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Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Western Washington University

June 20th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County. While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Ambassadors will contribute blog posts and photographs that highlight their adventures throughout the year here on Chattermarks.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks are Inna Mayer and Aaron So, who share their experience visiting Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Youth Leadership Ambassador: Inna Mayer

In late April, the Youth Leadership Ambassadors went on a trip Western Washington University. There, I learned about the Huxley College of Environment. Western Washington University is one of the colleges I’m interested in attending and I was happy to find out about their great Department of Environmental Studies. Steve Hollenhorst, Dean of Huxley, talked about the college and what interested him the most in the environmental field. It was special to hear what it meant to him to be a part of one of the oldest environmental colleges in the United States.

Youth Leadership Ambassadors taking a tour around the Western Washington University campus. Photos by Inna Mayer and Aaron So.

During the second half of the day, we got to attend the annual Earth Day event that the Environmental and Sustainability students and staff at the university put together. There were many speakers at the event and I was surprised and inspired at all the steps that these people took for conservation efforts. It was an eye-opening experience to learn what I could do to help out.

About Inna Mayer

My name is Inna Mayer and I’m a junior at Mount Vernon High School. I was adopted from Russia and I love the Pacific Northwest and getting involved with almost anything in the outdoors. Last summer, I participated in the eight day Outdoor Leadership trip with Youth Leadership Adventures. Taking on a leadership role in the outdoors provided a great experience to learn how to communicate and get through the day as smoothly as possible. It was a little intimidating to have the responsibility of leading my group through all the days planned activities. I had made a personal short-term goal for the day, which was to be able to look back on the things that went well and see improvement. Overall, I learned that it’s ok to ask for help.

Last fall, I attended the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit and found out about the Youth Leadership Ambassador program. I joined the Ambassadors because I wanted to continue my involvement with the North Cascades Institute.

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Youth Leadership Ambassador: Aaron So

For our fourth trip, the Ambassadors of North Cascade Institute went to Western Washington University. Located in Bellingham, we had the opportunity to meet the Dean of Huxley College of the Environment, Steve Hollenhorst. An advocate for program, he also serves the board member for the North Cascades Institute. Frankly, without his keenness for the program, it would not have existed.

While at the college, we toured the campus with Emmanuel Camarillo, a North Cascades Institute graduate alumni. At WWU, Emmanuel advises students academically, coordinates their peer mentor program and advise the Blue Group (Western’s student club for undocumented students). With Emmanuel, we were able to gain more insight on the college life, visiting the dorms and cafeteria. After eating lunch in one of Western’s dining halls, we listened to Tina Castillo, a WWU Admissions expert.


Listening to Dr. John Francis at Western Washington University’s Earth Day celebration. Photo by Aaron So

For the second half of the day, we participated in a student led day celebrating Earth Day. There were 7 local speakers who gave short talks of various areas of sustainability, ranging from food waste to transportation. We ended the day with a notable keynote speaker, Dr. John Francis, who spoke of the day’s theme, “Turning Empathy Into Action”.​​​​​​

About Aaron So

I’m Aaron So and I’m 16 years old and I’m currently attending Burlington-Edison High School. A few of my hobbies pertain sports like swimming, tennis, and volleyball. To be quite frank, I’ve never really been outside into nature for long periods of time nor have I ever had the chance to see nature for what it is. I joined the Ambassadors in hopes of experiencing new things and seeing new sights.

Who Cares About Beavers? We Do!

June 19th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Melissa Biggs, graduate student in the Institute’s 16th cohort

Everyone, meet Chompers!  In October 2016, during the fall natural history trip, my cohort helped the Methow Beaver Project volunteers to release the last 3 beavers of the season.  So much fun! We carried the beavers for several miles and released them at Beaver Creek. When we opened the cage, Chompers went right into the water.  It was fascinating to watch the three beavers explore their new environment.  This summer, the Methow Beaver Project workers will locate Chompers and the other two beavers to record their journey since the fall. This experience made me more curious about beavers and their role in the ecosystem. As I did more research, I realized how awesome beavers are!

Beavers are so wonderful that they are known as environmental engineers.  Beavers are known as a “keystone” species because of their large effects on landscapes.  It only takes a few beavers to transform a watershed entirely.  Beavers, with the exception of human beings, do more to shape their landscape than any other Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets! Beavers are also a “foundation” species because their presence and their creations, such as dams, allow other plants and animals to exist.  

