JGEMS research projects are made possible by the generous support of the following:
Oregon Youth Conservation Corps
Gray Family Foundation
Diack Ecology Education Program
Oregon Zoo's Future for Wildlife
Capitol Toyota
Mt. Jefferson Farms
Ted and Cindy Gaty
Eileen Weddle
Jennifer Neahring
Kirk and Terri Walker
Linda and Jerry Fredericks
Kathleen and Paul Huun
Mike and Karen Weddle

Previous years' projects

Amphibian response to Old Growth vs. Harvested Forest

One of JGEMS's favorite field trip sites, Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center, is a beautiful old-growth forest located near Gates. Opal Creek plays host to a plethora of plants and animals, including amphibians. This year our Amphibian Research Team decided to compare the effects that forest harvesting has on stream amphibian diversity and abundance. Using Opal Creek Ancient Forest as their control and a previously harvested nearby BLM forest as their comparison, the students are collecting habitat and capture data to answer their research question.

Bird surveys at Minto-Brown Island Park

Now in its third year, a team of five of our 8th graders will continue the Minto-Brown Island Park bird surveys, looking at how birds are responding to the five different habitats present at the park and surrounding areas. We are particularly interested in their level of use of an area that JGEMS did some plantings at in 2001.

Claggett Creek Management Plan

Similar to last year with Pringle Creek, this year's Fish Research Team will be performing fish and macroinvertebrate surveys to evaluate water quality and habitat, only this year Claggett Creek is the watershed of choice. From their findings our researchers will develop a management plan for the Claggett Creek watershed.

Phenology study at Silver Falls State Park

Phenology is the study of how plants and animals react to seasonal and interannual changes in the climate. Borrowing from the sampling protocol of the Centre de Recherches sur les Ecosystemes d'Altitude (CREA) in Chamonix, France, our Phenology research team is studying the timing of leaf fall in the Autumn and bud break in Spring at three different elevations at Silver Falls State Park. This research will also be coupled with a field trip to Mount Hood in the Autumn and again in the Spring to look at these changes in alpine areas. The hope is that this research project will be continued, and eventually we will be able to see if there are any trends occurring related to global climate change.

Stereotypical Behavior and Enrichment at the Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo has a brand new exhibit called Predators of the Serengeti and five of our 8th grade researchers have chosen it as their research location! Our research team will be studying the cheetahs, lions, and wild dogs at the Serengeti exhibit, to see what parts of their exhibit they use and what behavior they display. This will help the Oregon Zoo determine how the animals are using the new exhibit and if they are behaving normally- very important information to find out!

Western Pond Turtle Habitat at Luckiamute State Natural Area

Located just south of Independence, Luckiamute is a recently designated state natural area that also happens to have valuable western pond turtle habitat! With the help of Oregon Wildlife Institute's Dave Vesely and the park staff, our team of student researchers are evaluating the quality of turtle habitat and will create a habitat map for the park to use. The students are observing turtles and taking habitat data such as ground cover percentage, canopy closure, average grass height, shrub cover percentage, and slope percentage.

Captive Wolf Behavior

The topic of Gray Wolves is a hot one around the country. Our research group is particularly interested in how they are cared for and what their behavior is like in captivity. The "Wolf Group" is researching if there is a difference in behavior at three different sites that house captive wolves (Wolf Haven International, The Oregon Zoo, and White Wolf Sanctuary). To learn more about each site, please visit their websites:
Wolf Haven International
The Oregon Zoo
White Wolf Sanctuary

Clark Creek Culvert Assessment

This year the "Fish Group" is studying the effect the culvert between Gilmore Field and Bush's Pasture Park has on the water quality and fish assemblage of Clark Creek.

Road Effects on Amphibian Populations

JGEMS is continuing their amphibian-related research at Opal Creek Ancient Forest this year! This time we are looking at the effect of the main gravel road on the abundance and diversity of amphibians. To collect this data, we set up transects parallel to the road, progressively getting farther away from it, and surveyed for both terrestrial and aquatic amphibians.

