The Oregon Forest Resources Institute’s (OFRI) Wildlife in Managed Forests program has a new publication that’s all about amphibians!
For our new Wildlife in Managed Forests: Forest Amphibians publication we worked with scientists from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service to help forest landowners get to know the amphibians that call Oregon forests home, and help provide good habitat for them. We also summarize the current science and offer suggestions for voluntary forest management actions that benefit amphibians. Read on to learn a little more about the authors behind this awesome new publication.
Dr. Tiffany Garcia
Dr. Tiffany Garcia grew up in northern California and has always been around forests, amphibians and natural resource management. Her thirst for answers about wildlife management started early, but she didn’t get the chance to work on research projects until she started college at the University of California Davis. There, she bothered postdocs, graduate students and her professors constantly with questions about amphibians! They were gracious enough to let her tag along on surveys and studies.
Now Dr. Garcia is professor in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Sciences at Oregon State University. Her work focuses mainly on seasonal streams and ponds, where she studies the impacts of environmental stressors on amphibians. Her research quantifies behavioral, physiological and community responses to environmental stressors, including pharmaceutical contamination, invasive species and climate change. She completed her bachelor’s at U.C. Davis in 1997, and her Ph.D. at the University of Kentucky in 2002. She first arrived in Oregon as a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow, and has since conducted research projects in Sweden, California and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Dr. Deanna (Dede) Olson
Dr. Deanna (Dede) Olson got hooked on field ecology research when she was an undergraduate at U.C. San Diego, where she helped with lizard research, and she went on to do independent studies on mussels and barnacles in a marsh near Woods Hole, Mass., and on Przewalski’s horses at the San Diego Wild Animal Park, and then was an assistant for a National Geographic expedition to South America. When she entered graduate school, she wanted to keep working on the behavioral ecology of animal mating systems, but when she took a course on herpetology, the branch of zoology concerned with reptiles and amphibians, she decided to focus on Oregon amphibians. She worked on researching frogs and toads in the Oregon Cascade Range starting in 1982, and continues 40 years later.
Dr. Olson was a free-range kid, coming home only when it got dark. She always had pets, and the family would go on treks together in natural areas. Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was a favorite TV show then, a window to a bigger world. Dr. Olson aimed to be a biology major in college, with pre-med or a health pathway in mind, and then she discovered behavioral ecology and found her bliss. Undergraduate ecology studies were fun adventures, and she learned to put her observations into theoretical contexts. She discovered she was above par in writing, and her first journal paper on lek-mating birds in the South American country of Suriname was published before graduate school, and then was accepted in lieu of a master’s degree. She went straight for a Ph.D. on toad and frog mating systems in Oregon. After a couple postdoctoral instructor stints at western Oregon colleges, she was hired as a postdoc by the Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, with the anadromous fish habitat program. As agency needs grew and declining amphibians became a global concern, she was able to expand her work to more amphibians, the threats to them, and managing them for sustainability.
I asked Dr. Garcia and Dr. Olson some questions about their experiences researching forest amphibians and their advice for forest landowners and managers. In some cases, their answers have been shortened and edited for clarity.
Do you have an amphibian moment that stands out?
Dr. Garcia: I once saw a bullfrog so big that I thought it was an Asian carp. Scared the wits out of me.
Dr. Olson: The first time I saw a breeding toad aggregation stands out to me. I had been looking for them as I walked along a lake shoreline, but after I gave up and started back to the car without seeing anything, I heard faint pip pip pip sounds, and it was male mating calls being made out in deeper water. In a very small area of perhaps 10 square yards there were hundreds of mating toads. Breeding ended in a couple more days. In the large lake, this was a needle in a haystack in both space and time, and I had happened upon them. Toads use traditional mating sites, and once I found them, I could reliably find them again in a later year. I felt like I had cracked the code of these cryptic animals!
What advice do you have for landowners interested in managing their forests to provide amphibian habitat?
Dr. Garcia: In promoting amphibian habitat, you’re promoting ecosystem health and wildlife biodiversity. This is because amphibians are the heart of the forest. They are prey for many of our birds and mammals, as well as predators of forest invertebrates. They bridge stream, forest floor and canopy ecosystems by transferring nutrients throughout and across these systems. Amphibian habitat, which includes downed wood, streamside trees and plants, and wetlands, also provides important ecosystems services that benefit both current and future human populations.
Dr. Olson: Consider the different life stages and life functions of the animals and providing habitat conditions for each, including breeding habitat, foraging habitat, overwintering or summer refugia and dispersal habitat to connect populations.
What's your take-home message from the publication for forest managers and landowners?
Dr. Garcia: I hope this illuminates the amazing diversity of frogs and salamanders in Oregon. We’re a global hotspot for these animals, and the more we know about where they are and what habitat they need, the better we can do in working together toward their conservation.
