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NRNC Newsletter 2017 v.2

HELP THE CAUSE

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F O L L O W on F A C E B O O K
www.nisquallyestuary.org
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Annual Holiday Giving Appeal

 

To the dedicated supporters of NRNC,

We had one of the best years ever; first overnight summer camp trip to Mt. Rainier, thousands of forage fish eggs found, our new website launched, and the Board of Directors drafted a 5-year strategic plan to help guide us into the future. This strategic plan will be implemented starting 2018. During the Strategic Plan process, we discovered that while we are accomplishing our mission, as an organization we must ensure long-term sustainability of NRNC operations. 

With all the work we are doing right now we need your support more than ever. As a supporter, you have been the backbone of our existence over the years. The impact from your contribution is clear- thousands of smiles from kids reached in educational programming and hundreds of citizen stewards monitoring the health of the aquatic reserve.

This year’s ask is a little different. We are setting a target to raise $20,000 to grow our capacity and solidify our organization’s operations.

Four ways to help us achieve our goal:

  1. Become a member
  2. Renew your membership
  3. Purchase a Holiday Wreath
  4. One-time or Recurring Donation

All donations and memberships are tax-deductible. Thank you for your help to accomplish our goal of $20,000 before the end of the year and the belief in us as an organization. 
 

Warmest Regards,

Nisqually Reach Nature Center

Message from the Board 

Daniel Krenz, President

2017 has been an exciting year for the Center. As we reflect on our 35th year in operation, we can be proud of the work that we have done and look forward to the challenges ahead. This year we drafted our 5-year Strategic Plan to ensure sustainable growth for our programs. Support from our members and volunteers is what allows us to reach students and the community at large with our amazing programs. 
 
Although this was my first year as President, I have been serving on the Board of Directors since 2012, having started as a summer camp intern in 2008. I started on my path to my current career as a biologist with the Army Corps of Engineers when a teacher shared with me the story of bald eagles and their decline due to the use of pesticides. I know that our next generation of professional scientists and faithful stewards of the environment are likely to walk through our doors and have an experience on the beach that they may carry with them well into adulthood. 

If you want to make a difference in the life of a future steward of the Puget Sound, become a member, volunteer, or donate today. I am so proud to serve this organization and the utterly amazing staff and volunteers that make it all happen. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Summer Camp Explorations on Mt. Rainier

April Roe, Education Director

Excited whispers filled the dark chilly night air. You could feel the anticipation as 12 campers from our Citizen Science Academy program shuffled around to get a comfortable spot to watch the meteor shower. Even with the hazy smoke from Canada’s wildfires lingering overhead, every few minutes the smoke would clear and a blazing fiery streak of light would flash across the sky to everyone’s wonder and amazement. The first NRNC sponsored overnight trip to Mt. Rainier National Park was turning out to be a success, allowing students to explore an intricate ecosystem located for many in their own backyard.

The week started at NRNC, where campers participated in classic camp activities including crab surveys, fish seines, and benthic surveys. They spent half a day kayaking on the Nisqually Delta thanks to a partnership with Olympia Parks, Arts, and Recreation Department. At the end of a busy week, we headed to Mt. Rainier for an adventure up to see the Nisqually Glacier. After a typical summer drive filled with roadwork and traffic, campers were excited to have finally arrived at the mountain. Before heading to the glacier, we met former Mt. Rainier rangers Jane Poole and Chris Maun who provided excellent interpretation about wildflowers, volcanoes, glaciers, and rocks. They led us roughly 300 feet up a trail to see the Nisqually Glacier and start of the Nisqually River. Although campers were wilting from the heat of a 90 degree day, the meadows bursting with colorful wildflowers and crystal clear streams flowing down the hillside provided ample opportunity for awe.

After our daytime adventures at Paradise and a few more adventures by the Nisqually River, campers ate a delicious taco dinner complete with a fire and s'mores for dessert. Our campers set up their own tents with their tent-mates and even started helping counselors set up theirs as well. Once camp was ready and dinner cleaned up, campers left to view the meteor shower next to the Nisqually River.

The next morning we cleaned up our campsite before heading back to the Nisqually River for water quality testing. Earlier in the week campers tested water from the end of the Nisqually River so they could compare it to the water found at the beginning. The slate grey river was full of sediment. Campers could use their hand to scoop water and see the particles suspended. After collecting samples for water quality testing, our group wandered to a picnic area where they tested the new samples to find pH, turbidity, nitrates, and dissolved oxygen. Once they finished conducting the tests, the group ate lunch before packing back into the vans to head back to the center. Because of the amazing counselors and guides that were on the trip and fantastic camper attitudes, NRNC is planning a 3 day, 2 night trip to Mt. Rainier for Citizen Science Academy 2018! Thanks to everyone who helped make this trip successful!

Why Citizen Science Matters 

Terence Lee, Scientific Technician

We are all united through citizen science. Scientists, students, data managers, policy makers, and last, but not least, the people. In the face of hopelessness when environmental protection is under attack, we are able to do something that cannot be stifled, because the spirit of conservation will never fail as long as we can help it. It is our collective determination that fuels the drive to continue pursuing science even as those who deem it unimportant work to keep the truth from being told.  

