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Habitat – What’s That?

First came the SOU M.S. Environmental Education graduate students, ready to teach a Fall in the Field program at Ashland Pond.

Next came the graduate students a year behind them, ready to observe, lend a hand, and take notes for next year’s Fall in the Field program.

Then, finally, came the bus full of yippity, skippity, second graders, full of questions and desires, ready to explore.

Excited to be at Ashland Pond
Ready to have fun!

“Where is the pond?”

“When is lunch?”

“Are there any animals?”

“How far is it?”

“This one time…”

The students wasted no time and were finding scat, tracks, birds’ nests, and more treasures as soon as they hit the trail.

Bird food - Ashland Pond
“This seed is food for a bird!” One student showed another.

During their walk around Ashland Pond they learned about habitat – how food, water, shelter, and air make up a habitat. Through a nature scavenger hunt they found the elements that make up the habitat at Ashland Pond.

Students practiced “fox walking”, walking very quietly and deliberately so not to scare off animals. They cupped their hands around their ears to form “deer ears” to hear well. They also used “owl eyes” to use their peripheral vision to detect movement.

Some of the students saw a Steller’s jay. An instructor described how the Steller’s jay has an interdependent relationship with the forest. The bird needs the forest for building materials for its nest and berries for food and the forest relies on the Steller’s jay for seed dispersal. The students looked for more interdependent relationships.

At the end of their walk, students made a topographic map of the area that included their school and Ashland Pond. Students learned about their watershed and how what we do as humans on the land can affect places like at Ashland Pond.

Watershed demo - Ashland Pond
One student very seriously offered to be the river guardian to make sure no one polluted.

After a quick break for lunch, students helped restore specific habitats around Ashland Pond. Invasive Himalayan blackberries had recently been removed and native plants were planted in their place. Students helped put mulch around the native plants, which would hold in moisture and keep out the invasive blackberries.

Protecting native plants - Ashland Pond
“Make a fortress around your plant!” Exclaimed an instructor.

The students loved it, gathering bucketfuls of mulch to build a fortress for every plant.

After all of their hard work, the students had one more important mission. As a class they planted their own native red osier dogwood along the bank of Ashland Creek. As the tree grows, it will help stabilize the bank, provide shade, and act as a food source for animals.

Planting a new tree - Ashland Pond
Each student contributed a handful of soil to help their new native tree grow.

An instructor explained that the students could come back and visit their tree anytime. “I also have something special that you can take home,” she added, producing a small bag of milkweed seeds.

She explained the interdependent relationship between monarch butterflies and milkweed. Monarch butteries will only lay their eggs in milkweed and the larvae will only eat the milkweed leaves. The adult monarchs help pollinate the milkweed. Sadly, milkweed is in decline. There is milkweed at Ashland Pond and people are planting more to help the monarch butteries on their long migration – all the way from Mexico to Canada! Also, we as humans rely on pollinators like the monarch butterfly for our food. By planting milkweed, we can help the milkweed and monarchs, and in turn ourselves.

Milkweed seeds - Ashland Pond
Each student received their own packet of milkweed seeds to plant wherever they desired.

At last the time had come to say goodbye. The instructors waved their second grader friends farewell.

But the day didn’t end there. The instructors (Cohort 9 members) sat down with the new graduate students (Cohort 10) and their trusty professor, Linda, to debrief the day.

Debrief - Ashland Pond
They discussed what went well and what could have gone better.

At the end of the day, what mattered most to all of us was that the students had fun and learned something new.

Laughter in the lesson - Ashland Pond

I think we accomplished that.

Written by: Hope Braithwaite

Photos by: Mikell Nielsen


Flying Home

The erratic weather patterns of late winter seem to be the signal for birds to return to the Klamath Basin.  Some will stay in southern Oregon for the warmer months while others just lay over here as they journey along the Pacific Flyway.  With over 350 bird species migrating through the area and a significant concentration of bald eagles, the Klamath Basin is a winter haven for birds and birders alike.

I have been doing my own bit of migrating lately.  As a nontraditional student with a family and a career, I commute from my home in Keno, OR driving 110 miles a day to attend graduate school at SOU.  Imagine then, my delight, when our program director decided to lead a birding trip to the Klamath Basin to view Ferruginous Hawks and other migratory birds.  I would finally have the opportunity to share my home with these people who have become my second flock.     

