Featured articles

  • Letter from the Director – Spring 2014
  • Reflecting on time in MES 25 years ago
  • Adventures in Olympia
  • An MESer’s Trip To New Zealand
  • Can’t Get Enough of Canada: MES Students Attend CONFORWest conference in B.C.

Letter from the Director – Spring 2014

By Martha Henderson, Director.

Spring Quarter is always a promising time of year on campus. Students, faculty and staff are all working at full capacity and then some!  First year students are now full candidates for a master’s degree having successfully passed the Winter Quarter core program in environmental sustainability. The Spring Quarter core program, Research Design and Quantitative Methods, is never an easy class. Three faculty members, Carri LeRoy, Kevin Francis and Greg Stewart, are facilitating the core program. Under Carri’s leadership, past students have actually claimed that the program became their favorite, so there is always something new to learn about research methods! Many of the students are already beginning to define their thesis research and determine data collection protocols.

Second year students are in the middle of thesis research and writing. It’s been my pleasure to work with them as a group. I am very thankful for their commitment to complete the program and earn their degrees. I look forward to thesis presentations at the end of the quarter. Every student is working on research that has direct impacts on better environmental management and decision-making. The presentations are open to the public and will be in late May/early June. Information on the exact day, time and place will be widely advertised. Please consider joining us for these research presentations.

Thesis presentations

An MES student presents his thesis to a captive audience.

April also brings together two important program events. Applicants admitted for Fall 2014 are invited to campus for the MES Admitted Student Afternoon on April 24. This year, the event is being combined with the annual Rachel Carson Forum, a day to celebrate our program matron saint. The forum is being planned by the first year students and promises to be an informative evening. This event is also open to the public.

Prospective students hear from Martha Henderson at Admitted Students Day in 2013

Prospective students hear from Martha Henderson at the first Admitted Students Day in 2013.

Admitted Students Day will also be especially exciting this year. Kevin Francis, the incoming Director, has already taken on major leadership by hiring exciting new faculty and bringing them to campus for the event. The program welcomes back Erin Martin, Dina Roberts, Kathleen Saul, Peter Dorman and a new faculty member, Shangrila Wynn who will teach climate justice. I am especially glad to see the focus on climate by all of these faculty members. Climate change and its impacts on social and natural environments will only continue to rise in importance for current and future students. When events like the recent landslide in northern Washington, the loss of the Washington shellfish industry to ocean acidification, and increasing impacts on mountainous ecosystems become more obvious, understanding the role of climate change from an interdisciplinary perspective is crucial. MES is already preparing graduates to meet the new challenges of the 21st century.

Thank you for your interest and support of MES.

Reflecting on time in MES 25 years ago

By José Drummond, MES Alumnus.

I was one of the first MES graduates in the 1980s. I enrolled in the MES degree’s third class in September of 1986. I concluded my thesis in August of 1988.

Those two years were among the best in my personal and professional life. I love to talk about them. However, telling current MES students about this almost “remote” experience brings up the issue of its relevance. Probably the program, Evergreen, and their environs have changed substantially after more than 25 years. I have not followed such changes, but I will try to take them into account as I mention a few points important to me and that may be of interest to current and future students.

I entered MES from Brazil looking for a substantial multi- or inter-disciplinary course of study in environmental issues. As I had a bachelor’s degree in social sciences, I was looking for a well-crafted and sufficiently “heavy” exposure and training in the basics of natural sciences. I found this in MES, in the exact dose, content and format. I became literate in ecology, biology, forestry, geology, physical geography and hydrology. I learned how to advance further in these fields and how to teach myself about other fields.

At the same time, the particular blend of the MES curriculum allowed me to use and sharpen my social science background, particularly in the fields of natural resource economics, political science and environmental history. It was therefore an experience in both intellectual renewal and background consolidation.

A distinct matter was the training in writing embedded in the curriculum. Although I had published two books back in Brazil before 1986 (in Portuguese, of course), I had never received any instruction on the skills of writing. That changed in MES. In the first four quarters of the program we had the experience of writing – and getting faculty and colleague feedback – a large number and a wide variety of texts, including position papers, a field journal, presentation summaries, posters, term papers, thesis pre-project and project, always following specific instructions. This helped me become a prolific writer.

