From North Cascades Institute

Search Chattermarks

North Cascades on Instagram



Skinning for Science: A Bobcat Casestudy

June 16th, 2016 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

By Holli Watne, graduate student in the Institute’s 15th cohort.

On Jan 5th, 2016 the residents of the Blue House (our Marblemount property) discovered a dead bobcat in the garage.

The cause of death was unknown, but no evidence of trauma was found. The carcass was quickly moved to the biological specimens freezer in the North Cascades Institute’s lab, where it has served as a great teaching tool for hundreds of Mountain School participants this year.


Holding up a bobcat


Bobcat found under bicycles in barn.

But for an item as popular as the bobcat, the freezer is not a very sustainable solution.
It is bad for the specimen to be constantly moved in and out of the freezer. Also, it takes up a lot of space – and there’s not much to spare in the freezer.

» Continue reading Skinning for Science: A Bobcat Casestudy

Seattle Times cover

North Cascades Institute in The Seattle Times: “Mountain School makes the magic of the wilderness real for kids”

August 17th, 2015 | Posted by in Institute News

We are thrilled with The Seattle Times‘ story on Mountain School, the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center and the Institute’s 30 years of environmental education in the North Cascades. It appeared as the cover story in the Times‘ Pacific Northwest Magazine on August 9, 2015 and features a wealth of amazing photos, many quotes from MS students and teachers and an interview with our founder and executive director Saul Weisberg.


“DO NOT LET the sly grin fool you. Nika Meyers is not joking around.

Out here amid the firs and ferns and tiny birds and devil’s club above Diablo Lake, she makes certain things clear to her young charges. Today’s lesson on getting in touch with the earth? It’s not some cute metaphor. It is exactly that: On your knees, boys and girls. Right down there with the spiders and rotting leaves and — Holy Crap! Is that a centipede?
This is how it’s done at Mountain School: One pair of happy, grubby, fifth-grade paws at a time. Multiply by 2,800 kids from 53 schools this year alone, stir, and enjoy.

The concept behind the school, run by nonprofit North Cascades Institute, sounds simple: In a three-day mountain camp experience, imbue in school children a visceral connection with this special place — the thumping, mountainous heart of Northwest wilderness. Make its magic real to them at a micro level, in the hope that some of them will feel the pull to return as powerfully as a salmon headed home to spawn. Slip into their consciousness rudimentary skills of a naturalist — the ability to observe and make the same personal connections to other wild lands.

Oh: Also do this without boring the amped-up, digitally dependent kids out of their skulls.

Mountain School still represents what Saul Weisberg espoused from the beginning: A chance for Northwest kids to get out in nature — many of them spending nights away from home for the first time — and go home with mountain air embedded in their hearts. While the Institute’s unofficial mission has always been to “save the world,” it’s official task is to put people and nature together and stand back in awe watching what happens. It can’t happen without the dirty hands.”


Read Ron Judd’s excellent story on our Mountain School program at!

And watch a 4-minute video by Steve Ringman at!

Mtn School 2015 Rick Allen 2

Mountain School: Local students learn in the North Cascades

August 11th, 2015 | Posted by in Life at the Learning Center

Only the hardiest of souls venture to North Cascades Institute’s Environmental Learning Center on Diablo Lake, 2 hours east of Bellingham, in the winter. Highway 20 might be strewn with boulders or blanketed with snow or black ice. The Institute itself is eerily quiet during those months with no programs running, much of the staff gone and graduate students plugging away at seemingly-unending projects.

Visit during the fall or spring, however, and you’ll find the complete opposite. Set foot on any of the Institute’s nine miles of trails and I guarantee you’ll find yourself face to face with any number of smiling faces. These smiles belong to children, primarily fifth graders attending Mountain School, and you’ll find them hunting for mushrooms, teaching each other about native plants, going on the journey of a water molecule or carefully camouflaging themselves behind a fallen log.Mtn School 2015 Rick Allen 1

Mountain School is one of North Cascade Institute’s proudest accomplishments. Established in 1990 at Newhalem Campground in North Cascades National Park, the program has served over 26,000 students from all over Whatcom and Skagit counties, as far south as Seattle and Olympia and from Methow and Wenatchee to the east. Students from grades 4-12 come to us for three to five days and leave, we hope, with a deeper connection to their environment. In just four and a half months, three months in the spring and one-and-a-half in the fall, North Cascades Institute serves over 2,000 students and aims to inspire all of them.

» Continue reading Mountain School: Local students learn in the North Cascades

Profile of a Graduate M.Ed. Student: Lauren Marziliano

March 14th, 2015 | Posted by in Graduate M.Ed. Program

“I have looked back on that time over and over again as one of the most informative times of my life.”

Lauren Marziliano reflects on her experience in our Graduate M.Ed. program, and how it led to her current job as teacher at the Waskowitz Environmental Leadership School, in our new video. Lauren is an alumni who graduated from North Cascades Institute and Huxley College of the Environment’s Graduate M.Ed. Program in 2004. In this short video, she shares why she signed up for the program, what she got out of it and what opportunities awaited her when she graduated and started looking for a job.


You too can establish your career in environmental education by earning a Master of Education while working with the Northwest’s best educators, naturalists and conservation leaders! North Cascades Institute offers a unique professional residency program designed to prepare students in all aspects of environmental education while living among the towering peaks of the North Cascades region in Washington State.

Unlike many other graduate residency experiences, our professional residency is fully integrated into a degree program at Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University.