Early on that crisp March morning, seven members of the Environmental Education cohort piled into Subaru Outbacks (stereotypical, right?) to make the journey from Ashland to Keno.  They came in their own kind of winter plumage dressed in cold weather gear, and equipped with binoculars, spotting scopes, and bird guides.

Owls_Klamath Basin_By JohnWe started the day along Townsend Rd., a.k.a. “raptor road” due to the plethora of birds of prey which can be found there.  We saw Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Rough-Legged Hawks hunting the open fields.  The highlight of raptor road was two Great Horned Owls perched above an irrigation ditch. John, the photographer of our group, cautiously made his way around the canal to capture this amazing photograph just before the owls took flight down the canal.  

Flock_Klamath Basin_By JohnNext, we moved on to the Klamath Wildlife Refuge along Stateline Rd.  This vast marsh area is home to abundant water fowl and shore birds.  It was salt and pepper skies as thousands of Ross’s Geese flew in.  Our professor had fun challenging us to a game of ‘name that waterfowl’ as we fumbled through our bird books trying to identify the many species on the water.  I can definitively say that we all got the Northern Pintail right.  

Sandhills_Klamath Basin_By JohnJust outside of the refuge, we spotted Sandhill Cranes mixed in with livestock drinking from a pond.   Joyful expletives were shouted as we rushed out of the cars to get a better view of the birds which for some in the group was their first crane encounter.  This moment depicted all that I love about living in the Klamath Basin: spectacular natural resources, wildlife, and people, existing in juxtaposition.   

Fruggy_Klamath Basin_By JohnThe final leg of our trip took us across the California border near Dorris to find Golden Eagles, Bald Eagles, and Ferruginous Hawks.  At one point, we found all three perched on a single irrigation line.  As I watched these large birds of prey take off and soar above us, I couldn’t help but be envious of their ability to fly (it sure would make my commute easier).  

As we pulled into my driveway at the end of the day, we noticed a Merlin resting on a utility post across the street.  One last bird to close out this epic birding adventure.    

To learn more about birding in the Klamath Basin, visit .

 Below is the full list of birds we saw on this trip.  

-Common Raven

-Lewis’s Woodpecker

-Stellar’s Jay

-American Robin

-Black-billed Magpie

– Great Blue Heron

– Canada Geese

-Rough-legged Hawk


-Red-winged Blackbird


-Red-tailed Hawk (Dark morphs and regular plumage)

-House Finch

-Great Horned Owl

-Common Merganser

-Common Goldeneye

-Lesser Scaup

-Tundra Swan

-Northern Pintail

-Greater White-fronted Goose

-American Wigeon


-Northern Shoveler

-Ruddy Duck (Winter plumage)

-American Coot

-Bald Eagle

-Ross’s Goose (One dark morph was spotted)

-Eared Grebe

-Sandhill Crane

-Ferruginous Hawk

-Say’s Phoebe

-Golden Eagle

-Northern Harrier

-American Kestrel

-Downy Woodpecker




+ 1 coyote

Written by:  Christy Vanrooyen

Pictures by:  John Ward

The Eco-talk & One of the Seven Wonders of Oregon

Southern Oregon University is home to a diversity of majors. With only 16 students, our Environmental Education Masters program is one of the smaller programs at SOU.  This year, we have students involved with the SOU Farm, KS Wild, Bee Girl, Rogue Valley Audubon Society, Sanctuary One, and countless other projects my Cohort will shame me for not mentioning. Working to better connect our program to campus resources and the student body, we have begun developing connections with other campus groups.

Two such groups, are the Ecology and Sustainability Resource Center (ECOS) and the Outdoor Adventure Leadership program (OAL). One common goal among our programs is to promote environmental stewardship. If we can’t respect the areas in which we like to recreate, the magic of those places is lost. Having forged relationships with ECOS and OAL through the involvement of our graduate students in campus activities, our program had a unique opportunity to educate students from a variety of majors on a Crater Lake snowshoeing trek. Unable to book a Park Ranger, ECOS and OAL reached out to our Environmental Education Master’s program to offer an ecological talk. Having learned about the history of the Pacific Northwest, Fish and Fisheries, and Invertebrate Biology from Fall courses, we were already well on our way to becoming suitable interpretive specialists ourselves. Delaying my studies an additional day, I took on the challenge of leading an ecological talk. On the ground, the 40 participants would soon learn the history of Crater Lake, the ecology of this unique geological feature and the organisms that inhabit this region.

