Cohort 11

 

DEBRADebra Agnew was born and raised in the urban sprawl of Los Angeles. Her connection to nature was cultivated on family camping trips to the mountains and deserts of southern California, and in the parks, gardens, and nature preserves near her home. She completed a Bachelor of Arts in Social and Behavioral Sciences at CSU, Monterey Bay, in an area famous for deep coastal waters full of kelp forests and playful otters. After graduation, Debra was hiking in a flower-filled meadow in the Cuyamaca Mountains and decided she wanted to become a park ranger, so that she could live and work in the great outdoors. Her pursuit began when she became a volunteer gallery interpreter at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, where she facilitated meaningful connections between visitors and exhibits of urban wildlife, live insects, and fossilized dinosaurs. During Certified Interpretive Guide training at the museum, she felt the call toward stewardship and environmental education. After completing the Masters of Science in Environmental Education program, Debra looks forward to a lifetime of connecting people with nature.

 

LEAH

Leia Althauser grew up in Phoenix, Arizona, where life has adapted to less than five inches of rain a year. Craving more water, she traveled north and attended the University of Oregon where she graduated with a B.S. in journalism and a minor in environmental studies in 2013.Since undergraduate graduation, she has worked in litigation and public outreach for the Mexican gray wolves and has worked side-by-side with bald eagles, owls, falcons and hawks in Alaska. Leia is a Certified Professional Bird Trainer-Knowledge Assessed. She uses her knowledge of learning and behavior not only help train animals, but also to help teach adults about wildlife.  She is interested in utilizing the various forms of policy, management, advocacy and education so that all forms of life may co-exist alongside humans. When not fighting for the wild ones, Leia can be found hiking, cycling, skiing or enjoying time on the Oregon Coast with her two cats Chum and Keta and her husband, Andrew.

 

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Sara Buckley grew up in Florida, spending her time exploring the Indian river lagoon and the surrounding beaches. Growing up she always loved the water and exploring the various surrounding ecosystems. In high school she moved to North Carolina, and longed to be back near the water, leading her to pursue her dive certification. Diving was like nothing she had ever experienced, and she knew she wanted to pursue a career to help protect these ecosystems. She went on to receive a B.S. in Oceanography from University of North Carolina at Wilmington. During college she spent her summers with Broadreach Global Summer Educational Adventures sailing all over the Caribbean and teaching sailing and diving to youth. After college she was the program coordinator at Sea Turtle Camp in Wilmington, until she became an intern at a research station on the Caribbean island, Bonaire. She spent a year being a teaching assistant for the Advanced Scuba, Marine Ecology Field Research Methods, coral reef ecology, and Independent research courses. After a year she was hired on full-time as the Lab and office manager and created and implemented a high school marine ecology program that following summer. After the summer co-teaching her program to high school students she knew she this was her dream job, and decided she wanted to learn more about teaching. She applied to the Environmental Education program at Southern Oregon University and the rest is history! Sara looks forward to continuing to combine her love for the environment and teaching in a career as an environmental educator

 

NICOLE

Nicole Ferer moved to Eugene, Oregon from the concrete jungle of the Bay Area. A love for wildflowers and fascination with medicinal and edible plants was her gateway into loving and understanding the natural world. Nicole earned an Environmental Policy degree from the University of Oregon. It was here that she discovered environmental education was the ultimate blend of her two greatest passions: education and the natural environment. Nicole approaches teaching with love and logic, and fosters engaged, positive learning through her childlike energy. Nicole strives to cultivate a culture of community and interconnectedness in her career and life as an educator, with a dream of starting her own eco-school on a sustainable farm in the Pacific Northwest.


KELSEYKelsey Hansen grew up in the rural, rugged terrain of Idaho while hunting for frogs and salamanders (and anything else that moved). This love for animals continued, and she later graduated from Idaho State University in 2016 with her B.S. in Biology with an emphasis in integrative organismal biology. After graduation, she moved to Washington to work on boats as a marine naturalist and teach visitors about orcas and other amazing marine life in the San Juan Islands. She also worked as an environmental educator in Olympic National Park teaching children about nature, sustainability, and ecosystem health. In between it all, she coached basketball, travelled the globe, and continued to fall more in love with the Pacific Northwest by the day. She loves all animals, and she cannot wait to learn more about how to get others excited about the environment and its critters!

