In recent years, students have studied everything from the lack of seedlings and saplings in urban forests to the feasibility of using green roofs in small towns. They have had the opportunity to present their findings at the annual Linfield College Science Symposium and Student Collaborative Research and Creative Projects Symposium, as well as at regional and national scientific conferences.
Powerful software packages support the interdisciplinary research we conduct. The department has ArcMap, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software used for carrying out GIS-based mapping of local ecosystems. GIS labs are part of several laboratory-based courses, such as ENVS 201, ENVS 360, ENVS 380 and ENVS 385. Additionally, GIS-certified lab coordinator Barbara van Ness teaches an introductory GIS course on campus. In the past, students and faculty have collaborated to map nearby areas using GIS, including Charles Metsker Park and century farms in Yamhill county. We also have handheld GPS units for use in labs and in research projects.
Dr. Nancy Broshot and her students are currently examining the avian and plant communities in Forest Park in Portland, Oregon. This summer they will be collecting data to determine what changes have occurred in the urban park in the last 20 years. They are also surveying lichens in the park that can be used to assess air quality. Based on their research, Dr. Broshot hopes to publish an easy-to-use booklet on urban lichens that can be distributed to schools. She also plans on using the booklet in a lichen lab in her Forest Ecology and Management class in Spring 2014. The Environmental Problem-Solving Seminar class is researching whether Yamhill County can sustain its own citizens through local food production; last year they determined the amount of carbon stores in trees on the Linfield College Campus.
Recent Research Presentations
Where have all the young trees gone? A big picture look at the lack of seedlings and saplings in urban forests
By Nancy Broshot, Wes Hanson and Leigh Hanson
Presented at the Urban Ecology and Conservation Symposium (February 2013)
We take a big picture look at the lack of seedlings, saplings and young trees in urban forests using our research in Forest Park in Portland, Oregon. Broshot, who measured vegetation at 25 sites in Forest Park, recorded significantly fewer live seedlings, saplings and young trees and significantly more dead seedlings, saplings and young trees in 2003 than in 1993. The percent mortality of western red cedar seedlings that were planted at 9 sites in Forest Park in 2005 ranged from 11 to over 70%. Investigations into the cause of seedling death has discounted predation by deer, elk or invertebrates, leaf disease, soil moisture, site aspect, and light as factors. The site with the highest mortality is located directly above the St John's Bridge, suggesting air pollution. More recent work with lichens has provided evidence that nitrogen deposition related to air pollution may be the cause. We will outline our past work and have preliminary results from our 2012 lichen survey analyses to support our hypothesis that pollution is a cause of the lack of young trees.
View the full symposium proceedings.
Seedling growth and survival of western red cedar (Thuja plicata), six years later
By Conor Colahan, Eric Weinbender and Nancy Broshot
Presented at Ecological Society of America (August 2012)
View the full poster in the DigitalCommons@Linfield
In 2005, western red cedar (Thuja plicata) seedlings were planted in Forest Park in Portland, Oregon to ascertain whether mammalian predation had a role in low seedling recruitment in the park. Nine study sites, three in each section (urban, middle and rural) of the park were located along an urban-rural land use gradient. At each site, 27 seedlings were planted. Each tree was randomly assigned to one of three groups: deer exclusion, rodent exclusion or control. Each was measured prior to installation of exclusion devices (March 2005). Tree height, width, basal diameter, percent of branches grazed and mortality rate has been measured annually. Preliminary results for the measurements made in summer 2011 showed that trees in the middle and far sections of Forest Park grew significantly more in terms of height, width and basal diameter than trees in the city section. Control trees grew significantly less than trees protected by rodent or deer exclusion devices. Trees in the far section had significantly more grazing by deer and elk than those in the city section, although trees in deer exclusion devices had significantly less grazing. Seedling mortality at the sites ranged from 3.7% to 70.4%. Mortality did not appear to relate to predation.
Environmental sustainability country profiles
By Charlotte Trowbridge | Sponsoring Faculty: Dr. Dawn Nowacki
Presented at the Linfield College Science Symposium (2010)
As the environmental consequences of human actions begin to affect the lives of people worldwide, greater international emphasis has been placed on conservation and protection of environmental systems. To identify whether a common profile exists of countries that appear to exhibit high degrees of environmental stewardship, various socioeconomic factors are regressed on environmental sustainability index scores. Patterns can be detected that predict countries’ sustainability and quality statuses. 2005 statistics measuring economic, political and social factors by country were collected from various sources. Multivariate regression analysis was performed to test the hypothesis that developed countries have greater impacts on the environment but are more proactive about ameliorating negative effects. Interestingly, the results did not fully support the hypothesis (see next section). This study contributes to the research on sustainability through testing the effects of multiple independent variables on a disaggregated sustainability index. Thus, the specific effects of countries’ action or inaction on sustainability policies can be examined, as well as the relative importance of each indicator relative to environmental sustainability.
Long-term costs and benefits of liquefied natural gas in Oregon
By Annette Frank | Sponsoring Faculty: Dr. Tom Love
Presented at the Student Collaborative Research and Creative Projects Symposium (2010)
The lack of a comprehensive federal energy policy indicates how plagued energy policies are with special interests and political agendas. When a state’s ability to be forward thinking and creative becomes hindered by overreaching federal energy policies that do not take into account local/regional efforts towards sustainability and ecological integrity, there is something defective about said policies. In this thesis, I analyze current efforts to bring liquefied natural gas (LNG) to and through Oregon. In light of this tension between state and federal environmental/energy policy, the current debate risks losing sight of the tradeoff between short-term economic gains and long-term economic and environmental impacts. After reviewing the three proposed LNG projects, I examine the projected construction details and impacts. I conclude that proponents of these projects are over estimating short-term benefits and seriously underestimating long-term impacts with which local residents will have to deal for many decades to come.
Green roofs: Feasibility in small towns
By Rachel Burand | Sponsoring Faculty: Dr. Tom Love
Presented at the Student Collaborative Research and Creative Projects Symposium (2010)
The implementation of green roofs throughout urban centers of the United States is steadily growing. Yet, the vast ecological and economical benefits realized from these vegetated roof systems are not exclusive to densely populated regions. Increasing urban sprawl necessitates the pertinence of expanding efforts of environmental sustainability beyond cities. A case study of businesses in the small town of McMinnville, Oregon will assess the feasibility of green roofs outside of urban areas by investigating and analyzing a) business owner interest and awareness, b) geographical and structural potential, c) financial incentives and capabilities, and d) actual and predicted benefits and costs. These four general determinants aim to evaluate McMinnville's specific potential for green roofs, and in turn expand the results to be representative of small towns across the nation.
“I worked with the Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps to replant native plant species and remove invasive species on the island of Oahu. We also worked to preserve and protect watersheds and repair trails.”
- Jon Chikamoto, ‘12
Environmental studies majors actively intern at non-profit organizations, environmental science centers, wildlife refuges and treatment facilities. They gain invaluable field experience from their time at these internships. Here are some places where our majors have interned before:
- Hatfield Marine Science Center, Oregon State University
- Summer Lake Wildlife Area
- Chicago Botanic Garden
- USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Avian and Exotic Clinic of Monterey Peninsula
- City of McMinnville Wastewater Treatment Facility
- Friends of the Trees Society
- Audubon Society of Portland and National Audubon Society