The Starkey Project consists of long-term studies of ungulates and associated human activities, land uses, and disturbance regimes common to public and private lands in the Western United States.
Starkey Project research occurs at the Starkey Experimental Forest and Range in northeast Oregon and replicate sites in the Western United States. Research focuses on ecology and management of elk, mule deer, cattle, and associated human activities, land uses, and disturbance regimes common to public and private lands. Topics are of high societal interest with major ecological, social, and economic implications that have influenced national and regional policies of public land management. Research is led and coordinated by the Starkey Ungulate Ecology Team.
Diverse partner collaborations in Starkey Project research and management applications have resulted in widespread acceptance and use of results to address a broad spectrum of national issues in natural resource management. More than 80 studies and 300 scientific publications have been completed as part of applied research for management.
Scientists have relied on stakeholder engagement to identify topics of high relevance to management of forests and rangelands, and to implement the scientific process from start to finish.
Major changes in policy and management from use of Starkey Project findings include the following:
Starkey Project research represents one of the longest running, continuous research efforts by U.S. Forest Service Research and Development (R&D), now spanning 30 years. Research was initiated in 1987 by then Pacific Northwest (PNW) Research Station research wildlife biologist Jack Ward Thomas, who became chief of the U.S. Forest Service in 1993. The legacy of Starkey Project research from Jack Thomas continues today with dedicated sharing of a permanent work force that includes 12 scientists, five field staff, and five data analysts among the PNW Research Station, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, and Oregon State University. Leveraging of staff as well as significant funding contributions from these partners continue to ensure the long-term success of this unique and invaluable research effort.
The long-term nature of Starkey Project research has generated a substantial data legacy; the project now manages one of the largest long-term datasets on animal locations, spatial data, animal performance, weather, human locations, and traffic that have been collected at landscape scales. These data provide diverse, compelling opportunities to test a broad range of hypotheses and address a variety of ecological theories by interested scientists and graduate students. Data documentation and archiving of foundational datasets began in 2018 to facilitate use by interested scientists and students worldwide. These data will reside on the U.S. Forest Service R&D Data Archive website. Additional long-term data from Starkey Project research will continue to be documented and archived on this website in the next several years.
Research findings are relevant to dry, mixed conifer forests and semi-arid rangelands in the Western United States. This inference space includes all public and private lands supporting these forest and rangeland types. Ungulate nutrition and habitat use models have been built and validated for uses across the Pacific Northwest, including ecoregions in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. These modeling approaches have been replicated by other scientists in other areas of Idaho and Montana. Inference space of Starkey Project findings continues to expand across the Western United States with continued modeling that uses data from diverse landscapes, allowing spatial and temporal replication across an increasingly broad geographic area.
Starkey Project staff have hosted more than 2,000 technology transfer events (tours, presentations, workshops, webinars, and meetings) during the past 30 years. Audiences have consisted of diverse stakeholders, including state, federal, and private natural resource managers and resource specialists; timber, agricultural, and livestock industries; hunting conservation groups and other nongovernmental organizations; and environmental organizations.