Conference to focus on Klamath-Siskiyou ecology

Scientists, resource managers and interested citizens will discuss "Biodiversity in a Changing Climate" at the Third Conference on Klamath-Siskiyou Ecology from May 28-30.

Held at the Deer Creek Center for Field Research and Education in Selma, the conference is unique in that it's focused on the science occurring in the Klamath-Siskiyou region, said Michael Parker, a Southern Oregon University biology professor and conference program chair.

"Ecologically, this is probably one of the most interesting places in North America to do research," he said.

The region is rich in biodiversity, with a high level of endemic plant species (found nowhere else in the world), unusual geology and habitat variation from low-elevation rivers to high-altitude mountains.

"So it's not just the botanists or the fisheries biologists, but the entomologists and the soil scientists — everyone has something to study here," Parker said.

This variety will be reflected at the three-day conference, with topics including forest ecology and management; watersheds, rivers and fish; wildlife ecology; endemic and sensitive species; forest pathogens and invasive species; and hidden diversity.

Susan Harrison, from the University of California, Davis, will deliver the keynote address: "Revisiting Robert Whittaker: Botanical Responses to Climate Change in the Klamath-Siskiyous."

From 1949-51, ecologist Robert Whittaker studied the plants of the Siskiyou Mountains; his work was key in recognizing the floral diversity of the region.

Harrison and Ellen Damschen of Washington University have been studying the same areas to track changes in vegetation due to environmental change.

They've focused mainly on herbs, defined as non-woody plants, and are seeing "much lower herb cover than Whittaker saw 60 years ago," Harrison said.

Additionally, they observed declines in plant species with a Northwest affinity — larger, broader leaves adapted to a cooler region — and an increase in California-type vegetation, adapted to a warmer, drier climate, she said.

This conference is not for those who want to debate global warming, Harrison said, as "we're seeing biological evidence all over the world" that the climate is changing.

In addition to addressing climate change, the conference will also examine the broad theme of environmental change, Parker said.

"A major driver is climate change, but there are other things going on as well," he said.

These include wildfire, forest and water management practices, non-native species and population growth, all which have a major impact on the region, he said.

"By changing our environment, how are we changing the thing we enjoy the most about our region, which is the biodiversity," Parker said.

A panel discussion will address mitigating the effects of climate change, field trips will visit Darlingtonia fens and explore the effects of the Biscuit Fire, and scientists and students will give oral and poster presentations.

Students from Oregon State University, Humboldt State University, the University of California, Davis and the University of Montana will participate in the conference, as well as SOU students studying biology, environmental studies and environmental education, Parker said.

The first Conference on Siskiyou Ecology, held in 1997, drew more than 300 attendees, said Andrew Englehorn, the AmeriCorps conference coordinator working with the Siskiyou Field Institute.

Besides providing a forum for sharing the latest research on the Klamath-Siskiyou region, the conference aims to increase awareness of the area's ecological significance and the importance of its conservation, Englehorn said.

"I think it's an exciting opportunity for people to learn about the ecology of the region and what's going on here," Parker said.

Registration costs $100, but is $50 for students and $35 for only the Thursday program. Those registering after May 15 will be charged an additional 20 percent.

To register and view the schedule, visit the Siskiyou Field Institute's Web site,, or call 597-8530 for more information.

Reach Kira Rubenthaler at 482-3456 ext. 225 or

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