The official blog of Evergreen's Graduate Program on the Environment

Director’s Note


A portion of first and second year MES students with Kevin on the Ozette Triangle hike. Credit: Sadie G.

MES students within the same cohort tend to form close bonds as they tackle core classes, candidacy papers and thesis research. Students in different cohorts have some opportunities for interaction in electives, “late night seminars” and MESA activities. However, I heard from MES students last year that they wanted even more collaboration and conversation between cohorts.

We started the school year with an ambitious experiment: taking both cohorts on a three-day field trip to the Olympic Peninsula! Our caravan—80 people, 9 vans—departed one early Thursday morning for the Elwha River. (We left on time, which bodes well for the next two years, especially given the number of students who were in electives until 10 the night before!) We spent the day touring key sites on the Elwha River dam removal project—learning about revegetation at the former Lake Aldwell, salmon habitat restoration at the former Elwha Dam site, and research on sedimentation and ecosystem changes at the mouth of the river.

We spent the next two nights at the Olympic Natural Resources Center in Forks, where the staff worked with us to expand their “maximum capacity” of 50 by converting conference rooms to dorms and allowing us to pitch tents along covered patios and walkways. For those of us who camped outside, this covering was a blessing when we were hit by heavy wind and rain.


Gray whale off the coast of Cape Flattery. Credit: Mirko C.

We split into two smaller groups the next day. One group visited the Makah Museum, where students were impressed by a gray whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling, and Cape Flattery, where students were mesmerized by a gray whale swimming back-and-forth just off the rocky coastline below them. The other group hiked the Ozette Triangle, which includes a three-mile stretch of rugged beach and steep headland.

Our field work on the third day was cancelled because of high winds. We stayed inside, discussing William Dietrich’s The Final Forest and hearing from a Washington Department of Natural Resources biologist about experimental forests and habitat for threatened species like the marbled murrelet and northern spotted owl. As we drove back through the hard rain, I was thankful for two days of decent weather in early October and the can-do attitude of our students—essential for making possible this kind of logistical adventure.


MES students exploring the beach trail.

Our robust enrollment (44 first-year students, 34 second-year students) speaks to the continuing relevance of MES as a pathway to environmental work. To meet this continuing student demand, we are in the midst of hiring three permanent faculty dedicated to the MES program. Last year Dr. Erin Martin, who has taught in MES since 2012, was hired for the first position through a competitive national search. Erin has expertise in biogeochemistry, climate science, chemical oceanography, and freshwater ecology. She also brings tremendous enthusiasm for teaching and mentoring graduate students. This year we are conducting a search for an ecologist; next year we plan to search for an environmental social scientist. This faculty team should provide a nucleus of excellent teaching, mentoring and leadership in MES for years to come.

Equally important to our continuing success is the MES alumni network. One upcoming event, our third annual Thesis Idea Fair, is a great example. Dennis Aubrey, MES 2013, approached me two years ago with the idea of an event where local government agencies and NGOs could pitch their most pressing research questions to students who were thinking about topics for their candidacy papers and thesis projects. He offered to organize the event; I embraced the idea. This year’s event took place on November 10, 2015, and included representatives (many of them MES alums) from more than a dozen environmental organizations. We look forward to this continued event and other similar MES alumni partnerships.


Impressing the Ladies: Environmental Education takes on NW Trek

By Carrie Frazier, 1st Year MES Student.

“So, why do you think the Bighorn Sheep have such enormous horns?”

“To impress the ladies!” replies the eager boy in the front row of the tram tour line.

As a child compares his own hand size to the imprint of the lynx paw-print, “Their paws are just like ours! We’re almost the same!”

In response to the cougar snoozing in the far corner of its enclosure, “It’s his bed time. Goodnight, cougar! He’s probably had a long day.” As if to say, the cougar has had a rough day working his 9-5.

These were just a few snippets of the comparisons to our own human tendencies overheard from our Environmental Education class field trip to Northwest Trek Wildlife Park in October.

