PORTLAND, Ore. (June 20, 2019) — Forest Service employees from Portland, Ore. were at the Oregon Zoo’s first Twilight Tuesday event of the season, June 18.
Twilight Tuesday events feature reduced-price evening admission to the zoo, as well as live music, expanded food options, and a variety of education stations staged around the zoo’s performance lawn.
“Zoo visitors are a perfect audience to learn about what the Forest Service is doing with habitat restoration. There are lots of families, lots of young, enthusiastic kids who are interested in learning about the natural world,” Gala Miller, acting conservation education program manager for the agency’s Pacific Northwest Regional office, said. “It’s also allows us to share important information, like white nose syndrome in bats, endangered species protection and preservation… and its about being in community, introducing a non-traditional audiences to the Forest Service and what we do.”
Zoos are often associated with the opportunities they offer view exotic animals, but modern zoos also provide a wealth of research and conservation resources that benefit local, native wildlife.
For example, Staff from the Oregon Zoo’s Butterfly Lab help supervise the raising of threatened and endangered butterflies which are used to repopulate fragmented wild habitat in places like western Washington and Oregon’s Coast Range.
At the July 18 event, Forest Service personnel conducted their own “Butterfly Lab” with zoo visitors, educating young people about the environmental importance of butterflies and other pollinators, butterfly migration patterns, and some of the challenges facing the Pacific Northwest’s endangered and threatened butterfly species.
The Forest Service’s partnership with the zoo is based on its shared mission to educate youth about the natural world, Miller said. The agency partners with the zoo on conservation events throughout the year, including youth summer camps and overnight programs.
The next Twilight Tuesday event at the Oregon Zoo is scheduled for July 16, and the final Tuesday in the series is Aug. 20, and the Forest Service will share news activities at each event, Miller said.
Ron Kikel is a bird man. And an ant man. And a wasp guy. Those aren’t his superhero aliases – they’re descriptions of just some of his work as a conservation education specialist for the Mt. Hood National Forest.
But, Kikel is probably best known as the “owl guy.”
Jack is a 12-year old Great Horned Owl. He’s also blind in one eye. Jack was rescued after tangling with some barbed wire, and rehabilitated several years ago by the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for disabled raptors and trains them for use in educational settings.
Kikel met Jack in 2010, at a Wild for Wildlife event. Jack was working with his caretaker, Dr. Jean Cypher, at the time to provide conservation education to students. Kikel was doing similar work for the Forest Service, using a taxidermied owl as a prop.
Their encounter inspired Kikel to pursue training to become a raptor handler, himself.
“With taxidermy, you are mostly talking about anatomy. Kids ask a lot of questions about where the bird came from, sometimes it gets a little off-track,” he said. “Show them the live owl, and you have their attention for at 30 minutes, at least.”
These days, Jack and Kikel work as a team to provide conservation education at schools and public events located near Kikel’s “home base” at the Hood River Ranger District in Parkdale, Oregon.
Sometimes, Jack even joins him at the ranger station’s front desk, where Kikel provides visitor information and the owl has his own perch.
“He’s a star. Everyone likes him a lot,” Kikel said. “He’s probably the best coworker I’ve ever had.”
Kikel isn’t just a bird man, he’s also a bug guy. He’s known in the Forest Service’s regional conservation education community for his nature photos, many of which feature dramatic close-ups of the nature he finds around him.
In his prior career, photography was Kikel’s job. He served 20 years in the Air Force, 12 of them as a photographer working in medical research and forensics.
“I worked at Wilford Hall, a big research hospital. So we had an infectious disease lab, dermatology, poison control. They’d want (close-up) photos for teaching, so I took some courses in it,” he said.
Today, skills he once used to photograph scorpions and fire ants for environmental health brochures given to deploying service members are the same ones he now uses to capture breathtaking images of Pacific Northwest beetles, birds and butterflies.
To avoid disturbing his subjects, Kikel often works with minimal gear, often taking photos with just an old Nikon D-50 camera, a manual macro lens, and sometimes a flash.
Despite the seeming spontaneity of this approach, he said macro photography is actually a very slow-going endeavor.
“It takes a lot of patience, because your subjects aren’t going to sit still,” he said.
These days, Kikel said, he considers his photography to be not his job, but his passion.
But he still finds lots of inspiration at the office.
“Mt. Hood is right outside my window… I can watch it change with the seasons,” he said.
While Kikel credits patience for his most successful shots, he said sometimes a little luck is also required.
He was experimenting with a new camera when he caught a striking image of a Cooper Hawk perched just outside his bedroom.
“I was shooting (pictures of) the birds at my feeder, through the window, and suddenly they all bolted,” he said. “Then I looked up, and said ‘well, that’s why… I’d better get this dude’s picture before he takes off!’”
Whether he’s providing customer service at the ranger station, giving wildlife education talks, or providing tours of Cloud Cap Inn, it’s the interpretive element that drew him to his job.
Seeing the world through a different lens, and being able to
share it, is what draws him to photography, as well.
“It’s really an incredible world, when you see it close up,” he said.
Source information:Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at email@example.com.
The USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region helps monitor forest health in Washington and Oregon via annual aerial forest health surveys, conducted in partnership with with the Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources and the Oregon Dept. of Forestry. When signs of a widespread disease or insect pest activity are detected, more intensive monitoring programs may be established.