Jose Drummond immersed in thesis revision, in Olympia, 1988.

José Drummond immersed in thesis revision, in Olympia, 1988.

Before MES I had never made a field trip, although I was a semi-regular hiker/camper in Brazil. The 12 or more MES field trips were both a lot of fun (intensive sight-seeing for a recently-arrived foreigner) and a source of much learning. The trips were all carefully planned to complement / illustrate readings discussed in classes and seminars. We went to the Columbia River gorge (including Dry Falls and the Grand Coulee dam), Capitol Forest, Olympic National Park, several state and national forests, Grays Harbor (at its migratory bird peak), and several points along Puget Sound. We even spent a full rainy Saturday prowling around Capitol Lake identifying birds and sources of water pollution. The most difficult hike for me was going up (and down) the muddy, rocky, wet and cold gorge of a retreating glacier somewhere in the Cascades. These trips prompted me to make several other leisure trips on my own, including Mt. St. Helens, Rainier National Park, San Juan Islands, Malheur Field Station, Crater Lake National Park, the Oregon coast and more. While having fun in all these temperate landscapes, by contrast I learned a lot about the tropical landscapes with which I was familiar, but took for granted. I also learned the value of first-hand observations of natural and human-made landscapes.

Jose Drummond, with MES classmate Al D'Alessandro, during a fieldtrip, near Dry Falls in the Columbia Basin, 1987.

José Drummond, with MES classmate Al D’Alessandro, during a field trip near Dry Falls in the Columbia Basin, 1987.

The last point I will mention is that MES prepared me to work with people of different backgrounds, an important “skill” for all people working on environmental issues. Both in my academic pursuits and in consulting experiences, my MES sojourn allowed me to be at ease when working with non-social scientists after more than ten years working exclusively with social scientists. Right after concluding MES, on my return to BraziI, I felt comfortable as I engaged in several professional projects involving professionals with varied backgrounds. Since 1999 I have worked exclusively in a graduate program in environmental studies in which professors and students come from the entire gamut of backgrounds. I would like to brag that I designed or founded this program, but actually I joined it when it already had taken off. However, I can truthfully say that I managed to put MES “fingerprints” on several program directives and activities.

MES alumnus Jose Drummond visiting TESC campus in 1994

MES alumnus Jose Drummond visiting TESC campus in 1994

No doubt about it: for me MES was an enriching experience with lasting effects.

Adventures in Olympia

By Jenny Dunn, MES Student. 

As I entered the MES program, I wondered how my schedule would look, how easily I would make friends, and what my social calendar would look like. It’s not a lie to say that the program and studies dominate my time schedule, but there is always a need to make room for some social activities and fun outings with fellow classmates. Over the past year and a half I’ve participated in quite a few festivities with classmates: a St. Patty’s party, clam digging, hikes with alums, a city basketball league, and the infamous trivia Tuesdays at the Fishtale Brew Pub in Downtown Olympia. As my time comes to a close in the program, and possibly in the PNW, I’ve been scrambling to make the most of my time by splitting it between thesis mode, which entails giving my undivided attention to my computer as I crank out my thesis and troubleshoot my stats with fellow thesis writers in the CAL on campus, and enjoying the opportunities that the PNW offers.


MES students Kelly Beach, Bri Morningred, friend Emily, author Jenny Dunn, and Fiona Edwards playing trivia.

If you’re struggling to find some great social activities to share with friends or classmates here are a few:

Great Hiking:

Lake Cushman is by far my favorite place to hike that I’ve experienced so far in WA. Not only does it remind me of my undergraduate years at Michigan State University, with the beautiful evergreen trees, cottages surrounding the lake, and the cliff jumping, but the hikes are spectacular with picturesque views of the Olympic Peninsula. I’ve also enjoyed camping here as part of an end of the year celebration with fellow MES classmates, as we completed our first year of grad school last June. We ate oysters grilled over a fire, played extreme bocce, and climbed a tree with a diameter at least 15 ft.