As a native to the East Coast, I was eager to see what the AZA (Association of Zoos and Aquariums)-accredited NW Trek had to offer in terms of native species. On the trip, there was talk of wolves, bears, lynx, cougars, eagles, snowy owls, wetland critters, and even a moose calf which coincidentally was born on the park’s 40th anniversary.

Before the trip, I had flashbacks of my own childhood experiences with wildlife; of entire disposable cameras being devoted to the white tigers at the Cincinnati Zoo, of my own big cat stuffed animal collection, and many attempts to convince my family that I was, in fact, part wild cat. Being so transfixed with animals as a child has led me to be curious about how children today respond to experiences with nature and wildlife. Do kids still mimic the sounds and movements of their favorite animals to convince others that they are part human, part wild animal? Are stuffed animals still dragged along on every outing? Do disposable cameras still exist? I hope so.Elk

My first view of NW Trek was a giant moose statue donning a pink bunny costume in what looks to be an attempt to partake in the Halloween festivities. This was the first of many anthropocentric examples I experienced in the park that day. The eager boy who responded that the Bighorn Sheep were trying to impress the ladies was a perfect example of anthropomorphism. Instead of the response that the male sheep were attracting a potential mate in an effort to carry out their breed, he replied with a very human response. The sheep were simply trying to impress the ladies, to pick up a date for this Friday night. That’s what anthropomorphism gets at, taking our own human tendencies and letting them influence our perceptions of animals. While the boy in the tram line was more than likely making an amusing comparison, it made me start to listen in on how those around me were taking in the park.

During our tram tour of the 435 acres of free-range meadows and forests, I noticed a child that had brought along her own stuffed moose for the tour. She held it up to the window of the tram and excitedly repeated, “Moose! Moose!” I was envious of her curiosity and zeal. I made a mental note to call home for an update of the whereabouts of my own stuffed animal collection.

As the tram tours begins we observed Bighorn sheep on the side of the road who are unperturbed by the presence of the tram car and our human faces smashed against the windows for ample viewing pleasure. We passed Roosevelt Olympic Elk with some of the largest antlers I have ever seen, herds of buffalo with large eerie eyes that watch the tram car as we ride by, and ultimately come to a halt to get a glimpse of a moose. This was the first moose I have seen in my life, but instead of taking in the large animal, I was curious of how the girl with her mini replica moose will respond. Again with the “Moose! Moose!” mantra. She excitedly compared her own stuffed moose to the real deal. Her gaze shifted back and forth between the two. I wondered if this was her first moose too. She pressed her face (and mini-me moose) against the window as the tram tour rolls on.

PullingTeethLater that day I was at the red fox habitat, where I noticed a photograph of our human teeth in comparison to that of the fox. A group of children approached the display and quickly compared their own human bite to that of the fox. Just like the lynx paw-print, there is a sense of comparing us to them, humans to the wild. While not every case at the zoo was an anthropocentric one, I noticed a trend in the way people were identifying the animals. People were observing the animals in ways that were relative to their own human lives.

I realized that this is how sense of the unknown or “wild” is made. We take the knowing and apply it to the unknown. While the Bighorn sheep impressing the ladies could be considered a little too far out there in making sense of the unknown, I find other indications of this learning style. The girl with her tiny moose made sense of the actual moose by a simple compare and contrast. The children who compared their own teeth to that of the fox were making their own comparison of the difference between what a fox needs to rip apart meat, and what we humans need to bite into a slice a pizza. Learning is made easier when we go into an experience taking what knowledge and understanding we already have and apply it to the understanding of a new concept. A professor once explained it as having an information “box” in which we assimilate new knowledge into the preexisting “box”, or maybe we create an entirely new box. The children looked at their different knowledge “boxes” and added new information to their “fox box.” Maybe information was first pulled from their preexisting box of human teeth? It all seems to be a matter of comparing the concrete known to the impossible unknown.

After the visit to NW Trek I came home with a notebook full of remarks and observations. Some people were quick to turn away from the sleeping cougar, but others would stay and make their own observations of the sleepy feline. During this time at the cougar habitat I overheard a young girl telling her mother her view on NW Trek. “It doesn’t feel like a zoo, or even look like one. I don’t feel like I’m being told what to do, or where to look. It’s nice.”