 

JJ

J.J. Janson was raised in the New Hampshire woodlands where sugar maples produce syrup and flash fuchsia, vermilion, golden and grapefruit foliage each fall. She spent summers hiking and camping, and winters skiing and snowshoeing in the White Mountains with her Dad. Animals of all species accompanied them on their adventures and J.J. grew to love them as dear friends. Though her first passion was writing, her relationship with the outdoors and wildlife led her to double major in English and Environmental Studies at Keene State College in Keene, NH. In 2013, she began to spread her wings and fly to new places. Her adventures have taken her to The Land of Midnight Sun where the Northern Lights dance in the sky to the Sonoran Desert where saguaro cacti remind us that even in the most unlikely places life can thrive. Each place and the people that have called them home have had an impact on her relationship with the environment; shaping both her writing and her identity. Now, armed with a pack full of knowledge, experience, and passion, J.J. has traded in the sugar maples for the sugar pines and set out to reconnect humans with the land they were once a part of. Through the M.S. Environmental Education Program at Southern Oregon University she hopes to harmonize humanity with the environment and bridge the gap between their misunderstandings of nature and themselves.

 

HANNAHHannah Kittler grew up in western Massachusetts where her love for science and the outdoors became evident in middle school.  She went on to pursue a degree in Biology and minors in Environmental Studies and Chemistry at Saint Michael’s College in Vermont.  She decided to pursue an internship in Environmental Education her senior year and absolutely fell in love with teaching outdoors.  She then got bit by the travel bug and worked seasonal jobs throughout the U.S. for a few years.  This past year she decided that she wanted to pursue her master’s so she could have the skills to run a nature center in the future!  You can find her safely removing unwanted spiders from homes in her spare time.

 

EMILY L

Emily Lind grew up in the land of beer, dairy, and cheese heads. She spent much of her Wisconsin childhood swimming at the lake in the summer and making snow angels in the winter.  Her love for animals drove her to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Wildlife Ecology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  Birds became an integral part of Emily’s life when she volunteered at a bird banding station and held her first bird: a Black-and-white Warbler.  Between undergraduate and graduate school her field jobs ranged from studying the endangered Kirtland’s Warbler and Greater Sage-Grouse, to banding birds in Ecuador.  Her most recent position as the Citizen Science Technician at a nature center in Wisconsin is where her passion for education blossomed.  The Environmental Education program at Southern Oregon University will allow Emily to pursue research while also obtaining the skills and resources to be an effective environmental educator.  Emily wants people of all ages to feel comfortable in nature, be eager to learn about nature, and ultimately fall in love with and protect nature.

 

ELVAElva Manquera is an Oregon native who grew up in Douglas County. She got her bachelor’s in Zoology from Oregon State University with a focus in herpetology and disease. Through her interest in amphibians, Elva has done research in Costa Rica and throughout the Cascades. Ever since she was young Elva loved playing in the creek and spending time with nature; she believes that everyone should have that opportunity. With her career, she hopes to be able to bridge her love for nature and research to bring environmental education tunderrepresented youth in Oregon.

 

CRYSTALCrystal Nichols had an innate fascination with wildlife at a very tender age and this interest has never waned. It mostly stems from never wanting to grow up or stop playing outside. She got her degree in aquatic biology and fisheries from Ball State University in Indiana. After accepting a temporary job in Oregon last year, she escaped the corn maze of the Midwest and has been a willing captive of the West ever since. A love of lifelong learning and a passion for educating brought Crystal to this unique program. Today, she enjoys hiking, climbing, taking photographs, and playing in the water.

 

EMILY OEmily Olsen is an adventurous, friendly, outgoing native Pacific Northwesterner spending her childhood around the Puget Sound in Washington and her young adulthood in the suburbs of Portland. She graduated from Portland State University with a B.S. in General Biology. During her senior year as an undergraduate she was a part of an Outdoor Education class and it really sparked a love for sharing the natural world with children (and adults) and she has been pursuing a career in the field ever since. Her passions are conservation, science education, and going on adventures outside in nature. Hiking and anything involving the water are her favorites. She loves to share her passions with others to help foster connections between the people and their communities especially while restoring local critical habitats. She hopes that the Environmental Education M.S. Program at Southern Oregon University will give her the tools to help better serve her community and the environment in the future.

