Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 53.78
Liaison Elissa Brown
Submission Date Feb. 7, 2020

STARS v2.2

Whitman College
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Elissa Brown
Campus Sustainability Coordinator
Office of Sustainability, Physical Plant Services
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, or regions of conservation importance?:
Yes

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

Whitman owns land in northeastern Washington State that is enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), which is administered through the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). A total of about 1,900 acres are enrolled in the program.

Whitman owns and operates 1,800 acres of land as part of its Wallula Gap Biological Station, where research on native grassland ecology, conservation, and carbon sequestration is conducted.


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution?:
Yes

A list of endangered and vulnerable species with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution, by level of extinction risk:

Wallula Gap Biological Station:
· Ferruginous hawk (Buteo regalis) - threatened - one pair breeds at the site.
· Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) - candidate - rare winter visitor, occurrence frequency unknown
· Loggerhead shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) - candidate - rare breeder, present every summer
· Sage thrasher (Oreoscoptes montanus) - candidate - rare migrant, occurrence frequency unknown
· Palouse prairie plant community: this is a native grassland that has been mostly destroyed by agricultural and residential development

Johnston Wilderness Campus in the foothills of the Blue Mountains:
The long-toed salamander, Ambystoma macrodactylum Baird 1859 (Ambystomatidae): this species, typically 4.1–8.9 cm (1.6–3.5 in) long when mature, is characterized by its mottled black, brown, and yellow pigmentation, and its long outer fourth toe on the hind limbs; analysis of fossil records, genetics, and biogeography suggests that A. macrodactylum and A. laterale (blue-spotted salamander) are descended from a common ancestor that gained access to the western Cordillera with the loss of the mid-continental seaway toward the Paleocene. The distribution of the long-toed salamander is primarily in the Pacific Northwest, with an altitudinal range of up to 2,800 m (9,200 ft). It occurs in a variety of habitats, including temperate rainforests, coniferous forests, montane riparian zones, sagebrush plains, red fir forests, semiarid sagebrush, cheatgrass plains, and alpine meadows along the rocky shores of mountain lakes. It lives in slow moving streams, ponds, and lakes during its aquatic breeding phase, and hibernates during the cold winter months, surviving on energy reserves stored in the skin and tail. There are five subspecies, which have different genetic and ecological histories, phenotypically expressed in a range of color and skin patterns. Although the long-toed salamander is classified as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN, many forms of land development threaten and negatively affect the salamander's habitat.


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution?:
Yes

A brief description of areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution:

1) Wallula Gap Biological Station, with vestiges of native Palouse Prairie habitat

2) College Cabin property and Johnston Wilderness Campus, both in the foothills of the Blue Mountains, with native forest habitat

3) Water-Wise Garden, a garden (initially designed by students in 2007) on the campus, with native low-water plant species and now also supporting a diversity of native insects, including bees.


The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or areas of biodiversity importance and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

1) Wallula Gap Biological Station: Prof. Tim Parker keeps current records of observed birds

2) College Cabin: Prof. Emeritus Chuck Drabek (Biology) supervised a survey of small mammals by a student (Shari Rodriguez) in 1993, with various collections and observations made over the years prior to that. Johnston Wilderness Campus: A full-year survey (documentation through herbarium specimens) of the plants was conducted in 2002-03 by a student (Andrea Freng) under the guidance of Heidi Dobson. On Spring semester field trips for the introductory biology course, Prof. Kate Jackson (Biology) has found both eggs and adults of the long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum) in the pond; this salamander species currently has a IUCN 2015 listing of Least Concern, but there is a paucity of information on its distribution in the general region of the Blue Mountains; no update has been made since spring 2018.

3) Water-Wise Garden: Prof. Heidi Dobson (Biology) and her students have surveyed the native bee species visiting flowers in the Water-Wise Garden over the summers 2016-2017. No endangered or vulnerable species have been found to date among the identified bees. Prof. Dobson plans to repeat the survey in 2020 and expand it to other areas of the campus that have native plantings.


A brief description of the scope of the assessment(s):

All college-owned property was considered.


A brief description of the plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats, and/or ecosystems:

1) Wallula Gap Biological Station: the college (through Tim Parker) has entered into an agreement with the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife to construct two artificial nesting platforms for the Ferruginous hawk, which accepts platforms for nesting. Two platforms were constructed in Fall 2019: one at the biological station and another at a different Whitman property near Starbuck.There is a long history of a pair of ferruginous hawks nesting in a black locust tree on the Wallula Gap property, and we are hoping to attract a second pair to the site with the new platform. We will determine the platforms’ success in attracting nesting hawks in spring 2020. 2) Johnston Wilderness Campus: the Whitman College Trees and Landscaping Committee has requested that the pond and its surroundings not be disturbed during maintenance activities. 3) Water-Wise Garden: Heidi Dobson and the College Grounds have worked together to provide habitat for the low-growing perennials, which are visited by a diversity of insects. In fall 2018, large shade-producing plants were pruned and invasive native grasses removed, and new plants were established to maintain a diversity of plant species for insects. No pesticides are applied to the area, and bee populations are disturbed minimally for research.


Estimated percentage of areas of biodiversity importance that are also protected areas :
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Website URL where information about the institution’s biodiversity initiatives is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.