If you’re curious of the comparison of your own stuffed animal to that of the real deal, bring it along and make your own observations at NW Trek.

For more information check out their website at

Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change Conference

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year MES Student & Secretary/Treasurer for the Clean Energy Committee.

Through the campus Clean Energy Committee, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Behavior, Energy, and Climate Change (BECC) Conference in Sacramento, California from October 18-21st.  BECC had 700 attendees that drew a national and international audience. There is a counterpart to BECC that is held in Japan every few years and many of the Japanese professionals, scholars, and graduate students were present for the American BECC conference. Organizations closer to Olympia, like Puget Sound Energy, Cascadia Consulting Company, and City of Seattle representatives were also present at BECC.  


California State Capitol & Museum

BECC provided many opportunities to network with professionals and academics that focus on energy efficiency. The conference opened with a kick-off party and dessert bar, which featured trivia questions about energy policy that allowed attendees sitting at the table to interact and get to know each other before the sessions started. Breaks between sessions were thirty minutes long and allowed plenty of time to ask speakers questions or to introduce yourself to another person at the conference and have a lengthy conversation. A special lunch was set aside for students, where we all introduced ourselves and what campus we were from. I was able to meet many other Masters and Doctorate students. I met a student from Northern Arizona University (NAU) who is in a Master’s program that I was accepted to, but declined admission for Fall 2014 since I wanted to be in MES. I would have been in that student’s cohort if I had ended up attending NAU. It can be quite a small world sometimes.
Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge over Sacramento River.

One of the highlights of BECC was the keynote speaker, Dr. Mary Evelyn Tucker, from the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University. Dr. Tucker spoke on the importance of faith groups around the world and their relations to the environment. Dr. Tucker provided contemporary examples, like the widespread influence of Pope Francis’ encyclical. There were also a few sessions throughout the conference on reaching out to faith groups about climate change issue or pressing environmental concerns. Along with religion and ecology, sessions covered diverse topics such as: automated vehicles, energy efficiency within the military, communicating climate change, electric vehicles, energy policy, and creating community programs to increase energy efficiency in the home or office. BECC also featured lightning sessions, where speakers had five to eight minutes to cover their topics, and it provided a great way to learn about various studies in a short amount of time. More information on BECC can be found on their website. Next year’s BECC conference will be in October 2016 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Clean Energy Committee is a vital resource for The Evergreen State College.  The Clean Energy Initiative was voted on by Evergreen students in 200CEC5 and the initiative passed with 28% student participation and 91% in favor of the Clean Energy Fee, which is $1 per credit. Most of the money is put towards purchasing green tags for Evergreen and the rest is divided between programs and student, faculty, and staff project ideas. The Clean Energy Committee (CEC) was established to oversee and decide how the rest of the money will be spent. The CEC has hearings twice a quarter where applications are reviewed and projects may be funded. All of the CEC meetings and hearings are open to the public. For more information on the campus Clean Energy Committee, visit the CEC Website.

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My Narrow Slice: A Story Map Experience

By Ryan Hobbs, 2nd year MES student and MES Communications Assistant.

This year both the first and second year cohorts embarked on a joint-cohort field trip to the Olympic Peninsula. We spent three days exploring areas of the Elwha River, learning about forestry practices, and many of us took on a lovely 9.5-mile hike on the Ozette Triangle. Apart from being a great learning experience, it was also a chance for the cohorts to combine powers and bond, which seemed to be a barrier for previous cohorts. This story map presents a condensed version of my experiences on the field trip. I tried to document the aspects that were most intriguing to me that would also be interesting to the reader. I’m sure many of us shared similar sentiments about the trip and I’m sure there were also different things that resonated stronger than others. I decided to do something unconventional and create a story map. I did this partially out of interest of learning something new, but also because I wanted to present a visual experience. I used my cellphone for all the photos and I would have loved to include a time lapse but I didn’t have the storage available. Enjoy!

Button for linking to story map

The Art of Science: Or how I learned that regression curves can be (partially) based on intuition

By Rebekah Korenowsky, 2nd year MES student.

