Wildlife Biologists Monitor Changes


Betsy Howell, Wildlife Biologist, Olympic National Forest: “My name is Betsy Howell I am a wildlife biologist on the Olympic National Forest. The best parts of my job are when I can
survey for different species, when I’m looking for restoration opportunities…
Just anything that takes me into the forest where I have the opportunity to
observe what’s happening in the natural world” Joshua Chapman, Forest Service Region 6 Wildlife Program Leader:
“We need eyes and ears on the ground
because what we do as wildlife biologists is actually go out and assess habitat
conditions there, and that’s habitat conditions going from the crowns of the
trees to what’s subtly under the soil level, and you can’t do that in a
remote fashion. Some of the species which were charged to manage and look for are subterranean, some of them live in cavities of trees, some of them
live under logs and branches and so we actually have to get out there on the
ground and look for those species. (Sound of water running) So part of the mission of the Forest Service is to provide for clean drinking water for the American people, and wetlands are one of
those areas which we hold water and store water to filter down into the
aquifers. Wetlands are also key habitat for a variety of fish species, aquatic mollusks and also amphibian species and so as a wildlife biologist part of our job
is to be monitoring the health of those wetlands by monitoring the existing
populations of amphibians and aquatic mollusks” Betsy Howell: “So when I come out to a particular wetland I primarily am looking at amphibian species, and bird species as well, but I
try to locate egg masses during the winter and early spring when the frogs
and salamanders are laying eggs. That can tell me which species are occupying a site. I
document bird songs that I hear, of course if there’s any evidence of
mammals deer and elk or predators any kind of tracks – so just
any kind of wildlife sign. I am trying to get some estimate of the health of the area so the more species that are using the wetland, you know, particularly amphibians, cause they are such sensitive indicators of environmental health, as
well as aquatic insects. If those kinds of species are present in an area then
it’s a pretty good indication that there’s a healthy water quality and healthy
vegetation growing in the area. I mean it doesn’t tell you everything but if the
species aren’t there, then an absence could be an indicator of a problem. This is high elevation wetland on the southern part of the Olympic National Forest. Monitoring is important for areas like this because for one thing this isn’t it
a very common habitat types so its value is increased by its scarcity. The second
reason is that, you know, changes are always happening in the ecosystem so if
you monitor if you return to a site year after year you can see what those
changes are. We know that the climate is changing and will continue to do so.
At higher elevations plant species, animal species and hydrological characteristics of a site are going to change more rapidly than they will lower.”
Joshua Chapman: “The wildlife that we study do not just occur in any one forest district or any one forest. They span across multiple forests they span sometimes across multiple states. So it’s
really our ability as wildlife biologists to take the inference of what’s going on on at the local level but then also take
that broader look at that whole life cycle of that species and be able to
understand what’s going on outside of the forest service lands even what’s going on in the adjacent private lands, so we can make sure we’re meeting the needs for the species that depend upon us for certain points of their life. Many of the wildlife that occur on national forest lands in Oregon and Washington also occur in Canada and Mexico and South America and so what we do on our lands
has not only local impact at the local level, but it stretches of globally.” (Water sounds.)
Betsy Howell: “Oh I think it’s absolutely critical that Forest Service specialists and you know really
all the different employees are out on the landscape as much as possible. I mean, ecosystem processes are always happening. People getting out repeatedly especially to see the changes that are occurring over time is, it’s, absolutely critical. This has got a little look of elderberry but I think
it’s just a salmon berry, and deer fern… you know there’s a lot of stuff growing or, you know, starting to grow in here.”

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