MES students Jana, Jenny and Lisa near Lake Cushman

MES students Jana Fischback, author Jenny Dunn and Lisa Abdulghani near Lake Cushman

Besides Lake Cushman, there are numerous trails around Rattlesnake Ledge, Capital Forest, Sol Duc Falls, Hurricane Ridge, and Vista Loop at Mt. Rainier. As MESers, we are lucky enough to have bountiful options in terms of hikes in WA and I encourage everyone to take advantage of it while you can and, better yet, go with your classmates, which helps limit cost and lessen your imprint on the environment you’re exploring. Hikes closer to Olympia are: Tumwater Falls, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, McClain Creek, and Priest Point Park.


Jenny on a hike with MES alumni Andreas Keodara and Bobby Coleman


In terms of local social activities, I’ve participated in quite a few in town: a trapline (bar crawl where we dressed as Alaskan frontiersman and hit up bars along 4th Street in Olympia), trivia at Fishtale Brew Pub, which 2nd years tend to gravitate to when we don’t have our thesis workshop, and lastly, I even joined a local city-league basketball team that was coordinated by an MES alum and has MES staff, current students, alum, and other community members on it. The options in Olympia for indoor, local social activities aren’t limited; it’s just a matter of getting out there and making it happen. Whether it’s spending a Friday night dancing off your stress at Jake’s bar, relaxing in a coffee shop catching up, or rock-climbing at the CRC on campus.

MES students Bri, Jenny and Rachel, and friend Emily, enjoy the Washington State Fair in Puyallup

MES students Bri Morningred, author Jenny Dunn and Rachel Stendahl, with friend Emily, enjoy the Washington State Fair in Puyallup

So, as a current 2nd year in the MES program, I encourage all MESers to think outside the box and indulge in a little destressing with some activities with friends and to get ready for some warmer weather with Spring around the corner.


Jenny with fellow MES student Carola Tejeda, after participating in the Color Run

An MESer’s Trip To New Zealand

By Peter Boome, MES Student.


About a year a half ago I received an interesting e-mail inviting me to participate in the 7th Indigenous Artist Gathering at Kokori Puri in New Zealand. I had never heard of the organization nor of the gathering. I had a lot of questions. I was intrigued by the possibility of going to New Zealand to make art and hang out with Maori people, so I wrote back and indicated I was interested but had a ton of questions before I committed.

When they answered my questions about the event I was really honored to have been invited. The event is a gathering of master indigenous artists from around the world who are invited to come together and simply make art. It is an invitation-only event and quite exclusive. In order to attend, an artist must be nominated, have their work screened and then except the invitation. The event is held every couple of years at different locations. A previous one was held in Hawaii, and the next one in 2016 will be held at the Evergreen Longhouse.

I still don’t know who nominated me, or who supported my nomination. I have my suspicions, but am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend such an amazing event.

New Zealand:

I have a few friends in New Zealand who I met when they were in the states on artist visits of their own. I contacted them to see if it was feasible to come early to have a look around the country. It was. I arrived about a week early flying into Auckland. When you arrive you are instantly aware of two things.

One: The Lord of the Rings, and Hobbit movies were filmed here and they are a big tourist draw.

Two: Maoris have a large presence in the country.

My dear friends Henare and Tawera Tahuri picked me up the day after I arrived. They had a family event and were picking up Henare’s parents from the airport anyway so adding me to the mix wasn’t a big deal.

After touring around Auckland for an afternoon we picked up Henare’s parents at the airport and headed out of town. We went to Whangarei where we stayed at Henare’s uncle’s house. The floor plan was different than what you’d see here in the states. It was a two story house with the kitchen on the upper level. The interesting part about the upper level was that it was one large open multi-function room. The kitchen was at one far end with a large table, then a huge open space lined with several large couches. The reason for such a plan became apparent pretty quickly. Foam mats were brought out and laid down on the floor for us to sleep on.

Early the next morning I woke up because there were several people who had showed up for an impromptu family gathering. I counted 27 people at one time, milling around, speaking Maori and English interchangeably.

The family was preparing a meal, consisting of a giant homemade loaf of bread, some mussels, other seafood stuff, vegetables potatoes and probably other things I’m forgetting.

