Turtles & trees: Make the connection as a community science volunteer

Improved wildlife habitat is one of the many benefits of healthy tree/shrub cover. Here in Oregon’s Tualatin River Watershed, turtles are among the animals that need what Tree for All has to offer. That’s why Tree for All partners are recruiting volunteers from the community to help gather data about our beloved Oregon turtles. Attend a training to be part of a regional effort to monitor Oregon’s two freshwater turtle species and to help scientists track biodiversity and restoration success at Tree for All project sites.

Western painted turtle (photo: Grace Alfieri)

Western painted turtle (photo: Grace Alfieri)

These two native turtle species are the Western painted turtle (Chrysemys picta bellii) and the Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata), which are identified as priority at-risk species in the Oregon Conservation Strategy . The Western Pond Turtle is also “under review” for a federal listing under the Endangered Species Act. Volunteers will also be on the lookout for two invasive species of turtles: Red eared sliders (Actinemys marmorata) and Common snapping turtles (Chelydra serpentine). Learn more about these species on oregonturtles.com.

Western pond turtle (photo: Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife)

Western pond turtle (photo: Oregon Dept. of Fish & Wildlife)

This training is a great opportunity to learn about native and non-native Oregon turtles, local conservation efforts, and the logistics of surveying and taking data. Participants are trained and assigned to survey pods where they survey for and identify native and non-native species of turtles. Surveys take approximately one hour per site and take place at least once a week between April 1 and July 1 in a variety of locations around the Tualatin River Watershed. It’s a great way to do hands-on work in the watershed, and an interesting complement to tree planting. Attend the training to learn all about Oregon turtles, help spot them in the wild, and then impress friends and family with your newfound turtle knowledge. 

Upcoming trainings:

Thursday, March 16
6-8 pm
City of Tigard Public Works
8777 SW Burnham St, Tigard
Presented by Clean Water Services


Saturday, March 25
1-3 pm
Tualatin Hills Nature Center
15655 SW Millikan Way, Beaverton
Presented by THPRD Natural Resources

Click here for more information and to register, or email commsci@cleanwaterservices.org

Welcoming New Voices in Urban & Community Forestry

Diversity is a hallmark of Washington County—just as scale is a hallmark of Tree for All. In order to maintain the tree-planting momentum our community has built over the last decade, it’s important for green jobs to be within reach of people from all walks of life. Thanks to a new urban forestry job training program, this vision is becoming a reality.

This program is offered by Tualatin Riverkeepers in partnership with Centro CulturalMuslim Educational Trust and Oregon Community Trees. Funding sources include a small grant from Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods program as well as donations from individual supporters. The first 10 graduates are currently completing their paid internships, and partners are now accepting applications for the second class of trainees. Centro Cultural and MET choose participants for the program, and host classes at their locations in Cornelius and Tigard.

In the classroom portion of the program, each participant completes seven two-hour modules on topics such as The Benefits of Trees; Tree Planting 101; and Business Incubation for New Foresters and Green Enterprise. The next step is a paid internship.

TRK’s decision to focus on urban and community forestry was based on practical reasons. The opportunity for entry-level tree care professionals is likely to grow as commercial businesses, public agencies, residential developers and others plant trees or maintain them as part of a city’s green infrastructure program.  The course was not branded as a deep dive into tree care and management, but rather as an overview of topics such as tree planting basics, maintenance, pruning and risk assessment, and computer literacy and trees. 

The program also aims to offer members of immigrant communities and communities of color a chance to develop skills and self-confidence while exploring options for pursuing a natural resource career. In fact, involvement by Portland Community College Rock Creek, which offers a two- year degree in Landscape Technology, offers a direct link to one of the curriculum modules.

Another key partner is Oregon Community Trees, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting healthy urban and community forests through leadership, education, awareness and advocacy. OCT stepped in by providing a portion of the curriculum content and instructors, including Rob Emanuel, who serves on OCT’s Board of Directors and works for Clean Water Services as a Water Resource Project Manager. (On a related note, this year’s OCT conference theme is “Diversifying Our Urban Forests: People, Partnerships and Trees.”)

As it closes its first year and gears up for its second, this jobs training program is already offering an exciting glimpse of the sustainable, inclusive, thriving urban forestry sector that our watershed needs. Visit Tualatin Riverkeepers' website to learn more about the program, and follow TRK on Twitter and Facebook for updates.

Metro Program Benefits Local Sites: Focus on Rock Creek at PCC

Enjoying nature has never been easier to do, thanks to Metro and voters who said yes to a $227 million dollar bond measure a decade ago. After nine rounds of funding that supported large and small scale capital projects aimed to improve water and air quality, fish and wildlife habitat, and access to nature for everyone, Metro’s Nature in Neighborhoods Capital Grant Program is closed…for now.