This summer I was fortunate enough to take on an internship with the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The task involved hydrologic modeling of 14 gauged stream sites in the Olympic Experimental State Forest (OESF). I was put up to it by my great friend, Michele, who had already been working for DNR in various capacities. She heard they were looking for someone with hydrology experience. Luckily at some point in the past, I must have told Michele about my interest in water and how it flows over rocks, because she got me in contact with Teodora “Teddy” Minkova, OESF’s research and monitoring manager and the rest is somewhat history.


The author engaged in field work.

The OESF has a non-contiguous area of 270,000 acres on the western Olympic peninsula of mostly temperate rain forest. It also boasts a dense stream network and an average precipitation rate of 140 inches/year, steep terrain, quick growing trees, and habitat for Northern Spotted Owls, Marbled Murrelets and salmon. Needless to say this place is special, and I was stoked to be asked to work there.


Data, data, and more data.

The project I was tasked with was to create rating curves for 14 headwater basins spread throughout the forest. Rating curves are regression plots used in hydrology to relate the height of the water to the volume of water flowing through a particular cross-section of the stream. My project proposal also required a report at the end to summarize my findings and provide some guidance for OESF researchers to continue. What all this beauty and forest was actually going to represent for me was a long summer spent in a cubicle in an office staring at multiple computer screens and learning a new programming language.

I didn’t realize, though, that I was totally into that. This was my first 9-5 job in an office, and I learned to love the ritual of it all. As the title of this post suggests, doing hydrologic statistics turns out to be more of an art than a science at some point. I had to make decisions on when the channel changed so significantly that the rating curves were no longer relevant, but without any number or percent threshold for making that determination. I spent a lot of time flipping back and forth between the various graphs that another OESF researcher, Warren Devine, helped me to create in R (and with a lot of work in JMP as well – so pay attention in Research Design and Quantitative Methods, kids!). I was attempting to figure out just what exactly had happened to the flow and channels at certain points in the past. It was thrilling, like solving a mystery. When the graphs all finally started to make sense, I was able to determine if erosion or bed aggradation had occurred and in some cases even pinpoint the storm that moved all that sediment around.

As cool as this project was, it was also extremely time consuming. The report was originally suggested at 10-15 pages, and as I write this blog post it currently sits at 188 pages, including the many, many graphs that we created. That’s longer than most master’s theses, and it’s still not even finished!


Using a fisheye lens to characterize canopy cover in the experimental forest.

I think a large part of the reason for my incredible productivity stems from all the support that I received. Teddy is the supervisor that most people could only dream of; she gave me the space to really dig in and learn things on my own, but was always there with answers when I needed them. And as mentioned, Warren was integral in getting all of the data organized and visualized, as well as to listen to me talk through my many hypothesized interpretations. I also received guidance from Greg Stewart, a geomorphologist with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, as OESF did not have any hydrologists on staff at this time. Greg was the one who was able to help me figure out what needed to be done and how.

In my notes from a phone conversation I had with Greg I wrote, “Reports take time!” and I think that may be the most solid advice anyone has ever given me. I feel immensely more prepared to write my thesis after going through this experience and am looking forward to working on projects such as this in the future.

For more info on the OESF you can go here:

Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences 2015

By Rhianna Hruska, 2nd Year MES Student.

I flew into San Diego International the morning of June 24, 2015, just in time for the start of the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences (AESS) 2015 Conference at the University of California, San Diego.  While taking the first year core class for MES, gCORE, I was talking with MES Professor Shangrila Wynn about my interests in Environmental Anthropology.  Professor Wynn recommended that I join the AESS listserv to learn more about opportunities within the field.  When the call for AESS abstracts went out, I applied to present right away.  I would not have thought I’d be attending the AESS conference less than a year later and meeting many of the people who are part of the email listserv, but I was incredibly grateful for the opportunity to present a poster of my research.

