Activities & Events

All residents of the Palouse region are invited to join us in our program meetings, field trips, and work projects. We also urge all our members to join in where they have an interest. There is much to be learned and work to be done.

Calliope Hummingbird

Our efforts can make a difference for the birds and wildlife we love, as well as impacting our human quality of life. We award two grants each year to graduate students at the University of Idaho and Washington State University in support of research that helps fulfill our chapter’s mission of promoting education, conservation, and restoration of natural ecosystems.

For information about what you can do to enjoy and support birds and wildlife, come to the next program meeting or contact any of the chapter officers. Together we can make a difference in our local environment.

Register for birdwalks on the Palouse


APRIL PROGRAM: Climate Adaptability and Resiliency of Wildlife Communities in Burned Sagebrush-steppe Landscapes.

Katherine Burgstahler School of Environment, Washington State University, Pullman, WA

Date: Thursday, April 25 2024
Time: 7:00 pm
Location: Senior Center-Pullman Rec Building-Pullman,WA

Sagebrush-steppe habitat once covered four million hectares of the Columbia Basin in a sagebrush sea. Today, remaining sagebrush patches have been heavily altered or lost through human activities and wildfire, and climate change is expected to continue altering fire regimes and the quality of habitat patches, exacerbating declining populations of vulnerable wildlife species. In Washington, many sagebrush-associated vertebrates are listed or are candidates for listing at the federal or state level, but little information has been published on wildlife response to fire in sagebrush. The main objective of this study is to understand how fire and habitat characteristics of sagebrush patches influence the distribution of sagebrush-obligate and sagebrush-dependent mammals and birds across the Columbia Basin. Over three summer field seasons (2022-2024), we will survey the wildlife communities in 120 burned and unburned sagebrush sites using a combination of camera traps, avian point count surveys, and fecal pellet surveys. From these data, we will build single-season, single-species occupancy models and n-mixture models that determine which habitat and fire characteristics (i.e. time since burn, number of reburns, post-fire management) influence the distribution and abundance of species. Across 70 sites during 2023, we documented ten mammals and over 60 avian species. Preliminary models demonstrate that fire occurrence and time since wildfire impact the abundance of two sagebrush-obligate passerines. This project will benefit a range of stakeholders by providing information needed to make short-term modifications to sagebrush habitat and fire management and long-term planning decisions related to climatic resiliency for Columbia Basin wildlife.

MAY PROGRAM: Occupancy of pygmy rabbits in Idaho and Montana: understanding current distribution and vulnerability

Date: Thursday, May 23, 2024

Time: 7:00 pm

Location: 1912 Center (Arts Workshop), 412 E 3rd-Moscow,ID

Pygmy rabbits (Brachylagus idahoensis) are a sagebrush-dependent species, considered threatened by the interacting effects of fire, cheatgrass invasion, and climate change; however, estimates of their current area of occupancy depend on decades-old presence-only data and cannot be used to estimate trends or shifts in occupancy especially under a changing climate. In a multi-agency collaborative effort, we conducted occupancy surveys across Idaho and Montana. Our goals were to 1) estimate current pygmy rabbit distribution and occupancy rates, 2) model trends (i.e., extinction/colonization) in occupancy, and 3) assess if fine-scale climate and weather variables predict occupancy, extinction, or colonization. We conducted fecal pellet surveys across 159 sites from November 2023 – March 2024 within suitable pygmy rabbit habitat. Because pygmy rabbits can co-occur with cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus spp.), and because their fecal pellets overlap in size and morphology, we estimated occupancy and detection probabilities using a model structure that accounts for false positive and false negative detection error. The probability of detection was 0.47 at an average site. In the top model, occupancy probability ranged from 0.18 to 0.75, depending on ecoregion. We will conduct additional surveys during winter 2024-2025 and genetically confirm the species identification from all fecal samples. Using these data, we will model changes in occupancy over the last two decades and project future occupancy rates under projected climatic conditions.