2021 Brenda McGowan Grant Awarded

We would like to congratulate Taza Schaming on her successful grant application, Using acoustic monitoring to evaluate Clark’s nutcracker occupancy in whitebark pine in Washington (State). Dr. Schaming will receive a $1,000 grant to help this research happen.

January 30th, 2021 – Annual Amphibian Monitoring Training – Southwest Washington Amphibian Monitoring Project

Do you love frogs and salamanders? Would you like the chance to get outdoors and see them in the wild? Do you want to help your community support local amphibian populations? Frogs and other amphibians can be found all around Clark County, but their numbers are decreasing, according to Dr. Peter Ritson.

Dr. Ritson is looking for volunteers to help the Southwest Washington Amphibian Monitoring Project (SWAMP), an all-volunteer program dedicated to empowering community members to assess and preserve the unique ecological resources for our community.

After this 2.5-hour training session, where volunteers learn how to identify and count local amphibian eggs, volunteers get the opportunity to survey and monitor the frogs and salamanders in ponds and streams throughout the county.

Our guest speaker this year at this year’s training is Matt Distler, Ph.D., a Staff Ecologist at Oxbow Farm and Conservation Center.  He will be talking about the life cycle of amphibians and his investigation into whether roads, especially high traffic highways, are keeping amphibians from making their seasonal migration to ponds, where they breed.

The link for the full event details and registration is here.

Photo: Northwestern salamander (Ambystoma gracile) egg masses with developing larvae.

2021 Brenda McGown Grant Available!

NERI (http://www.nweri.org/) is offering a $1,000 grant to an individual or team in honor and memory of Brenda McGowan, a NERI supporter and co-founder of the Hubert Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project in 1987 (www.prescottbluebird.com). 

Grant Purpose: To enable an individual or team to conduct research in support of NERI’s mission statement:

The purpose of NERI is to further knowledge of Pacific Northwest natural historythrough research, training, and dissemination of information.

The target recipient is looking into out-of-the-main-stream research, into the neglected corners and niches of ecology.

Application Requirements:  1 page maximum (excluding budget, project reference, and references) stating the following:

  1. Project name and keyword(s) (maximum of 7).
  2. Applicant’s name, affiliation, and contact information (email and mailing address).
  3. Summary of project:
    1.  Purpose and objectives. What will be studied?
    2. Scientific Rationale (why is study important?). 
    3. Methods.
    4. References to existing literature are encouraged.
  4. Project reference contact information (name, position/relationship, phone number, email). The reference should be someone who knows about the project or would be helping to advise or discuss project results.
  5. Budgeted hours for project by personnel and any expenses (including mileage; state the number of miles and multiply by the current government mileage reimbursement rate) 

Use This Budget Template; state the number of miles, if any, elsewhere in application (add rows if necessary).

Project Budget EstimateBudgeted HoursLabor Cost by HourTotal Labor CostsExpensesMileage
Overall Project Cost$$$$
McGowan Grant Request$$$$
Total McGowan Grant RequestNot ApplicableNot Applicable$

Ranking Criteria:

  • Does application adhere to grant guidelines?
  • Does application answer our questions?
  • Is this an underserved, niche research project? 
  • Will the project answer an important question that will result in new knowledge?
  • Will this information be of use to other researchers, biologists, educators, natural resource agencies, and/or the conservation community?
  • What other (if any) funding sources have been sought?
  • How will receiving this $1,000 impact the success of your project?

Application Deadlines:

Announcement: November, 2020; Submittal by January 10, 2021; Award by February 28, 2021.

Grant Requirement:

Upon receipt of award, grantee agrees to sign NERI’s Grant Recipient Agreement, and

Grantee agrees to either (deadline: June 30, 2022; extension available upon request): 

  • Provide a brief report (length unspecified) to NERI; or
  • Present the work and results at a NERI meeting, and provide a written summary to NERI; or 
  • Present the results to a relevant public group of stakeholders, and provide a summary to NERI; or
  • Submit a paper for presentation at a scientific meeting or publication in a scientific or environmental journal or newsletter. 

Submit application (in .PDF form with your last name and initials in filename) and any questions to: info@nweri.org. Previous applicants are encouraged to re-apply. 

NERI is a 501(c)3 organization and NERI volunteers (Associates and Officers) are available to assist with grant writing and other support.