 

LAUREN

Lauren Perkinson Science has always appealed to Lauren, and from a young age she sought to explore the natural world. Her love for the sciences carried her all the way to college, when she chose to study at Colorado State University. Initially, her passions led her to major in Sports Medicine, where she focused on studying Anatomy and Physiology. Her goal was to use this degree as stepping stone to PT school, however, she ended up choosing an entirely different career path about halfway through her college career. Lauren ended up graduating with a degree in Biological Sciences (Ecology concentration) and a minor in Anthropology. She got her first taste of teaching during her undergraduate studies, and quickly realized that science education was her calling! This realization ultimately led to her admission to the M.S. in Environmental Education and M.A. in Teaching programs here at SOU. Lauren looks forward to using the skills she will gain in these programs to ignite an interest in the sciences within diverse groups of young learners.

 

MACKMack Stamper was born and raised in the deciduous forests of central Ohio, and spent most of his childhood outdoors, either playing sports or hiking with his dad. Always an animal lover, he graduated from Otterbein University with a B.A. in Zoo and Conservation Science. A big fan of travel, Mack has traveled all across the United States, and has taken trips to Costa Rica, the Caribbean, and Europe. During an internship with the Houston Zoo, Mack learned about the Environmental Education M.S. program at SOU, and fell in love the program. During his time in the program, he hopes to learn more about and refine his skills in education, advocacy, and management, as well as provide a wonderful educational experience for children and adults alike around the Rogue Valley.

 

cortCourtney Stewart grew up in rural mid-Michigan with a love for nature and science. Courtney’s career trajectory in college was to be a scientist, but specifically a scientist that dealt with current environmental issues. She pursued a B.S. with a focus in Environmental Geoscience at Michigan State University. It is here she received her experience in applied research and realized her interest in science communication and civic engagement. Courtney discovered the Environmental Education M.S. Program and moved to Ashland to attend. Through this program Courtney will develop further as a scientist and researcher while growing as an educator, an individual and an active member in her community. She hopes to make education fun and exciting, encouraging motivation and passion to blossom in individuals; leading with her action and desire for knowledge

Introducing…Cohort 12!

Discover the new faces of the M.S. of Environmental Education Program:

WhitneyWhitney Anderson is a native Oregonian. Her upbringing was rooted in the exploration of endless wilderness opportunities. Through outdoor adventure, she developed a curiosity for her local aquatic life and habitats. However, study abroad experience in high school took her to faraway places. The travel bug had bitten her, leading her to earn her Bachelor’s degree in International Studies from the University of Oregon. But, her care for the environment never waned. Upon graduating, she began working for the Bureau of Land Management as a River Ranger on Oregon’s Wild and Scenic Rivers. Various other experiences, including teaching salmon education programs and helping with threatened fish species research, made her realize that her true aspiration was to help others cultivate an innate fascination with the environment as well.

Marina

Marina Bohn grew up in a small town in the East Bay of California, exploring the oak woodlands, creeks and open space of Mt Diablo State Park. She always loved water and was on the swim team since she was 5 years old. Her love for water led her to the University of California Santa Barbara to get her Bachelors of Science in Hydrology with an emphasis on Ecology and Biology. She developed a deep love for the ocean with surfing, freediving, kayaking and traveling as her favorite activities. The ocean is one of her greatest teachers and led her to be a sea cave kayak guide and naturalist for 6 years in Channel Islands National Park. Being a guide developed her passion to teach people about science and their environment and she later landed with a Santa Barbara nonprofit, Wilderness Youth Project. This nonprofit focuses on nature connection and instilling appreciation of and confidence in nature for children. The relationships she developed inspired her to continue her education at Southern Oregon University in the Master of Science in Environmental Education as well as a Masters of Arts in Teaching for Single Subject Biology. She hopes to inspire people to love science as much as she does and to one day start a school.

Courtney

Courtney Buel originally hails from the San Francisco Bay Area. While living in California, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology from the University of California, Santa Cruz. There she learned how to scuba-dive in the kelp forests of Monterey and enjoy the therapeutic benefits of being surrounded by nature. This passion ultimately led her to spend a summer on Catalina Island, teaching children how to scuba dive and identify marine species. After that summer, she became a marine science educator in San Francisco, teaching students about the ocean and connecting them with an environment that she loves dearly. She is also pursuing a Certificate in Nonprofit Management and hopes to one day be a Director of a marine science conservation nonprofit. In her free time, she likes to explore and enjoy nature with friends (and of course, splash in the ocean!).

