland Vegetation Mapping Wetland Plant Key Oregon Spotted Frogs Endangered Suckers Klamath Tribal Culture Tailored Outdoor Ed Chiloquin Treatment Wetland

We have several projects we're developing as time allows:

Vegetation and Wetland Surface Mapping

There are many elements within the process of restoring wetlands such as those that surround Agency Lake to a point they can provide the ecosystem services they are capable of, such as water storage and quality improvement, as well as wildlife habitat. Of particular importance is that these are very large acreages totaling over 20,000 acres. Monitoring such projects adequately using sampling methods is extremely labor intensive.

Another key feature of wetlands such as these is the degree to which they have "subsided" during the period they were drained and dedicated to agriculture. Subsidence is a dropping of the surface elevation of the wetland following drainage due to a loss of buoyancy of these low density soils; compaction of the peat by heavy equipment, animals and tillage; and probably most significantly, from microbial oxidation of the high content of organic matter in these soils. Subsidence reversal is absolutely essential prior to reconnecting such wetlands to the lake, or the wetlands will require hundreds to thousands of years to build up the 4-12 feet that these lands have dropped since being drained. The primary means of reversing subsidence is to cultivate high-biomass species across as much of the area as possible, and then by maintaining water levels sufficient to retard the degradation of that biomass by keeping oxygen levels low.

We are working to develop a consortium that will work together to monitor all of these wetlands periodically using remote sensing technologies to follow both the development of vegetation across this land and the changes in surface elevation of the land. Such techniques are now available through the use of LiDAR, and aerial and satellite imagery. We hope to pull together a group including the federal agencies and NGOs that manage the land (BLM, USFWS, TNC and USBoR), scientists that are at the leading edge of developing the use of such methods for vegetation and land surface mapping (e.g. John Ritter, Michael Hughes & Monika Moskal) and commercial suppliers of the data needed (Spatial Solutions of Bend, OR and Watershed Sciences of Portland and Corvallis, OR)

The Wood River Wetland is being managed by the Bureau of Land Management with a particular emphasis on reversing the subsidence that occurred upon draining. The high biomass species, Typha latifolia, Sparganium eurycarpum, Schoenoplectus acutus, and to a lesser extent, Eleocharis macrostachya are thought to be most advantageous for building peat and consequently raising the surface of these wetlands. Patterned after the studies on Twitchell Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, control of water levels to maintain water at levels low enough to be conducive for growth of these species while at the same time avoiding lower water levels that facilitate the breakdown of the biomass that they produce, should maximize the rate of subsidence reversal. Early results from this BLM work indicates rates of accretion very close to those obtained in the Twitchell Island study. This work leads the way and supports the notion that if reconnection to the lakes can be delayed only 10-20 years (a small fraction of the time they were farmed) and the water managed appropriately, the subsidence can be reversed to an extent adequate to restore these lands to functioning wetlands supplying water purification and retention services as well as an abundance of habitat opportunities for all sorts of species including waterfowl, endangered suckers and Oregon Spotted Frogs, plus of course the myriad of less well know species that use rich wetland habitats.

We also believe having a quantified description of the vegetation of the UKB wetlands will encourage others to explore the possibilites of projects in this area. It will provide information regarding the types and extent of vegetation and thereby give a clearer picture of habitat possibilities and specific wetland characteristics available.

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Wetland Plant Key Database

KWERI has developed a database with all the plant species found locally by compiling available species list and adding new species that we find in our work. We are developing this database to make it easily searchable using visible characteristics, and we are compiling photographs of the plants including particularly photographs of key characters that distinguish species. We have found that in many manuals and keys there are not adequately detailed photos or drawings of key structures used to distinguish species. Because of this, the user often is left with a sense of ambiguity about the presence or absence or more commonly the degree of a key characteristic. The plan is to develop a searchable database where eventually all such characters are pictured.

This effort has been inspired by a desire to make available in modern formats the equivalent of the drawings that are available in the more professional manuals such as that of Hitchcock and Cronquist. We will develop a database to which we (and others) can add photos over time that unambiguously display all key characters of each species. We also will convert the database to either an app for smartphone-type devices or a web accessible form such that it can be easily queried in the field and photos can be displayed at a resolution equivalent to devices used in the field such as hand lenses.