The older members of the family were sitting around the kitchen, butter knives in hand. They were shucking and sucking down mussels in large quantities. Of course they insisted that I join in. Now I’m not adverse to shellfish, but I prefer my shellfish cooked. These mussels were raw and considered a delicacy, so I shucked and sucked five or six which looked and tasted a lot like razor clams. I was pretty much musseled out, when they brought out more that had been basted in garlic and butter. Half a dozen later I was able to excuse myself and grab some bread. The reason I mention this is because this set the tone for the rest of the trip. I was fed, and fed, and fed some more. I ate so much seafood.

My second day in New Zealand saw us headed to Whangarei. There was a berry festival going on, so I was treated to a fun farmer’s market atmosphere, where I ran into one of the most famous Maori singers in New Zealand. Of course I didn’t know this and was speaking with her at some length; it was a true Forrest Gump moment.

That same day we went to a historic and famous “marae,” which is a Maori longhouse. The marae has a long, sad, and resilient history. It was built in the 1800’s and ended up in England for quite a while. It then ended up in a museum and was abused. During it’s time in a museum, the marae was too tall to fit, so the museum in its infinite wisdom decided to cut the lower foot and half off of the bottom of the entire building. Doing so was not only reckless towards the art of the marae, it is also very insulting. Long story, short the Maori were able to reacquire their marae and work towards restoring and repairing it.


A Maori longhouse, called a “marae”

We toured the marae and it was stunning. At the end they treated us to a light show which told the story of the marae (the meaning behind the carvings.) The light show was amazing in that it integrated the historic carvings while being an amazing light show at the same time.

At the end of the day we headed to Gisbourne where we spent two days. I was able visit the site were the movie “Whale Rider” was filmed. I also was able to attempt to surf.

After spending a couple of days in Gisbourne we headed back to Auckland to pick up another artist and head up to Kaikohe where some of the top indigenous artists from around the world were gathering at Kohewhata Marae for two weeks for collaborative artistic creativity as well as a huge exhibition of their works.


Somewhere in between Gisbourne and Auckland is a tiny place called Hobbiton. Yes, it is where parts of the movies were filmed. Yes, I stopped there. Yes, it is touristy. Yes, it is awesome!

Hobbiton is about as far from being a pretentious Hollywood theme park as you can get. Basically it’s just like walking through a hobbit village. All the plants in the gardens were real, complete with insects. All the tools were also real, it was simply amazing. There were no rides, nor people dressed as hobbits, wizards, elves or dwarves.


Peter enjoying Hobbiton

The road from Auckaland to Kaikohe is narrow and winding, there isn’t a lot of development outside of Auckland and soon you end up in small rural towns.

Kaikohe is one such small rural town. We didn’t actually stay in Kaikohe, instead we stayed at Kohewhata Marae, where several large tents were set up as sleeping quarters. Many people elected to sleep inside the Marae which made for very interesting sleeping arrangements, since every night a meeting of sorts took place in the Marae.

Like most Marae there are other permanent structures located on the same grounds. This marae had both a dining hall as well as shower / toilet facilities. The dining hall was your basic cafeteria set up and the showers were similar to a locker room shower.

In a grassy area there was a large tent set up which had tables and work areas set-up. These work areas were set aside for painters, carvers, and potters. Separate work areas were set up for jewelers, print makers, weavers, and Ta Moko artists (tattoos).


I had been invited as a painter and printmaker. I spoke with the printmakers and there was very limited space with only one press. I also spoke with the painters and there was plenty of canvases and paints and I was excited about doing some sort of collaboration and spoke with several artists about the idea. For some reason I was really drawn to the carving area. While not officially invited as a carver, I had brought my carving tools and wanted to learn more about Maori carving. I ended up spending all of my time with the carvers. We worked on a couple of large sculptural pieces that took a lot of time. I also carved several small objects as well.


New Zealand carvers

The carving techniques of the Maoris are very different from the techniques used in the Pacific Northwest. While we both historically and continue to use adzes, and have adopted some of the same power tools, the similarities end there. While in the Northwest we use bent knives to do much of our detail and texture work, the Maoris use gouges which they call chisels, which they push by hand or hit with various mallets. This makes sense because the wood the Maoris use, which they call timber, is extremely hard. It is much harder than any of the tree species that we carve here in the Pacific Northwest. The wood they use also happens to contain a high oil content, which means there is no need to oil the finished product. Pretty cool stuff, if you are a carver.