2020 Grants Awarded

This year, two Brenda McGowan Grants were awarded:

Scott Hotaling, Trophic interactions between gray-crowned rosy-finch and glacier ice worm

Jillian Schat, Climate change vulnerabilities of various snowfield ground beetles

Additionally, two other projects were given financial support:

Giovanna Bishop, Impacts of rock climbing on mosses and lichens

John Myers, Illustrations for the Oregon Flora Project

2019 Grants Awarded

Brenda McGowan Grant – not awarded this year due to technical difficulties.

Other financial support was given to:

Maria Tosa, Metabarcoding western spotted skunk scat

Emily Wolfe, Study of stream leaf litter decomposers

2018 Brenda McGowan Grant Awarded to Laura Johnson

NERI received 16 excellent applications for the first annual 2018 Brenda McGowan Grant, and it was a difficult decision! A wide variety of interesting topics exploring corners and niches of ecology were submitted, including cryptic diversity in PNW microsnails; environmental DNA analysis in freshwater crustaceans; microplastics in the ocean (2 different studies); pollinator usage (2 different studies); bats and white nose syndrome (2 different studies); plant diversity in urban parks; forest soils effect on moisture and climate; urban soils and sustainable food production; forestry practices/runoff effects on clams and mussels; wildfires and riparian resilience with respect to beavers; western purple martin diet/habitat comparison; and yellow-billed cuckoo surveys. If you would like to donate to the Brenda McGowan Grant Fund to provide NERI the funds to support more grants each year please click here. The application period for the 2019 grant opens November 1 and closes December 31.


NERI awarded the 2018 $1,000 Brenda McGowan Grant to Laura Johnson, a Masters Candidate in the Environmental Studies Department at the University of Oregon for her research project Freshwater Mussel Re-surveys in Oregon Based on Historical Occurrence Records. Often freshwater mussels are not even noticed, much less studied. However, they are very important to the health of streams and the fish and other organisms living in them, as well as to many Native Americans. Laura and an undergraduate field assistant will resurvey streams where mussels were observed historically, to compare the abundance and distribution of species. Her data will be shared with the Xerces Society, for use in the conservation of freshwater mussels. The McGowan Grant will be used for equipment rental and supplies.

A Tribute to Brenda McGowan

Char Corkran

February, 2016

Some sad and some beautiful news arrived at the NERI “office” the other day. In the same letter, I learned that Brenda McGowan had died, and also that she had left a bequest to NERI. Both parts of the letter have caused me to reflect upon NERI’s relationship with Brenda, a lovely person whom I wish I’d known better.

Back in the summer of 1994 (I think), NERI was asked to help the Prescott Bluebird Recovery Project (PBRP). That group had been working to bring back the depleted population of Western Bluebirds in the hilly region around Newberg, Oregon. The person who had been banding nestlings in PBRP’s nest boxes had died suddenly, in the middle of the nesting season, and the group wanted to keep up their banding efforts. So I met Brenda and Pat Johnston, co-founders of PBRP, and we went out to Chehalem Mtn. and Parrett Mtn. to do some training and banding. Right away it was apparent that these two women had watched the previous bander closely, and so Pat and Brenda quickly became banders under NERI’s permit.

At the end of that season, we met again to deal with the dreaded banding “schedules,” the fearsome forms required by the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s Bird Banding Lab for reporting where, when, and on what bird each band was used. The end-of-season meeting became an annual event which I always looked forward to because of these two wonderful women. We frequently got ourselves so tangled up sorting through the data and the way everything had to fit just right into those forms that we pretty much collapsed in laughter. After a break for tea and cookies, we’d be ready to tackle it again, and eventually we succeeded – every single year. Another PBRP volunteer got into the banding and she really made the project into a very good research study. Eventually PBRP obtained its own bird banding permit and so NERI’s involvement ended.

Apparently Brenda really appreciated NERI’s help, and in 1999 she donated some stock in Oracle to NERI, a completely unexpected event. But it was true to Brenda’s personality. She was a very generous person who was dedicated to a number of good causes, not least the welfare of bluebirds and all wildlife, and research into ways to help them thrive.

I had known that Brenda was ill, but hearing of her death was still a shock. Her final gesture towards NERI of making  the bequest was not just magnanimous, but also entirely typical of this gracious, lovely, dedicated woman who was so much fun to be around. NERI will have to work hard to be worthy of her trust.

NERI Project, Hyla Woods, on Oregon Field Guide

Check out this great story on Oregon Field Guide that tells the story of one of our NERI projects, Hyla Woods!  A family-run timber company in Oregon’s coast range, Hyla Woods, defines profit differently. Peter and Pam Hayes are 5th generation loggers whose philosophy embraces the public trust, not just personal wealth.  At Hyla Woods, cutting trees must profit the health of the forest more than the owners’ bank account.