Understanding Ecosystems in Landscaping


Even while Signe Danler was working as a real estate agent in Corvallis, her heart was always with plants, gardening, and sustainable landscaping.

A Master Gardener since 1995, Danler spent much of her free time working in her own garden and volunteering in gardens around Oregon. She began studying botany at Linn Benton Community College over 20 years ago, but life got in the way, so she made do as a graphic designer, and and she later moved into a real estate career.

But opportunity arose in 2011 -- Danler was now eligible for grants to assist in paying for her education. With additional scholarships, savings, and some loans, she was able to go back to school full time, finishing her B.S in Horticulture with a focus in Ecological Landscapes and Urban Forestry in the spring of 2013. She complemented her degree with a minor in Soil Science.

As an undergrad, Danler worked on riparian restoration at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture. (Read more about this project). Her undergraduate thesis project involved writing a grant for the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District. Danler took an inventory of trees and a small spot vegetation survey. Invasive plant species, like Himalayan blackberry, were cleared in the late summer of 2013, and native and nonnative beneficial plants will be planted soon.

Danler recently gave a tour of the cleared area to representatives from the Benton County Soil and Water Conservation District. On the tour, she pointed out that the area will be monitored and maintained, according to the grant stipulations, to keep the invasive plant species from spreading again.

In addition, Danler has undertaken a new challenge: a Masters of Agriculture in Horticulture. She's working in three distinct areas to learn about ways to incorporate working ecosystems into urban landscapes: Environmental Science, Horticulture, and Forestry.

"Often landscaping is an afterthought, especially when it comes to new construction," she explained. She's trying to figure out the best ways for developers and landscapers to understand a site and how it fits into the surrounding ecosystem. "Not just thrown in at the end," she added.

Twenty years ago when she started studying plants, the main focuses of the Horticulture program were turf and agriculture. "Now, there are plenty of opportunities to study ways to improve local environments and increase sustainability across landscapes," she said.