Aumsville Site for Environmental Studies
Summary of Activities June 1996 - June 1997
Wynn W. CudmoreLife Science InstructorChemeketa Community CollegeSalem, OR 97309
In June of 1996 a Letter of Agreement was signed by representatives of Marion County and Chemeketa Community College that established the Aumsville Site for Environmental Studies (ASES). The 40-acre site is located approximately 1.5 miles SE of Aumsville and continues under county ownership. The Letter of Agreement provides access to the site by Chemeketa faculty and students for educational purposes. Other community colleges, local high schools and universities have been involved less directly.
After an initial meeting and site tour with representatives from Marion County Department of Public Works, Chemeketa Community College and Oregon Department of State Lands, a proposal was submitted to the county that outlined potential educational uses for the "Aumsville Ponds" site. In the fall of 1996 several meetings and site tours were conducted with members of Chemeketa's Science faculty, Salem Audubon Society, Native Plant Society and Bureau of Land Management. The goal of these meetings was to discuss potential educational uses for the site, to prioritize those uses and to identify individuals who may be interested in participating (Appendix A). As a result of these meetings a number of priorities were established. This report lists those priorities, summarizes activities at the site for the period June 1996 through June 1997 and describes future plans for the site.
II. SUMMARY OF ACTIVITIES
Although there are several trails and roads on the site, most had been obscured by blackberries, scotch broom and fallen trees. The desire to minimize impact on native vegetation for ecological studies was weighed against clearing some areas to allow access for field activities. Work parties of Chemeketa faculty and students were organized on three occasions to clear downed logs and brush from existing trails and portions of pond margins. This has greatly improved access to some locations on the property and allowed us to bring classes to the site in Winter 1997.
Life Science faculty met to discuss an appropriate name for the site. A sign was designed by Wynn Cudmore and manufactured and erected by Marion Co. Department of Public Works at the entrance to the property in January 1997 to identify its intended use.
Trail clearing and maintenance will be ongoing and may be expanded as other areas come into use by various classes and groups. Resources outside of the college may be used to assist in these efforts.
There has been some discussion about adding a pier-like structure to facilitate sampling in one of the larger ponds.
An understanding of past conditions and treatments on the property is required to understand current conditions and to predict possible futures for the site. Past ownership, excavation of borrow pits, timber harvest and changes in hydrology, for example, may all influence conditions at this site.
Historical aerial photographs of the site were obtained from the University of Oregon Map Library. These provide a historic record of land use at the site from 1936 to 1996 and were used as part of a laboratory in Environmental Science (Spring 1997) entitled "The Use of Aerial Photographs to Evaluate Land Use Changes".
Students in Chemeketa's Surveying II class were required to gather pertinent information on the site using records at the county surveyors office. Plat maps were used to identify property corners and the locations of horizontal and vertical control were determined.
Chemeketa Community College places a high value on field studies in our courses because we believe the educational and experiential payoffs outweigh the inconvenience and added cost. Access to appropriate field sites close to campus is an essential element to such an approach. These types of activities are also consistent with the goals of the National Science Foundation-funded Northwest Center for Sustainable Resources at Chemeketa. These include curriculum improvement in science and mathematics, student experiences with appropriate technology, and instructional approaches that encourage better communication skills and long-term projects. A number of courses taught at Chemeketa have already used the Aumsville site for instruction:
Two permanent plots for study of effect of exotic plant species have been established.
Biological materials have been collected at the site on a number of occasions for laboratory use.
Permanent vegetation plots will be established and a long-term monitoring plan put into effect to measure changes in vegetation over time. The effects of exotic vegetation removal (English ivy and Scotch broom) on permanent plots will be studied. Permanent photo points will be established that will be used to document vegetation changes over time.
Chemeketa courses listed above as well as others will continue to use the site for field-based laboratories. The "Proposed Activities" listed in Appendix A describe the nature of some of these laboratories.
