Ecosystem studies

Oxbow’s conservation Program works not just to restore ecosystems, but also to better understand these ecosystems and human impacts to them. Our research is guided by these questions:

How can we best assess and improve practices in ecological restoration?

Our restoration research seeks novel and improved ways for restoration practitioners to fight the most pernicious invasive plants in the Pacific Northwest and reestablish native vegetation. Our projects currently focus on bohemian knotweed, reed canarygrass, and Himalayan blackberry.

How do wildlife use the different facets of our landscape, and how human land use and ecological restoration affect wildlife?

Our wildlife and habitats-focused research seeks to improve our understanding of the ways that birds and amphibians use the complex patchwork of habitats in rural and suburban western Washington and how human influences on the landscape – both disruptive and restorative – impact these species. We’re also working with Woodland Park Zoo’s Urban Carnivore Project. See our project pages below!

In addition to designing and pursuing our own original research, we co-supervise and work with Oxbow Graduate Fellows from Oregon State University on ecological research and we collaborate and participate in research carried out by partners at a number of non-profits and academic institutions.


Our Projects

Amphibian Research

For four years our team has been working to answer questions about the distribution and health of native amphibian (frog and salamander populations in floodplain habitats of western Washington. We are particularly interested in the impacts of roads and traffic on these vulnerable creatures, as well as the potential for supporting populations through reforestation and ecological restoration.

Bird Monitoring

We are in our fouth year of community-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.

Knotweed Restoration Project

Knotweed is one of the worst invaders of streamside ecosystems in Washington. Our team is assessing the best ways to remove small stands without chemicals to give landowners more options for areas where pesticide use is undesirable. We are also working with King County Noxious Weed Control Program to evaluate two chemical treatment options and restore native vegetation to invaded riverbank areas at Oxbow.

Reed Canarygrass Suppression Project

Reed canarygrass is an invasive grass that has come to dominate and restructure many wetlands and stream corridors across North America. It smothers native vegetation, reduces habitat complexity, and clogs waterways. Oxbow’s conservation staff are studying the effectiveness of several ground-cover techniques and native plant combinations in suppressing reed canarygrass and re-introducing native plant diversity.

Oxbow Fellows

Every year Oxbow funds and co-supervises the work of one or more graduate students from Oregon State University as they pursue research in ecology and native plant horticulture.

Current and recent fellows:
Wilman Plácido Madé


Collaborations and Partner Research at Oxbow

Woodland Park Zoo Amphibian Monitoring Project

Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo convenes community scientists every year to monitor amphibians in King County ponds and wetlands, and Oxbow’s team has monitored our own wetland for four years as part of this project. Check out (and sign up for) this exciting zoo program here!

Woodland Park Zoo Urban Carnivore Project

Woodland Park Zoo has also been involving community scientists in a series of transects of camera traps to better document and understand how carnivores like coyotes, bears, and bobcats are using and moving through rural, suburban, and urban environments in Washington. Oxbow is contributing to this project by operating and handling data from one camera at Oxbow and another in Duvall Open Space. Learn more about this project here!

Willow flycatcher studies

 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.

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 and dynamics

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.

We also have been happy to support the work of Lila Westreich (Ph.D. student at University of Washington in the lab of Dr. Patrick Tobin). She is investigating the impacts of non-native plant pollen and pollen-associated microbiomes on the health of pollinators in the Pacific Northwest.