Dr. Olson: Sustain amphibians and their habitats, and that helps sustain broader forest wildlife communities, due to amphibians’ central role as predators and prey for other animals.
What are your current interests and projects?
Dr. Garcia: I’m currently working on research projects that assess wildfire impacts on terrestrial salamanders in Oregon, and how large pieces of downed wood can provide important microhabitats for these animals during forest disturbances such as fire.
Dr. Olson: Advancing knowledge of the effectiveness of riparian buffers (where trees are preserved along streams to shade and cool the water and provide habitat) for amphibian protection in forests, and elevating the “social capital” of amphibians for increased conservation attention as their extinction rates exceed all other main animal groups. Can we preserve these animals for our children’s children’s children?
The full Wildlife in Managed Forests: Forest Amphibians publication is available to download or order at OregonForests.org/publications.
Fran Cafferata Coe, CWB®
OFRI Contract Wildlife Biologist
As someone who loves the forest and the sea, I’ve spent a lot of time considering both.
Given how different they are, it’s interesting to note how important these natural ecosystems are to Oregon, environmentally, economically and socially.
Forests and the ocean are major carbon sinks that play a crucial role in combating the effects of climate change.
Both forests and the ocean have an associated industry—forestry and fisheries—that provides jobs and other economic benefits to Oregon communities, especially rural ones.
Forests and the ocean are places where Oregonians and visitors to the state take part in an array of recreational activities, including fishing, hunting, hiking, boating, swimming and camping.
And because of the importance of forests and the ocean to Oregon, it is important that K-12 students learn about both.
As a way of educating Oregon students about the significance and connections between these two natural resources, the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) has awarded a $100,000 grant to the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport for new interpretive signage informing aquarium visitors about Oregon’s coastal forests, sustainable forest management, and the importance of forest and ocean ecosystems.
The signage will narrate the progression of a raindrop from the forest to the sea while highlighting sustainable forest management practices, and will serve as the basis for expanding the curriculum for the aquarium’s on-site, online and outreach education programs to include lessons on Oregon’s forests.
These programs typically reach more than 525,000 people annually, with PreK-12 students making up over half that number. This audience will offer OFRI a unique partnership opportunity to highlight forest management and sustainability messages for school groups. My hope is that this will help Oregon students better understand and appreciate the many environmental, economic and social benefits of the state’s forested and coastal environments.
Director of K-12 Education Programs
In August 2020, Gov. Kate Brown requested that the Oregon Secretary of State perform a thorough performance audit of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI). The following month, the Secretary of State Oregon Audits Division began working with OFRI to fulfill this request.
After nearly a year of gathering documents and interviewing OFRI staff, board members and stakeholders, the Audits Division released its findings and recommendations on July 21, 2021. Read the full report here.
OFRI appreciates the Secretary of State Oregon Audits Division for their work on this audit. The findings in this audit and the criticism of OFRI is certainly challenging, and has caused a period of deep reflection internally at OFRI. We agree with the operational recommendations in the audit regarding ways to improve our performance. Indeed, we’re already in the process of implementing them. However, we disagree with the audit’s conclusion that OFRI’s statute undermines its public benefit. OFRI benefits the public through the important role it serves of educating Oregonians of all ages about forests, forest management and forest products.
As we integrate the audit recommendations and develop a new strategic plan for the Institute in the coming months, we will embark on a transparent process that engages the public to ensure that OFRI’s forest education programs best serve the interests of all Oregonians while also following our statutory mandate.
As discussed in the OFRI audit report, forestry has long been important to Oregonians and the practice of forestry and the forest products industry are key components of Oregon’s cultural identity. Forests cover nearly half of Oregon, and the forest products industry continues to be important to the state’s economy, especially in rural communities. The health of our forests is critical to all Oregonians. As we face increasing threats, including from climate change and wildfires, it behooves us to work together – across industries and interests – to protect our forests.
Here are our next steps following the release of the Secretary of State’s performance audit of OFRI, including some that are already underway:
- The OFRI audit report includes recommendations for the Oregon Legislature to “improve OFRI statutes and better realize the agency’s potential public benefits.” Per OFRI’s statutory prohibition on influencing or attempting to influence legislation, we cannot comment and will look to the Legislature for direction on those recommendations.
- OFRI has budgeted to develop a new strategic plan during our 2021-22 Fiscal Year. OFRI will submit a request for proposals from contractors that have a price agreement with the state of Oregon to provide strategic planning services to state agencies. OFRI will seek to hire a strategic planning contractor with a demonstrated ability to, as the Audits Division recommends, align OFRI’s new strategic plan “with a clear mission and goals tied to specific performance measures.”
- OFRI agrees with the Audits Division’s recommendation that it can improve its communications across its educational programs and resources around its statutory mandate to support and enhance Oregon’s forest products industry. We will look for ways to increase transparency in all our communications and materials.