Seasonal Changes in Bird Populations at Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge

The Willamette Valley is a popular destination for many migrating birds. Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge was created for the purpose of housing the Dusky Canada Goose, however many other birds call Ankeny home throughout the school year. This research group is tracking the changes in bird diversity and abundance throughout the school year to see what species are utilizing the refuge.

Squirrel Food Preference

The Eastern Gray Squirrel, while a non-native, invasive species is a popular animal for people to feed in their backyards or at the local park. Unfortunately, the Eastern Gray has outcompeted the native Western Gray Squirrel in Salem, taking over the majority of the area. The California Ground Squirrel is a native squirrel that in some area's, such as Bush's Pasture Park, can co-habitate with the invasive Eastern Gray. This research group is interested in finding out the food preferences of the Eastern Gray Squirrel and the California Ground Squirrel, so that they can try to identify what and why the squirrels might eat given certain choices. Once they find out this information, they can determine what might be good foods to place in squirrel feeders and what vegetation would be beneficial to plant, to attract the desired squirrel.

Western Pond Turtle Habitat at Luckiamute State Natural Area (Continued)

Last year's Western Pond Turtle habitat survey project is being continued this year, with an added predator analysis. In addition to the collection of nesting habitat data, this research group is also surveying for terrestrial and aquatic predators. This year we are exclusively working on the eastern pond, which will be the focus of Western Pond Turtle habitat development for the park.

Pasture Treatment Effects on Gray-tailed Vole Populations

This research team is studying the effects of different pasture treatments on gray-tailed vole populations in South Salem. Researchers are using a bite index to determine the presence or absence of voles and will also try and determine populations size.

Phenology Study at Silver Falls State Park

Now in it's third year, our Phenology research team is studying the timing of leaf fall in the Autumn and bud break in Spring at three different elevations at Silver Falls State Park. This year we have added a bird survey, looking at how populations of birds at Silver Falls change throughout the school year.

Pringle Creek Restoration Study

This 8th grade research group is looking at two sites along Pringle Creek in Salem. One is at Pringle Community, where a log jam restoration project took place, and one at Leslie Middle School, where there has been no restoration or improvements to the creek made. Our partner for this project is the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Tide Pool Regulation Effects

How do different regulations affect the abundance and diversity of organisms in Oregon tide pools? This is the question this year's "Tide Pool Group" is collecting data on. They are studying at Yaquina Head, Seal Rock, and Lincoln City.

Trail Effect on Mushroom Diversity and Abundance

This year's "Fungus Group" is studying the effect of the main trail at Opal Creek Ancient Forest on mushroom diversity and abundance. Students are examining how the fruiting bodies of fungus change as you move from the trail into the forest.

Vernal and Year-round Amphibian Pond Survey

This year the "Amphibian Group" is studying amphibian populations in vernal and year-round ponds in the Willamette Valley. Students are partnering with the US Forest Service, Willamette University, Ankeny National Wildlife Refuge, and Lamers Forestry LTD to perform this project.

Western Pond Turtle Predator and Prey Analysis

This year's team of student researchers are evaluating the predator and prey populations at Luckiamute State Natural Area. Students will also observe turtles, attempting to get an estimate of population size.

Fungi Study at OSD Campus

The Fungi Group is studying the mycorrhizal relationship between certain tree species and fungi species. They are using the campus of the Oregon School for the Deaf as their study site, since the plentiful fungi they spot every day was the catalyst for their intial questions and interest.

Insect Survey at Zena

The Insect Group is working with a new partner this year at Zena Forest and Farm, owned by Willamette University. They are learning about Beneficial Bugs, and are in the process of planning an Insect Survey in 4 different habitats in the forest and on the farm. They will share their research with Willamette, and begin the first steps in helping create Beetle Banks as a way to introduce the beneficial bugs, as opposed to pesticides, to Zena's Gardens.

Stream Survey at Waln Creek

The Stream Group has once again been approached by Fish and Wildlife Biologist, Karen Hans, to help survey a stream in South Salem. They will be comparing 3 sites along Battle Creek.