Give yourselves a big pat on the back, because you all deserve it. You’re doing real science that holds real meaning with measurable impact. Department of Fish & Wildlife, Department of Natural Resources, and Army Corps of Engineers are using the data we are gathering to assist in their decision making when it comes to environmental protections. It is important to remember that when you are volunteering; you have a hand in protecting the environment.  

The information that we are gathering is helping to fill in gaps in knowledge about forage fish and pigeon guillemot. Without that knowledge, we don’t have a clear idea of what is happening with such species. Because there hasn’t been much research conducted on forage fish spawning and pigeon guillemot breeding in the Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve, we are in some way like pioneers exploring, observing, and documenting. To be a part of that is quite exciting and to be among leaders in that regard is something to be very proud of. That is what is means to be a citizen steward; showing how much we care about this special place by being engaged in something bigger than ourselves and working together to make this research possible. For that I am very thankful and I am honored to be orchestrating this effort, which we will continue to pursue to make sure that the ideals we hold are strong. Your support is instrumental to our success.  

Eye On Nature: Connecting Kids and Nature through Field Investigations

Davy Clark, Education Coordinator, Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

The sweet smell of cottonwood has filled the Nisqually River valley on one of the first warm days of the year. A group of fourth graders is visiting Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge to take part in field investigations and they couldn’t have come on a better day. Everyone is excited to be on a field trip, to be outside, to share this experience with their classmates. The forested boardwalk trail is teeming with songbirds. Students are busy with all the tools the Refuge has provided; field guides in hand, binoculars at the ready, and data sheets to record all their sightings. A small group of three students and a volunteer guide round a corner on the boardwalk and suddenly the chatter from chickadees goes silent, a sign that something in this part of the forest is different. Everyone moves a little slower, eyes scanning when suddenly a pair of crows break the silence. “They are after something!” exclaims a student. Everyone pulls their binoculars up, almost instinctively as they watch the two crows dive bomb the same maple tree again and again. Scanning the maple as the crows continue to dive down, twist, and fly back up to the canopy another student’s jaw drops as they become the first to see what has caused this scene to play out. An adult Great Horned Owl sits, nestled near the trunk of the maple, golden yellow eyes open looking towards our fourth grade naturalists, ducking its head each time an offending crow gets too close for comfort, but never leaving its perch. Everyone writes “Great Horned Owl, American Crow” on their data sheets to record this observation carefully noting the time of their observation and the type of habitat these species were using. This is what the Eye On Nature program is all about, creating meaningful field investigations that allow students to participate in citizen science as they also take in the excitement and wonderment of observing wild creatures in a wild place. What better way to form a connection to help inspire awe and wonder for the natural world around us? 

During spring of 2017, 748 students ranging from 3rd-8th grade participated in this program, made possible through a partnership between Nisqually Reach Nature Center, Friends of Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Nisqually River Education Project, Chehalis Basin Education Consortium, Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. Schools participate free of charge and visit the refuge to take part in citizen science activities as they learn about the diverse habitats and wildlife of the area. Over 35 volunteers contributed 480 hours of time assisting 14 visiting school groups. This high level of volunteer engagement meant that students were consistently working in very small groups with a trained guide as they collected data to be uploaded to eBird. This online checklist program created by the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a powerful tool that gives citizen scientists the opportunity to generate data that is used by land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists around the world. Between April and June students observed 91 species of birds and counted 6,113 individual birds! These numbers tell one kind of story about the “Eye On Nature” program but another kind of story is best captured by the voices of the student participants. At the end of each field trip students were asked a number of reflection questions. One prompt that generated many thoughtful responses was “I strongly believe…” Responses to this prompt included: “We are all one, but without nature we are none.” “This place should be protected forever.” “I feel like this is the most important work I’ve done in school all year.” and “I want to live at this Refuge.”.  
 
A new generation of conservationists is growing, faced with environmental challenges greater in scope than ever before. With experiences like these we are helping students to form connections to those special wild places that cradle so many of nature’s treasures. And it’s here that we believe the solutions to those big problems start; connecting with nature, finding out for yourself that it’s worth putting in the time, work, and creativity that will be needed to leave the planet a better place than you found it. 

Caretaker Update

Sam Kaviar has returned as a caretaker! Sam first joined NRNC as a caretaker in June of 2013 with Cris Peck and departed in 2014. While he was away from the Center, he received a Fulbright Fellowship in Panamá doing conservation research and attended graduate school at UCSD. He worked as a naturalist sea kayak guide in the San Juan Islands. Since his return, he formed the naturalist sea kayaking ecotourism company Kayak Nisqually. Kayak Nisqually carried out sold-out fundraiser paddles for the Nisqually Reach Nature Center highlighting the bioluminescent marine plankton of the south sound and donated a 10 person paddle tour to the “Feast at the Reach” fundraiser. Kayak Nisqually regularly offers wildlife watching tours and is looking forward to doing future fundraisers for NRNC in 2018. Kayak Nisqually is available for booking year-round at www.kayaknisqually.com

UPCOMING EVENTS @ NRNC

  • November 25-26: Forage Fish Lab Analysis, 12pm-4pm
  • November 27- December 2: Wreath Making Party 12pm-4pm
  • December 9: NRNC Holiday Party, 1pm-3pm
  • December 11: Marine Mammals in Our Backyard, 6pm-9pm
  • January 13: Polar Plunge & Chili Cook-Off, 1pm-4pm
Copyright © 2017 Nisqually Reach Nature Center, All rights reserved.