AndyAndy Dwyer is an upstate New York native where he remembers fun times with family and friends in the Adirondack Mountains. While pursuing his undergraduate degree in Horticulture from Oregon State University, he moved to Bend, OR with his wife. There he completed an internship in restoration horticulture. For five years, they lived in Bend, finished their degrees together, and started a native plant nursery and restoration business. An enjoyable part of his work was running volunteer groups, educating the public on land use, and working in environmental education with local schools on Central Oregon watersheds. The fun stuff of his business led him to SOU’s MS in Environmental Education program. The cohort model, hands-on approach of the program, and the development for Fall in the Field is inspiring. In his free time, he enjoys road-tripping, camping with his family, strolling around town with his 2-year-old son, Grahm, and board gaming with the cohort.

KarinaKarina Hassell comes from the “bridge of the world, heart of the universe,” also known as Panama. From a young age, this city girl was encouraged to explore her surroundings through science. Following her love for science and due to Panama’s strategic location, she studied Maritime Transportation Engineering at the Universidad Tecnológica de Panamá. She later obtained a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Arkansas. However, it was through varied professional opportunities that she found a way to combine all her passions: science, education, and development. Witnessing firsthand the tremendous impact a good educator can have in a child’s life, she decided to pursue a Master in Environmental Education. She is thrilled to be part of Cohort 12 and ready to absorb as much knowledge from the program and region. Her goal is to provide learning opportunities for those who are curious and especially for those who are socially disadvantaged.

SunyaSunya Ince-Johannsen received her undergraduate degree in Environmental Studies: Ecology and Conservation from Southern Oregon University. She is now pursuing a double Masters in Environmental Education and Teaching. In her free time, she loves snowboarding, hiking with her dogs, botanizing, and kitesurfing! 

Michael

Michael Kaufman is from Menlo Park, CA. Michael completed his undergraduate studies at Texas Christian University, where he received a BS in Environmental Science and a minor in Human-Animal Relations. He is pursuing the Masters Teaching program for Single Subject Integrated Sciences in addition to the Masters in Environmental Education. He is a self-proclaimed semi-professional napper, an avid lover of all things Disney, and a volleyball player since he was 10. Lastly, he has a passion for animal studies, namely mammals and reptiles, and one day would like to teach high school animal sciences.

Brenda

Brenda Miller spent her undergrad days at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Washington. There she got her Bachelor of Science in Biology with a double major in Music. Brenda is also pursuing a Certificate of Nonprofit Management in addition to her Master’s degree. She loves to bird and cuddle with her ball python Cosmo. In addition to these hobbies, she also performs as a concert pianist.

NoraNora Seymour grew up in Massachusetts exploring the woods behind her house. She discovered her passion for environmental education while leading field trips in the permaculture garden at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where she received her BS in Sustainable Food and Farming. Since then she has continued to grow food, curiosity, and a love for nature with kids of all ages. Nora is excited to be a part of the thriving environmental education community in Southern Oregon. She is also adding on the Certificate in Nonprofit Management. In her spare time, you can find Nora adventuring outside with her partner and dog or at a bluegrass concert! 

Maya

Maya Shoemaker was born and raised in Santa Barbara and was blessed to spend her childhood exploring around her family home in the mountains, traveling around Central America and Mexico, homeschooling by a creek, and enjoying time in nature every day. She received a Bachelor of Science degree from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, with an emphasis on Environmental Education and Evolutionary Biology. After graduating, she spent a year traveling and volunteering in Europe and Asia. Her time included working on farms in Turkey, bringing underserved Nepali children outside for sit spots, trekking through the Himalayas, and working with Vietnamese children with disabilities. She has worked for over ten years with a nature-based mentoring non-profit called Wilderness Youth Project. She is currently pursuing a Master’s of Science in Environmental Education and a Masters of Arts in Teaching at SOU, as well as serving as the Farm Education Coordinator at the SOU Farm. In her free time, she loves to practice acro yoga, make things with her hands, sing, dance, and explore nature with friends.

