Most of the research projects have been centred on the Garry oak ecosystem and associated species at risk, the threat of invasive species, the impact of grazing on the vegetation, and the affect of Douglas-fir encroachment.
Dr. David Clements, professor in the TWU Biology Department, has done studies on Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius) and Gorse (Ulex europaeus). These two shrubs are a threat to the health of the Garry oak community because they are invasive and highly competitive, making it more difficult for the native species to survive. Not only will this research contribute to a better understanding of these invasive species, but there is hope that it will also lead to better methods of management and control.
Dr. Paul Brown, professor in the TWU Chemistry Department, hopes to secure funding which will enable him to pursue futher studies into sweet vernal grass (Anthoxanthum odoratum). Preliminary work has been done on the coumerins released by this grass, but further research is needed to better understand the impact these chemicals are having on the surrounding vegetation.
Prof. Karen Steensma of the TWU Biology Department has supervised students in the collection of baseline species data and mapping for both the Crow's Nest site and a variety of other terrestrial and marine sites on Salt Spring Island. This information has been published in several editions of "The CRABBERS Guide: Ecology of Marine Life and Plants on Salt Spring Island" which is used as a field text in courses taught on the island.
A number of senior Environmental Studies students have done research on the Crow’s Nest for their thesis projects. Alicia Marshall, a 2008 ENVS grad, studied the Propertius Duskywing (Erynnis propertius). The objective of this project is to gain a more definitive understanding of Erynnis propertius and its population distribution characteristics on Saltspring Island. The resulting population data will hopefully lend greater understanding to the lifespan of the adult form of the insect as well as a more clear understanding of its niche. Important data that can be obtained from studying a species of butterfly is that, "Butterflies have short life cycles and thus react quickly to environmental changes. Their limited dispersal ability, larval foodplant specialization and close-reliance on the weather and climate make many butterfly species sensitive to fine-scale changes." (Biological Records Center 2006). This will, in turn, hopefully provide better protection from endangerment for the insect as well as key information for use of the insect as a climate change indicator. Steve McCallum, a 2008 ENVS grad,studied the extraordinary ecological indication ability of lichens to assess the ecological health of a rural Garry Oak ecosystem, Crows Nest Ecological Research Area (CNERA) on Salt Spring Island, relative to an urban Garry Oak ecosystem at Christmas Hill (CH) in Victoria by measuring relative levels of air pollutants. In addition, the biodiversity of lichens on Garry Oaks at the CNERA was measured to establish as basis of comparison for future lichen monitoring of the site. Hannah Shriner, a 2003 BIOL grad, studied several aspects of the Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius). Scotch broom is a known nitrogen fixer, contributing nitrogen to the surrounding environment, but also uses up other nutrients from the soil. Hannah hoped to quantify the degree to which Scotch broom changes the surrounding soil composition. She also conducted studies on the seed dispersal of this highly invasive species. Kimberly Roberts, a 2005 ENVS grad, studied the impactDouglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) encroachment is having on the Garry oak meadows. In addition to mapping out the location of every single Douglas fir within one and a half of the four meadows, she researched into the value of removing these Douglas fir trees and the impact this removal may have on restoring the meadows. Through her hard work and research, she laid out the base for a special pilot project where Douglas fir trees would be removed from one portion of the largest meadow and this area would be monitored and compared with other areas of the meadow which are left alone. It is hoped that this Pilot Project will be carried out, starting the summer of 2005 with the collection of valuable base data.
Each summer, 2-3 students spend a couple of months on the Crow's Nest property, getting involved in these research projects, and helping with the general maintenance. Initial work included mapping out the property, developing a comprehensive list of the plants, birds, and other creatures found on the property, construction of an interpretive trail through the meadows, and measurements of every Garry oak tree in each of the four main meadows. Additionally, the location of each oak was determined with the use of a GPS and mapped to determine the density of oaks in the meadows.