The Center for Integrated Research (CIR) at the Tatoosh School produces scholarship in the heart of the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion. In addition to the research programs of CIR faculty and students, the School’s basecamp provides a logistical hub for primary investigators and their teams to engage in timely and robust research in biology, ecology, rural development, and public lands policy. The Center supports interdisciplinary projects, with an interest in producing sound science to serve as a foundation for decision-makers at local and regional scales.
As an essential component of their studies and training, Tatoosh School students become field scientists through independent research and participation in several established long-term ecological research programs.
Aquatic & Terrestrial Monitoring
Many salmon-bearing streams and forests throughout Southeast Alaska are in near-natural conditions, but some critical waterways and habitats are not. The Tatoosh School implements aquatic and terrestrial monitoring education, training and research programs focused on areas with the greatest potential for rapid and dynamic recovery and sustainable use. Some of the highest-priority streams (as identified by the USFS, conservation groups, industry, private landowners) where restoration projects and timber harvest are planned, in process, or completed, are in the School’s course areas. Students participate in rigorous field work, compiling a data set that supports land managers in their evaluation of the efficacy of techniques as projects progress across the forest.
Nearshore and Intertidal Monitoring
Core course routes travel along an east-west cross-section of the Alexander Archipelago, from the outer coast to the delta of the Stikine River. Following established protocols developed and used by State and Federal agencies, students apply learned principals of intertidal and nearshore ecology to data collection and analysis. Monitoring is performed regularly over the course of the summer season. Information is gathered about abundance of key species and species richness and distribution, providing unique insights into the site-specific and regional impacts of environmental changes. In turn, this information may be matched with other data from across the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion, and acts as baseline data for use in targeted research on forest, stream and ocean conditions.
Watershed Ecology: restoration form and function
CIR supports long-term watershed restoration effectiveness monitoring across land ownerships in southern Southeast. Working collaboratively, faculty and investigators leverage curriculum-integrated protocols to track and analyze hydrologic and biophysical response to in-stream and floodplain restoration treatments. Results are compiled and shared amongst collaborators to increase integrative scientific insights across disciplines.
Socioeconomic analysis of the Tongass Transition
Transition, sustainability, and resiliency are necessary policy outcomes in southern Southeast Alaska. CIR supports monitoring to track the flow of benefits to local communities, and analysis to engage questions in public lands policy and rural development. Research includes asset mapping, baseline socioeconomic analysis, and long-term benefits reporting.
Effects of environmental changes on valuable marine species in the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion (PCE)
Widely recognized imminent and occurring changes in nearshore ocean conditions (salinity, oxygen, acidity and chemical composition) are having significant effects on fisheries throughout the Pacific Coastal Ecoregion (northern California to south-central Alaska). Fisheries (finfish and shellfish) play a critical ecological, social and economic role in Southeast Alaska (and throughout the ecoregion) and further study is essential for understanding the impacts changes may have.
CIR faculty (in a long-term partnership with researchers at UCSB) are working on integrating laboratory experimentation on hypoxia, acidification, energetics, osmoregulation, and reproductive success in model organisms (specifically rockfish and salmon species) with real-time assessment of nearshore and estuarine habitat conditions in the PCE. This work is further elucidating critical understandings to help guide management and conservation of nearshore fisheries.
Field-based Teacher Training: Development and Implementation
CIR faculty have developed and teach courses and programs focused on STEM education through the contexts of rivers, forests and gardens. Research is focused on effective techniques for observation, documentation and communication about outside environments and the development of tools that can be adapted for a myriad of curriculum requirements. One goal is to increase the capacity of teachers from rural and urban districts alike to utilize technology through multiple applications and inspire new field teaching methods for students of all ages. An emphasis is placed on increasing accessibility and communication across geographies, languages and cultures at local, regional and international scales.
This work is funded in part through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education ($1.96 million) to Portland State University’s Graduate School of Education, allowing CIR faculty to investigate and develop programs for the promotion of STEM teacher enhancement.