Monique

Monique Streit grew up in Yosemite and Grand Canyon National Park and spent her free time exploring the woods and trails within the park. This has sparked a love of nature and all national park sites. A goal of hers is to visit all national parks someday. She spent many years working for the National Park Service as an interpretive ranger and in the maintenance division, creating signs for roads and trails in the national park. Monique has always had a passion for teaching and received a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, AZ. From there, she taught 4th grade for five years, but specifically math and science for the last two years. While teaching, Monique organized an outdoor and environmental club for third through fifth graders. Students developed a deeper understanding of the environments surrounding the school, learned about native plants and animals in Northern Arizona, and helped maintain an outdoor classroom and wildlife and nature trail on the school campus. Her love of nature and education has led her to pursue an M.S. in Environmental Education from SOU. She hopes to inspire a love of learning and an appreciation for our environment in people of all ages through environmental education!

Sami

Sami Wolniakowski feels that educating and caring for children is second nature to her. As a teenager, she became a certified ski instructor and taught children and adults of all ages how to downhill ski. In these years, she discovered her zeal for educating, and this enthusiasm ultimately led her to pursue a B.A. in Education from St. Norbert College in Wisconsin. Entering the world as a new graduate, she started work at the Multnomah County Outdoor School in Oregon. After this position, she worked as a naturalist/science teacher at Teton Science School in Jackson, Wyoming, for two years. During her time spent at Teton Science School, she was able to discover the importance of utilizing the outdoor environment as her classroom. She is excited to pursue her Master’s of Environmental Education at SOU and looks forward to continuing her development and growth as an educator.

Jessica

Jessica Zuzack grew up in rural Pennsylvania, exploring the fields, forests, and creeks in her backyard.  Her love of connecting to nature and optimism for finding solutions to environmental issues led her to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Sustainability at Philadelphia University.  She gained valuable experience in sustainable food systems, conservation, and community partnership from AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer work, an internship abroad, and work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service. She is very excited to be a part of the Masters of Environmental Education program and looks forward to a future of engaging kids of all ages in outdoor learning. In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors, yoga, dance, cooking, and knitting.

Weekend Adventures to the Coast – Pacific Wren

by Emily Lind

Imagine being four inches tall and living beneath 300 foot Redwood trees. That’s life for the Pacific Wren living on the California coast. These itty-bitty wrens lurk around in the understory, rarely perching in one place long enough for us to get a decent look. When you do finally get a good look, they never disappoint. With a good pair of binoculars and the right lighting, this seemingly drab brown bird displays fine barring of chestnut, brown, and beige; a cocked, stout tail, and a beautiful song that goes on and on. They are simply delightful.Emily 2

Ashland is only two hours from the coast and Jedidiah Smith Redwood State Park. Weekend adventuring oftentimes takes us graduate students to Crescent City to surf, walk the beaches, and hike beneath the giant redwoods. Pacific wrens litter the dense understory of the dark forest floor. Towering above are Redwood trees so tall it’s as if their crowns reach the heavens. Standing next to these thousand-year-old giants, one feels incredibly tiny. I wonder how the Pacific Wren feels.Emily 1

One particular wren I watched for several minutes was in the middle of preparing lunch. I am not personifying; this Pacific Wren was trying to kill an insect that was as big as she was. This long-legged shield bug had antennae that were as long as the four inch bird. Over and over she pecked the bug with her small, needle-like beak. Peck, flitter, peck, flitter, hop, peck, peck, flitter. Over and over she ruthlessly went after her meal. The resemblance to me trying to tackle an overstuffed burrito at the local Taqueria was uncanny. Thankfully my burrito lunch doesn’t fight me back. The bug resisted, trying to crawl away on its long, hinged legs. It even tried grabbing onto the wren’s face as pecks were reigning down on it. From my point of view, the wren had the upper hand, but not by much. Eventually the wren and her lunch disappeared from view. I can only imagine she finally got a chance to relax and enjoy a hard-earned meal.

Aspen

By Elva Manquera

elva1Photos by Crystal Nichols

Vesper Meadow is a nature preserve near Ashland, OR. It has many beautiful and mesmerizing features, but one of its most noticeable is the three Aspen stands. These stands line the field with amazing colors throughout the seasons and hundreds of people a year get to enjoy their beauty from the road. I first came to be engulfed by the aspen when I started my beaver research at Vesper Meadow. Aspen are a very important food staple for beaver and the bulk of the beaver activity at Vesper can be found at the Aspen stands.