I wasn’t able to get to all the collaborations that I wanted to get to, but I was able to make some good connections. We will work on collaborative work over time, which is much easier to do with painters than with carvers since you can ship a canvas back and forth.

We didn’t spend all of our time working. We also went on a few field trips. For one such field trip we went to the Waipoua Forest where some of the largest and oldest remaining Kauri trees in New Zealand remain. After which we went to a Maori nursery and forest where they are working hard to replace and rebuild the historic forests with indigenous trees and plants.



The people in this picture are standing on a railing so their heads are about ten feet off the ground.

Another field trip I was lucky enough to go on was an exclusive one to the War Memorial Museum in Auckland, which is something like our Smithsonian museum. I went with the carvers and was able to look at a number of carvings in the archives. This was pretty exciting and quite amazing.

It wasn’t all educational, of course. At night we had the option of going to a local hot spring, which smelled of sulfur. The hot springs were owned by the local Maori tribe and were simply amazing. They weren’t over-developed and fancy like ones you would see here in the States. These were specifically for local use and enjoyment, and not designed as tourist attractions.

Ta Moko:

Since I have gotten back I have been asked more questions about Ta Moko than anything else. Ta Moko is the Maori form of tattoo. There are a couple of basic things to know about Ta Moko. First is that it is a distinct art form with long history and tradition. The second is that most Ta Moko artists use an electric gun, but many also use the traditional chisel or ulu (“tap tap”).

There were several Ta Moko artists at the gathering and many of the 123 artists got some type of ink during their time there. I had arranged for an amazing Ta Moko artist in Hamilton to work on me, so I didn’t have plans to get moko at the gathering. Just because I didn’t have plans doesn’t mean it didn’t happen! I ended up getting a large calf piece done by one of the carvers. Yes it hurt. A lot.


Pete getting some “ink” in New Zealand

 The End:

There were too many amazing things to list or write about here without this blog turning into a book. New Zealand is an amazing and beautiful country to visit. The food is wonderful, that is, if you like GMO-free food, lots of seafood, and vegetables. If you like tattoos, I can think of no better place to go, because there is a lot of ink in New Zealand.


Can’t Get Enough of Canada: MES Students Attend CONFORWest conference in B.C.

By Sam Wilson, MES 2nd Year Student. 

Earlier this month, the fifth annual CONFORWest conference for environmental graduate students was held in the tiny town of Bamfield, British Columbia located on the southern side of Vancouver Island. I joined ten other MES students and alumni on a long journey by car, boat, and bus from Puget Sound not knowing exactly what to expect. This being my first time in Canada, I was incredibly excited to experience a new environment and network as a foreigner.

We arrived at the Bamfield Marine Science Centre to find ourselves in a picturesque landscape with tall mountains, old-growth trees, and the strong current of Barkley Sound. Shortly after settling in to our comfortable accommodations, we headed to the cafeteria for dinner. Most of us were expecting a summer camp style cafeteria serving Spam with green goop soufflé, but were pleasantly surprised to find a well-staffed kitchen with a dedicated and talented chef who peered over the dining hall as if it were a fine dining affair. Needless to say, the food exceeded all of our expectations. Cheers to you chef.

Later on that evening, we all met in the main building of the science centre for a social session where we met and networked with many bright and interesting graduate students representing a diverse number of Canadian universities. The beer and wine poured throughout the night and we conversed until way past our bedtimes. Walking back to the lodge that night through a beautiful stand of Madrone trees, I realized that I was not at a normal conference.


This isn’t your average conference!

The second day began the academic portion of our adventure. Throughout the morning we listened to a number of grade-A presentations and participated in what were dubbed “break-out sessions” where we engaged in passionate discussions over coffee. Both the oral presentations and the break-out sessions kept my attention and sparked new and exciting thoughts despite the lack of sleep. I think that the other MES participants would agree that topics presented on and discussed at CONFOR were relevant, interesting, and though provoking. Overall, very choice.