Matt TalkI was thankful to get some insider information from our very own (former) Park Ranger, Ashley Waymouth. Apparently, February is among the best times to visit Crater Lake National Park. With some 20ft of white snowpack overlaying the giant rim of our hidden gem, it’s another world. A colosseum of jagged edge surrounds the deep blue waters of Crater Lake. To me, it appears prehistoric. To many Oregonians it’s one of the seven wonders of Oregon.

After winding through a beautiful maze of snow in sub-alpine forest, we reached the rim (some 7,000-8,000ft in elevation). Unable to see the lake from our position, participants were quick to strap our snowshoes on, learning a few tricks from the Outdoor Program (run by OAL students). Eager to get eyes on the site for my ecological talk, I set off with the first group of snowshoers. It wasn’t long before we encountered stories along the path.

Immediately, the first group encountered tracks in the snow! With perfectly placed tracks atop one another, at a slight angle, the tracks in view appeared to have 5 toes. Upon further inspection, following the spore up a steep embankment, 4 separate tracks emerged! Four small tracks with rounded toe pads, made their way towards an outcrop of trees. Clawless and less than 1.5”, it could only be one animal… the elusive bobcat! Active in winter, these carnivores hunt small mammals traveling through the snowpack. Few bear witness to their beauty, and we were fortunate to see sign of one.

Further ahead, rippling calls revealed a few robin-sized birds in the distance. This would be a perfect opportunity for our scheduled ecological talk! Only a mile or so in from Rim Village, participants were already sweating. I was, at least. It was a bright sunny day, and many were comfortable snowshoeing in a light sweatshirt or jacket. The snowshoes students had checked out from the SOU Outdoor Program were holding well. If only I had remembered my sunglasses! As we neared a clearing ahead, those robin-sized birds welcomed us to Discovery Point. They were Clarke’s Nutcrackers, a special species in this region. These birds are symbiants with the white bark pine that surround the rim of Crater Lake. White bark twisting, with scraggly branches, white bark pines may as well be the wizards of tree folk. These twisted trees support the Clarke’s Nutcracker with seeds from their cones. Few creatures are able to harvest seeds from their fortress cones. Clarke’s Nutcrackers are able to retrieve the seeds from within the cones and help distribute them. Foolishly forgetting some of their stashed seeds, these forgotten seeds will develop into saplings and form the next generation of white bark pine.

Students were also excited to learn about the history of Crater Lake National Park. Did you know that Crater Lake is North America’s deepest lake at 1,943ft! It’s also arguably the bluest (you’ll agree with me when you see it). With no inflow or outflow from the steep rocky rim that surrounds the lake, it certainly has the appearance of a crater. But this geological feature was once one of the towering peaks in Oregon. Mt. Mazama as it was known, was a large volcano built up by gaseous mounds upon mounds. When it blew some 7,700 years ago, spreading ash and pumice 10 square cubic miles, this massive giant collapsed forming a caldera. Over time, rain and snowmelt filled the caldera forming what we know today as Crater Lake. I could go on and on, and Ashley could tell you countless stories from her time as a Park Ranger… but we’re in graduate school. We don’t have time for that.

After our ecological talk at Discovery Point, Crater Lake. I passed around some pelts and other materials from our Educational Kits that our program checks out to schools across Southern Oregon. Learning comes easy when you’re able to use a variety of your senses, even for college students. This is a technique we have been practicing often in our program. In the end, I received several comments that the ecological talk was among the favorite experiences on the trip. That, and the Newman O cookies that were distributed at lunch.

Matt Talk 2


Written by: Matthew Solberg

Featured Photo by: Ashley Waymouth

Additional Photos by: Sydney Lund

In Search of Invertebrates.

On November 10th, several of our cohort members went on a field trip to the Oregon Institute of Marine Biology  (OIMB) with Dr. Carol Ferguson’s Invertebrate Zoology class.  The purpose of the field trip was to meet with biologists working on marine invertebrate research, observe marine invertebrates in their natural habitats, and have a fun experience in an exciting location.

