Research Projects

Lynx and Wildfire

Wildfires in Washington's North Cascades are impacting habitat for many wildlife species, including the endangered Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). As larger, hotter wildfires continue to burn throughout this region, it is critical to understand the extent to which lynx are using this altered landscape. Important questions for lynx conservation include understanding the importance of unburned areas (i.e., fire skips) for lynx in the wake of a recent fire, the age at which a regenerating burned landscape is considered serviceable for a lynx population, and how we might be able to implement forest management techniques that safeguard against lynx habitat loss in the face of growing wildfire risk.

Beginning in 2023, and with support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, we will start answering these questions using GPS collars, backtracking, and an array of long-term remote camera monitoring stations. Our goal is to gain a fine-scale understanding of the ways lynx utilize varying degrees of burned habitat throughout the Methow Valley.

Recreation Impacts on Wildlife

Participation in outdoor recreation activities has dramatically increased over recent decades. With both high economic and human health value, outdoor recreation is an important link to conservation since it can foster connections to nature, instill pro- environmental behaviors, and encourage broad support for conservation organizations. But despite these positive attributes, with outdoor recreation comes inherent effects associated with concentrated human activity, including degraded landscapes and negative effects on wildlife populations.

In partnership with Conservation Northwest as part of their Wildlife-Recreation Coexistence Program, we reviewed existing science and summarized the impacts of interactions between wildlife and outdoor recreationists in the Pacific Northwest.

Black Bear Natural Foods

Black bears (Ursus americanus) are common throughout the Methow Valley and encounters are generally infrequent, but bear sightings and reports of "problem bears" have increased in the last several years. Climate change, increased human development, and natural food availability can all contribute to black bear use of human-inhabited areas and elicit human-black bear conflict. For example, wild berries from fruiting shrubs are an important natural food for black bears as they pack on calories in preparation for their winter torpor. In years where wild berry crops fail, shortages of these vital calories and can increase a bear's willingness to navigate risks associated with human development to access anthropogenic foods, such as trash, orchard fruits, and bird feeder seeds.

The Methow Valley is in a position to examine and mitigate these factors before human-black bear conflict becomes a widespread problem. In collaboration with the Methow Conservancy, we will be recruiting community scientists to conduct black bear natural food surveys ("Beary" Walks!). Monitoring variation in natural food availability will contribute to a long-term study of black bear conflict mitigation in the Methow and help inform research related to black bear ecology.

If you are interested in volunteering for the natural foods survey project, you can sign up here!