The Pacific Biodiversity Institute in Winthrop and the North Cascades Basecamp near Mazama recently hosted 13 students between the ages of 18 and 26 from Austria, Spain, Canada and several U.S. states for four weeks, for an intensive Conservation Science and Leadership Course. One of the students wrote the attached article about the experience, which is excerpted here.
By Dina Schwartz
From the snow-capped peaks to the clear waters of the Methow River, the last several weeks have been nothing short of the adventure of a lifetime. On May 22, 13 strangers from around the world rendezvoused in the Methow. Many of us came from a metropolis far removed from a rural lifestyle. The North Cascades Basecamp has become a home for us all – a place where we study, cook, sleep, and day-by-day grow as individuals and as a family.
The course has exceeded many of our expectations. In the first week we hiked Goat Wall and studied Ponderosa pine, Douglas fir, and the wildlife that also call the Methow home. We engaged in discussion about environmental law and land management of national forests by the U.S. Forest Service. We went birding every morning and caught over 50 native bees to help identify one of the most-abundant, least-studied insects in the Methow.
Week two flew by swiftly as we explored environmental issues in the Arctic, forest entomology of the Methow, and some got our first-ever overview of Geographic Information Systems (GIS), a global mapping system. We spent three days camping in Squaw Creek, where we acquired knowledge of field techniques that interns at Pacific Biodiversity Institute are currently using; how to set up a plot for their forest fire impact study; and about the current and historical fire regimes in the Methow.
At the end of the week some of us hiked the Cedar Falls and Cutthroat Lake trails as others attended a presentation on the native Okanogan tribe at the Methow Valley Interpretive Center.
The third week was jam-packed with lectures on the Methow Beaver Project, shoreline conservation law, climate change, salmon conservation and habitat restoration, the Yakama Nation’s rights and roles in the conservation of the Methow, and the lamprey’s unlisted endangerment. We all got behind the scenes at the Winthrop fish hatchery, Twisp’s waste management facility, and the Methow Valley Native Plants Nursery. Over the weekend a couple of us volunteered at the Kid’s Fishing Day at the Winthrop fish hatchery.
During the fourth week we worked on our student projects, and I can say on behalf of us all that none of us are ready for this adventure to end. We took advantage of daylight hours to go on hikes and make the most of our time left. It sure has been bittersweet.
In the last three weeks many of us have spent more time actively outdoors than we have in the last few years being bound to university lecture halls. All of us have grown from this experience as leaders, scientists, and stewards of the environment.
If you have seen us around town, or if you were among the many that took time out of your day to teach us about your passion, I would like to say thank you on behalf of us all. You live in the most beautiful land many of us have ever seen, and we know it wouldn’t be so if you did not care for it the way that you do. You have all made us feel at home in this foreign land. We will always have the Methow in our hearts.