OIMB is located on the Oregon Coast, in Charleston, OR, and acts as the marine station for the University of Oregon.  Upon arrival, the visiting students from Cohort 9, along with several other SOU students, quickly made themselves at home in the dorms and, then, went out for a night exploration of the Charleston Boat Docks.  Using flashlights and headlamps, students explored the nearby marina for anemones, sea stars, crabs and more, all of which utilize 15094288_10154325375494690_1494818490654910913_nthe docks for habitat.  The highlight of the evening was the discovery and observation of a marine polychaete swimming near the docks and responding to our flashlights.

The following morning, the visiting students were welcomed for a complete tour of the facility and were able to talk with several of the students that are currently studying at OIMB.  The institute houses undergraduate, graduate, and doctorate students as they take courses and pursue research projects in the field of marine biology.  The research happens on site in various labs with multiple saltwater tanks, scanning electron microscopes, a confocal microscope, and DNA analysis machines that utilize PCR to amplify DNA sequences.  Current research projects include how caffeine induces tetraploidy in certain inverts, how certain fatty acids are transferred through trophic levels and how parasites affect that transfer, and the reproductive cycle of cold-seep mussels in deep ocean ecosystems.  These are all very special opportunities for students, who get to explore topics, design their own projects, and carry them out.  This sometimes 20161111_100437includes the use of research vessels, including manned and unmanned submersibles.

Aside from touring OIMB, SOU students were also allowed to visit the Charleston Marine Life Center.  Here, they were able to touch and observe several unique species of marine invertebrates in touch tanks and aquariums.  Some of the more interesting ones included nudibranchs, armored sea slugs, and an octopus.  They were 20161111_113905also able to converse with some experts in marine biology and explore amazing exhibits about the local marine ecosystem.

After lunch, the class went tide-pooling at Cape Arago.  Armed with rain jackets, rubber boots, and laminated field guides, the students struck out searching for tidal invertebrates.  Thirty-four different marine species 15094264_10154325363749690_563838647025621390_nwere found including gumboot chiton, sea anemones, and multiple species of sea stars.  However, the most exciting might have been the clown nudibranch that was found by Melissa Donner and Morgyn Ellis.  

On the final morning at OIMB, the visiting students packed up, ate breakfast, and headed out to visit the Interpretive Center at the State of Oregon South Slough Estuarine Reserve, which was the first national marine reserve in the United States.  Here, students explored several exhibits about the importance of the South Slough Reserve and were able to buy some fun momentos at the gift shop.  They then returned to OIMB for a presentation from Scott Groth, the Pink Shrimp and South Coast Shellfish Project leader with the Oregon Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.  Scott shared his expertise with the invertebrate zoology class, discussing the multiple invertebrate fisheries in Oregon and how they are managed.

This all created a wonderful experience for everyone that was involved.  Hearing about ongoing research projects and getting to see and touch wild invertebrates sparked interest and fostered creativity in nearly every student on the trip, all of which was enhanced by the passion for the subject and expertise of Dr. Carol Ferguson.  And now for the question that we are all surely wondering… When can we go back?


Written By: John Ward

Photos By: Dr. Carol Ferguson, John Ward, Alessandro Broido, and Malia Sutphin

Recent Happenings on the Farm at SOU

The Farm at SOU is a place of so much opportunity and potential. Being a student-run organic farm, it is a place of trial and error, triumphs and mistakes, and a place where 20160928_093129more than just delicious produce is harvested! The farm supplies CSA shares each week during the summer to SOU students and staff, as well as sells a bulk of the produce to the dining services at SOU. The farm at SOU is one of the sites for Rogue Valley Farm to School harvest meal programs and the farm is piloting their Sustainability Farm School (SFS) this year! The SFS happens to be headed by two of our very own Environmental Education (EE) graduate students! Melissa Donner and Alessandro img_2586Broido have developed curriculum for school groups to come out for a “farm experience” day program. The lessons are all place-based and feature citizen science, nature empathy, service learning, or nutrition education components. This summer in our Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment class, our cohort was able to work together to write some amazing lessons to be used for the farm’s programs! Melissa just kicked off the farm’s afterschool program, Alessandro is working each week with a high school class on their farm project, and I recently planned a big fall sustainability event that was held at the farm called Octoberfeast. Other members of the cohort have had the chance to teach at the farm with the farm to school programs or the SFS’s teaching team. It has been a great place to gain experience doing EE in a very non-traditional setting. We are so lucky to have such a great learning laboratory right on campus! 

