Three Methow Valley wildlife biologists have formed a new research organization to address urgent wildlife conservation needs in the face of climate change, wildfires and human development.
The nonprofit, called Home Range Wildlife Research, will work independently and in collaboration with other conservation groups and agencies to conduct field research that will guide wildlife management, said Carmen Vanbianchi, research director.
In addition to applied research, Home Range will provide hands-on, on-the-job training opportunities for aspiring biologists and engage community members in wildlife conservation through education and citizen science projects.
Vanbianchi and co-founders Anna Machowicz and Becca Windell met while researching a five-year predator-prey study examining the impact of wolves returning to northeast Washington, including Methow Valley, on other animals.
âWe all have backgrounds in wildlife biology and have come to Methow Valley at various times,â Vanbianchi said. âWorking together we realized that we all have a deep love and passion for wildlife biology and wildlife management. And we had all developed a deep passion for this landscape and this community.
They discussed the idea of ââstarting their own research organization, and as their work on the Predator-Prey Project wrapped up this year, they decided the time was right.
âWe are at a point in our career where we can see what the needs are,â said Vanbianchi. âThere is so much work to be doneâ¦ urgent and applicable research in this landscape. “
The work of the new organization “is rooted in the belief that as our beloved landscape changes rapidly as a result of climate change and human development, it is important to conduct applied research that addresses urgent needs such as as forest fires / wildlife ecology and the impacts of outdoor recreation on wildlife, âsays Vanbianchi.
Because they view wildlife conservation and management as pressing concerns, their research will focus on results that translate into âaction on the ground,â Vanbianchi said. Home Range will work with agencies like the US Forest Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, as well as conservation organizations, to identify important research that other organizations don’t have the time or funding to do. .
As a non-profit organization, Home Range will rely on grants, fundraisers and contracts to fund its work.
In one of its early research projects, Home Range is working under contract with Conservation Northwest, a Bellingham-based conservation organization, to produce a report that reviews the existing scientific literature on the impacts of outdoor recreation on the wildlife.
Training of biologists
In addition to conducting research, scientists are committed to helping the next generation of biologists get the hands-on training they need to do the best science possible. Drawing on their own experience, they wish to give future biologists the practical training they had to learn on their own.
Anna Machowicz is the Education Director for Home Range and wants to train more knowledgeable field technicians who better understand wildlife research techniques.
âA lot of students – budding biologists – may come from backgrounds where they haven’t been outside much,â Machowicz said. These students need to learn basic skills, knowing what to have in their backpacks, putting on snowshoes, pulling and driving a snowmobile and identifying animal tracks.
Home Range will offer hands-on, field-based training courses, with the first course scheduled for winter 2022. The program will include instruction on interpreting wildlife tracks and signs, using wildlife monitoring technologies. wildlife, animal capture and handling, winter survival skills. and first aid.
âWe want to give people opportunities that we didn’t have to take this critical training,â Machowicz said. âWe want students to be as prepared as possible and then to be able to focus on science. ”
Home Range might offer a women-only class at some point, she said. âAs women in the field, we had to learn to drive snowmobiles, back up a trailerâ¦ in front of a lot of men. We would all be able to tell you some pretty uncomfortable stories as women trying to learn these technical skills, âMachowicz said.
A third goal of Home Range is community engagement in wildlife conservation, which will be led by Becca Windell.
âThe community needs to be involved and educated about what’s going on in the landscape to create empathy and support for the management that needs to be done,â Vanbianchi said.
Home Range will provide opportunities for community science projects that will give citizens a chance to collect research data. One of their planned community science projects, in collaboration with Methow Conservancy, will recruit community members to conduct surveys on the natural diet of black bears.
The surveys will provide data to better understand patterns of conflict between black bear and humans and help inform research related to black bear ecology. As part of the project, internship opportunities will be offered to local high school students.
The Methow Valley is a natural place for community science, Vanbianchi said. âIt’s a fabulous community of outdoor people. Carrying out community science projects not only involves people, but it can also help usâ¦ to harness the capacities of people.
âWe wouldn’t be able to do it elsewhere,â Machowicz said. âThe three of us come together here, surrounded by a community that supports us. “
Home Range Wildlife Research will host a launch party and fundraising event at OSB Taproom at TwispWorks on October 7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will include drinks, appetizers, raffle packages and a presentation from the Home Range co-founders. All funds raised will finance start-up costs, purchase of essential field equipment, program scholarships and other expenses.