WRNA Projects


Goat grazing invasive plants on the WRNA

Research and Engagement Projects at the WRNA



Goats on the Riverfront

A goat grazing on a leaf


In May 2022, the UO Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) Student Association partnered with the Office of Sustainability and Creekside Land Management on a project to include goats in a demonstration of restoration efforts at the WRNA.

The UO Society for Ecological Restoration led an effort to integrate grazing goats into the WRNA’s as a demonstration of landscape restoration efforts. The goats were the stars of the show at the opening celebration of the WRNA landscape management plan celebration in May 2022. 
During this restoration effort, goats were strategically placed within a woodland along the riverfront within the WRNA. They were tethered on 15-ft cables and supplied with water. The goats were separated by at least 30 feet and left to browse for three days. Toxic plants were removed beforehand and goat fencing was installed to minimize human traffic and protect plants designated for conservation.
More than a dozen students, faculty, and staff volunteered over 70 hours throughout the duration of the “Goats on the Riverfront” project.

A goat munching invasives while AVP Mike Harwood shares vision and context.

Highlights include:

  • Volunteers removed approximately nine invasive or toxic plant species.
  • Volunteers actively conserved over eight native woody species.
  • Volunteers removed over 30 pounds of litter.
  • Ten goats grazed approximately 1/5 of an acre over a three-day period.
  • Goats removed about 30 % of vegetation and 26% of blackberries within the designated treatment plots. 
  • The goats generated plenty of human interest throughout their time at the WRNA, as seen in Around the O and The Daily Emerald.

Willamette Valley Prairie Research and Restoration

An area within the WRNA is temporarily allocated to the Institute of Ecology and Evolution for Willamette Valley prairie restoration research. Under a National Science Foundation grant and in collaboration with UO faculty and students, Associate Professor Jeff Diez will create “restoration gardens” of native species common to the Willamette Valley prairie ecosystem. The research project will occur between August 2022 and August 2025.

The Willamette Valley prairie research project aims to do the following:
  • Contribute to the general understanding of the plant population and community ecology through tests of modern ecological theory.
  • Use ecological research to inform prairie restoration and management.
  • Educate graduate and undergraduate students in ecological theory and practice at the WRNA.
  • Help develop the WRNA into an exceptional site for combined research, education, and student and public engagement.

Yellow flowers blooming on WRNA prairie.

Restoration of the WRNA’s grassland habitat is specified in the Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) identified in the WRNA Landscape Management Plan. DFCs provide a descriptive long-term vision for the condition of the site and its target habitats and species. The Willamette Valley prairie research project will improve the ecological integrity of the site over time, and the diverse collection of colorful plants and flowers will enhance visitors’ experience. 


Millrace Outfall Fish Sampling

WRNA Millrace Fish Shock

“Flowing water” habitats are targeted for restoration under the WRNA Landscape Management Plan. The Millrace is a waterway that runs along the north end of the UO campus. The Millrace Outfall flows into the Willamette River within the WRNA. 
In April 2022, biologists with the state of Oregon and UO students performed a census of the fish present in the Millrace Outfall. This data informs researchers’ knowledge about the current condition of the Outfall as well as future water habitat restoration efforts. 
UO students collaborated with Jeff Ziller, the South Willamette Watershed District Fish Biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, to take a sampling of the fish present in and around the Millrace Outfall prior to any restoration work at the WRNA. In about an hour, the sampling team counted 55 fish; 95% were native species and 5% were non-native. Read more in Around the O.
Native fish species present at the Millrace Outfall:
  • pacific lamprey
  • western brook lamprey
  • largescale sucker
  • northern pikeminnow
  • speckled dace
  • redside shiner
  • three-spine stickleback
Non-native species:
  • green sunfish
  • pumpkinseed
A person examines a laminated card showing different fish species.

Fuller Initiative Land Lab

The Fuller Initiative Land Lab (FILL) is an area within the WRNA temporarily allocated to the Department of Landscape Architecture. FILL is an innovation landscape designed to support outdoor learning in the WRNA. UO students and faculty utilize the Land Lab to perform trans-disciplinary research and field experiments. The site also provides exceptional opportunities for applied education in urban ecology. 

The Fuller Initiative Land Lab’s goals include:

  • Educating students in urban ecology through survey, land care, planting, and interpretation.
  • Regenerating the WRNA through the establishment of test plots, meadows, and gardens.
  • Activating the UO North Campus riverfront with temporary art exhibitions, wildflower displays, and community events.
  • Creating an outdoor space for trans-disciplinary research on the Environment Initiative and supporting this research with Environmental “Design Thinking.”
  • Displaying research for mixed-reality, game-based interpretation that is accessible regardless of English fluency. 

      During the Oregon 22 World Athletics Championships, the Fuller Initiative partnered with Travel Oregon and the Center for Applied Second Language Studies to build seven landscape installations representing the seven regions of Oregon. These installations offered a mixed-reality game-based interpretation strategy. This strategy prioritized accessibility for all visitors, regardless of English language fluency.

      See regional news coverage of ongoing research and projects at the Oregonian and University of Oregon


        Fuller Lab - Scholarships and Awards


        • Geffel, Michael, et al. “Viridic Disturbance: Reprogramming the Tools of Landscape Maintenance.” LA+ Green 15, 2022. Michael Geffel. “Landscape Design through Maintenance: Field Case Studies in Parametric Mowing.” Landscape Journal 39(2), 2021.
        • Geffel, Michael. “Terrestrial Practices: Pulling Landscape Back to Earth.” Kerb 28, 2020.
        • Geffel, Michael. “Lawnmower Man.” Zach Mortice, author. Landscape Architecture Magazine, 2019.

          Student Awards

          • 2022 ASLA-National Honor Award, Student Communication, ‘Overlook Field School: Recovery Following Wildfire,’ Overlook Field School. Faculty Advisors: Michael Geffel & David Buckley Borden.
          • 2019 ASLA-National Honor Award, Student Research, ‘Co-creating with Animals’, Tori Talbot. Faculty Advisor: Roxi Thoren.
          • 2019 ASLA-Oregon Honor Award, Student Design, ‘Experimental 3D Printed Soil Sculpture Garden’, Heather Tietz. Faculty Advisor: Michael Geffel. 2019.