AESS Poster Presentation

Author’s Poster Presentation at AESS

Along with the poster sessions, there were interdisciplinary workshops, presentations, and panel sessions at the conference.  I  attended a workshop led by Jennifer Joy, a writer and performer who routinely merges the worlds of theater and science.  The three hour workshop consisted of different games meant to keep environmental professionals and academics aware of how they are conveying their research, work, or message.  It also demonstrated that the way we carry ourselves determines whether our message is received with interest and validity.  In the end, it was a lively way to learn how to communicate my research while also meeting brilliant scholars from across the country.

The panel sessions were engaging and featured a wide variety of environmental disciplines.  My favorite panel session was “Reflecting on 30 years of collaborative teaching across disciplines in the Graduate Program on the Environment at The Evergreen State College,” which was presented by Evergreen professors Martha Henderson, Kevin Francis, Erin Martin, Shangrila Wynn, and Kathleen Saul.  In true Evergreen style, the panel session was moved from the tiny classroom that was originally assigned for the session to a location outdoors, where participants were able to enjoy the sun-kissed San Diego weather while learning about Evergreen’s interdisciplinary graduate program.  The setting provided a vibrant dialogue between Evergreen’s professors and representatives from different institutions of higher education.  It was fantastic to see Evergreen’s model and values articulated at the AESS conference.

My poster session was the evening of June 26, 2015.  I talked about my research with Professor Stacy Philpott, researcher Peter Bichier, and the University of California, Santa Cruz’s Urban Garden Project.  My poster, Correlates of native and invasive ant abundance in Central California Urban Gardens, received a wide array of comments, support, and inquiry.

The AESS conference was an invaluable experience and I was able to make connections with people who are passionate about environmental issues.  I hope to attend in 2016, when the conference will be held at American University in Washington, D.C.

A Joint Journey down the MES River

By Julian Close and Jennifer Garlesky, soon to be MES grads.

After two years of vigorous interdisciplinary learning, attending the salmon recovery conference in Vancouver, Washington highlighted our overall educational experience in the MES program.


Julian & Jen at the Salmon Recovery Conference in Vancouver, WA

History in the Making

Flash back to the fall of 2013 during the graduate Conceptualizing Our Regional Environment course, when we worked together studying the impacts of the Buckley Diversion Dam on the White River, Washington.  Sharing a passion for rivers and both having southern roots we quickly became friends. We continued to take classes and write papers focusing on fish and river ecology throughout our time in the program. During Research Design and Quantitative Methods we had the opportunity to attend the Joint Aquatic Science Meeting in Portland, Oregon.  Our main goal was to listen and learn as much as we could from the afternoon session on dam removal. When we got back from lunch the classroom was packed.  Audience members poured into the hallway, so we decided to use the service entrance and enter the back of the room and sit on the floor up front. Our plan worked and we sat for more than two hours taking notes and listening to research on river and fisheries ecology.

Fast-forward to the present day

Jen-At the Salmon Recovery Conference Julian and I used our networking skills to develop leads on future career opportunities. We talked with several consulting firms, federal agencies about their projects and technology experts in the field of restoration and fish biology.

Julian-I attended the conference as a student intern assisting with several sessions.  Other interns hailed from the University of Washington, Tacoma; Washington State University; and Loyola Marymount University.  Highlights from the conference included opening statements from former U.S. Congressman Norm Dicks and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s new director Jim Unsworth. Furthermore, I ran into Evergreen alum and senior ecologist for King County, Mason Bowles, along with Evergreen MES alum and habitat biologist for the Yakima Nation, Scott Nicolai, at the  Reconnecting Floodplains: Side Channels and More session.  The research presented was enlightening and thoughtful.  The conference has spring-boarded me into life after MES by providing the opportunity to reconnect with old colleagues and make new professional contacts.


Scott Nicolai & Mason Bowles at the 5th Biennial Salmon Recovery Conference

Jen-I attended the conference on the second day. I used to attend conferences for my job prior to grad school and I never fully grasped some of the content. After completing this degree and completing my own research I was able to talk with experts in the field about my work. I followed up with some contacts and they requested to see my research. I feel proud of my experience and I know that it is only going to advance from here. The MES program has helped me in so many ways that cannot be summed up in just one blog post.