A Master of Education in Environmental Education is earned upon completion of the the seven-quarter program, along with Certificates in Leadership and Nonprofit Administration and Northwest Natural History awarded by North Cascades Institute. Course work explores environmental education while placing an emphasis on field science, cultural studies, teaching and nonprofit administration.

For more information on how to apply, visit or email to

Interview and editing by Christian Martin. Shot by Benj Drummond.

Keepers Best

New film on glacier monitoring in the North Cascades

July 24th, 2013 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes


We are pleased to share a new film on glacier monitoring produced by our friends in the National Park Service. “Keepers of the Beat” features Dr. Jon Riedel, NPS glaciologist at North Cascades National Park, showing how and why he takes the pulse of glaciers. The title refers to the fact that glaciers respond to environmental conditions and keep a record of their past history, the “beats” of time. Riedel has taught geology and glaciology for Institute programs many times in the past, most notably leading students up to view the glaciers on Mount Baker as part of our Youth Leadership Adventures program.

Glaciers in all Northwest national parks are shrinking fast. “Keepers of the Beat” shares Dr. Riedel’s findings, ties in related work at Mount Rainier, and explains how the projects are linked together. In the film we see the scientists going about their work and we also learn of their personal motivations and concerns. “Keepers” is 18 minutes long and streamed in HD video at or below:

“Keepers” and the other short videos at the site are products of the North Coast & Cascades Science Learning Network, a National Park Service program serving all the Northwest national parks. Its mission is to encourage park research and to disseminate results of  that research. Please contact the program’s director, Dr. Jerry Freilich, for more information (, 360-565-3082).



Congratulations Jon Riedel!

November 6th, 2012 | Posted by in Institute News

North Cascades Institute heartily congratulates our friend Dr. Jon Riedel of North Cascades National Park. Last week, National Park Service Pacific West Regional Director Chris Lehnertz  announced the 2012  Awards for Natural Resource Management and Riedel, based in Sedro-Woolley, was rightly recognized. Here’s the official statement on Jon’s award, followed by some appreciations written by staff and students of the Institute who have worked with Jon in the field over the years…

Dr. Jon Riedel, North Cascades National Park geologist, has been recognized for three significant accomplishments. First, he led the team that, over the course of four years, developed the Stehekin River Corridor Implementation Plan and Environmental Impact Statement. This comprehensive planning effort uses the best available science to protect natural and cultural resources, support the private community of Stehekin, and establish sustainable administrative facilities – all while continuing to provide high-quality recreational experiences for the public. Second, he developed the landmark North Cascades Glacier Monitoring Program. This program, which is in its 20th year, has set the standard for glacier monitoring in the National Park Service and is at the forefront of understanding the impacts of climate change on the North Cascades ecosystem. Third, he has passionately served as a teacher and mentor. He uses his extensive professional knowledge to serve as an informative and entertaining instructor for youth and adults. He also inspires youth to consider science-based careers through his work with the North Cascades Institute, including the nationally renowned Cascades Climate Challenge.


“Jon is one of those rare scientists who is also a superb teacher and mentor. He has been inspiring people since I met him in the mid-80’s—with his unique blend of enthusiasm, deep curiosity, academic rigor, and a love for this special part of the world.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
I remember one of his early presentations on glaciers in the North Cascades. After a thorough introduction to the science, he moved us with a series of amazing mountain images combined with music. He speaks to both head and heart, and both at a high level. It’s been an honor to work with him over so many years.” – Saul Weisberg, Executive Director

» Continue reading Congratulations Jon Riedel!

Surveying Ross Lake trout

August 21st, 2012 | Posted by in Naturalist Notes

I look down, my right hand is covered in brain matter, my left hand has a piece of intestine hanging from my pinky and as I continue down… my shirt is becoming pink all over and I realize I am quite stinky and rather disgusting. I never thought I would be spending a week at Ross Lake dissecting over 100 fish…

Since working and studying at the North Cascades Institute, I have been presented with many unique and great opportunities. Some of these opportunities have been provided to us, and some we have to work a little harder to find.

This summer each graduate student applied for different “summer leadership” positions within the institute and its partners. We each were able to create and obtain summer leaderships tracks that provide each individual with experience they were interested in. From working with summer youth programs, to sticking around the Environmental Learning Center for family and adult programs, everyone seemed to find an experience that fit them. My background, passions, and future goals lay in the aquatic field—a little more difficult being stationed in the middle of a mountain range. Lucky for me, through the Institute’s partnership with North Cascades National Park, I am grateful to have created the 1st position with NCI and the North Cascades Nationals Park’s aquatic crew.

Since beginning my summer internship with the North Cascade National Park aquatics department, I have been overwhelmed with the great experiences and learning opportunities I have been provided with. From spawning surveys, water quality monitoring and teaching students about lake ecology— to say the least, this summer has been amazing!

Check out these pictures I have taken on our weekly snorkel surveys of 2 creeks on Ross Lake. Spawning surveys consisted of completed 4 reaches up each creek, fighting through the rapids to take a peak under the surface to find beautiful spawning Rainbow Trout and native Char.

Rainbow Trout fighting upstream
Spawning fluvial Rainbow Trout. These guys stay much smaller than the adfluvial Trout seen above

 I got to partake in education, research, and lots of data collection throughout this summer. The education component of my summer involved teaching the Institute’s Cascade Climate Challenge summer youth program about Ross Lake, its fish communities and the effects of climate change. The best part—after each lesson we all jumped into the lake to go snorkeling so we could see first hand what all the fish fuss was about.

» Continue reading Surveying Ross Lake trout