Announcing the 2021 Wildlife Research Program Grant Recipients

Since 1995, as part of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project mitigation program, Seattle City Light has offered wildlife research funding to qualified recipients for the purpose of developing understanding, management, and protection of wildlife resources in the North Cascades ecosystem. This year, City Light is awarding approximately $154,000 in six new Wildlife Research Program grants to Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT), Washington State University, The Ohio State University, Eastern Washington University, University of Wisconsin, and Woodland Park Zoo.

“This year, we are quite pleased to be awarding six new Wildlife Research Program grants for projects ranging from beetles to forest carnivores,” says City Light Wildlife Biologist Ron Tressler, who manages the program. “Over the past 25 years, City Light has awarded more than 65 separate grants totaling more than $3 million dollars to universities, tribes, agencies and non-governmental organizations for a wide range of research to better understand the North Cascades ecosystem and the wildlife that inhabit the region. It is quite satisfying to see funding go to projects that are helping to train the next generation of ecologists.”

Here are the 2021 Wildlife Research Program grant projects:

Wildlife response to State Route 20, a seasonally closed highway in the Skagit River watershed ecosystem

WSDOT in collaboration with the National Park Service (NPS)

This project will gather data on forest carnivore and other wildlife movement patterns in two six-mile-long study segments of SR20 near Ross Lake. Methods will include monitoring motion-activated trail cameras from May/June 2021 through May/June 2023.

A bobcat moving near a Washington highway (photo credit: WSDOT)

Impacts of outdoor recreation on black bears in the North Cascades under changing climate

Washington State University in collaboration with NPS

Study objectives are to evaluate North Cascades National Park visitor-based black bear observation data and test the hypothesis that increased recreational use decreases the frequency of trail use by bears and whether distance from recreational trails buffers bears from this effect. Secondary objectives will assess climate change shifts and risk of black bear competition to grizzly bears in the park.

A black bear in summer 2020 (photo credit: C Anderson and JA Manning, Quantitative Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Lab, Washington State University)

Hybrid-zone movement in the North Cascades

Ohio State University

City Light is funding year one of a potential three-year study. The goal of this research is to ascertain whether movement of the Tamiasciurus (Douglas Squirrel and Red Squirrel) hybrid zone has occurred and to clarify the role that Ross Lake and climate change may have had in this shift. The investigators propose a comparison of admixture and gene flow patterns between modern and historical populations of squirrels around Ross Lake. To do this, they will use tissue samples from squirrels collected along Ross Lake during 1970-1972 and curated at the Burke Museum and tissue samples collected from squirrels live-trapped in 2021 at the same locations to conduct a variety of DNA analyses.

Studying whether beaver dam analogs will be an effective restoration strategy for ecosystem function in wildfire‐impacted Pacific Northwest watersheds

Eastern Washington University

The goal of the study is to test the effectiveness of Beaver Dam Analogs (human-made dams that simulate somewhat the characteristics of beaver-constructed dams) in restoring degraded stream channel morphology, riparian plant communities and nutrient retention in streams affected by large wildfires.

Climate change in the North Cascades: understanding declines of riparian and alpine ground beetles

University of Wisconsin

The objectives of this study are to survey suitable habitats in the North Cascades, Mt. Rainier and the Olympic Mountains to assess beetle species occurrence and abundance; collect habitat association information; measure the stable isotope composition of ground beetles to understand how resource utilization varies across habitat and community composition; and develop educational displays for the National Park Service.

Left: University of Wisconsin Entomology Ph.D. student Jillian Schat collects a specimen of the Nebria piperi beetle (photo credit: Genevieve Anderegg). Right: beetle specimens (photo credit: Jillian Schat).

Implementing a collaborative, long-term monitoring program for wolverines, Canada lynx, and other montane carnivores

Woodland Park Zoo

This project will enable Woodland Park Zoo and Washington State University to leverage their previous research on carnivores in Washington funded by City Light to engage the broader wildlife management and carnivore research communities (i.e., agencies, tribes, NGOs, universities) via workshops to facilitate scientifically-sound long-term monitoring of multiple carnivore species. The results of these monitoring efforts will inform management and conservation planning.

Congratulations to these awardees! To learn more about City Light’s Wildlife Research Program grant opportunities, visit our website.

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