Professor Kathleen Saul signing Julian & Jen’s Theses

Future Goals

Jen-As we both get ready to graduate in a few days I know that we will continue to remain friends. We have both supported each other through our ups and downs over the course of the past two years. There is a common phrase around raising children: “it takes a village.” Well, it takes a village to complete grad school. We both recommend that current and future MES students invest in their classmates, and find those people that spark your fire and will support you.


Association of American Geographers Conference 2015

By Amory Ballantine, MES 2nd Year Student.

On April 22, I took a long train ride to Chicago to attend the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers. Over 7,000 geographers from all over the world were registered to attend. My candidacy paper, submitted in the fall, was picked up for a session on immigration in the Americas. I was sick– came down with something a day before– but was determined to present and participate anyway.

photo credit Hannah Awcock 2015

Photo Credit: Hannah Awcock 2015

I made my way through the packed Hyatt lobby– people in business suits with AAG lanyards covered every slightly out-of-the-way space on each floor, typing away at what frequently appeared to be last-minute tweaks of presentation materials. After the third session of “Decolonization, resistance and resurgence,” (which included discussions of tensions between anarchism’s synergy with decolonization and simultaneous tendencies of settler-dominated anarchist organizing to ignore complexities such as dependence on the state in colonized communities), I took my own computer and a peanut butter sandwich to an unoccupied corner and went over my presentation.

I was first to speak in my session. My paper, “Limits of Dominion: Tracing Environmental Impacts of the Physical and Biometric U.S.-Mexico Border,” studied environmental impacts of the militarized border– both the literal, physical border wall and Gloria Anzaldua’s idea of the border as something flexible and mobile, located in laws, culture, and racialized bodies. I heard from the audience that, while the border wall and environmental racism linked with citizenship have been studied extensively, my presentation was the first they’d seen to discuss its connections with impacts on flora and fauna! I was the only presenter who was not working on their dissertation or already with a Ph.D, and it was terrifying to present my ideas to that audience. I was thrilled by their thoughtful and supportive responses, and the rest of the presentations were fascinating.

Richard Jones discussed spatial distributions of reasons behind recent increases in unaccompanied and unauthorized minors crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, comparing sites of Central American gang and drug activity with the regions children are predominantly coming from. Sean Crotty showed that temporary hiring sites for day-laborers in San Diego tend to spring up near former agricultural land, in owner-occupied neighborhoods, and near easily accessible big box home improvement stores. Vincent Kuuire discussed the impact of transnational remittances on immigrants’ home ownership (and attendant social and economic integration) in Canada. Finally, Kathryn Dennler presented her research on unauthorized immigrants’ experiences of waiting for citizenship in Canada, differentiating between “active” and “passive” waiting behaviors (people adjust priorities to cope with “waiting”), and questioning the purpose of current temporary worker programs: “It’s so predictable that migrants will stay– one has to wonder whether the government intends to create a permanent population of undocumented people.”

While participating in the meeting was a bit overwhelming at first (given the number of attendees and activities), it was great to meet other geographers and gain experience presenting! I’m excited to go and share the results of my thesis work next year at the conference in the Bay Area.

Good Food, People, and Cause: GRuB’s 9th annual Day of the Bed Event

By Ashlie Tainer, 1st Year MES Student.

It didn’t take long after moving to Olympia in the Fall of 2014 before a local non-profit called GRuB seemed to keep popping up in conversation. I originally heard of GRuB from my roommate, who was interning for them at the time. GRuB stands for Garden-Raised Bounty, and it’s their mission to inspire positive personal and community change by bringing people together around food and agriculture. They do this by partnering with youth and people with low-incomes to create empowering individual and community food solutions.  There are several arms of GRuB, such as their agriculture-based alternative education, employment, and drop-out prevention programs. GRuB also serves the community through their Kitchen Garden Project (KGP), Growing Veterans program, and Community Support Agriculture (CSA) share.

Dancing Photo

Jo Arlow Photography

One day, my roommate came home with a job description of an internship GRuB was hiring for. I was already looking for ways to get involved with their work and after a few weeks I became GRuB’s Event Coordinator Intern, specifically responsible for planning their annual spring fundraiser called the Day of the Bed.