In this guest post from Washington State DNR, the state agency discusses about its efforts to trap, monitor, and collect better data on the patterns surrounding one such insect which periodically impacts the health of trees, especially in eastern Washington – the Douglas-fir Tussock moth.
From Washington State DNR:
“The life of a Douglas-fir tussock moth is not an easy one. The females can’t fly, and food is often scarce, not to mention viruses that make them explode. What’s more difficult than being a tussock moth, is having those moths in your forest.
“Every ten years or so, the tussock moth population skyrockets in some areas of eastern Washington, well beyond what the forest can support. When that happens, these insects can eat so much that they literally kill the fir trees they feed on, sometimes up to 40 percent in a single stand. If a tree is lucky enough to survive the infestation, they’ll then be much more vulnerable to disease, pests and wildfire.
“Often when we talk about species that destroy forests, those species are invasive. They didn’t come from the areas they’re killing. The tussock moth is actually a native species here in Washington, so what causes their once-in-ten-year eating rampage? We know that historically, the event happens approximately every ten years, but with a potentially disastrous ecological hazard, being as precise as possible is very important…”
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Aug. 24, 2018 – An Olympic National Forest biologist and a pair of Student Conservation Association student interns have documented the first known site for the Beller’s ground beetle (Agonum belleri) on the Olympic Peninsula.
Karen Holtrop, a USDA Forest Service wildlife biologist, Student Conservation Association interns Karen Guzman and Conor Cubit, and employees of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, found the beetle while conducting surveys for the beetle at the the Cranberry Bog Botanical Area in the Dungeness watershed, located on the Olympic National Forest,in June.
Student Conservation Associaton intern Karen Guzman sets an insect trap during a survey for Beller’s ground beetle at the Cranberry Bog Botanical Area on Olympic National Forest June 14, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Karen Holtrop.
Beller’s ground beetle is a wetland-dependent ground beetle that is regionally listed as a “sensitive species” by the USDA Forest Service. The agency lists species as “sensitive” when there’s a concern regarding the species population numbers, density, or habitat.
Annabelle Pfeffer, an intern working with the USDA Forest Service, holds a Beller’s ground beetle specimen during an earlier survey, May 3, 2018. USDA Forest Service file photo by Karen Holtrop.
The beetle was suspected to live on the Olympic National Forest, but that had not been confirmed until now. It is usually found in sphagnum bogs at a range of elevations, from sea level to alpine.
Threats include habitat destruction from urban development, logging, water-level alteration, peat-mining, and pesticides, and climate changes affecting bog water levels or seasonal duration periods.
The Beller’s ground beetle is also known to live on the Mt. Hood National Forest, and is also believed to be present on the Gifford Pinchot and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forests — although this has not yet been confirmed.
The Olympic National Forest conducts regular surveys for wildlife, fish, and botanical species. Surveys are usually done in cooperation with state and federal agencies, tribes, non-government agencies, citizen volunteers, and others.
This summer, surveyors also confirmed the presence of the Makah copper butterfly on the forest.
Information gathered by such surveys not only documents where habitat for species can be found, but also helps identify locations for and the success of restoration efforts. For example, Taylor’s Checkerspot butterfly, a federally endangered species was discovered to have returned to an area of the peninsula, following planting of native vegetation in its historical habitat as a result of a wildlife survey.
Karen Guzman and Conor Cubit, Student Conservation Association interns working with the Olympic National Forest, surveyed for Beller’s ground beetle on the forest’s Cranberry Bog Botanical Area June 27, 2018. USDA Forest Service photo by Karen Holtrop.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Aug. 14, 2018 – Calling all citizen scientists! Download the free Wild Spotter mobile app and help the USDA Forest Service identify, map, and report invasive species found in your favorite wild places, including the Pacific Northwest’s Siuslaw National Forest and Wallowa-Whitman National Forest!
Through a collaboration with more than 20 partners, the University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health, and the organization Wildlife Forever, are working with 12 National Forests and Grasslands across the United States as part of a pilot program to gather important data on invasive species and how they are impacting wilderness areas, wild and scenic rivers, and other natural areas.
Wildflowers dot the edge of Red Mountain Lake on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest July 2, 2007.USDA Forest Service photo by C. Christensen.
The Wild Spotter citizen science program provides tools to help locate, quantify, map, and report invasive species infestations in a simple and effective manner, while raising public awareness about invasive species and promoting collaborations across the landscape.
“We are happy to be part of the Wild Spotter program and to offer the public a way to enjoy their national forest while helping us gather information on the locations of invasive species,” Angela Elam, Siuslaw National Forest forest supervisor, said.
There are 15 invasive species identified on the Siuslaw National forest in the Wild Spotter app, and 54 identified invasive species for the Wallowa-Whitman forest.
Cape Perpetua tidal pools and trail, Siuslaw National Forest; June 15, 2011. USDA Forest Service photo.
Once a Wild Spotter volunteer identifies and reports a species, the data is verified by experts and then made publicly available through a networked invasive species inventory database hosted by the University of Georgia.
The database will be the first nationwide inventory of invasive species in America’s natural areas.
“Invasive plants, pathogens, and animals can threaten recreational activities, productivity, and ecosystem health. This tool will help the forest to implement better strategies for prevention, control, and eradication,” Elam said.
The Wild Spotter app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, and can be used even from locations where a cell phone signal is not available.