Ranging in size and scope, the last round of awards was revealed late November, with the final $1.8 million dollars distributed among nine finalists—including four projects right here in the Tualatin River Watershed:

The Rock Creek Floodplain grant was one of the largest in this series. One of the project’s key ecological enhancements involves improving floodplain connectivity and function. Clean Water Services and partners intend to do that by using Mother Nature’s most effective North American mammal—Castor canadensis. To encourage beaver activity, CWS plans to install large woody debris and select native plantings to create anchor points for them.

But it’s not just beavers that will benefit from this enhancement project! The site supports many other species including 50+ types of resident and migratory birds, Roosevelt elk, red-legged frogs and steelhead salmon. Given the deep pool of biodiversity and its proximity to a new urban development and an academic institution, it’s not surprising that Metro’s Capital Grants committee found the proposal important and timely.

Tualatin Riverkeepers will take the lead in managing the community engagement component of the project, leveraging its existing partnerships with organizations serving Muslim and Latino communities. Through its Environmental Studies Center and the work of professors and students in multiple departments, PCC Rock Creek will work to maximize the educational—as well as the ecological—potential of the site.

After nine years, $15 million dollars and 51 projects, there is no doubt that Metro’s Capital Grant Program changed the landscape for the better.  

Click here to view the Rock Creek at PCC project brief.


What's Happening in the Wetlands?

Like planting trees and shrubs? Try counting frog and salamander eggs. This winter, volunteers will be visiting parks and natural areas around the region to count frog and salamander egg masses. Each “community scientist” will pull on a pair of waders to gather data about where frogs and salamanders lay their eggs, how many eggs are laid, and which species are present.

Why are we so interested in counting amphibian eggs? They let us know how we’re doing. Monitoring these native species helps indicate the overall wetland health and measure how Tree for All’s restoration efforts are helping wildlife thrive. 

Volunteers will track four native amphibian species: Pacific chorus frogs, Northwest salamanders, long-toed salamanders and Northern red-legged frogs. Last year, all four species were found at sites in Sherwood, Beaverton and Hillsboro. This year's monitoring sites will include Cedar Creek-Stella OlsenBronson Creek, Fanno Creek, FernhillGales Creek Forest Grove Natural Area, Maroon PondsPenstemon PrairieRock Creek at PCC, Springville CreekTualatin River Farm and Whispering Woods Natural Area.

Amphibians are considered an “indicator species” of wetland health. They require high quality ponds and slow-moving creeks for reproduction, and their larvae are sensitive to pollutants such as pesticides, fungicides, and heavy metals.

Earlier this year, at Gales Creek in Forest Grove, a group of 10 volunteers donned waders and spoons to monitor a five-acre wetland area at Gales Creek in Forest Grove. The wetlands at that location are being restored by Clean Water Services with funds from Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and support from Metro.

The group found more than 100 Pacific chorus frogs and more than 20 long toed salamander egg masses in the newly established grasses, sedges and rushes in the water. In fact, the group found so many egg masses that they continued to monitor well after the necessary time! The project manager used the data from this community science amphibian monitoring effort to determine what plant species should be added, so that amphibians can attach their eggs to more surfaces during breeding.

In 2017, Clean Water Services, Metro and the City of Forest Grove will collaborate on interpretive signage for the edge of the wetland, along a new trail. The sign will tell the story of the wetland and the remarkable lifecycle of amphibians living within it.

Interested in being a community scientist? Attend a training! Find full details here

All Hands On Deck!

In the restoration world, January means tree planting is in full swing. Because Tree for All is planting on a landscape scale, it takes a diverse, coordinated and hard-working group of partners to ensure that all the native trees and plants are planted by spring.

The bulk of planting season happens while it is the most rainy, windy, cold, and yes, even snowy here in Washington County. January is the midpoint of the planting season, and while we have made a lot of progress, there is still a long way to go. 

As of January 1, Tree for All partners had planted 284,100 native plants. Another 812,750 remained at the cooler and the Tualatin River Farm, ready for pickup. That means we're on track for another 1+ million plant yearbut there's a lot of hard work and nimble coordination ahead of us this winter and spring to reach that goal!

It’s hard to visualize what a million native plants look like, but exciting to think about the vibrant habitat that they will create when planted at restoration sites throughout the Tualatin River Watershed. How many of those native plants can you get in the ground this winter/spring? Visit the Tree for All calendar to find a planting event near you.