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Natural History Field-Excursion: Learning the Value of Citizen Science

December 26th, 2017 | Posted by in Field Excursions

This post is the second of a 3-part series describing graduate students’ ten-day field excursion to the Methow Valley, as part of their fall Natural History CourseBelow is writing by Zoe Wadkins, graduate student in the North Cascade Institute’s 17th cohort

It was twenty-eight degrees out and declining. Seventeen of us gathered around a lone fire while Andromeda twinkled in the Eastern sky. Our second night atop Chelan Ridge with HawkWatch International held my cohort and I captivated by firelight – humbled by the elements, the beauty of raptor migration, and the relentlessness of the folks who perch atop these ridges in hope of conveying an important story to the world.

Graduate students stand atop Chelan Ridge

Kent Woodruff retired Biologist for the U.S. Forest Service taught bird aerodynamics from our lookout post

For a more in depth account of our experience with HawkWatch, please see Brendan McGarry’s post Migrating Raptors over Chelan Ridge.

Though welcomed into hearth and home, and gifted rare opportunity to partake in this season’s raptor counts, us graduate students were the ones now being thanked. Thanked by the people who devote a portion of their lives to banding and counting hawks in the name of science. Thanked for our presence and interest in their migratory bird studies. Thanked for committing ourselves to education, and for imparting our experience to the outside world.

» Continue reading Natural History Field-Excursion: Learning the Value of Citizen Science

Migratory Birds Erica Keene

Taking Flight at the Migratory Bird Festival

May 22nd, 2014 | Posted by in Field Excursions

By Erica Keene

Smiles, laughter and flapping arms – I mean, wings. Yes, wings. These were the best parts of a sun-filled weekend spent learning about migratory bird species during the fifth annual Migratory Bird Festival at Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. On Saturday, April 26, over 120 participants took on the role of migratory birds to learn about the difficulties they face during their winged travels. Their goal? Get safely to their next stop along the migration route.

The first round was easy, no obstacles. In the second round, a hunter was introduced. With each successive round, migration became harder and harder. Habitats began to disappear. Predators started increasing and catching larger numbers of birds. Elders, teens and little ones alike all participated in this lively, competitive game to learn just how many challenges birds face when migrating long distances.

Migratory bird Erica KeeneYouth from Seattle Parks & Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program and the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program attempt to migrate safely to their next location while facing challenging obstacles such as hunters and habitat loss. Photo by author.

Groups rotated through three stations where they learned bird identification techniques, discovered ways to help conserve birds at home and participated in the ever-popular migration game. Each group adopted a bird for the day and spent time at each station learning fun facts about the Mallard, Rufous Hummingbird or the Killdeer. Some participants were even able to spot their bird during the bird identification station.

The day ended with students writing and decorating a postcard to be mailed to them in a few weeks’ time and with presentations on their adopted birds. Groups led interactive presentations on the Killdeer’s broken-wing display and the Rufous Hummingbird’s flight patterns while others absorbed the sunshine and listened.

eldersElders and youth from InterIm Community Development Association learn about migratory bird conservation. Photo by: Jim Chu, USFS.
Migratory Birds Erica KeeneOver 120 participants gathered on Saturday in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day at Camp Casey. Coupeville, WA. Photo by author.

A handful of regional community and environmental organizations participated in this event in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day, including Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Outdoor Opportunities Program (O2), InterIm Community Development Association, North Cascades Institute’s Youth Leadership Adventures and the Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program.

On Saturday evening, 23 youth from Seattle Parks & Recreation’s O2 program and InterIm Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development (WILD) stayed the night at Camp Casey on Whidbey Island in anticipation of a Sunday stewardship project. Pacific Northwest Trail Association Intern, Noah Pylvainen, took students on a walk along the Pacific Northwest Trail and introduced students to the idea of long-distance backpacking.

Migratory bird fest AnekaYouth Leadership Adventures students showing off their migratory bird postcards. Photo by Aneka Singlaub.

