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pacific northwest research station

Connecting Veterans with the Lands for which they Fought

Millions visit America’s public lands every year to have fun and get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. In fact, spending time in nature can be truly restorative and research shows that nature and green spaces have a positive effect on human health and wellbeing. Veterans, especially, may benefit from nature-based therapies on public lands to relieve stress and symptoms of trauma endured during their time in service.

Past, Present, and Future Research on Mount St. Helens

Mount St. Helens, in Washington State, erupted 40 years ago today. The largest landslide in recorded history filled valleys below with debris, and ash fell from the sky for weeks, blanketing the nearby area and affecting regions as far away as the Rocky Mountains. Within just two weeks, ash from the blast had circled the globe. 57 people lost their lives and hundreds of homes, buildings and structures were destroyed.

Multiagency Effort Goes Deep Inside a Fire

Forest fires often reach or exceed temperatures of 2,000° Fahrenheit—that’s equivalent to one-fifth the temperature of the surface of the sun. What is the impact of such high temperatures on the soil and plants of our forests? And how do the intensity and heat of a wildfire impact its behavior, smoke and the surrounding weather?

Moss Study Helps Identify Pollution Hotspots

In December 2013 when Sarah Jovan and Geoffrey Donovan, two scientists with the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station in Portland, Oregon, crisscrossed the northwest area of their city they had no idea they were onto something big. Armed with a ladder and collection equipment, the two spent most of that gray and rainy month carefully plucking hundreds of moss samples off the trunks of the city’s hardwood trees.

They were in relatively uncharted scientific territory, though their research focus seemed straightforward enough: determine if moss, in particular, the ubiquitous Lyell’s orthotrichum moss which grows abundantly across much of the city, could help measure urban air pollution.

Range of Bull Trout in Oregon's McKenzie River Indicates Improved River Health

The bull trout in the McKenzie River on the Willamette National Forest have a survival story to tell, thanks to U.S. Forest Service stewardship of local rivers and fresh, healthy sources of groundwater.

“We’re reintroducing the top predator back into the river ecosystem,” said Ray Rivera, the district fisheries biologist on the forest’s McKenzie River Ranger District. “Their presence means two things to us. First, because bull trout are very sensitive to environmental changes compared to other salmonid fishes, their existence means the river’s water quality is excellent and the physical quality of their habitat is also good. Second, since bull trout are the top predator and they are doing well this means the overall ecosystem is doing well. Their presence is an excellent barometer of a river’s health.”

Are Frogs on the Edge of Survival?

A lethal fungus is killing frogs and other water-dwelling amphibians all over the world, but a team of international scientists led by U.S. Forest Service scientist Deanna Olson is working to understand why.

Olson, who works at the agency’s Pacific Northwest Research Station, and her colleagues have the daunting task of tracking the disease, known as the amphibian chytrid fungus. Unlike the clearly visible white-nose syndrome killing bats in the U.S., the frog fungus cannot be seen except with a microscope. That makes scientists’ jobs that much more difficult.

Since the discovery of the malady is so recent, scientists still don’t understand a great deal about the fungus except that it affects the skin and ultimately leads to cardiac arrest in amphibians.