Portland State Magazine Fall 2022

For example, the map could help identify where in the state limited resources would best be spent on building or improving wildlife crossings—culverts and bridges designed to help animals safely move between habitats—or where best to build a new road. “I really see this project mandate as a realization from the state that we can work together across all sectors to maintain what we love about Oregon,” de Rivera said, “[making the state] great for people and great for animals.” The timing couldn’t be better. Congress made a major investment in wildlife crossings in the recently passed infrastructure package, allocating $350 million for a Wildlife Crossing Pilot Program that will help fund projects in all 50 states. Similarly, the Oregon Legislature approved $7 million in funding for building and maintaining wildlife crossings. Bliss-Ketchum’s firm led the process of selecting the representative species for the mapping project. Martin Lafrenz, geography faculty, and Amanda Temple MS ’20, a project associate with Samara Group, then worked together to combine GIS data with expert knowledge of a particular species’ habitat requirements (for example, if an animal will not travel further than 500 meters from a water source) to build models that highlight a species’ habitat needs and the landscape features that make it easier or harder for them to move. The models are considered hypothetical until validated.That’s where statistics professor Daniel Taylor-Rodriguez and Ph.D. student Jacob Schultz come in, cross-checking the habitat models against data of a species’ actual observed movement and presence—something that hasn’t been done on this scale before. Two of Lafrenz’s geography graduate students then create the habitat connectivity maps using new software from The Nature Conservancy.These maps are validated, too. “We’re interested in modeling not only where the species is, but where it could be and what’s better for that species’ movement,”Taylor-Rodriguez said. The 54 single-species maps will then be combined into one composite map that highlights priority wildlife corridors and represents movement needs for all wildlife in Oregon.The map will be updated every five years to stay current with the changing landscape, climate, and data. “Development is never-ending,”Wheat said. “We expect to see expansion of urban growth boundaries, new solar facilities, new commercial development, new resource extraction, new wildfires… That will all be taken into consideration to make this a living product that changes as the landscape changes.” As for the frogs, the long-term goal is to create pond habitat west of Highway 30 to support their needs. Until then, Frog Shuttle volunteers are doing everything they can to keep them hopping. —CRISTINA ROJAS “Volunteers have been scooping up the frogs and transporting them back and forth between Portland’s Forest Park and their winter breeding site since 2014.” Cut off from their breeding grounds, endangered red-legged frogs are collected by hand. Leslie Bliss-Ketchum searches for tracks and other signs of wildlife migration. Photo by So-Min Kang. Tracks like these help researchers map habitat needs and potential obstacles. Photo by So-Min Kang. LESLIE BLISS-KETCHUM FALL 2022 // 13