Ecosystem studies

Oxbow is working to better understand how every one of us, as stewards of the land, can help support healthy ecosystems and biodiversity while still using natural resources for food production and other economic purposes. To fulfill this part of our mission, we are studying how animals move across and use our land, how we can restore native habitats, and how water moves across and affects the landscape.

Here are some of Oxbow’s current initiatives:


Bird monitoring

We are in our third year of citizen-science bird monitoring, partnering with the Puget Sound Bird Observatory to better understand how birds use the patchwork of agricultural, forest, and riparian habitats on the Oxbow property. The monitoring program gives us a better understanding of which birds use different habitats at the Center, what resources the birds rely on, and how the many bird species (over 100!) respond to the slow habitat changes as we restore impacted areas of the landscape with native plants.


Amphibian Study

In 2017-2018, Oxbow’s conservation team received a grant from Conservation Research and Education Opportunities to study the movements and habitat use of amphibians in the lower Snoqualmie River Valley. We carried out night driving surveys to identify hotspots where frogs are crossing roads during migration periods and experiencing roadkill mortality. These data are the first steps toward identifying locations for safe road-crossing tunnels or other protective measures for amphibians. Our team also surveyed the amphibians that use 11 ponds between Fall City and Cherry Valley to get additional information on the diversity and habitat preferences of frogs and salamanders in the Snoqualmie Valley.

Citizen Science and amphibian study overview

Studying the life and death of amphibians in the Snoqualmie Valley


Reed Canary grass suppression trials

Part of wildlife conservation in the Snoqualmie Valley involves understanding how to support diverse habitats and native plants through ecological restoration of disturbed habitats. Many wetlands in the Pacific Northwest (and across North America) have been invaded by reed canarygrass, a tall European grass that chokes streams and shades out native plants. We are experimenting with a variety of treatments, including planting willow from “live stakes,” dense plantings of native sedges, and two pre-planting ground treatments to expand the options available for restoration practitioners fighting reed canarygrass.


Knotweed control and restoration

In 2018, Oxbow was awarded a grant by the Snoqualmie Watershed Forum to restore riverbank areas invaded by noxious reed canarygrass and invasive grass. As part of the grant, the conservation team, working with King County Noxious Weed Control Program, will experiment with techniques for knotweed control appropriate for organic farms as well as establishing native riverbank vegetation where knotweed has been eradicated. Oxbow will also embark on a 3-year program of public education and outreach about the impacts of knotweed invasion, the best means for control, and the methods and benefits of ecological restoration.


Farm and buffer hydrology

In 2017 and 2018, Oxbow’s Education and Conservation teams worked together to launch an educational series involving high school students in measuring groundwater surfaces and fluctuations at the edges of Oxbow’s farm fields. The series is aimed at raising awareness of processes and current issues around water quality and movement in the agricultural landscape, while teaching students the basic concepts and skills used by hydrologists and water quality scientists. The data collected by students also provides a foundation for Oxbow’s early investigations of riparian buffer effectiveness.


Collaborations:

Willow flycatcher: In July of 2018, Oxbow was fortunate to host Mary Whitfield, director of the Southern Sierra Research Station, and film-makers from Day’s Edge Productions. Together they gathered genetic samples from our local willow flycatcher populations to contribute to the Bird Genoscape Project and filmed flycatchers nesting at Oxbow as part of a conservation-focused film funded by National Geographic.

Citizen hydrologist network: Oxbow supports the Snoqualmie Valley Preservation Alliance’s citizen hydrologist network, an effort to install dispersed acoustical water level monitoring devices throughout the valley to gain a better understanding of flood dynamics on the Snoqualmie.

A-BIRDS study: Oxbow has welcomed researchers from Washington State University’s Avian Biodiversity: Impacts, Risks And Descriptive Survey (A-BIRDS) to gather data on Oxbow’s property. The project, led by Dr. Bill Snyder and his graduate students, is investigating how agricultural practices impact bird diversity and how birds in agricultural areas control crop pests.

Native bee diversity monitoring (Eli Bloom): Oxbow has for several years provided a study site for Dr. David Crowder and graduate student Eli Bloom’s study of the interactions between crop diversity, native bee populations and diversity, and pollination services.