Talks by Emerging Scientists

November 10, 2021 - 6:00 PM
Oregon Shores Conservation Coalition

John Stepanek in the field, studying carbon storage.
John Stepanek in the field, studying carbon storage.

As we near the end of our 50th anniversary year, we are focusing all the more strongly on the theme of our celebration, which is not looking back but “the next 50 years of coastal conservation.”  In that spirit, we wanted to survey some of the young scientists who are doing cutting-edge research that will inform our conservation efforts in coming years.

Oregon Shores board member Ed Joyce has assembled (and will serve as moderator for) two panels of emerging scientists to indicate “New Directions in Coastal Science and Management.”  The first takes place on Wednesday, Nov. 10, at 6 p.m.  (The second takes place a week later, on Nov. 17.)  The event is free and open to all.

Find the registration link here when available.

This is a chance to see the future of ocean and coastal science as these young scientists describe their research efforts.  Here are the three speakers for the first panel.

*John Stepanek, graduate student in the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University: “Carbon Storage in Pacific Northwest Coastal Sand Dunes:  Impacts of Non-Native Beachgrasses and Sediment Budgets on an Important Ecosystem Service.”

“In the wake of anthropogenic climate change, many coastal ecosystems such as mangroves, estuaries, and salt marshes have received increasing attention for their capacity to sequester and store carbon. However, with few exceptions, coastal sand dunes have not been evaluated for their carbon storage potential, even though they make up 31% of the world’s ice-free coastlines and nearly half of the Pacific Northwest coastline. Furthermore, there is a limited understanding of how climate change and non-native beachgrasses affect carbon stock and sequestration rates in these dynamic systems. My research attempts to address this knowledge gap by measuring carbon stocks in Pacific Northwest coastal dunes and examining how vegetation and sediment budgets interact to affect this vital ecosystem service now and in the future.”

*Graham Klag (photo), recent M.S. from Evergreen State College and now executive director of the North Coast Watershed Association (and Oregon Shores board member):  Restoration and Enhancement of Viola Adunca and Associated Plant Species for Larval Development of Speyeria Zerene Hippolyta in Coastal Prairie Ecosystems Using Coconut Coir Mat.”

“Across the coastal prairie grasslands of Washington, Oregon and Northern California, the decline, extirpation and potential extinction of Oregon silverspot butterfly populations, Speyeria z. hippolyta, are closely associated with the decline in abundance, density and extirpation of the butterfly’s larval host plant the Early blue violet, (Viola adunca). Researchers cite the loss of open low nutrient soil conditions as the number one reason for the violet and butterfly’s decline. The suppression of historic fire regimes, advancement of forest succession into the prairies, combined with the introduction of livestock and non-native invasive pasture grasses, play a role in the loss of interstitial space the violet and butterfly require. These factors occlude the light and space that Viola adunca needs to grow, establish and recruit, which subsequently out-competes the plant. The density and abundance of Viola adunca must be increased to support the butterfly’s survival and recovery. Utilizing the traditional botanical restoration technique of plug planting to enhance violet population sizes has proven to be difficult. This research took an innovative approach using coconut coir mats that provide a growing substrate that mimics the plants’ historic conditions while also suppressing area non-native invasive plants.”

* Kaegan Scully-Engelmeyer, Recent Graduate of Portland State University's Earth, Environment and Society PhD program, “Exploring Biophysical Linkages between Coastal Forestry Management Practices and Aquatic Bivalve Contaminant Exposure.”

“Terrestrial land use activities present cross-ecosystem threats to riverine and marine species and processes. Specifically, pesticide runoff can disrupt hormonal, reproductive, and developmental processes in aquatic organisms, yet non-point source pollution is difficult to trace and quantify. In Oregon, state and federal forestry pesticide regulations, designed to meet regulatory water quality requirements, differ in buffer size and pesticide applications. We deployed passive water samplers and collected riverine and estuarine bivalves Margaritifera falcata, Mya arenaria, and Crassostrea gigas from Oregon Coast watersheds to examine forestry-specific pesticide contamination. We used non-metric multidimensional scaling and regression to relate concentrations and types of pesticide contamination across watersheds to ownership and management metrics. In bivalve samples collected from eight coastal watersheds, we measured twelve unique pesticides (two herbicides; three fungicides; and seven insecticides). Pesticides were detected in 38% of bivalve samples; and frequency and maximum concentrations varied by season, species, and watershed with indaziflam (herbicide) the only current-use forestry pesticide detected. Using passive water samplers, we measured four current-use herbicides corresponding with planned herbicide applications; hexazinone and atrazine were most frequently detected. Details about types and levels of exposure provide insight into effectiveness of current forest management practices in controlling transport of forest-use pesticides.

For more information about this event, contact Ed Joyce, (267) 229-8862, [email protected].