Corvallis Science & Nature: Whale Watch Week, Tree Habitats Shifting, Plankton and Climate Science Pub

Whale Watch Week is Back 

As reliably as the first flowers, the gray whale migration is back on the Oregon coast, and that means it’s time for Spring Whale Watch Week. From now through Saturday, April 2, volunteers will be posted at 17 locations along the coast, from Fort Stevens at the extreme north end to Harris Beach in the south, from 10 am to 1 pm every day. There are two migration seasons for gray whales in Oregon, one in the winter and one in spring. This is not only the warmer and (sometimes) dryer one, but also the one in which the whales tend to venture a little closer to land. Viewing is best in the morning, plus that’s when the volunteers are there to help spot them. Several of the viewing points are close to Newport, a quick drive down Rt. 20 from Corvallis, including Otter Crest, Yaquina Head, and Yaquina Bay Lighthouse. If you can make the trip during the week, there are definitely fewer crowds. Wednesday and Thursday look like the best weather days.  

Study Predicts Shifts in Tree Habitat 

From the giants of the mammal world to the biggest plants on the planet, an Oregon State University forestry study out this week adds more evidence that certain common trees have a rough period ahead in Oregon. The paper, published in the latest issue of the journal Ecosphere, uses a statistical method called Bayesian spatial models to predict the ranges of five tree species in the Pacific Northwest, and the news is mixed, but mostly not great. As the climate continues to warm, the models predict less area suitable for trees like the coastal Douglas-fir, Oregon white oak and blue oak. The outlook is especially grim for the noble fir, which the model predicts will lose 79-100% of its current range by 2080. Noble firs are popular as Christmas trees, providing over 25% of Oregon’s fresh Christmas tree market, so this is a sobering economic report as well as ecologically worrying. The one hopeful result in this study was the finding that California black oak could see a slight habitat increase, but it doesn’t come close to equaling out the losses from the others. 

April 5: OSU Science Pub Tackles Plankton and Climate Change 

Next Wednesday, April 5th, OSU’s Science Pub series returns with a presentation about the role that the tiniest organisms in the sea play in one of our biggest global problems: climate change. Microbiologist Kimberly Halsey will give the talk, titled “The oceans’ single-celled gas guzzlers”, about the role that plankton play in the global carbon cycle and climate change. Plankton are both producers and consumers of climate-affecting gases at the ocean surface, and understanding their cycles can help us better measure and predict climate into the future.  

The public is invited to watch the talk live at the Old World Deli on 2nd Street starting at 6 pm on Wednesday, April 5th, or online. Registration (in person / online) is required, but the talk is free. Space is limited, so if you want to see it in person, register early. 

By Ian Rose 

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