Tide Pool Research at Yaquina Bay

The Tide Pool Group is researching the abundance and diversity between two different sites at Yaquina Bay on the Coast. One area is accessible and frequently used by the public. The comparison site is a restricted area JGEMS students have been granted special permission to study. Our partnership in this project is Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area.

Western Scrub Jay Role in Oak Tree Propagation

The Bird Group this year has decided to focus on the habits of Western Scrub Jays, and specifically their role in helping with Oak Tree Propagation. Their study sight is Baskett Butte, and they are working once again with expert Joel Geier.

Amphibian Population Density in Neskowin Marsh

JGEMS students have been going to this research site and recording amphibian population density for many years. This years group is focused on finding out how land management around the wetland has affected Red-Legged Frog and Northwestern Salamander populations.

Asian Elephant Behavior at the Oregon Zoo

Research focused on what behaviors the Asian Elephants at the Oregon Zoo Express, and where in their enclosure are these behaviors occurring.

Bird Populations and Habitat Comparison

A continuing JGEMS research project looking at the unique bird populations in Minto Brown Island Park and the 5 different habitats in which they frequent.

Phenology/Water Bears

This research team is doing all it's field work at Silver Falls State Park and looking at two important environmental concerns. The first is how leaf fall and bud break timing has been changing over time, and the second is to see if water bear species population differ at three levels of elevation at the park.

Pika Populations After Wildfires & Climate Change

This group is looking at how a warming climate is affecting Pika populations in North America. More specifically they are looking at how wildfires around Mt. Hood have reduced the vegetation they depend on and how long it takes for this vegetation to recover in burned areas.

Urban Stream Restoration

This group is working to find out if fish and macro-invertebrate populations are reacting to the restoration at Waln Creek in South Salem. They are also embarking on several projects to increase fish habitat in the creek by working the City of Salem to place Christmas Trees, and hatching Salmon and Trout in the classroom.

Sea Star Populations at Yaquina Head
2014 -2015

Sea Star Wasting Disease has become a major problem along the coast of Oregon and Washington. The loss of up to 90% has had a negative effect on the ecosystem of the tide pools. One such impact has been the number of species that can be seen in the tide pools. This year’s Tide Pool group is studying the species richness (number of species) of the tide pools at Yaquina Head Lighthouse in connection with the loss a large portion of the sea star population.


This year JGEMS students are continuing to study the Phenology of Silver Creek Falls. Phenology is the study of how things change as the seasons change such as animals migrating or the changing of plants. The Phenology Group was also given the amazing opportunity to present their findings at the Crea Convention in France by Skype.
This group is also looking at the geology of Silver Creek Falls. They are examining how the rocks in the park compare with the rocks downtown in Silverton.

Pika Population at Mt. Hood

The Pika Group is working with a researcher to assess the impact of global warming on the population at Mt. Hood. The pika is an animal that is very sensitive to global warming. In order to survive the winter the pika requires a layer of snow to insulate the ground so that they can stay warm. However, do to global warming the snow pack has been greatly diminished which has led to a decrease in the pika population.

Red-Legged Frogs at Neskowin Marsh

This year the Amphibian Research Group is looking into the success of the Neskowin Marsh restoration project as it is connected with the Red-Legged Frog population. Previously this marsh had been drained and used for cattle land but a few years back the decision was made turn the area back into a marsh. JGEMS students will go out to the site three different times and survey the number of amphibian egg masses with particular emphasis on the Red-Legged Frog. They are also are examining the stage of the egg masses.

Squirrel Food Preference

At the Salem Capital Building it is very popular to fee the squirrels there peanuts, but is that really what the squirrels would eat if they had a choice? This year’s Squirrel Group is looking at what at whether the squirrels at the Capital prefer to eat peanuts, hazelnuts, or walnuts.

Waln Creek Restoration

This year’s Stream Group is continuing to monitor the health of Waln Creek. Waln Creek is the restoration project of Battle Creek Golf Course and JGEMS students have been working with Oregon Fish and Wildlife to assess the success of these efforts through surveying of fish and macroinvertebrates. The Stream Group also had the opportunity to go to Vernonia Oregon and participate in the Salmon Watch Program as well as survey the macroinvertebrates in Rock Creek.