Bio-blitz!

OSU students remove blackberry from a wetland.
OSU students remove blackberry from a wetland.

Despite two stormy, rainy Saturdays in the Willamette Valley, ten intrepid Oregon State University (OSU) students braved the winter weather to participate in a bio-blitz and invasive species pull.  Thanks to Benton Soil & Water Conservation District’s excellent network, we were able to connect with professor Steve Cook, who has taken the innovative step of incorporating service learning into his GEO 300 course curriculum.

The mid-January date was intended to gather baseline resident bird data and grub a patch of blackberry root-balls. The birds were hunkered down as the storm rolled in, but the extraction of root-balls was entirely successful, with a few measuring two to three feet in length!  Just as we wrapped up, the rain began to ease with the first Oregon juncos and black-capped chickadees venturing out and a red-shouldered hawk was heard flying overhead. The team identified a Pacific tree frog and rough-skinned newt along with over a dozen different macro-invertebrates in leaf packs they gathered.

The March team was also hampered by stormy weather, but two Western bluebirds were seen flying through during a rain break and song sparrows, black-capped chickadees and Pacific wrens were heard chirping from the woods. A greater variety of macroinvertebrates and our favorite decomposer, the veritable banana slug Ariolimax columbianus, were found.  In a sure sign of spring, the team observed rough-skinned newts swimming and even mating in a waterway.

We will continue the bio-blitz and invasive species removal to record the arrival of migrating birds and take advantage of the wet soils, making removal of blackberry root-balls a satisfying bit of work. We want to thank Benton SWCD for connecting us to OSU’s Steve Cook and for loaning us the hand tools, gloves and rubber boots that helped make the event an enjoyable one for all. In fact, two students from the January team, Catie Gandy and Dominic Meyer, returned to volunteer in March, evidence that restoration projects can be fun! The students’ enthusiastic and energetic efforts have helped us take a giant step forward in our efforts to restore the wetland on our small woodland property.

bluebird © C. Gandy
western bluebird © C. Gandy