-Written by: Bekah Campbell

Cohort 9, Hello!

Over the past few months each member of Cohort 9 has found a new home here in Southern Oregon.  Read below for some brief biographies, and please stay posted as we begin to share our experiences in this beautiful area with you.

alessandro_broidoAlessandro Broido first discovered his love for nature and working with young people while volunteering in a rural Honduran community as a teenager. After building a life changing relationship with his host family, he continued to work with the youth-leadership organization Amigos de las Americas for three additional seasons in Mexico, Ecuador and most recently in Costa Rica directing cross-cultural volunteer trail projects in Carara National Park. After graduating from the University of San Francisco Alessandro moved to the remote northwest corner of California where he deepened his love for the natural world. He spent two years in Del Norte County discovering new avenues for working with youth as a school-based mentor in the garden, woodshop, and ropes course. He also directed a summer trail crew of high school students removing invasive weeds in the Six Rivers National Recreation Area and led a Redwood Canopy Tour Zip Line. The following two years he spent working for the Smith River Alliance coordinating volunteer projects and counting salmon during the spawning season. Today, Alessandro enjoys surfing, ultimate frisbee, hiking, catching amphibians, playing music and brainstorming creative farm-based lesson plans.



Ashley Waymouth hails from the rolling hills and spring-fed rivers of the Central Texas Hill Country. After receiving a history degree from Texas State University, she unexpectedly fell in love with the crystal clear San Marcos River. This connection was so strong, it ultimately altered the course of her life and led her down the path of environmental activism and education. Sharing and exploring nature has been the source of Ashley’s passion for the last six years, leading her to work as an educator, a community organizer, and most recently as a park ranger at Crater Lake National Park. Ashley loves to deeply listen to the natural world and strives to be a voice for the voiceless. She sees storytelling as a bridge between connecting everyday people with science and is excited to create alluring E.E. curriculum. Ashley’s desire to have an even greater impact on her community has led her to SOU’s Environmental Education program and she is delighted to be working with such an amazing cohort.


becky_yaegerBecky Yaeger grew up in Baltimore County, Maryland and spent lots of time recreating with her family by hiking, camping, kayaking and traveling. She attended Ithaca College in Ithaca, NY and earned a BA in Psychology while exploring the beautiful Finger Lakes, gorges, and forests of central New York. During and after college, she instructed with a youth program called Primitive Pursuits in Ithaca, and she became passionate about getting youth outdoors and connected to nature while learning wilderness survival skills and nature awareness. After college, Becky and her husband, Matt, road tripped across country twice and decided to relocate to Bend, Oregon where they explored mountains, lakes, high desert, and downhill skiing in Central Oregon. Becky worked for Cascade WILDS (Wilderness Immersion Learning Discovering Surviving), a 4-H youth program that Matt founded and instructed. She also studied to become an Oregon Master Naturalist, and then interned at the Environmental Center as an Outdoor School Intern and with Discover Your Forest as a Winter Conservation Education intern. After earning her MS in Environmental Education at SOU, Becky will continue tackling Nature Deficit Disorder by providing nature immersion programming in preschool, after school, and summer camp settings.



Bekah Campbell grew up in South Carolina, where she always had a passion for being a
teacher and being outdoors. It only made since to pursue a degree in Outdoor Education at Montreat College near Asheville, NC. After guiding people in outdoor adventures for a while, she realized she wanted to know more about everything in the natural world and connect people to their importance. It became more and more important to her to protect wild spaces that she loves to backpack, hike, bike, climb, and ski in. After marrying her amazing husband, she worked for 4 years in upstate New York for an academic and outdoor leadership program. The wild west began to call and the Campbells moved to Mammoth California to be ski instructors, and there decided she wanted to pursue a masters in her true passion.

christy_vanrooyenChristy VanRooyen
is a southern Oregon native, who developed a love for nature while exploring the forests near her childhood home.  Her insatiable scientific curiosity led her to earn a bachelor’s degree in Applied Environmental Sciences from Oregon Institute of Technology (OT). She gained extensive research experience as an air quality inspector and a geographic information system (GIS) analyst prior to beginning a career in academia.  She is currently an instructor at OT, where she teaches introductory chemistry, nutrition, and the occasional environmental course.  She spends her down time hiking and backpacking with her husband and three children.   Christy hopes to utilize her education and experiences to promote natural resource conservation and motivate people to pursue their own outdoor adventures.



