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Naturally Wonderful Naturalists: New staff of 2016

March 7th, 2016 | Posted by in Institute News

As the snow is melting and the trees are budding, our Naturalist Team is getting ready for teaching in the mountains. At the North Cascades Institute‘s Environmental Learning Center the Senior Naturalist and Lead Program Assist will help guide the five new Naturalist Field Instructors over nine months of teaching in the mountains.

During the spring and fall of 2016 these naturalists will educate elementary through high school students in our Mountain School program about the numerous interactions in the surrounding ecosystem. During the summer they will be leading high school students on back country trips through our Youth Leadership Adventure program. Throughout their time here they will also have opportunities to lead Skagit Tours; a tour of Seattle City Light’s Skagit River Hydroelectric Project.

We look forward to their energy and enthusiasm in the variety of ways they will teach about the North Cascades!


Max Thomas

Max isn’t new to North Cascades Institute, but is taking on a new role with us. After 2 previous years as a seasonal naturalist, Max has moved into the Senior Naturalist position. This position supervises the naturalists and provides leadership and mentorship in our education programs, with a focus on Mountain School, Family Getaways and Basecamp. Max was raised in Minneapolis and went to college at the University of Minnesota Duluth where he received a degree in Outdoor Education. Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
During college he found a variety of passions in the forms of canoeing, hiking, backpacking, snowboarding and cross-country skiing.  After college Max worked as an interpretation ranger in Glacier National Park.  The beauty rocked his socks off.  After 4 years in Montana, the Cascade Mountains called his name and has found a new home in the Evergreen State.  The beauty is still rocking his socks off.  When he isn’t playing nature games with fifth graders or camping in the mountains, Max can be found fiercely rooting on Minnesota sports teams.

» Continue reading Naturally Wonderful Naturalists: New staff of 2016

Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: Part 5

March 3rd, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

People in Montana and Northwestern Wyoming have been living and recreating in close proximity to grizzlies upon settlement. In Washington nobody has seen a grizzly in nearly 20 years. For those who do not live in grizzly country it is an animal associated with danger and fear. Common misconceptions and ignorance about grizzlies are major reasons why they have nearly gone extinct and may have an even tougher time recovering in The North Cascades. In Grizzly Wars David Knibb states, “Ignorance breeds fear. Ironically, because people around the Cascades lack firsthand experience with grizzlies, they are more afraid and thus more likely to oppose recovery efforts” (Knibb, 50).

People that do not live in grizzly country and those who have never encountered a grizzly before, like those of us living in the Pacific Northwest, are going to have the preconceived notion that the American culture has created about the grizzly, a culture created by the media to make a fixed story in our minds about what to believe about something. I have yet to see a Hollywood movie where the lost children or the lonesome cowboy come across a grizzly eating berries as it glances up noticing the people and simply returns to eating berries. Instead of this natural occurrence, the bear almost always attacks, only to have the children rescued by a brave outdoorsman or the cowboy besting the monster by pumping multiple gunshots into its pelt. This all too often scene has been played out hundreds of times through the American public’s television screens and feeds into the notion that man has dominion over all of nature. Wilderness is the antagonist and needs to be tamed and subdued by man, and nothing speaks of wilderness more than animals like wolves and grizzlies.

» Continue reading Grizzly Bears in the Pacific Northwest: Part 5

Diablo Dam

View from Diablo Dam

August 22nd, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

A view looking west from Diablo Dam down the Skagit River Gorge towards Newhalem and the Goodell Creek Fire from Wednesday 8/19, 3:15 pm. By Institute graduate student Joe Loviska. We’re posting more photos from the wildfire at North Cascades Institute updates are at and on our Facebook page at

New Institute video! “The High Ridge: Celebrating 25 Years in the North Cascades”

January 21st, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

North Cascades Institute is very excited to finally share with you a multimedia piece made in celebration of our 25th anniversary. “The High Ridge: Celebrating 25 Years in the North Cascades” was created by three staff members from our marketing/communications department — Christian Martin, Jessica Haag and Amy Wilcox — in partnership with Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele of It aims to tell the story of where the Institute originated from, how it has evolved over the past quarter-century, what we hope to accomplish in our teaching and natural history work and where we’re going next. Not an easy task, especially in only 11 minutes!

The piece features interviews with Institute founders, instructors, board members and friends, including Tom Fleischner, Saul Weisberg, Jonathan Jarvis, Robert Michael Pyle, Libby Mills, Chuck Robinson, John Miles, Jeanne Muir and Brian Scheuch. Special thanks to Bill Frisell and John Reischman for providing the music, and countless photographers for sharing their work.

Watch it now in high definition — full screen viewing essentail!

We’d really love it if you helped spread this story around — you can share this link:

Sara wrote up a blog post outlining some of the creative process it took to produce this piece:

When the Institute first approached us about creating a story for their 25th anniversary, they didn’t necessarily have a workshop in mind. But the more we discussed the project – along with the organization’s expanding needs, staff interest and new website – building in-house capacity to produce videos and multimedia made the most sense.

The workshop took place over five days on Canoe Island in the San Juans. In the months leading up to our week together, three Institute staff members – Amy, Christian and Jessica – purchased a video camera and learned how to use it, conducted a dozen interviews, transcribed them into more than 60,000 words, and sorted through archival footage.


Hints of Autumn: Welcoming a New Season in the North Cascades

October 11th, 2010 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Each season brings its own unique changes that are often welcomed when the time comes. Although I’m never ready for summer to end, and often in denial in September, I gladly accept the autumnal changes of October. In fact, if I had to choose a favorite season, it would be fall.

Autumn reminds me of both renewal, with the start of a new school year, and closure of the warm seasons, as animals build their winter cache and trees begin to shed their leaves in preparation for the cold months ahead. It seemed the early signs of autumn were present in September, when we graduate students of Cohort 10 in the Masters in Environmental Education program began our year-long residency at the Environmental Learning Center. Now, well into October, the signs of autumn are certainly upon us.

» Continue reading Hints of Autumn: Welcoming a New Season in the North Cascades