The next morning, students loaded onto the bus for a short trip to Fort Ebey State Park. Upon arrival, Operations Manager Craig Holmquist from the National Park Service introduced them to Ebey’s Landing National Historical Reserve. Students were given a demonstration on how to use a weed wrench and learned to identify Scotch broom: a tall, quick-to-spread invasive weed. Their task? Pull as much Scotch broom as possible out of the ground in just under three hours. Many youth had been to this event the previous year and were eager to get started. They looked at the area they cleared last year and when they realized none of it had grown back, huge smiles spread across their faces as the impact they were making started to seem more of a reality. This year, inn less than three hours, 23 youth and their adult leaders cleared nearly an acre of the invasive, yellow-flowered plant, an act of stewardship that will be appreciated by native plant aficionados to come.

migratory bird Erica KeeneZheonte Payne, 15, and Seth Wendzel from O2 share a high five in celebration of removing a particularly large Scotch Broom plant.
migratory bird Erica KeeneAfter nearly three hours of grueling effort, youth celebrate the two trailer loads of Scotch Broom they removed from Fort Ebey State Park. Photo by author.
migratory bird Erica Keene Lewen Chen, 17, from InterIm WILD loads Scotch Broom into a trailer to be removed from Fort Ebey State Park.

Thank you to the US Forest Service, Ebey’s National Historical Reserve, Ebey’s Trust Board, National Park Service, Skagit Audubon Society, Whidbey Audubon Society and all other staff and volunteers who helped make this event possible. We could not have done it without you!

Leading photo: Ximena Beccera, age 9, from the Kulshan Creek Program, learns how to use a spotting scope for the first time at the bird identification station. 

Erica Keene is the Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.




C12 graduates haag

A Generosity of Spirit: Cohort 12 Graduates!

March 25th, 2014 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

The twelfth cohort of graduate students earned their Masters in Education degrees through North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University this week. Dr. John Miles, Executive Director Saul Weisberg, Graduate Coordinator Joshua Porter and Program Manager Katie Roloson recalled anecdotes and unique qualities of each of the eight grads, while about 100 friends and family watched in support. “They opened my eyes to gas station junk food,” Roloson laughed, invoking the power of sour gummy worms and experiential education.

Snickers bars and red licorice vines were hardly Cohort 12’s only sweet contribution to the Environmental Learning Center community. As the sky changed from gray to golden to grey again, and everyone sat in the Dining Hall looking west toward Diablo Lake and the future, the speakers described what Porter called “the generosity of spirit” that characterized this small group. Roloson noted they were experts at supporting each other, collaborating and holding council, saying, “They were the first cohort where every decision seemed like a group decision.”

Dr. John Miles, the students’ primary professor throughout both their residency and three quarters at WWU, told several stories from their adventures together over the past seven quarters. The audience was transported to Yellow Aster Butte, where he set up a belay with parachute cord down a steep subalpine slope, and to his and his wife, Susan’s, beautiful Bellingham garden, where they would hold summertime classes. One Kentuckian student, Kim Hall, coming from the Peace Corps in Senegal, would have to wrap herself in a sleeping bag to armor herself against western Washington’s July temperatures.

kim graduating haagKim Hall, sans sleeping bag. Photo by Jessica Haag.
sahara graduating haagSahara Suval laughs with Program Manager Katie Roloson behind a Douglas fir-stump podium. Photo by Jessica Haag.

» Continue reading A Generosity of Spirit: Cohort 12 Graduates!

North Cascades National Park’s Chip Jenkins named Deputy Regional Director

July 23rd, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

Editor’s note: It with mixed emotions that we congratulate Superintendent Chip Jenkins on his promotion in the National Park Service this week. Chip has been a steadfast supporter of North Cascades Institute over the past five years — particularly our summer youth programs like Cascades Climate Challenge, North Cascades Wild and the Youth Leadership Conference, as well as the operations of our Learning Center on Diablo Lake — and we’re sad to see him go. At the same time, the NPS and the public are fortunate to have someone as professional, dynamic and passionate as Chip is moving up in to this important leadership role. We’ve seen Chip’s eyes sparkle when visiting with our students at remote sites on Ross Lake, and we know that he understands the life-changing values of outdoor experiences for young people, and the crucial role that the our national parks serve in connecting people to nature. He “gets it” and it has been a pleasure to work with him and his team in our partnership with North Cascades National Park. Congratulations Chip — onward!

Pacific West Region of the National Park Service News Release

July 19, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO  – Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, Jr., has been named Deputy Regional Director for Resource Stewardship and Planning for the National Park Service in the Pacific West Region. As Deputy Regional Director, he will be responsible for leading and managing park operations for 17 parks located in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, as well as the administration of four major program functions, Cultural Resources Management, Natural Resources Management, Planning and Environmental Compliance.  He will also serve as the Regional Director’s principal representative in the Pacific Northwest and the lead official for the Seattle office of the Pacific West Regional Office.

Jenkins has been on a detail in this role since April 2012.  He replaces Rory Westberg who recently retired after serving as the Deputy Regional Director for 8 years.