One of the reasons Aspen are so noticeable is becs making them a single organism. ause of their ecological uniqueness from the surrounding pine. Aspen have thin round green leaves that shimmer in the wind and turn a vibrant yellow in the fall. Their bark is a greenish color that turns white with age. The green color in the bark is from chlorophyll, the chlorophyll photosynthesizes all throughout the year providing the Aspen with sugars. This feeds the Aspen during the winter months when they lose their leaves. These sugars also provide food for local wildlife including black bears, deer, elk, beavers, porcupine and rodents. This means that livestock are attracted to these tasty trees. Without limited access livestock will eat the saplings of the Aspen potentially wiping out a local population due to the lack of replacement.elva2

Another key feature of the Aspen is their reproduction. Aspen have two ways of reproducing by seed and by root sprouts. Root sprouting is the most common way for Aspen to reproduce. This makes the trees in an Aspen stand genetically identical, because all the trees in a single stand are connected by roots making them a single organism.

Unfortunately, these beautiful trees are in peril. Aspen require moist soil for survival, but with human caused climate change aspen are being impacted by raising climates, drought, emerging insect outbreaks and conifer encroachment. One of things people can do to help protect these trees from disappearing is through controlled burns. Controlled burns can help keep back the encroaching conifers, giving the aspen a fighting chance. enjoyed by organisms big or small.

Aspen are a beautiful tree that can be enjoyed by organisms big or small. Go take the time to sit under a stand of aspen and find out why they are so magnificent.

Imagine

By Nicole Ferer

Sometimes walking through the valley, longing for the mountains, I imagine:
And there, in the wooded world of my imagination,
it’s raining a little and there are clouds
resting on the tips of the trees, rivers sleeping by the path.
Everything’s moving, not too much but just enough.
God, the way nature moves (me).
I slip in a dark forest green trance
like how the raindrops slide down my clasped hands,
and I try to brand the pictures in my head
so I can open them all up later
when I forget how real moss growing on a tree feels,
or how the river never stops flowing
no matter what you try to throw in its way.

Photo Credit: Crystal Nichols

Art as an Educational Medium

By Lauren Perkinson

I have always enjoyed the creative process. I find drawing and painting to be incredibly soothing, and take comfort in the therapeutic nature of creating art. The process of creating has always been emotionally significant to me, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized how I can use my artwork as a tool in environmental education.

lauren fish
Adult Coho Salmon – Oncorhynchus kisutch

Art is one of many mediums that can inspire an audience to take action or learn more about a subject. In effective environmental education, students are also inspired to move from awareness into action. To me, it seems appropriate to merge the two and examine how we can inspire our students to explore the natural sciences through art.

luaren moose
Bull Shiras Moose – Alces alces shirasi

Recently I’ve focused on drawing portraits of animals. The goal with these portraits is to focus the viewer in on a single subject, drawing their attention to the details of the animal rather than elements of the background. Ideally, this type of work inspires questions about the animal. Through encouraging viewers to form their own questions about each species, these portraits can act as an educational medium. In the future, I hope to continue exploring how I can best channel my creative energy into projects that inspire people to learn more about the natural world.

 

luaren eagle
The beginning stages of a portrait. Bald Eagle – Haliaeetus euocephalus

 

Living Light

The inland waters of the Salish Sea in northern Washington offer something special. During July and August, the waters warm, and it becomes the best time of year to see the magical natural phenomenon- bioluminescence. What is bioluminescence, you ask? Bioluminescence is a natural light phenomenon that occurs in organisms such as fireflies, deep-sea fishes, jellyfish, etc. The name itself means, “life” and, “light.” In the case of the Salish Sea, the organisms you would be looking for are much smaller. Plankton the size of quinoa fill the incredibly nutrient-rich waters, and at night when disturbed, the plankton will emit a visible blue light to ward off predators. For the plankton, their light is their survival. For us, it is an ethereal and surreal experience.

The San Juan Islands nestled within the Salish Sea are within the top 5 places in the world to spot bioluminescence. On a warm summer evening after a clear day of sun and a night with little moonlight, explore any of the small bays, inlets, or harbors in search of this natural beauty. The waves brush the shorelines and leave trails of glowing small blue sparkles. You can go on a night kayak trip and float the waters while you watch the specks glow with each brush of your paddle through the water. As your kayak trails blue swirls, you will see small flashes beneath you as startled fish or seals dart away and leave dashes of light behind them. You may choose to simply stand or lay over the edges of docks and see the sides sparkle while barnacles and small fish are wafting and darting to and fro. You can run your hands through the water and watch your fingertips glow blue and leave trails of sparkling light behind. The light emitted from these organisms is organic and fleeting, needed only momentarily to support the critter and then vanishing in an instant. It can best be described as magical, perhaps even as one of the best natural experiences one could enjoy.

bio-luminescence

 

I hope at some point in your life you’re able to see this natural occurrence for yourself. Words hardly do it justice, and photographs are unable to touch just how beautiful it is. Nature has some pretty incredible adaptations and uniqueness that should be enjoyed, so get yourself outside and find as much as you can!