Beavers’ creations are essential to its environment for many reasons.  First, beaver dams are natural filters, as they capture and store much of the sediment.  Streams that have been shaped by beavers have 10 times greater purification capability than streams without beavers.  Also, beaver dams store water, thus leading to the increased size of wetlands. Beaver dams can help mitigate the effects of drought and the loss of wetland and riparian habitats due to their abilities to store shallow groundwater and retention of surface water behind dams.   This is important because almost half of endangered and threatened species in North America rely upon wetlands.  Also, freshwater wetlands have been rated as the world’s most valuable land-based ecosystem.  Beaver ponds increase both the water we can see on the surface and also what is stored beneath the pond.  This helps increase the riparian area and vegetative productivity.  Not only do beaver dams store water, they also help slow down the water flow, which is why they are known as ‘nature’s speed bumps.’  They reduce stream velocity and power, which helps reduce erosion rates and the amount of sediment carried downstream.  This effect across the upper watershed could provide more time for flood planning, protection and evacuation of high risk, residential areas.  Beaver ponds also help stabilize the water temperature both in the shallow and deeper areas – they help cool down streams, creating better conditions for fish, especially trout.  Last, but not last, beavers’ modification on watersheds help increase organic material, such as cut wood and flooded plants, sediment with nutrients attached and more water surface area for photosynthesis to occur, which results in more aquatic biodiversity and food for fish.  Without beavers and the role they play in watersheds, most of the biodiversity that are associated with wetland habitats would disappear.


Chompers in his cage right before he’s released! Image courtesy of Melissa Biggs

» Continue reading Who Cares About Beavers? We Do!

What is a Leadership Track?

May 24th, 2017 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

As a current graduate student in the M.Ed. residency program at North Cascades Institute, I and the rest of my cohort, will soon celebrate the end of our spring quarter here in the North Cascades. Our residency at NCI has engaged us deeply with the natural and cultural history of the area through place-based and experiential learning courses and quarterly field studies in the Methow Valley. We have had room to grow as educators, designing curriculum and instructing Mountain School to elementary, middle and high school students across the state. We have learned the inner workings of nonprofit administration under the guidance of Executive Director, Saul Weisberg, and various NCI staff members. With these four quarters completed, the final stage of our time here in the North Cascades is our Leadership Track.

What is a Leadership Track?
Leadership Tracks are the culminating residency experience, serving as an avenue for practicing leadership skills in a professional setting. These summer internships generally fall in a content area that students are interested in pursuing beyond the graduate program. Content areas currently include curriculum and/or program design and implementation, administrative duties, outdoor and environmental education, food sustainability, stewardship projects, and youth mentorship. A $2,500 leadership fellowship is awarded upon completion of the final quarter of the residency portion of the program.

Last year, the 15th graduate cohort filled Leadership Track positions all over the Cascade region. While most of our graduate work throughout the year focuses on programming here at NCI, our Leadership Track position offers us the opportunity to work with different agencies and organizations in the local area. They also allow graduate students to engage with diverse participant audiences or groups that they may wish to pursue working with in the future.

» Continue reading What is a Leadership Track?

Photo Roundup: May 21 2017

May 21st, 2017 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Every Sunday I will be posting photos collected from various North Cascades Institute graduate students and staff. Please enjoy this glimpse into our everyday lives here in the North Cascades.

 

Graduate students and staff taking out our Salish Dancer canoe in preparation for summer programming. Photo by Rachael Grasso

On Monday, our graduate M.Ed students and staff went through big canoe training, taking out the Voyageur and Salish Dancer canoes on Diablo Lake. We are gearing up for a busy summer of Family Getaways, Base Camp, conference and retreats and adult seminar field courses. These canoe trips offer a unique and new perspective for visitors at the North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center.

» Continue reading Photo Roundup: May 21 2017

Photo Roundup: May 14 2017

May 14th, 2017 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Every Sunday I will be posting photos collected from various NCI graduate students and staff. Please enjoy this glimpse into our everyday lives here in the North Cascades.

Photo by Alex Patia

North Cascades Institute Naturalist and graduate M.Ed. alumni, Alex Patia, snapped this photo of a Canada goose watching over her goslings near his front lawn in the town of Diablo. Canada Geese love to hang out on open lawns as they can feed on grass and (especially with their young) easily spot any approaching predators. These birds mate for life and pairs stay together throughout the year. Most Canada Geese do not breed until their fourth year.

Diablo Lake from the overlook off Highway 20. Photo by Angela Burlile

The North Cascades Institute Environmental Learning Center is right on the shore of Diablo Lake and it has been a fun little practice of watching it slowly change with the seasons. Much of the water in this lake is fed by glaciers in Thunder Creek Basin. Skagit gneiss (a mineral) or as we tell Mountain School students, ‘glacial flour’, is eroded by ice and flows down glacial streams, entering Diablo Lake. As the sun hits these tiny rock particles suspended in the lake, they reflect off this beautiful jade green color. In the spring and summer when runoff is higher, the lake gets brighter! The top photo is from this past week, the middle photo from December and the bottom photo from last July.

» Continue reading Photo Roundup: May 14 2017

Photo Roundup: April 30 2017

April 30th, 2017 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Every Sunday I will be posting photos collected from various NCI graduate students and staff. Please enjoy this glimpse into our everyday lives here in the North Cascades.