Author Sam Wilson and fellow MES student Kelly Beach enjoying the sunshine.

Later that day, we broke from presentations to participate in a number of different activities including a tour of the facilities, a nature walk with keynote speaker and renowned author and biologist Andy MacKinnon, and a boat tour of Barkley Sound. Two first-year MES students, Lauren Taylor and Kelly Beach, and I chose the latter and saw a number of marine mammals, birds, and incredible views, all while sipping hot tea in the salty spray of the turbulent water. After returning from our voyage, eating another wonderful dinner, and listening to a wonderful presentation by Andy MacKinnon, we perused poster displays (mine included!) over wine and beer. This turned out to be a really fun late night discussing science and sustainability with our Canadian colleagues.



The presentations on Saturday mirrored the quality of those the day before without a doubt. After lunch, we broke for another activity session, which included a more diverse schedule with software and publishing workshops, an algal art class, and yoga. Some of the MES crew and I decided to take the afternoon to visit Pachena Beach, a beautiful shore partially covered in snow with tall rock faces marked by icicles dripping into intertidal pools with all kinds of little critters. We returned to the center to discover that some of the locals had invited all of the CONFOR participants to Brody’s Beach for a bonfire after dinner, which was one of the most fun parties I’ve been to in a while. Although I was disappointed that this was our last night, it was great to have one last hurrah with folks.


Crabs know how to party on Vancouver Island.

CONFORWest was much more than experimenting with what happens when you put 40 scientists together in a remote location with ample libations, it was a time of learning about new topics in environmental studies and sustainability, networking with peers, having an adventure, and perhaps most important for me and the other second-year MES students, a time to help sharpen our own thesis topics. Without a doubt, prepping for CONFOR advanced my thesis in an effective and unique way. Although it was a bit of a vacation, I feel stronger with my topic and on top of my personal deadlines after attending CONFOR. My hope is that I will be able to go back next year as a recent grad and have a similar experience all over again.


Until next year!

MES faculty member works to conserve Canada’s Boreal forest

By Dina Roberts, MES Faculty.

I am fortunate to continue engaging with scientists and policy makers about conserving Canada’s Boreal forest. Our group presented the results of over a decade of research on how to best conserve half of Canada’s remaining intact forest and wetland ecosystems. Along with a Symposium at the July 2013 meeting of the Society for Conservation Biology in Baltimore, Maryland, our policy brief was published by the Pew Environment Group. Our policy brief titled “Conserving the World’s Last Great Forest is Possible: Here’s How” received widespread media coverage. This work continues to generate support from indigenous peoples and conservation groups and some push back from industry groups across Canada.


Canadian Boreal Forest – photo from pewenvironment.org.

Here is a sampling of the news coverage from our important work:


Map of Canadian Boreal Forest from Natural Resources Canada

National Council for Science and the Environment

By Martha Henderson, Director.

The Evergreen State College is a member of the National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE). Each year, NCSE hosts a conference in Washington, DC with the two goals of bringing environmental professionals from business, government and academics together to learn about a significant environmental issue and secondly, to craft suggestions for environmental policy and decision-making. This year, the 14th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment was entitled “Building Climate Solutions.” Generally, two or three Evergreen environmental studies faculty or students attend. I was fortunate to attend the meeting on January 28-30th. I have attended the meeting for five years and this year was by far the most informative and concrete (I admit to having to climb the steep learning curve for those of us from interdisciplinary environmental studies programs in the Pacific Northwest suddenly placed back into siloed academic settings in the other Washington!).

buildingclimatesolutionsWhat made this meeting so accessible was the clear presentation of the climate change situation by clear speaking scientists. There is no doubt of the rapid changes Earth and its inhabitants are experiencing. Equally obvious is the slow response by the United States due to recent political wrangling that silenced the voices of our best scientists and denial of the potential impacts of climate change. Speakers at the conference this year, including Richard Alley as the opening keynote speaker and James Hansen as the closing speaker and recipient of the John H. Chafee Award, reaffirmed the need to address climate change as the most challenging issue of our time. President Obama also made a clear statement about the need to act on the impending crisis of climate change in his State of the Union address on January 29th.

