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SSRD 2022 Schedule

Room 7 Schedule: Collins 205

ZOOM link for off-campus community members
  • 9:00 a.m. | PATRICK LIVINGSTON | Monitoring and Management Plan for American Kestrels on a Conservation Easement in the Central Willamette Valley

    The American Kestrel is a small falcon that is declining across its range. Since 1968 scientists have identified a 70% decline of kestrels in the Northern Pacific Rainforest Bird Conservation Region which includes Western Oregon. The purpose of this project is to recognize and establish favorable territories for the American Kestrels in the Willamette Valley with special attention to Zena and surrounding areas. Fieldwork includes placement of 3 nesting boxes and the development of a 40 km road survey protocol. Current results suggest 7 kestrels are using the study area but this could increase to 10 with additional nesting sites.

    Faculty Sponsor: David Craig
    Discipline: Biology

  • 9:20 a.m. | OLIVER ANDERSON | Characterization of Enzymes Involved in Polyethylene Terephthalate Degradation by a Microbial Consortium

    Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a single-use plastic that is difficult to naturally degrade. A microbial consortium consisting of three Pseudomonas and two Bacillus species has been isolated that is capable of degrading PET. Using bioinformatic methods, the mRNA of this consortium was analyzed to determine potential enzymatic pathways for PET degradation. Multiple novel genes, including hydrolases–suggested to degrade PET–were identified among the top 5% of genes expressed. Future research should examine the effects of genetic knockouts of the enzymes identified in this study.

    Faculty Sponsor: Rosa León-Zayas
    Discipline: Biology

  • 9:40 a.m. | ROSE WILKINSON | The Adaptive Morphologies of Insect Galls

    Cynipid-induced oak stem galls are understudied, and the adaptive significance of the diverse gall morphologies is mysterious. California gall wasp Andricus quercuscalifornicus induces a large gall that varies widely in size on Oregon oak trees, Quercus garryana, in the Willamette Valley. Three hypotheses have been presented to explain the adaptive significance of the diverse variation in gall morphologies, including the microenvironment hypothesis, the nutrition hypothesis, and the enemy hypothesis. We found a highly significant correlation between gall size and the number of gallers present within the gall which possibly supports the enemy hypothesis.

    Faculty Sponsor: David Craig
    Discipline: Biology

  • 10:00 a.m. | TOM NONACS | The Effect of Climate on Joshua Tree Reproduction

    Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia and Y. jaegeriana) reproductive success in terms of seed weight and productivity was measured across three sites reflecting the range of climates in which current populations are found. We found that populations are more productive with cooler temperatures, more rainfall, and lower seasonality. Interestingly, we also found that productivity appeared to be negatively affected by extended periods of high temperatures (i.e., heat waves). While elevation often correlated with various climate variables, it was not always an accurate proxy measure for climate variables and therefore where Joshua tree might flourish in the future. Looking at trees across a greater range of environments and ecosystems indicated that Joshua trees are highly likely to the do better in the higher elevations.

    Faculty Sponsor: David Craig
    Discipline: Biology

  • 10:30 a.m. | BRANDON CULCASI | The Development of a Camera Trap Protocol to Monitor Terrestrial Vertebrates at Willamette University at Zena

    This study evaluated the usage of Willamette University's Zena Forest and Farm by all terrestrial vertebrates with a particular interest in large carnivores and species of conservation concern. This study is a camera trap monitoring project where we evaluated over 25 different monitoring stations throughout the differentiating habitats and landscapes. The landscape includes extensive douglas-fir and mixed hardwood habitats, oak savanna and woodlands, riparian, and other young forest habitats like big leaf maple, western red cedar, and ponderosa pine. The key target species of concern were the western gray tree squirrel, slender-billed white-breasted nuthatch, black-tailed deer, black bears, and bobcats.

    Faculty Sponsor: David Craig
    Discipline: Biology

  • 10:50 a.m. | KAYDEN CANTRELL | Unusual Nesting Observations for Slender-billed White-breasted Nuthatches

    The Slender-billed Nuthatch is our local regional subspecies of White-breasted Nuthatch. Slender-bills have distinctive appearance and behavior, but are less studied than their relatives in the rest of North America. The usual height of nuthatch nests ranges from 15-60 feet. However, in June 2021, a nest located in the base of an Oregon White Oak on the Zena campus was measured to be less than a foot in height. A literature review of studies published from 1948-2005 revealed that there is no other record of a successful White-breasted Nuthatch nest so close to the ground.

    Faculty Sponsor: David Craig
    Discipline: Biology

  • 11:10 a.m. | MADDY SPECHT | Bird Usage of Stem Oak Galls on Oregon White Oaks

    Stem galls are tumor-like structures induced by gall wasps on oak trees. They serve the purpose of protection in order for these wasp larvae to develop. Much is still unknown about galls and their various functions, one understudied focus being their use as a resource for birds. This project focuses on how Downy Woodpeckers, Chickadees, and Nuthatches may use stem oak galls as a potential food source or as nesting material.

    Faculty Sponsor: David Craig
    Discipline: Biology

  • 11:30 a.m. | BLAKE CARLILE | Elucidating the Diet and Ecology of the Slender-billed White-breasted Nuthatch

    The White-breasted Nuthatch is a common visitor to bird feeders across North America. However, in contrast to other populations, the slender-billed subspecies of this small songbird is declining throughout much of its native range in western Washington, Oregon, and California. This subspecies is strongly associated with Oregon oak woodlands and savannas, yet little is known about this distinct relationship. The purpose of this project is to review and summarize all published data on the foraging behavior and diet of the Slender-billed White-breasted Nuthatch to better understand its unique morphology and its relationship to Oregon oaks.

    Faculty Sponsor: David Craig
    Discipline: Biology

  • 2:00 p.m. | OAK SALVAGE | The Oak Salvage Project: Speed Talks, Dating Demonstrations, and Walks in the Park

    An ice storm killed numerous Oregon oaks and hundreds of local people have cooperated to salvage data from the fallen trees. These oaks are critical biodiversity trees and a fast-disappearing component of the Willamette Valley. Tree-ring data answer questions about the environmental conditions of the past 300 years including both natural and cultural history. The project also gathers stories from community members with connections to oak trees. During this workshop participants will learn about the Oak Salvage Project through 5-minute speed talks, demonstrations of sanding and dating techniques, as well as going on walking tours of campus and park oaks.

    Faculty Sponsor: Karen Arabas
    Discipline: Environmental Science


    • 2:05 p.m. | LEILA FISCHER | Introduction to Project/Oak Ecology
    • 2:10 p.m. | APRIL HOLLAND | Oak age & spatial distribution
    • 2:15 p.m. | GRACE SHIFFRIN | Oak age-dbh relationship
    • 2:20 p.m. | INGRID AOSVED | Tree Ring - Climate Studies
    • 2:25 p.m. | ANGIE WANG | Tree Susceptibility to Damage
    • 2:30 p.m. | SAVANNAH WRIGHT | Oral History Project Design and Implementation
    • 2:35 p.m. | KIANA GOTTSCHALK | Oral History Project Themes
    • 2:40 p.m. | KAYDEN CANTRELL | Outreach (Willamette Academy, Salem-Keizer Schools)
    • 2:45 p.m. | RACHEL LEVINE | Advocacy & Activism: Growing Oaks
    • 2:50 p.m. | DENDROCHONOLOGY CLASS & OAK SALVAGE TEAM | Oak Salvage lab open house: demonstrations, posters, field tours 2:50-4p 209 Collins and N Collins Lobby




    Karen Arabas Environmental Science


Willamette University

Student Scholarship Recognition Day

Willamette University
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.