My position was a part of the Kitchen Garden Project (KGP), which partners with organizations and low-income people to create backyard and neighborhood food solutions. We connect people with the sustainable food movement by providing access to the knowledge and resources needed to grow fresh, healthy, and culturally appropriate foods. Started in 1993 by Richard Doss and inspired by the Home Gardening Project in Portland, OR, the KGP has built over 2,500 free backyard and community gardens for low-income people throughout Puget Sound.

The work GRuB does in the community is large, although the budget we have to work with is small. My job was to plan the  9th annual Day of the Bed Event, where community members and organizations participate on volunteer teams to raise money to support the cost of up to two backyard kitchen gardens, and then build the gardens along side the families receiving them. Following the garden builds was our KGP Build Season Kick-off Party and Potluck, for which I invited GRuB’s new and alumni gardeners, their mentors and the neighbors to come and celebrate with our staff and volunteer build teams.

I spent the first three months of my six-month internship posting flyers, sending emails, making in-person contacts and giving presentations to advertise the Day of the Bed and the opportunity to support a backyard kitchen garden for a local family who identifies as low-income and is interested in growing their own healthy food. I had teams signing up all the way until the week before the event, and ended with 11 total. The teams consisted of volunteers ranging from a variety of local businesses and organizations, such as The Brotherhood Lounge, the East and Westside Food-Coops, West Olympia Rotary Club, Slow Food Greater Olympia, Washington Service Corps, Girl Scout Troop #45294, the Office of Assigned Counsel, YWCA, and the GRuB School Alum and Board.

Each team’s goal was to raise $1,000, which covers the material and building costs of two backyard kitchen gardens. During the weeks prior to the Day of the Bed, teams rallied by holding raffles, creating Go-Fund-Me accounts, and reaching out to friends and family. The Girl Scout troop I worked with were the most motivated and enthusiastic group of 10- and 11-year-olds I have encountered to this day, and pledged to meet their fundraising goal by holding a garage sale-car wash-bake sale-lemonade stand, all mixed into one event. Their energy was contagious and every team carried their attitude throughout their own fundraising efforts.

Girl Scout Team Photo

Girl Scouts at GRuB – Jo Arlow Photography

We expected to accommodate an average of 70 individuals throughout the event, and that meant we needed food and hydration for all of them. We received large amounts of in-kind donations and support from local restaurants and farms, such as the Blue Heron and San Francisco Street Bakeries, Bagel Brothers, Starbucks, The Fresh Approach, Sullivan’s Homestead, Rising River Farm, and Kirsop Farm.

Throughout the week of the 9th annual Day of the Bed, I drove our trusty dump truck, “The Beast,” around to all eleven build sites to drop off lumber, soil, and tools in preparation for the big event. Every new gardener received three 8×4 raised gardens beds, seeds, starts and GRuB’s growing guide.  The KGP is committed to a gardener’s success and also provides volunteer mentors and free access to GRuB’s extensive gardening workshop series for those interested.

After 6 months of planning, coordinating and playing in the dirt, the Day of the Bed was finally here. On Saturday, May 9th, the eleven volunteer teams arrived at 9am to turn in their total funds raised and enjoy a free breakfast, while mingling with their GRuB lead builders and fellow teams. The weather was the warmest it had been all year and the GRuB farm was buzzing with excitement. In true GRuB style, we started the event with a circle-up and activity to get everyone acquainted. We took team photos and a large group photo before sending the build teams off to their build sites with our traditional cheer, “Go, GRuB, Grow!”

Marks photo

Jo Arlow Photography

Each of the builds took an average of two hours, and other than a few bent nails and one bruised arm, everything went off without a hitch. All of the build teams paraded back to the farm when they were finished, and were greeted with a delicious potluck and live music from the local family band, Fiddlie-I-Ay. The event included homemade Kombucha from the Bucha Mama Boys and picnic tables adorned with flowers from GRuB’s farm, and concluded with partner square dancing on the grass field in the sun.

