People Who Collaborate

Helping all of us learn the complex environment at play at Malheur Lake is hydrologist Dr. Tamara Wood. Dr. Wood first experienced Malheur Lake in 2016 and has been studying the lake’s water quality for the past two years. She’s a Hydrologist at Oregon Water Science Center with degrees in mechanical engineering, physical oceanography as well as environmental science and engineering.  Read more. 

The Science Of Malheur

Dr. Tammy Wood, a Hydrologist with U.S. Geological Survey got involved with research at Malheur Lake in 2016. Once a lake of “superabundance” of vegetation, Malheur Lake’s habitat has been decimated by the behavior of nonnative common carp. Almost 3 years later, thanks to funding to the High Desert Partnership through a grant from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board to the Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative, Dr. Wood’s research at Malheur Lake continues to look at how invasive common carp have created very turbid water both directly, by uprooting plants, and indirectly by leaving sediments exposed to resuspension. “The tiny particles in the water, which we measure as turbidity, extinguish the light and make it hard for plants to grow. The hypothesis we’ve been testing during the last two years of study [2017-2018], is that the turbidity is caused primarily by sediments from the bottom that get sent back up into the water, primarily by wind, and that’s a key to understanding how light gets extinguished and why.” ~Dr. Tamara Wood

During these two years of study Dr. Wood and her team actually collected light, turbidity, and chlorophyll data and looked at these together. They found that resuspension of sediments by wind is indeed an important source of turbidity. Much to Dr. Wood’s surprise, they also found that there was a significant phytoplankton (microscopic algae that require sunlight to live and grow) community in the lake that also contributed to turbidity. She was surprised because it seemed there was little light for this type of tiny plant to grow.

Dr. Wood and her team have their data about the relationship between turbidity, wind and light, so now the focus shifts to turbidity in conjunction with phytoplankton and nutrients [what feeds the phytoplankton].

What questions are Dr. Wood trying to answer now? First, what is the size of the phytoplankton (image above is a type of phytoplankton called oocystis) community, and how does it grow in response to certain conditions such as limited light and/or limited nutrients? Another important and unique aspect of Malheur Lake is that it’s a terminal lake, and its size can vary greatly year-to-year in response to snowpack and temperature. It’s important to understand how nutrient content might vary and respond to the lake growing and shrinking. “We now have the data that show why light is being extinguished in this lake before it reaches the bottom where rooted plants can use it to get established. We had a hypothesis that wind resuspension was an important driver. We can now accept that hypothesis, and in the process of testing it we’ve discovered that there is something else we should consider.  Uncovering more and more of this complexity is not a setback—it just adds a richness to our understanding of Malheur Lake. It’s always fun to learn about a place, to get a new set of things to think about, and to consider how processes overlap and intertwine in time and space." ~Dr. Tamara Wood

Are Megafires The New Normal?

In the last seven years, Harney County residents have experienced their share of megafires. They’ve dealt with the smoke, with the influx of firefighters and personnel sent to fight them, and they’ve seen firsthand how it changes the landscape.

Megafires, defined as fires that burn more than 100,000 acres, have become almost commonplace each fire season. Big fires dominate the news cycle each summer and fall in the West. However, Burns District Bureau of Land Management director Jeff Rose says that considering the number of fires Burns District BLM personnel work on each year, megafires are still a rare occurrence, noting that they suppress many fires that are 1,000 acres or less. What creates the potential for megafires are hot, dry days with a lot of wind. Read more in the article, Megafires, The New Normal.
Photo from 2012 Miller Homestead Fire by AJ Swartzlender.

Project IBiS Needs You

Audubon Society of Portland Eastern Oregon Field Coordinator Teresa Wicks has a community science project underway, Project IBiS.  You can help by counting birds this spring. 
With the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board award of funds for the Harney Basin Wetland Initiative work, these funds are in part helping ranchers replace aging flood-irrigation structures with newer structures that are expected to help flood irrigation practices and increase waterfowl habitat. Project IBiS will help provide information on bird communities that utilize flood-irrigated ranch lands in Harney County as well as provide information on how new infrastructure at some properties is influencing bird use of these areas. Check out this website to learn how being outside counting birds can make a difference.

True Neighbor

Schelly Daugherty is our June True Neighbor. As our May True Neighbor, Shana Withee shared about Schelly, "[she] is a strong promoter of our youth. She is actively involved with Burns Lacrosse and Nadzitsaga Lacrosse. She manages the leagues, handles the enrollments and tracks the uniforms and check-out. She was instrumental in their community wide dinner fundraiser this fall." More about Schelly as shared by May's True Neighbor Shana Withee.
True Neighbor, recognizing community members giving their talents to Harney County and making us stronger every day.
Photo by Jeremy Hill of Shelly Daugherty.

Upcoming Events   

Wednesday, June 12 | Harney County Restoration Collaborative Field Trip 
Wednesday, June 19 | High Desert Partnership Board Meeting
Thursday, June 20 | Harney Basin Wetlands Initiative Collaborative Meeting
Tuesday, July 9 | Harney County Restoration Collaborative Meeting
Wednesday, July 17 | High Desert Partnership Board Meeting
Thursday, July 18 | Harney County Wildfire Collaborative Meeting & Field Trip
Tuesday, August 13 | Harney County Restoration Collaborative Meeting 
Saturday, August 17 | Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Annual Carp Derby
Wednesday, August 21 | High Desert Partnership Board Meeting
Tuesday, September 3 - Sunday, September 8 | Harney County Fair, Rodeo & Racemeet

The Harney County Way

Reflections from The Harney County Way May 2018 Collaborative Summit.
You can be the difference!
Donate today and help us strengthen Harney County through collaboration. 
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Sagebrush Collaboration

A heavily researched story by professor and author Peter Walker of the strength and resilience of Harney County as the community faced a challenge it could have never anticipated.
Thanks to The Ford Family Foundation for adding Sagebrush Collaboration to their Select Books program. Select Books is an amazing program providing resources to educate and help us make a difference in our communities. If you live in Oregon or Siskiyou County, CA "you may order one copy of this book at NO CHARGE if you provide feedback about it."
Also, books can be purchased through Oregon State University PressThe Duck Store and Amazon

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