“Chip is a proven leader with an incredible track record for tackling tough issues and finding innovative solutions.  Highly personable, Chip is a strong team player, well known for building collaboration among peers, employees, with partners and within the community,” said Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz.  “I am delighted Chip accepted this position.  He will be an excellent addition to our region’s leadership team.”

Chip Jenkins, left, with North Cascades Institute executive director Saul Weisberg and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis

Jenkins has worked for the National Park Service since 1985.  Most recently, he served as Superintendent of North Cascades National Park, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, and Ross Lake National Recreation Area in Washington.  He has also served as Superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park in Oregon and Washington, Chief of Strategic Planning of Yosemite National Park in California, as special assistant to the National Park Service Director, and as a resource specialist at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area in California.  He started his career as a seasonal ranger in North Cascades National Park.

In accepting the position Jenkins said, “I am honored to be offered the chance to work with these outstanding people that serve as stewards of the parks in the Pacific West Region.”

Jenkins is a graduate of the University of California at Santa Barbara with a bachelor’s degree in geography and environmental studies.  He also is a graduate of the NPS Resource Management Trainee Program.  In his spare time, Jenkins enjoys spending time with his family, skiing, hiking and camping.  He and his wife, Laurie Lee Jenkins, who also works for the National Park Service as an ecologist, have two young boys that continually show them the magic that can be found when exploring the Pacific Northwest.

North Cascades VIPs: Highlighting Institute Superstars

February 4th, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

Written by guest contributor Deb Martin, the North Cascades Institute Registrar.

Happy New Year! As our Silver Anniversary comes to an end, we want to move forward in our 26th year by recognizing the strong connections we have with our participants and partners. We would not be where we are or who we are today without so many talented and passionate customers, teachers, students and staff.

We thought it would be fun to begin 2012 by spotlighting a few folks who have been great supporters of the Institute and our mission to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education. We are fortunate to have many such people and appreciate each and every one. Without further ado, here are some people that help make our work rewarding, organized by different program areas.


Nancy participated in her first program with North Cascades Institute in 2002. Since that first experience, she has participated in a total of 19 programs! In 2011, Nancy participated in eight different programs including the Hands to Work Stewardship Weekend, two Diablo Downtimes, four Base Camps and the Artistic Weaving with Cedar Workshop. Nancy is also a donor in support of Institute youth programs.

FAMILY PROGRAMS: The Tebbs/Armstrong Family

Matthew Tebbs, Dana Armstrong and Benjamin Armstrong (age 7) have made Family Getaways a family tradition. Since we launched our Family Getaways when we opened the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center, the Tebbs/Armstrongs have participated in five Family Getaways, one each year from 2007-2011. In 2011, they extended their getaway experience by adding extra days through our Base Camp option. We are very honored to be a part of this family’s’ history!

» Continue reading North Cascades VIPs: Highlighting Institute Superstars

Experience the Second Annual Youth Leadership Conference

January 29th, 2012 | Posted by in Youth Adventures

By Andrew Pringle, Skagit District Interpreter, North Cascades National Park Complex

The second annual Youth Leadership Conference, hosted by North Cascades Institute, North Cascades National Park Complex and Mount Baker-Snoqualamie National Forest at the Environmental Learning Center in North Cascades National Park took place November 11th-13th, 2011.

The event brought together more than 60 diverse high school and college students from across the region who had recently participated in stewardship programs on public lands in the North Cascades Ecosystem. Fourteen different organizations partnered to present the students with a range of new opportunities.

In addition to the three host organizations, they included Mount Rainier National Park, Olympic National Park, The Student Conservation Association, Western Washington University, Seattle Parks and Recreation, Skagit Fisheries Enhancement Group, Northwest Youth Corps, The Oregon Zoo, Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Alderleaf Wilderness College and The Wilderness Awareness School.

These partners are developing the next generation of public land stewards and agency employees. By deliberately connecting existing programs and partnerships, they are creating a continuum of meaningful experiences, a pathway to stewardship. This is in support of National Park Service’s “A Call to Action”, which charts a new direction for the National Park Service as it enters its second century in 2016.

Ultimately, these partners hope to create a constituency of engaged citizens, no matter their profession. The Youth Leadership Conference is one stop along this pathway. Students can sign up for educational programs and learn about getting into college, seeking out internships and applying for jobs. The three-day event is fun and inspiring, and now you can enjoy the experience in this new video:

North Cascades Youth Leadership Conference 2011