Chemeketa faculty and cooperating partners have begun a preliminary inventory of plant and animal species present at the site. Information of this type is invaluable as future management of the site is planned and implemented. The importance of small parcels such as this in the preservation of biological diversity has recently been recognized (Shafer, C.L. 1995. Values and shortcomings of small reserves. BioScience 45:80-88).
The ponds on the property are used as breeding sites by the following amphibian species:
Rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa)Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana)Red-legged frog (Rana aurora)Pacific treefrog (Hyla regilla)
The presence of red-legged frogs is particularly noteworthy. This species was at one time common in the Willamette Valley but is now quite rare. It is listed as a species of concern by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Although reasons for the decline are unknown, predation by bullfrogs, loss of habitat and water pollution have been proposed as contributing factors. Since the Aumsville Site for Environmental Studies is isolated from other suitable habitats by agricultural lands this may well be an isolated population. At least 14 egg masses and 10 juvenile red-legged frogs were seen in mid-March.
Although no formal bird surveys have been conducted, the following birds have been seen on the site:
A preliminary plant list for the site was prepared as the result of a site visit on 31 May 1997 by members of Chemeketa's Life science faculty and members of the native Plant Society (Appendix B).
The inventorying of biological resources at the site will be an ongoing activity. Measures of abundance and status will be made for selected species of interest. Permanent sampling stations or routes will be established for bird monitoring using methods recommended by Terry Rich -Wildlife Biologist - Bureau of Land Management (see below). Efforts will also be expanded to include other vertebrate groups (fish and mammals) as well as lesser known groups (lichens, mosses, insects). To date these efforts have been primarily conducted outside of class activities. Future efforts will attempt to involve more students as part of course requirements.
Educational opportunities at the site can be enhanced by tapping into the talents of "local experts" from outside the college. We also would like to increase the recognition of the site by the community and increase community involvement. A number of individuals from public agencies and private organizations have assisted in the planning of activities at the site:
Bureau of Land Management
Salem Audubon Society
Native Plant Society
Governor's Watershed Enhancement Board
Oregon Department of Transportation
Continue to seek partnerships outside the college to expand use of the site and to provide technical expertise when needed. North Salem High School and Willamette University have expressed an interest in using the site for Environmental Studies courses.
The Aumsville Site for Environmental Studies represents a cooperative effort between Marion County and Chemeketa Community College that has provided new and valuable educational opportunities for students. Students have become engaged in hands-on field experiences that are relevant to their field of study while providing information to the county that may be useful in future planning for the site. The future involvement of other segments of the community will provide additional benefits to cooperating partners. This partnership should serve as a model for cooperation between educators and the community in Oregon and elsewhere.
Summary of Proposed Activities at Aumsville SiteOctober 15, 1996
The following suggestions were made at a meeting of Chemeketa's Life Science faculty to discuss potential educational use of the Aumsville Site for Environmental Studies:
1. Establish ecological baselines for future comparison
2. Collection of biological materials
Some ponds should be set aside as sources for material for Chemeketa's Aquatic Ecology Laboratory and collecting by students/faculty for current pond labs. It has been suggested that we explore the construction of floating docks for safe, convenient observation and collecting
3. Aquatic Manipulations
Pond manipulations in smaller ponds for pond community studies (perhaps conducted in association with Chemeketa's new Aquatic Ecology Laboratory). Some ponds should be reserved as "natural replicates" and collecting/manipulations not allowed there.
4. Terrestrial Manipulations
5. General Recommendations
Plant Species List for Aumsville Site for Environmental Studies
The following species list was compiled by members of the Life Science faculty at Chemeketa Community College and the Native Plant Society of Oregon. All plants were identified on a field trip to the site on May 31, 1997. Species are categorized by families which are listed alphabetically. The list should be considered a work in progress and will be updated on future visits.
Wetland Indicator Status Categories
(based on National List of Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands - Reed,1988)
* plants not native to Oregon