Oria Daugherty

If a tree falls in a forest: the impacts of coarse woody debris on biodiversity and species abundance in areas of ongoing reforestation

April 3, 2021   /  

Name: Oria Daugherty
Major: Biology
Minors: Environmental Studies, Spanish
Advisors: Dr. Rick Lehtinen (Advisor), Dr. Nick Brandley (Second Reader)

Reforestation is a necessary and valuable method of reducing the impacts of climate change and maintaining strong ecosystems across the globe. Despite this, many reforestation strategies that also maximize biodiversity remain relatively unexplored. My research focuses on the impacts that coarse woody debris can have on populations of small mammals, snakes, salamanders, and invertebrates in young, post-abandonment secondary forests currently undergoing reforestation efforts. Coarse woody debris additions were made to half of eight plots at Fern Valley, a site of ongoing reforestation. Species abundance and diversity for the indicated groups was evaluated through small mammal trapping and the monitoring of all other study species using pine or tin coverboards. Total small mammal captures were significantly higher in treatment plots (t=202, N=24, p=.048). Other species observations were not statistically significant but demonstrated patterns that warrant further investigation, such as likely seasonal patterns. Overall, the results indicate that the addition of coarse woody debris has nearly immediate positive impacts on the surrounding wildlife, likely due to the structural heterogeneity it provides to the habitat. It is unclear whether these impacts will promote or hinder reforestation strategies, as small mammals serve as both seed dispersers and seed predators. Either way, the addition of coarse woody debris could likely be implemented as a cheap, effective, and promising method of promoting biodiversity for many reforestation projects.

Oria will be online to field comments on April 16:
2-4pm EDT (PST 11am-1pm, Africa/Europe: evening)

72 thoughts on “If a tree falls in a forest: the impacts of coarse woody debris on biodiversity and species abundance in areas of ongoing reforestation”

  1. Congratulations, Oria! This looks really interesting–and clearly took a lot of work. Way to go.

    1. Thank you Dr. Lantis! It was a really rewarding research focus. Thank you for being such a great advisor and allowing me to be a part of your FYS this year!

    1. Thank you Dr. Feierabend! Still remember loving Chem 112 with you in Wishart of all places!

  2. Congrats Oria! This was a really interesting project and I love your title!

    1. Thanks Heather! Moot Court Squad–it’s been awesoe being your competition partner for the last 3 years!

  3. Congratulations, Oria! This is very important work — I appreciate this area of work and your efforts to do field work.

    1. Thank you! I really enjoyed the field aspect of things, especially being able to get outside during covid. It was a really rewarding experience!

  4. P.S. – I just saw the additional work on Sustainability…this is like 2 projects in 1! Impressive, important, and so relevant!

    1. Thanks! Hopefully the website updates will continue to make sustainable practices accessible to the campus community.

  5. Good job, Oria, which does not surprise me! Best wishes for the future, and keep me posted.

    1. Thank you Dr. Uber! I was able to draw on all I learned in Ecuador during my study abroad experience while working on IS. Thanks for pushing me in your course!

      1. That was my job. Glad you appreciate and value it, Oria. What are your plans/desires? Please keep in touch. See my email below. (Same as when I was teaching.)

        1. I’ll be working at Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati for the summer as a Sustainability Intern, and hopefully moving forward with my career focusing on environmental advocacy from there! I will also be starting my Master’s at University of Denver in Environmental Management.

    1. Thanks Carolyn! It was such a pleasure to have you in FYS and hang out with you during Dems, and I know you are going to do awesome things at the college! Let me know if I can help you in any way with environmental work in the future!

  6. Well done Oria! It is interesting to note the seasonal changes in snake abundance over time. Outside of potential climatic factors, do you think that snake abundance increasing over time might be related to changes in host abundance during the late summer?

    1. Thank you Dr. Moreno! I’m not sure I know what you mean by host abundance–do you mean habitat for the snakes? Or parasites that use the snakes as hosts? I am sure that several factors could play into the snake abundance, though I think it is likely that the cooling weather encourages snakes to begin to seek out sheltered areas like the coverboards that I used for my research. Definitely more data needed. Hopefully this answers your question!

  7. Congratulations, Oria! Lovely presentation. I admire you so much and am so lucky to be your friend.

    1. Thank you Sarah! Right back at you–can’t wait to come visit you in D.C., or wherever you are succeeding in the future.

  8. Oria! I think this is an incredibly well-done presentation and project, but the real reason I’m here is to let you know how much I appreciate your title. Excellent work! Cheers and congratulations!

    1. Thank you Nick! I definitely had help coming up with a fun title. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Thank you for everything you’ve done for my this year Dr. Lehtinen! I truly can’t imagine having another advisor and I’m so grateful for your guidance over what has been a really strange year.

  9. I love the direct applicability of your IS! Not that I expect any less 🙂 Congrats on finishing! What are you up to next?

    1. Thanks Maya! I couldn’t do all the fancy math modeling you did, but I can definitely see some overlap in our research. 🙂 I’m headed back to Cincinnati this summer for a Pollution Prevention internship (through the county SWCD) with Rhinegeist Brewery, and I have a couple other things in the works for after the summer. Best of luck with everything you have going on too!

