I get the honor of taking over Lauren’s blog for the day! My name is Samantha Roof, and I am one of the undergrads working on Lauren’s project. This summer I am splitting my time between helping Lauren and working on my own research project with Sandy DeBano (Lauren’s advisor) at Starkey Experimental Forest, which is what I will be sharing a bit about.
A little background about Starkey first. Headquarters are located about 45 minutes southwest from La Grande, OR. The experimental forest is maintained by the U.S. Forest Service primarily to conduct research looking at the population dynamics and grazing effects of ungulates such as deer, elk, and cattle. Starkey is a very different environment compared to where Lauren does her research. For one, there are real trees, rather than a few scraggly junipers! Also, since we are working in a riparian area, our sites stay pretty green throughout the summer. Unfortunately, this means that every once in a while I end up ankle deep in muck, and consequently, my boots have gained a distinctive stench I fear I will never be able to get rid of. Starkey is really a beautiful area, and parts of it are even open to the public for hiking, hunting, and camping. If you ever find yourself in that part of the state, go visit!
So, what is my project? I am studying how flowering plants at each of the sites impacts the diversity and abundance of native bees. I am really interested in looking at which plants bees prefer foraging on, and whether or not they have a preference for native or exotic plants. This could be important for figuring out what flowers people should plant to encourage more native bees near their fields or gardens, or how best to restore degraded land to help bees. I have learned a lot about identifying plants by working on this project, and am still working on memorizing the names of the flowers we have found. One of my personal favorites is Gairdner’s yampah. It’s native to Oregon, and though not a particularly exciting looking flower, its scientific name is Perideridia gairdneri, which is really just fun to try to say.
One of the coolest things I have been able to do at Starkey is meet the elk herd there that were hand raised by humans for various studies. It was quite an experience having full sized elk come walking up to me begging to be petted. The herd is made up of about 20 females all around 20 years old and very sweet!