- We have updated our mission statement to include OFRI’s statutory mandate to support the forest products industry, and this new mission statement can be found in a prominent spot on the “About OFRI” page of our website. Moving forward, this same mission statement will appear on all new OFRI publications and other educational materials. If it is not possible to include the mission statement because of time or space constraints, audiences will be directed to visit OFRI’s website.
- OFRI regularly engages with an extensive group of forestry stakeholders, including conservation groups and academic researchers. But up until now, we have not formally documented this process. Per the Audits Division’s recommendation, OFRI has started improving our documenting standards and internal processes for developing, reviewing and disseminating quality information.
- Since OFRI produces educational materials for the general public, K-12 students and teachers and forest landowners, we will document specific standards and internal processes for developing, reviewing and disseminating quality information to each of these audiences. We’ll also plan to engage with an even broader array of stakeholders, including additional environmental groups, in our ongoing work to educate the public about Oregon’s forests, forest management and forest products.
- Another Audits Division recommendation for OFRI is to “develop a policy to provide guidance to staff and board members on ways to avoid engaging in activities prohibited by statute,” including supporting or opposing litigation or attempting to influence any legislation, rulemaking or other administrative activity. Currently, the OFRI employee and board handbooks explain this statutory prohibition. Staff are also encouraged to direct any concerns about potential conflicts with OFRI’s statutory prohibition to the executive director. If OFRI is requested to present to a committee of the Oregon Legislature, the executive director seeks guidance from the Oregon Department of Justice. To expand our guidance to staff and board members regarding ways to avoid engaging in activities prohibited by statute, we plan to request assistance from the Oregon Ethics Commission and Oregon Department of Justice to develop a formal policy.
- Lastly, OFRI plans to follow the Audits Division’s recommendation to work with Oregon’s Department of Administrative Services and Department of Justice to “conduct a comprehensive review of its statute and determine which statewide policies apply to OFRI.” After this review is completed, OFRI will document which statewide policies apply to the Institute.
The audit recommendations for OFRI are constructive and will improve the Institute’s efforts to help Oregonians better understand and appreciate the forests that serve as one of our state’s greatest resources.
In 1981, my wife, Teresa, and I moved to Oregon so I could attend graduate school at the Oregon State University College of Forestry. That was the beginning of my long career as a forestry educator in this great state, which will soon come to an end with my retirement this year.
While studying for a Master of Forestry in silviculture, I served as a teaching assistant for forest ecology and silviculture classes, working with the professors John Tappeiner and Dick Hermann. With mentors like them, I caught the bug for teaching forestry and learned that it was an area in which I excelled.
Upon graduation in 1983, I went to work as the first tribal forester for the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians of Oregon. The tribe had recently had their tribal status restored and were beginning forest management on their new reservation. As the tribe’s forester, I got to write silvicultural prescriptions, manage timber sales, supervise spray and reforestation projects, and even got to write the Siletz Indian Reservation’s first forest management plan. I had the chance to supervise and train tree planting, thinning and inventory crews, and generally practice intensive silviculture in Oregon’s Coast Range. However, when a forestry extension agent position opened in Douglas County, I knew that I had to apply to try and get into forestry education full time.
I worked for the Oregon State University Extension Service in Douglas County for six years before transferring to the Lane County Extension office in Eugene, where I continued by post-graduate studies at the University of Oregon. I was in Eugene for five years before moving to the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, where I worked as the director of outreach for the College of Forestry for the next six years.
During my time at OSU, I had the opportunity to work with hundreds of woodland owners and professional foresters. I taught dozens of workshops and coordinated numerous forestry conferences. I also worked with many K-12 students and did a bunch of public education.
In 2003, I was asked to apply for a position with the Oregon Forest Resources Institute (OFRI) as the director of forestry. I had worked on several OFRI projects while at OSU Extension and was very supportive of OFRI’s mission to educate Oregonians about forestry. After 16 years of forestry extension, I was ready to play on a larger stage. It was a hard decision to walk away from a tenured full professor position, but I was ready.
Working as OFRI’s director of forestry for the past 18 years has given me a tremendous opportunity to communicate to the people of Oregon the importance of forestry: What it is, why we do it and why it matters. Being the face and voice of active forest management in the most important forestry state in the country has been an incredible opportunity. I have had the chance to teach many more classes, write several educational publications, star in a handful of informational videos, and help lead an incredible organization.
OFRI’s mission of educating Oregonians about forestry has become my personal mission. I have loved every minute of spreading the forestry gospel and believe that we have made an incredible difference through our work. I have had the opportunity to work with a team of professional communicators, educators and foresters, aided by adequate resources and tremendous forest sector support toward an end that I really believe in.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve you for the last 40 years. The time has gone way too quickly. I hope and pray that OFRI continues for a long time and continues to receive the support of the forestry community in Oregon. Thanks for the memories.
For the forest,
Director of Forestry