  10. Fantastic job Oria! After hearing about your project a few times it was lovely to see the impressive final product. Your help and guidance these last two years has been invaluable. Congratulations!

    1. Thanks Cory! I can’t wait to see what you and Greenhouse do next–please let me know if I can ever be helpful in the future!

  11. Hi Oria! I loved learning more about your project. Out of curiosity, do you know if any rising seniors will be continuing/expanding on your project? I think it would be interesting to see if the snake trend truly is a seasonal thing or if it was just acclimating to the new presence of CWD. Congrats on an really well-done IS, my friend!

    1. Thanks Hallie! I believe there are some rising seniors planning on doing research at Fern Valley with the reforestation work, though I don’t think anyone is currently planning on carrying on with the same project exactly. I know Dr. Lehtinen keeps tabs on the coverboards and collects data periodically, so he might have some insight in the future about the snakes!

  12. Job well done! Your passion for the environment, and your drive to make it better are evident everywhere. Your hard work is in one way finished, and in another way, just beginning.

    1. Thank you Cormac! I hope post-Wooster life is treating you well, and I hope we can hang out again some day!

  13. Fantastic as always Oria! I love how you put your research it into motion with the sustainability aspect.

    1. Thank you Marloes! Can’t wait to see you in a few weeks for graduation and catch up.

  14. Absolutely awesome Oria! Very interesting and well presented. Brilliantly done! So proud of you! 🙂

    1. Thank you Mel! I’ve had so much fun in the admissions office over the last four years and I am sad to go. I’m glad you enjoyed the presentation!

  15. Great presentation, Oria! Your choice of topic is such an important one. The research you present opens up so many new questions. I hope another Wooster student will be inspired to follow one (or more) of those questions with their own research. Congratulations!

    1. Thank you Craig! I hope some students pursue some of these questions as well.

  16. Congratulations, Oria! This is a wonderful project and I know you will go on to do wonderful things after Wooster.

    1. Thank you Natalie! You have been such an amazing support over the last year and I’d love to help out with Moot in the future if it’s a possibility!

  17. Congratulations, a wonderful well done presentation! You are amazing!

  18. Congratulations, Oria! This is such cool work and it is so crazy important! Wonderful job as always!

  19. Oria, this is super interesting, and you presented it so clearly. Your sustainability efforts here on campus are most appreciated!

    1. Thank you! I’ve enjoyed talking with you through admissions events and APEX. I’m glad you enjoyed!

  20. This study was really intriguing to look at, and it is awesome that it sets out a path for other researchers to conduct more experiments on this topic. I’m asking this just out of curiosity, but I see that six of the plots are close to each other while two of the plots are sort of isolated on the bottom right corner. Do you think that the distance between the six and the two plots could have affected the results in some way?

    1. Adrian, great question! The reason the plots are set up like that is because the pasture has a very large open area (where the six plots are), then a small corridor on a very steep hill up to another more open area (where the two plots are). While this might have some impact, I did try to account for any discrepancies between the two areas by ensuring that one of the two seperate plots was a control, and the other a treatment. That way, data would (theoretically) not be skewed any particular way if the conditions of that area were somehow different from the larger area. I hope this answers your question!

  21. Very interesting project, Oria. Well done. Here in Montana’s Ruby Valley, we have an 1,100-acre nonprofit working ranch, the Ruby Habitat Foundation (https://rubyhabitat.org/). The folks here are conducting a number of interesting experiments involving reforestation and sustainability. Some of the most interesting involve streambank restoration with willows and replanting heirloom apple orchards, native prairie grasses and cottonwood trees. If you want to follow up while you’re studying at DU, I’m sure outreach director Dave Delisi would be happy to talk with you.

    1. This organization looks really interesting and I am excited to continue working in Ohio on restoration projects as well. Thank you for the connection as well!

  22. Such an interesting and important project, Oria! I love hearing more about your research, and the ways you are encouraging the college to be more sustainable. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you better throughout our time at Greenhouse – thank you for consistent inspiration and leadership!

  23. David and I are so pleased you were able to use Fern Valley for your research work. We are quite intrigued by your topic and your presentation. I hope your fall outings to Fern Valley also served as a distraction, maybe even a refuge from CoVid-19 concerns on campus.? And thank you for reaching out to us to share your insights from your study. (I was a French major, graduate of the class of 1964 and as you may know David is professor emeritus of French).

    1. Betty and David, thank you so much for everything! I am so thankful that I was able to use Fern Valley for my research, and it absolutely was a great refuge during Covid. Being able to get outside was a real relief. Thank you for making this possible with your land donation, and for all of the messages we have exchanged!

  24. Wonderful job, Oria! Your project was very ambitious and your work clearly paid off!

  25. Congratulations Oria! This was so interesting to learn about and I really liked the sustainability aspect. Thanks for bringing your science and environmental studies knowledge to so many of our Dems discussions!

  26. Oria, thanks for all the conversations you have kept going about sustainability here at Wooster. I know that your research at Fern Valley is meaningful to so many people. I am so glad I can read more!

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