Elizabeth Schyling very much wanted to be a zookeeper when she grew up.  Then, she went to Yale and studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and thought, perhaps, she would like to be a population ecologist when she grew up.  After the folks at Yale said, “Nice, well done, move along now,” she moved to Washington to live on a volcano and somehow tricked people into paying her to hike and play with small mammals.  One day, while yammering at some high schoolers about neotenic salamanders at Mount St. Helens, she had a bit of an existential crisis and thought, perhaps, she would like to teach when she grew up.  So she came to SOU, where she now thinks she might not grow up after all but has made a very good choice anyway.


erinn_holmesErinn Holmes originally hails from the rolling hills of northern Illinois, where she spent some period of every day on the back of a horse or with her toes buried in the mud. She fled to rural Wisconsin for her BS in biology at University of Wisconsin – Platteville, she was so inspired by the many facets of the natural world that she changed her career path a whole six times. During her time there, she got to spend two summers under the star-lit sky studying the impacts of White Nose Syndrome on local bat populations, which sparked her interest in research. But, after every ecology class she took, she found herself enthusiastically rushing home to her English-major roommate to share the knowledge she’d gained about the world around them. After considering many career options (seriously), it became clear that she wanted to invoke the joy in others that the natural world brings out in her. She found SOU and made the 36-hour trek across the US to join this cohort of environmental educators and has never looked back. She looks forward to a career in environmental education that allows her to minimize the gap between the scientific community and the general public. In her free time, Erinn loves to explore Oregon by foot, kayak, and ski with her cohort and trusty sidekick, a pup named Nova.



Eva Roberts grew up in the mountains of Montana, and has long called the rugged wilderness her home away from home. Eva spent her final semester at Montana State University student teaching in New Zealand, which sparked an immense passion for travel. After obtaining her B.S. in Elementary Education, Eva sought out a volunteer teaching experience in Austria, which allowed her to explore the mountains and cultural experiences of Europe extensively. Soon after, Eva fell in love with SCUBA diving, and traveled to faraway places to submerge herself in foreign oceans. Throughout all of this, Eva still aspired to connect people and educate communities about what truly matters to her – the great outdoors. That is what brought her to the Master’s of Science in Environmental Education program at Southern Oregon University. It is her dream to help others recognize and appreciate the natural world as much as she does. Eva hopes to incorporate her sense of adventure and love for the wild in a life-long career based around environmental education.


hope-braithwaiteHope Braithwaite spent much of her childhood romping through the forests and deserts in her backyard in southern Utah. Her passion for the outdoors grew from those experiences exploring, hiking, and searching for her favorite rock, agate. Hope attended Utah State University (USU) and earned a B.S. in Wildlife Science. During the summers she helped on research projects, from conducting plant surveys in the Colorado Plateau to trapping geese in the Yukon Delta, Alaska. With the help of fantastic advisors and a co-researcher, Hope conducted a research project to identify diet supplements for elk management. Although Hope found great joy in being outdoors collecting data that could help answer important ecological questions, she felt that something was missing. When Hope worked for Water Quality Extension at USU she found her missing piece, environmental education. Hope loved learning, sharing her newfound knowledge with others, and then watching those students explore and make their own discoveries. Ultimately, Hope would like to have a career in environmental education with public outreach and research components. She is thrilled to be in the environmental education graduate program at Southern Oregon University, and wants to thank her family and friends for their continued support and encouragement.

