Webinar on Hybrid Beachgrass Ecology

June 7, 2022 - 6:00 PM

Risa Askerooth

CoastWatch is cooperating with researchers in Oregon State University’s Department of Integrative Biology to conduct a citizen science survey for a new hybrid beachgrass that may reshape the Oregon shoreline.  For more on this project, go to https://oregonshores.org/article/coastwatchers-aid-beachgrass-search.

A webinar on this important project will happen Tuesday, June 7, at 6 p.m. The speaker will be Risa Askerooth, a Master’s student at Oregon State University (OSU) who studies the ecology of this new, hybrid beachgrass on coastal dunes as part of Dr. Sally Hacker’s research group. Her presentation is entitled “Playing Dune Detective: Investigating the Ecology of a New, Invasive Beachgrass Hybrid on Pacific Northwest Coastal Dunes.” The webinar is free and open to all. Register at https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_ssT-1UyHQdmeFd25SV5ayw

Pacific Northwest coastal dunes have been dramatically transformed through the introduction of two non-native invasive beachgrasses, European beachgrass (Ammophila arenaria) and American beachgrass (A. breviligulata). These deliberately introduced beachgrasses form dunes that protect coastlines from flooding and erosion, although they also lead to declines in many native species. In the last decade, OSU ecologists have detected a hybrid of the two beachgrasses in northern Oregon and southern Washington, where these species overlap in their range.

As part of a citizen science partnership with CoastWatch, community members help find and map the hybrid beachgrass for further study. Currently, researchers and community scientists have discovered more than 100 occurrences of this novel hybrid beachgrass across a 155-mile stretch from Pacific City, Oregon to Ocean Grove, Washington, with many more to be discovered. The large range of the new hybrid, coupled with studies that show it differs from its parent species in unique ways, suggest that this new plant may change dune landscapes in the future and have consequences for coastal protection, species diversity, and other dune services.

After earning her B.S. in Environmental Science at Western Washington University, Risa Askerooth has been drawn to studying invasive species management and native species conservation. In particular, she is interested in sustainable resource and land management, and engaging stakeholders in the process. Risa’s past work experiences have included invasive plant control in Hawaiian forests, fish monitoring in a Great Lakes estuary with NOAA, and assisting with the creation of a digital atlas of the Salish Sea region.

When not working, Risa loves making homemade bagels, puzzling, and trail running.