 

My Growing Edge

By Leia Jeantae Althauser, CPBT-KA

Life is a constantly changing, amorphous learning experience. Just when you think you have one thing figured out, you realize there is still so much to learn.

For the last five years I’ve ran a raptor center in Alaska and worked at an aquarium on the Oregon Coast as a professional bird trainer. Working with animals and learning the basics of behavior and learning have been a life, and personality changing experience. As is turns out, all animals (human and non) learn the same way. There may be different methods and strategies of teaching, but the concepts and the principles behind learning are the exact same, for all species.

Leia Eagke
Before ever asking a raptor to step up on to my glove, I spend copious amounts of time relationship building with the animal. It’s important that we trust another before working together in such a close capacity.

The fact that humans and non-human animals all learn the same is an intriguing discussion that could fill another blog.  Now though, I would like to focus on my growing edge. This is an aspect of my life I thought I was excelling, when in fact, I was likely failing my mentees and peers.

I’ve just finished my third month of graduate school at Southern Oregon University in the Environmental Education Program. I chose to take this route because I enjoy training college-aged students to work with animals and give conservation education programs to the public. Prior to my entry into graduate school, I learned how to teach via experience—I was thrown into it without any training and so I taught in the ways of my predecessor. As I learn more about curriculum development and lesson planning, I cringe to think of my first-year teaching six college interns from across the country. It’s apparent I could have set them up for a more conducive learning experience.

However, beyond planning more effective curriculum, I failed my interns in a way that was not even on my radar (but should have been). In the empowerment training world, we have a few guiding principles which include:

    • Antecedent arrangement sets the stage for successful learning.
    • Choice and control are primary reinforcers animals will always work toward acquiring, thus they should always be offered.
    • The quicker the reinforcement, the more quickly a behavior will be modified.
    • Clear and direct communication is necessary.
    • Strong relationships build the foundation of trust.

It’s the last bullet point that I have realized I have failed those around me, although it hasn’t been until recently that I have been able to acknowledge it. Within the last month, my graduate cohort has done a variety of self-surveys to figure out our various personality types, organizational methodologies and conflict resolution styles. After taking all the tests, it turns out I’m a collaborating, concrete random, “commander” (ENTJ). The T in the ENTJ personality type means I am a thinker. Like the name “commander” states, thinkers are driven by goals and extremely focused on efficiency and the perfection of tasks. Thus far, I have been proud of my thinking abilities.

Potluck 10-19
Ten members of cohort 11, and our fearless leader, Linda, doing lots of relationship building at our fall potluck.

However, after reading other cohort members’ descriptions of their personalities, it dawned on me that I had done little to get to know them as individuals. This realization was like walking into a door. My focus on efficiency had led to me neglecting the relationships with my mentees and peers. Sure, I’m friendly and chipper most days, but I rarely ask people how they are doing, or what is going on in their lives. The thinker side of me may make me an efficient administrator, but it has also shadowed peoples’ feelings.

For me, this realization is profound because I would never work with an animal whom I did not have a strong, trusting relationship with. I would never expect an animal to trust me and my “expertise” without first proving I am sensitive to their body language and willing to give them control. In fact, when I very first begin to work with an animal, I focus purely on relationship building. It was a face-palm moment: If I understand the importance of relationships, why have I been neglecting the relationships with my human peers?

Relationship building, my growing edge. My aims are now to take a step back and see how my peers are engaging and check in with how they are doing. My growing edge is to cultivate relationships with my peers so that we may trust and rely on one another as we make decisions together.

I’ve been thankful for this opportunity to get to know a little more about myself and my peers. Knowing our personalities and styles is not only important for us as individuals, but also helps us know about one another as a cohort. Over the course of the next year, our 14-member cohort will be designing an eight-week environmental education program from the ground, up. This means a lot of decision making and collaborating. This means a variety of personality types, organizational methods and conflict management styles trying to work together to create a premier program. This, is my opportunity to build relationships and create a “trust account” with my peers.   

Discovering natural wonders with the M.S. in Environmental Education Program