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Oregon Spotted Frog Project

We've begun developing a project to support the Oregon Spotted Frog Working Group of US federal agency personnel charged with protecting these little herps. It will focus on finding Oregon Spotted Frogs, understanding their biology and genetics, and doing what we can to support US and Canadian efforts to expand their reproducing populations and secure their future.

We're particularly interested in the phylogenetics of the populations of Central Oregon as presented by Michael Blouin's Lab at Oregon State University. Their data indicate that the OSFs around Camas Prairie southeast of Mt Hood, those in the Deschutes watershed and those in the Klamath Basin each represent quite distinct populations of the frog each of which is threatened individually, as is, or course, the species as a whole including those populations in Washington and British Columbia.

Especially interesting is that the Klamath Basin and Deschutes frogs, at least relative to the genetic data examined to date, seem to be descended in opposite directions from the other populations of the Pacific Northwest. This may indicate that the frogs of the Klamath Basin arrived in this Basin by a much more circuitous route than crossing the mere 100 meters or so that separate some of the wetlands of these two basins. Perhaps they arrived via the Willamette Valley through the Umpqua or Rogue watersheds, or perhaps the frogs took an even more southern route all the way into the Klamath River Valley before moving up into the Klamath Basin.

We'd like to explore these possibilities while also providing support to efforts to expand the precariously small and divided range currently occupied by our Klamath Basin frogs. We have some ideas that we're developing to help locate additional populations as well as to involve citizen science and student efforts in rearing frogs for release into formerly occupied or other suitable habitats. We're also interested in efforts to encourage migration by already existing frogs into expanded ranges that might reconnect populations within our Basin.

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Endangered Lost River and Shortnose Suckers

Details forthcoming!!!

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Traditional Klamath Tribal Culture, Technology & Ethnobotany

KWERI is working with Ivan Jackson, a Klamath Tribal member that has dedicated the last 20+ years of his life to rediscovering and preserving the traditional ways of life of his people. We hope to help Ivan transfer his knowledge to the written word with illustrations and photography adequate to reproduce his work, and perhaps get some video documentation as well. He uses all locally gathered materials, many from the wetlands, to make clothing, basketry, bows and arrows, fishing spears and nets, housing, matting, boats, tools and all the other necessities of traditional Klamath Tribal life. He is also knowledgable about the seasonal cycle of activities his ancestors followed and their methods of hunting and gathering the resources they required.

We are very excited about this project and believe Ivan's knowledge and skills to be unparalleled with respect to this region. We believe getting this information recorded for posterity to be a project exemplary of our effort to tie local natural history with our cultural and scientific mission.

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Tailoring Outdoor Education to the Student

KWERI is conceptualizing at this time a project to investigate the impact of student preferences and backgrounds on the outcomes of their outdoor education experience. We hope this will allow us and others to tailor our programs to reach a broader diversity of students. This is inspired by a desire to meet students "where they are" to help them interpret their surroundings and understand better the interplay of humans and our environment. We will include factors such as learning style preferences, but also plan on exploring other aspects of student preferences and perspectives, as well.

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Chiloquin Water Treatment Wetland

This project is on hold presently because of word from Mark Cobb, Chiloquin Mayor, that the county is reluctant to pursue this effort and they still own the land. KWERI still believes this is an excellent opportunity for the kids of Chiloquin to participate "hands-on" in a restoration project, but Chiloquin needs the cooperation of the county to proceed.

Chiloquin City Council has expressed an interest in restoring a wetland next to the site of the Old Chiloquin Lumber Mill. This mill closed down several years ago, and the land has been cleaned up to a limited extent under the direction of the Environmental Protection Agency. There had once been a wetland at the nothern border of this site. It was proposed that though the water discharged from the city water treatment plant into the Williamson River meets all quality standards at this time, it could be further improved if that water was channeled through a wetland prior to flowing into the river. The City Council voted to explore this alternative and voted to include our Executive Director, Jim Litts, on the staff of project managers developing this option. The City Council was particularly interested in the idea of including the schools in the stewardship of this project.

Since this wetland is immediately adjacent to Chiloquin Elementary and High Schools, this fits perfectly into our mission of restoring wetland functions in conjunction with expanding stewardship opportunities for students. This project is in partnership with an experienced project manager from the US Fish & Wildlife Partnership Program. We are very excited about the potential it offers both in terms of restoring a wetland and in terms of providing a wonderful outdoor classroom experience for many years to come for Chiloquin school students.

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