Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Day in the Field

Amanda recounts a recent experience she had in the field conducting maintenance on a couple riparian restoration projects. Projects installed in fall 2010 required some weed control because weeds compete with native plants for water, nutrients, and real-estate. Removing the weeds by hand reduces the need for chemical control and helps native plants thrive.

My supervisor offered me the opportunity to experience a day in the field conducting some project maintenance. I never bothered asking what “maintenance” might entail instead I jumped at the chance to spend a day away from my computer.

I arrived at the designated site at 8:30am. I could tell that the day was going to be hot and that I’d regret not bringing my hat or eating breakfast. The consequences of pressing snooze a few too many times, but I didn’t have a lot of time to think about morning regrets.

“Amanda, these are the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) interns who we’ll be working with today.” My supervisor introduced me to Shawn, Nara, and Brent. All three are engineering students, who looked prepared for the task ahead. They seemed to know what they were doing.

I felt slightly intimidated. Maybe it was because I was in the presence of future engineers and a resource specialist or the fact I couldn’t tell the difference between weeds and native plants, or good grass versus an invasive grass. Suddenly, computer work became quite appealing.

Instead of letting those feelings overwhelm me, I grabbed my gloves and set to work clearing weeds and preparing plants for future monitoring. As the day progressed, so did my confidence. It became easier to indentify weeds, the BOR interns were no longer just future engineers, but individuals who I could identify with.

In 90 degree heat with no shade we worked and discussed everything from our favorite movies to our future career goals. My allergies flared up, my back and knees hurt, my arms were sun burnt, I was covered in dirt, and worst of all I forgot to take my sandwich out of the heat so by lunch it had turned into a slimy, soggy mess. I ate it anyway.

While it was not an easy day in the field I enjoyed meeting new people, learning about native and invasive vegetation, gaining hands on experience, and an appreciation for the people who will spend their whole summer doing field work.
Your friend in conservation,

For information on how you can volunteer, please call Cascadia Conservation District at 509-664-9370 or visit us on the web at

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Connecting Kids with Nature

For Earth Day, Cascadia Conservation District sponsored an essay contest for middle school students. As part of the contest students were tasked with answering the question, "what does nature mean to you and what do you do to protect it." The winners of the contest received savings bonds courtesy of Cashmere Valley Bank and got to spend Saturday, May 21 conducting wood duck surveys with Kelly Cordell-Stine, a Wildlife Biologist with Chelan County PUD. This posting was written by Kelly and is her reflection of that day.

Special thanks to Kelly, Chelan County PUD, and Cashmere Valley Bank for their support!

On May 21, the top 3 winners (Eva, Gauge, and Vivian) of the Cascadia Conservation District’s Earth Day Essay contest met down at Wenatchee Confluence State Park.  Eva, Gauge, and Vivian were presented with certificates acknowledging their accomplishment from Cascadia Conservation District.  Following the awards, the students came with me on a nature hike to explore the Horan Nature Area and to conduct wood duck nest box surveys.

Engaging the students in hands-on activities was a great way to teach them about habitat stewardship.  They learned about the plants and animals than can be found within the Nature Area, where to look for them, and the actions Chelan PUD takes to help manage the habitat in the Nature Area.  Osprey, bald eagles, and swallows circled overhead.  Herons took watch in a nearby field.  Pocket gophers scurried ahead of the kids as they entered a grassy meadow.  What great finds!  The kids had a lot of good questions, and were quick to point out interesting features or animal sightings in the field. 

I had them work as a team to survey wood duck nest boxes out in the meadow.  Were they ever in for a treat!  They observed first-hand what wood duck, tree swallow, and Northern flicker eggs looked like.  They watched in fascination as Northern flickers hatched out of their eggs.  The highlight of the trip was that we were lucky enough to observe a wood duck hen on the nest, incubating a clutch of eggs.  The students shared their findings with each other and documented each observation.  The students were thrilled and had a wonderful day exploring the Nature Area. 

Hands-on experiences with nature connect people with the outdoors and provide an experience matched by no other.  The type of experience may vary-- trail restoration, wildlife surveys, nature photography, picking up litter—but all are equally important for connecting people with the resource.  Additionally, the experience provides some ownership and investment of a particular area, leaving people connected by providing a first-hand experience; not some nebulous ecological concept memorized from a book for a test.  Instead, the experience is converted to “I saw….”  “I did….”  The feeling of ownership is important to our younger generations, especially if we want them to feel invested in the community and feel that they can make a difference. 

I was excited to partner in the program because I was able to provide a hands-on experience for the students in one of our area’s finest birding locations.  The Horan Nature Area is a gem for the community and I am always happy to expose others to its value for both wildlife and people.  

For more information on the Horan Nature Area and Chelan PUD’s Wildlife programs, please visit