John Ward grew up on a small farm in southwestern Missouri.john_ward  There, his curiosity for nature was nourished spending time in the woods on the farm, fishing at local lakes and streams, and hunting with his father.  John attended Missouri State University, where he received a B.S. in Biology with and emphasis in Wildlife.  While attending college, John worked part time for the Wonders of Wildlife Museum, developing and implementing environmental education curriculum for a wide variety of groups.  One of his favorite experiences was helping to train teen volunteers to handle educational animals and present them at public events.  These experiences helped develop John’s passion for education and led him to a position, teaching outdoor science education at Hancock Field Station through the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (OMSI).  While employed with OMSI, John developed his skills as an educator and, after two seasons, decided he wanted to take his skills to the classroom.  He moved to Corvallis, OR and started working at a Boys & Girls Club afterschool program and teaching at an alternative school for rehabilitating youth.  John hopes to leave the Environmental Education program with the skills to bring project based learning to the public school setting as a high school biology teacher.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALianne Bailey is an Oregonian who calls Gresham and the Portland area home. Growing up, she loved going on family hikes and camping trips on Mt. Hood and down the Columbia Gorge. As an undergraduate at Pacific University of Oregon, she continued to explore the state’s natural wonders while earning a degree in Environmental Studies. After graduating, Lianne found enjoyment working at summer camps in the Cascades and at after school programs with the YMCA. She then stayed in the Portland area, working as an educator for the Columbia Slough Watershed Council during the school year and as a nature day camp instructor during the summers. In the fall of 2015, Lianne got the chance to be a Field Instructor for the Portland metro area’s Outdoor School. She loved the combination of outdoor science education and the innate community building that happens when people live and learn together. She came down to southern Oregon to join the Environmental Education and Masters of Teaching programs at SOU. She is looking forward to working with some amazing educators and exploring more of this beautiful area.



Morgyn Ellis has spent the better part of her life living at the intersection of salt marshes, preserved forest, and the Atlantic Ocean in her home state of New Jersey. Having grown to love these environments she earned a B.S. in Environmental Science and found out the best way to protect what you love is to get others to love and care about it too, prompting her to switch gears and pursue a career in outdoor education. Since then, she has been an educator in New Jersey, South Carolina, California, and finally Oregon. She is passionate about sensitive ecosystems and sharing the fascinating facts of nature with those young and old! While not working towards her Master’s she can be found outdoors exploring all the wonders that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.


malia_sutphinMalia Sutphin grew up in Seward which is a small coastal town in south-central Alaska. Growing up she enjoyed spending time in nature and around all kinds of animals. As a child she grew up on a goat farm and learned about proper animal care and husbandry. She completed her bachelor’s degree in Anchorage, Alaska at the University of Alaska Anchorage in Environment and Society. Throughout her college career she worked seasonally for Kenai Fjords National Park as an interpretive ranger. After completing college she shifted federal gears and spent the summer as an interpretive ranger for Fish and Wildlife at Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge. It was here Malia’s love for environmental education fully blossomed. Malia then spent the next two years traveling internationally with her sister, road tripping through Alaska, and working for the Department of Natural Resources-Public Information Center. In her free time Malia loves spending time with her guinea pigs Mr. Lahey and Baloo, working on crafts, and biking. She loves Southern Oregon and the Environmental Education program and hopes to stick around once she completes her degree.


Matthew Solberg grew up in Eugene, Oregon, but left the matthew_solberg2Ducks to pursue his passion in wildlife studies at Oregon State University. While working towards his BSc in Fisheries and Wildlife, he sought out experience abroad in Africa. Fostering close connections with local communities, Matthew found a niche in human-wildlife conflict. His interest in human dimensions of wildlife conservation grew as he spent time with the San Bushman of Namibia, working to trap and relocate large African carnivores in close proximity to livestock.  For a time, Matthew found himself in the dark studying clans of spotted hyena (Malawi). Research alone did not fulfill him. It wasn’t until his Peace Corps service in Sierra Leone, West Africa, that Matthew discovered another love… teaching. There in the village, his students pulled his heartstrings and shaped Dauda (Matthew) in ways he could never imagine. Now he strives to combine his passion in wildlife studies with teaching. He is excited to work with a cohort who hail from all walks of life to implement the best environmental education the world has ever seen! In his spare time, you can find Matthew surfing, catching lizards, and fueling his healthy addiction to coffee (damn good coffee).


melissa_donnerMelissa Donner is originally from Santa Clarita, CA, but truly found her home in the Pacific Northwest. She studied at Humboldt State University in Northern California earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Environmental Management and Protection focusing on Environmental Education. It was there that she discovered her passion for Environmental Education especially with early childhood education. She has spent time serving in the Peace Corps Paraguay in South America teaching Environmental Education in Spanish and Guarani. After returning to the U.S., she entered into the Environmental Education Master’s program at SOU. She is also doing a dual Master’s program for a Masters of Arts in Teaching plus an Oregon State Teaching License for Early Childhood Education and Elementary Education. She has a wide range of interests and skills including early childhood education, graphic design, hiking and international travel! Her dream is to one day find a career in which she can utilize her skills and passions in Garden and Farm Education, Early Childhood Education and Graphic Design, whether that be at a museum, botanical garden or in the classroom!