Band Photo

Fiddlie-I-Ay ~ Jo Arlow Photography

Overall, GRuB’s 9th annual Day of the Bed was a huge success and 11 teams from our community built 11 Kitchen Garden Project gardens in a single morning. Together, the teams raised over $7,000 to cover to cost of up to 15 backyard kitchen gardens. We had successfully put the day to rest.

Photos and additional information on GRuB and ways to get involved can be found on their website or Facebook page

Combining Perspectives for Comprehensive Environmental Management

By Sean Greene, 2nd Year MES Student.


Conference Program Cover

Running from April 15 to April 17, 2015, the joint annual conference between the Washington Chapter of The Wildlife Society and the Society of American Foresters offered me a unique opportunity to interact with and present my research to hundreds of my peers. In particular, it opened up a subset of scientists that my work as a biologist for Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) does not normally allow for overlap with, namely foresters. Prior to the start of the conference, on April 14, I attended a class taught by the organizers titled “Forestry for Biologists,” which did exactly what the billing might suggest, namely instructing wildlife biologists on the basics of forestry management. Topics included: dendrochronology, the study of annual rings in trees; how to determine total merchantable board feet from a tree using only a diameter at breast-height and height measurement combined with tree species; the importance of snags, or standing dead trees, to local ecology; and much more.


Dr. Jerry Franklin & Bill Richardson

A few conference topics stood out in particular both for their challenging of current paradigms and the intense debate that was sparked as a result. The first of these began with a presentation by Dr. Jerry Franklin, considered by many to be the “old growth guru” of the Pacific Northwest. Dr. Franklin has built a long, distinguished career touting the importance of preserving old growth forests from harvesting due to their vital role as habitat for a number of vulnerable species. In his presentation at this conference, however, he took the opportunity to defend early seral (succession) stage forests instead. Dr. Franklin stated unequivocally that these “young” forests were absolutely essential to maintaining species richness and biomass levels in the Pacific Northwest, but are being eliminated by overzealous logging efforts that leave behind nothing more than wide swathes of brush. These thoughts were echoed by Bill Richardson of The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, who spoke to the plight of elk populations that are being deprived of their preferred early seral stage forests by over logging, significantly impacting population levels. These perspectives are especially valuable in the Pacific Northwest where old growth forests are held on a pedestal, almost to the exclusion of all other seral stages.


Dr. Lowell Diller & Harvested Barred Owl

The second presentation that drew my notice, and a fair bit of discourse among attendees, was a presentation by Dr. Lowell Diller, a biological consultant, discussing how to support Spotted Owl populations through the culling of Barred Owls. Dr. Diller discussed his experimental design for a series of cullings of Barred Owls, a bird native to the Eastern US that has progressively out-competed Spotted Owls, a species listed as threatened by the Endangered Species Act, for habitat. Any collection of biologists is obviously going to be uncomfortable with the notion of killing one animal to benefit another, but Dr. Diller gave a solid, measured argument for why his method was the best available to protect biodiversity. In the interests of making as little disturbance as possible, Dr. Diller uses a silenced shotgun to minimize noise pollution, fake owl mannequins and electronic hoots to mimic the targeted species, and takes special care to take down both individuals in a nesting pair so the remaining owls don’t suffer through the loss of a mate or learn to avoid future culling efforts. A number of tests and measurements are taken for each harvested Barred Owl and the skins are preserved and donated to museums or universities, so every effort has been made by Dr. Diller to ensure that this admittedly uncomfortable management method is as scientific as possible.

Finally, my presentation covered the use of several GIS (Geographic Information System) tools named Kernel Density and Hot Spot Analysis in order to track deer populations statewide through WSDOT’s Wildlife Carcass Removal Database. This was a project that I helped 2014 MES graduate Stacey Plumley with both in my role as a MES student and an intern with WSDOT. My presentation seemed well-received and there proved to be a fair bit of interest with our results, especially with a Montana graduate student studying deer populations on Whidbey Island and a Deer Researcher with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. This conference was an invaluable opportunity for me to hone my presentation skills and expand my educational horizons beyond my particular area of focus by gathering the perspectives of people from a variety of disciplines and states.

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