Specific examples of an integrated approach to climate solutions were addressed in 28 different focus group meetings that ranged from urban issues to marine conditions at the conference. Each of these focus groups forwarded specific policy recommendations to the federal government. The interdisciplinary nature of our curriculum is exactly what is called for at this juncture in human habitation of Earth. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has made a wide and welcoming place for geographers and other social scientists who study local decision-making by different culture groups as they respond to climate change. The power of GIS is also being employed to help understand and predict changes in habitats, energy flows, and degrees of warming.

The consistent message throughout the conference was the immediate and looming impacts of a warming climate. As if to underscore the impacts of climate change, the meeting in Washington, DC coincided with an Arctic cold front a week after the Arctic Vortex swept across the Great Plains and up the eastern seaboard. At the same time, an avalanche of giant proportions swept across the only highway into Valdez, Alaska cutting off the port to land travel for the rest of the winter. For those of us of a certain age, these climatic events were only more poignant by the death of Pete Seeger. How many of his songs did I sing around an outdoor education bonfire with sixth graders in the rain on the Yamhill River in western Oregon? What happened to those dreams of saving Earth?

Well, a moment of memory and remembering Seeger is just about all we have time for if we hope to do anything about the impacts of climate change. The time to act is now. I can report that our faculty, staff and students are pro-active on climate change. I am thankful for the entire faculty especially the climate and energy faculty for teaching excellent classes that address climate change. I support adjunct faculty Paul Pickett’s call for a public protest against the Keystone Pipeline. I support all of our students’ research across the spectrum of environmental conditions. Even if the research is not specifically focused on climate change, all of our environmental issues are now related to climate change. Finally, I want to recognize Gail Wootan, Assistant Director of our program, for her leadership in creating public forums for the discussion of climate change. Members of our faculty and students are participating in this year’s planning for another TEDx on climate solutions.

One of the final plenary speakers of the conference, Rt. Hon. John Gummer, Lord Deben, Chair, Climate Change Committee, United Kingdom, summed up the state of world climate change as the most important issue of not our time, but of 500 years of human history: we must act based on social justice. We must act based on the promise we have made to the next generations. It is the most exciting time to be alive. I agree; while the challenges are immense, I believe we can, in small and big ways, make a difference.  Our graduate program is addressing these incredible issues with social and natural sciences. As always, our students are the most creative and courageous.

MES Students at the First Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference

By Gail Wootan, Assistant Director.

Four MES students joined a large Evergreen contingent of undergraduate students, faculty, and staff at the first annual Washington Higher Education Sustainability Conference at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington on February 6-7, 2014.

On an unusually cold (and unusually sunny!) couple days, students Charissa Waters, Jaal Mann, Jana Fischback, and Tiffany Webb learned about sustainable campus solutions along with 500 other representatives from Washington area colleges and universities.


MES students Jana Fischback, Jaal Mann, and Tiffany Webb.

Conference topics focused on a wide-ranging group of sustainability concepts from how to ban water bottles on campus to integrating sustainability into the curriculum. The closing session focused on college and university presidents’ goals for a more sustainable future at their respective institutions.  Evergreen’s president Les Purce joined four other presidents in inspiring conference attendees to continue their work in making campuses more energy efficient, waste free, and local food-friendly.

MES students were also active participants in the conference. Tiffany Webb, first year MES student and the Sustainability in Prisons Project’s Education and Evaluations Coordinator, moderated a session focused on service learning and collaborating with external partners on sustainability. Her SPP coworker Jaal Mann, second year MES student, blogged for SPP at the event. Although not at the conference, second year MES student Sasha Porter was chosen to feature her poster “Methods for Assessing Ecologically Disturbed Areas of Campus – and Recommendations for the Future.”

The conference was a valuable networking and career-exploring opportunity for the MES students. They hope to see the conference continue into a second year and many more years to come.  Maybe Evergreen, with its organic farm, innovative energy projects, and LEED-certified buildings will be a future host!


Sunset over Bellingham Bay on the first day of the conference




Announcing Kevin Francis as the Director of the Graduate Program on the Environment starting Fall 2014

By Jana Fischback, MES Communications Assistant.