Suphasiri Muttamara (a.k.a. Jam) is from Bangkok, Thailand. Despite being a city girl, she didn’t like the city. Her favorite childhood memories are of when her family went birding and camping in the forest. It has always been her dream to work in nature. She attended Mahidol University in Thailand receiving a degree in Conservation Biology. While discussing conservation topics with her classmates, she realized that how connecting with nature from an early age inspired peoples’ attitudes, and how important this connection is for environmental conservation. After graduating, she worked with the United Nation Development Program (UNDP) as a project junior consultant. The work took her to the top of mountains of the Northern region in Thailand. There, she worked with local schools, and students to develop ecotourism practice, and a curriculum that included the forest ecosystem that influences the community. Realizing education is the best way to conserve nature, she flew over 100,000 miles to acquire knowledge and tools so she can bring them back to help develop her country.

Find Your Place: Musings from the Bear Creek Greenway

Bear Creek Greenway in the fall

In the summer, insects drone loudly beneath a thick canopy of riparian vegetation and ripe blackberries, while white fluff falls like snow. The future of Black Cottonwood trees along Bear Creek is certain. My wheels whir a harmony with the insects and the breeze down by the water is refreshing, a meditation to combat the southern Oregon heat. In the fall, cottonwood leaves dance pirouettes in the air, yellow-brown hearts strewn about the trail. School has started now, and I begin riding to Medford each Wednesday for my graduate teaching classes. A weekly celebration of bikes and the seasons and learning. Winter is stark. The rains are cold, but the path is clear of ice near the water, and the Great Blue Heron nests are now visible high in the trees. Bare branches reach for the sky, as I-5 traffic barrels past. cottonwood- The School for Aromatic StudiesThe path smells musty, like decomposing leaves, and we hope that spring will come again soon. Like clockwork it comes, with its sweet smell of lilacs and warmer days. The mornings come sooner and the rains are less chilling. Cottonwood buds emerge by the thousands coating the path with little brown bullets, resinous and fragrant. The smell is overwhelmingly delightful, like warmed beeswax inside a busy hive.

Riding my bike has always been a way for me to connect to the world around me. Everything seems so alive from my saddle: smells, sights, sounds, the feel of the air…all of it is so close, so present, so tangible and alive. I have traveled to great lengths and accomplished much on the seat of a bike. I have climbed mountain passes, slogged through three inches of snow, ridden from city to ocean, found hidden paths inaccessible to cars, and regularly glide by “rush hour” traffic in Ashland.

This past year, I have had the joy of getting to know the Bear Creek Greenway, a 20-mile trail that connects Ashland, Talent, Phoenix, Medford, and Central Point with a single, concrete track. It meanders its way alongside Bear Creek, a tributary of the Rogue River that originates near Emigrant Lake. It is home to deer, salmon, and countless birds, including a notable Great Blue Heron rookery near Phoenix. During my rides along this path, I have written poems, had conversations with friends, watched the creek rise and fall with the seasons, and am always able to experience the world in the raw, even if I am riding through the pouring rain.Greenway

Riding a bike is just one way to feel connection with the natural world in our busy, technology-driven lives. As Karelia wrote in “The Water Ouzel,” a previous post, finding places to go back to again and again is essential for all humans, but most of all environmental educators. If we are to teach our students the importance of caring for and conserving beautiful places around them, we must practice what we preach.

NatureAwarenessI leave you with my favorite environmental education activity, “Secret Spots,” a classic EE activity written up by world-renowned environmental educator, Joseph Cornell. He encourages his audience of educators to feel connected to the places around them and pass this along to their students. Cornell’s bestselling book, Sharing Nature With Children, has now been updated 35 years later in an all-inclusive book called Sharing Nature: Nature Awareness Activities for All Ages. In this practice, the instructor allows his/her students to find their own “secret spot,” away from all other students. They return to this spot day after day, to write, draw, and observe how it changes. It is likely that we will never know every spot in our yard, our neighborhood, our town, or our favorite wilderness area, but it is important that we do form those connections as a modeling practice for our students, the future stewards of wild places. After all, as Jane Goodall reminds us, “Only if we understand can we care. Only if we care will we help. Only if we help shall they be saved.”