Portland Community College's Rock Creek campus is located on the edge of Portland's urban growth boundary, the dividing line between higher density urban development and land reserved for agriculture and natural areas. The campus is home to the 110-acre Rock Creek Environmental Studies Center (RCESC), a wildlife sanctuary that serves as a nexus for student research, community partnerships and environmental restoration. This patch of forest and wetland habitat on the edge of rapidly expanding suburban housing developments hosts a variety of resident and migratory wildlife species, as well as a diverse, native forest understory. This poster describes recent student research that documents the diversity of organisms using the RCESC. The goals of this project are to engage community college students in authentic, course-based research, document the biodiversity of the habitat provided by the campus wetlands and forests, and strengthen partnerships with local resource agencies. Student research methods include the use of trail cameras to document wildlife diversity and usage patterns, as well as amphibian egg mass monitoring activities performed in collaboration with two local resource agencies (Clean Water Services and Metro).
Our research has shown that a variety of wildlife species use the habitat provided by the Rock Creek Environmental Studies Center. Species detected using trail cameras placed at the forest-wetland ecotone include: American beaver (Castor canadensis), nutria (Myocastor coypus), bobcat (Lynx rufus), coyote (Canis latrans), elk (Cervus elaphus), mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani), raccoon (Procyon lotor), river otter (Lutra canadensis), long-tailed weasel (Mustela frenata), great blue heron (Ardea herodias) and Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus). Amphibian egg mass monitoring shows that the following species are present in the wetlands of PCC's Environmental Studies Center: Northern red-legged frog (Rana aurora aurora), Pacific treefrog (Pseudacris regilla), rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa), long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum) and Northwest salamander (Ambystoma gracile). As urban development encroaches on former farmland and forest, biodiversity monitoring performed by students can be used to document changes in the use of the RCESC habitat by wildlife. This research will help to inform upcoming floodplain restoration and educational outreach programs implemented by Clean Water Services and Metro in partnership with Portland Community College.