A beautiful sunset at Washington Park in Anacortes, where graduate students closed day one of their field trip. Photo by Angela Burlile

On Wednesday, our graduate M.Ed. students went to Anacortes for a three day field trip that explored climate change impacts on the lower Skagit through the lens of food production and agriculture.

 

Shannon Point Marine Center staff member, Gene McKeen, giving grad students a tour of the campus. Photo by Angela Burlile
Grad students (Jihan Grettenberger, Smokey Brine and Ash Kunz) having fun at the SPMC touch tank. Photo by Angela Burlile

On the first day of their trip, graduates were introduced to the Shannon Point Marine Center, a Western Washington University marine laboratory located in Anacortes, Washington. During their visit, grad students were able to meet with Dr. Erika McPhee-Shaw, Professor and Director of SPMC, who presented on the topic of sea level rise and ocean acidification here in the Pacific Northwest.

Grad student, Ash Kunz, attempting to identify sea birds just outside of Anacortes. Photo by Ash Kunz
Harbor seals as seen through a pair of grad binoculars. Photo by Angela Burlile
Alexei Desmarais and Kay Gallagher can’t contain their excitement about bird identification! Photo by Angela Burlile

On the final day of their trip, staff at Shannon Point Marine Center took grads out on their research vessel for the opportunity to view marine and bird life around Puget Sound. Harbor seals and peregrine falcons were just a few of the species spotted during their time out on the water.

Grad student, Kay Gallagher, biking down Highway 20 past the road closure. Photo by Kay Gallagher

With the road closure beginning just miles down the road from our Environmental Learning Center, grads and staff are taking advantage of the empty highway before WSDOT clears all the accumulated winter snow.

The most recent update from the WSDOT Highway 20 reopening page states:
“The west side crew cleared to within 2 ½ miles of Rainy Pass and the eastside crew is about the same distance from Washington Pass. The difference is on the west side the snow is three feet deep. On the east side, snow is 7 feet deep and the Liberty Bell avalanche zone is still ahead where there’s 45 to 55 feet of heavy wet snow on the roadway. 

On the westside the work is progressing well with a plow truck and the loader-mounted blower. On the eastside, the two big caterpillars have begun cutting down the huge piles of snow in the Liberty Bell avalanche zone.” 

*Find weekly updates on the WSDOT webpage*

Animal tracks on the Evergreen Trail at Rockport State Park. Photo by Angela Burlile

Grad student, Sarah Clement, spotted these cougar tracks during a run around the Evergreen Trail at Rockport State Park. The tracks seemed to be quite fresh, as they appeared during her third loop around the park!

» Continue reading Photo Roundup: April 30 2017

Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Skagit Valley College

April 27th, 2017 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

The Youth Leadership Ambassadors program is an extension of our Youth Leadership Adventures summer program. The goal of the program is to further develop leadership and outdoor skills, facilitate service and stewardship in our local communities and ecosystems, and provide college preparedness support to high school students from Skagit and Whatcom County. While serving as Ambassadors, students will participate in work parties, attend field trip and receive 15 hours of college access curriculum. Ambassadors will contribute blog posts and photographs that highlight their adventures throughout the year here on Chattermarks.

Appearing for the first time on Chattermarks are Jonathon Martinez and Tobi Kepper, who share their experience visiting Skagit Valley College in Mt. Vernon. 

Youth Leadership Ambassador: Jonathon Martinez

On March 19, the students of the Youth Leadership Ambassadors program took a trip to Skagit Valley College. This college is a community college located in Mount Vernon. The Youth Leadership Ambassadors were sent to Skagit Valley College so that we could learn more about the school and know that getting into a college is always an option for us.

We specifically went to Skagit Valley College because we are comparing community colleges and state universities to see the differences between them. At the end of April, we will be heading to Western Washington University in Bellingham.

Getting ready to start our adventure at Skagit Valley College! Photo by Tobi Kepper

While being at the college we got to experience new things as a group. We started off by collecting a water sample from a pond located in the school. We used that water for an experiment that determined the amount of phosphorous in the pond. We learned that too much phosphorous causes foam on the water that absorbs oxygen particles, killing any aquatic life nearby. We calculated how much phosphorous was in the water by using a photometer. The photometer measures the light intensity of a solution. To get our measurements, we added tablets to our water samples, allowing the phosphorous to become visible to the photometer.

Our second lab looked at how scientists created models of the land before having phones and computers. We used a special tool and a few pictures of a specific location to get a three-dimensional look of the area, seeing the different elevations there.

In the final lab we looked at the different layers found in soil and determined what material was in each layer based on texture and color.

Testing soil quality. Photo by Tobi Kepper

Once we finished in the lab, we discussed the areas that are important to look at when picking a college. We learned about the quality of Skagit Valley College, the tuition, class size, what each degree is meant for, etc. A few Skagit Valley College students who were either in their first or second year, shared their experience and told us why they enjoyed the school. They explained why it was worth it and how they also had a lot of fun.

» Continue reading Youth Leadership Ambassadors Trip Report: Skagit Valley College