MES is excited to announce that Dr. Kevin Francis, currently an MES core faculty member, has accepted the position of Director of the Graduate Program on the Environment, starting in Fall 2014. Please read below for his bio and join us in congratulating Kevin!

Kevin Francis began teaching at Evergreen in 2004 and joined the Graduate Program on the Environment in 2012. Like many faculty, he arrived at the college with diverse education and work experiences. After studying biology and philosophy at Reed College, he worked for several years as a wildlife biologist for Mount Hood National Forest, focusing primarily on spotted owl research and management. He also wrote about visual arts for Willamette Week.

Kevin Francis

Kevin Francis

He completed graduate work in history of science and medicine at the University of Minnesota, where he wrote a dissertation on the development of scientific theories of extinction. His research focuses on the history of scientific efforts to explain the disappearance of more than 40 genera of megafauna in the Americas following the last ice age. His current work explores the contribution of historical thinking to disciplines like ecology and the role that historical understanding plays in climate literacy.

His first faculty position was at Mount Angel Seminary, where he taught courses that integrated the humanities and sciences. Since arriving at Evergreen, Kevin has collaborated with other faculty to teach a wide variety of interdisciplinary programs. During this time, he also helped design Evergreen’s science curriculum as a planning unit coordinator and worked with Evergreen’s development staff as a faculty member on the Board of Governors.

He is excited about the opportunity to continue work with MES faculty and students. In his free-time, he likes to garden, hike, and ski with his partner, Tom, and their intrepid Chihuahua.

MES Student Honored at President’s Scholarship Reception

By Gail Wootan, Assistant Director.

Every year, Evergreen scholarship recipients are celebrated amid frosted cupcakes and white tablecloths at a reception to honor their hard work.  On January 12, 2014, one of our very own took the stage to thank the donors who are making her degree possible. Krystle Keese, a second year MES student who was awarded two fellowships this year, was asked to speak about how these fellowships are helping her meet her goals.


Student Krystle Keese, speaking at the President’s Scholarship Reception.

As the recipient of the Soule Family Fellowship and The Evergreen State College Endowment Fellowship, Krystle shared how her journey from corporate America (Chevron) to Evergreen’s verdant campus came to be, and why Evergreen “has been the perfect path” as she wends her way toward becoming an environmental professional.  In the audience was Oscar Soule, one of the founders of the MES degree in 1984.  He and his wife started the Soule Family Fellowship in 2011 – Krystle is the third recipient.


MES founder, Oscar Soule and student Krystle Keese.

The Graduate Program on the Environment offers more than $170,000 in non-loan financial aid every year to both new and continuing MES students. Awards are both based on merit and need.  Continuing students, like Krystle, who are awarded merit-based scholarships and fellowships are chosen by MES faculty for their academic accomplishments. First year students with merit are chosen based on their application to the program. Students who demonstrate high need are also assisted to some degree.

On average, more than 75% of MES students who apply for MES awards receive some kind of non-loan aid.  Of those who apply for MES financial aid, 95% of nonresidents and 70% of residents are awarded. The average award for nonresidents typically covers 22% of nonresident tuition and the average award for residents usually covers 37% of tuition. Residents have the added bonus of being eligible for the Evergreen Need Grant, which is a $2,700 yearly grant (funded by a percentage of tuition every year) awarded to the neediest of graduate students.

A number of students also receive research grants and fellowships throughout the year.  For example, MES students are usually heavily represented on the list of Evergreen’s Student Foundation Activity Grant recipients every Winter and Spring. Another way we support students is through helping them find paying jobs and internships with state agencies, local nonprofits, and Evergreen offices. The Sustainability in Prisons Project has been well-staffed by MES students for the past several years.

MES has been fortunate to have 30 years of amazing students like Krystle – we have also been fortunate to have donors who support these students.  If you are interested in helping the next generation of environmental professionals, consider donating to the Sara Ann Bilezikian Memorial Fellowship – this fellowship offers a full-ride to one very deserving MES student a year. Maybe one day, we will be able to give a full-ride to all of our students!