Skip to main content


Living Laboratory

Research - systematic investigation - is important to meeting our mission. As we learn more about our precious ecosystems throughout the Pacific Northwest, we can become better stewards.  We constantly share with and learn from colleagues throughout the region on best practices, new techniques and more. 

Taking the time to be involved and deeply examine what is happening in the natural world around us is a key to discovery.  It helps us unlock the knowledge and wisdom necessary to keep our environment healthy and robust - allowing it to be full with diversity and blossoming with life.  High biodiversity is key in developing and enhancing resilience - critical to survival in changing climate and social conditions.

Research conducted at PRI is usually done in concert with at least one other institution or agency.  Past and current research partners include:

*Washington State University

*Washington Orchid Society

*University of Oregon

*Institute for Applied Ecology

*US Fish and Wildlife Service

*National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

*University of Washington
      Weather Data, Plots and Station Info (

*Pacific Northwest Seismic Network

All results from our research are shared with the public and will eventually be made available on our website as well.

Current Research at PRI:

Restoration Techniques - We have partnered with the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the University of Washington since 2007 for research on best techniques for restoring abandoned agriculture land to native prairie.   You can the final analysis here.  We continue to manage the research plots and collect data, while gradually "absorbing" them into our native prairie expansion.  Through this program until 2013 we also assisted in the management of the UW research site on land owned by The Nature Conservancy on Ebey's Bluff.

Garry Oaks - We collect data on our Garry oaks to determine the impact of deer browse, vole borrowing, and other factors on the ability of these native trees to survive.  Garry oaks have been planted on this site since 2001 for savannah enhancement and extension at the edges of both our north and east forests, as well as in our southwest corner.  The original support for oak planting was provided by the USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service.  PRI has out-planted an additional 75 oaks from 2019-2022.

Nutrient Network - Since 2007 our prairie is a study site for a collaborative effort called the Nutrient Network or "Nut-Net" (pronounced "noot-net".  You can view a press release regarding the research here.  A recent published paper is also available upon request.  The Nutrient Network experimental site at PRI is managed by Dr. Jon Bakker of the University of Washington, and you can see the fencing near our southeast corner, north of Morris Road by a few hundred yards.

Completed Research:

The Collins Project - From 2007-2010 our site was part of a multi-site study by The Nature Conservancy and the Institute of Applied Ecology from Oregon to determine best methods of suppressing non-native herbaceous plants in remnant prairies.  

Small Mammals - For over eight years we have conducted research on our prairie to gauge the ebb and flow of small mammal populations.  In particular, we have been able to track the cyclical population changes of Townsend's vole (Microtus townsendii).  Voles impact the prairie habitat as both predators and prey.  Being very prolific, their populations occasionally become very dense, followed by a "crash" in numbers.  Their characteristic trails, about 2" wide and as circuitous as a road map of Los Angeles, give them away - especially after mowing.  This vole we have here on Whidbey Island only exists in the extreme northwest of the lower 48 states and extreme southwest of British Columbia. 

Native Pollinator Research - In partnership with the Center for Natural Lands Management and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, native pollinator research has been conducted on the PRI prairie and several other prairies throughout the Puget Sound region to understand more about their behaviors, populations, plant preferences and more.

Staged Scale Restoration - From 2009 onward - exploring best practices to convert abandoned agricultural land to that dominated by native prairie species

Climate Change and Native Prairies - From 2015 to 2019 our site was part of a "Whidbey Island to San Diego" research study conducted by the University of Oregon comparing climate, climate changes and health of native ecosystems.