Examination of the educational and scientific value of permanent plot studies at Waskowitz Outdoor School, Washington State
Swanson, Tarrahan Kezia-Bree
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Permanent plots are used in ecological studies to describe both the current state and changes in ecological variables and processes such as species composition, height and diameter of individuals, coverage, log decay, survival-mortality and succession. I was interested in examining the possible educational value of plot study exercises and data collection techniques with high school students utilizing Waskowitz Outdoor School. Near North Bend, Washington in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, Waskowitz Outdoor School presented an opportunity to establish a system of permanent plots. The primary focus of this paper is a circular one-tenth hectare plot established within the boundaries of a variable retention harvest of a stand originally dominated by aging red alder to study the returning forest and vegetation following treatment. Within this plot, data were collected biannually and measurements included the condition, height and diameter of each tree, the understory vegetation, and log diameter and decay class. I facilitated the collection of these data using high school students. Students were instructed in measurement techniques and data collection protocols, woody and herbaceous plant identification, and general engagement in recording observations. These data were then entered into long-term storage for further analysis and possible use in future property management decisions. Trends in growth, mortality, understory composition and seedling recruitment changed and were noted over the study period. The process of collecting the data within the plot proved an effective educational tool for enhancing and re-enforcing science and mathematics skills. Students showed an improved understanding in concepts such as using an x,y grid, the metric system, forestry measurement tools, tree and vegetation identification, and estimating percent coverages. In addition to the educational benefits, the permanent plot now provides a foundation of data for further studies and possible inclusion into a more extensive plot network. Waskowitz Outdoor School intends to continue data collection within the permanent plot and has offered further access to property, facilities and resources to interested University of Washington students.
- Forestry