Field Sketching by Mary Raby

Just wanted to share some of my pictures from the field sketching class taught by Linda Vorobik. The class was fun, relaxed, and inspiring. I learned about plant identification and botany — this was my goal but I was pleasantly surprised to also get an art class complete with field sessions and helpful critiques. Thank you, Siskiyou Field Institute, for such quality learning in such a beautiful setting.

– Mary Raby

Vancouveria by MR

Vancouveria hexandra, the inside-out flower.

Darlingtonia

A darlingtonia photographed by Mary Raby.

 

 

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Mary sketching beside a stream outside O’Brien.

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Some of the sketch-worthy forms we saw in the field included a convolvulus

 

 

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a lomatium, or desert parsley,

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a sedum

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and the colorful leaf bracts of an Indian paintbrush.

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Siskiyou Mountains and Streams: A July Class with a View by Paula Springhart

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SFI’s Siskiyou Mountains and Streams class started with a moderate 6 mile hike of about 600 ft. elevation gain and a 360 degree view once we reached the top of Mt. Elijah.

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We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day and a more stimulating and diverse experience.  The class involved birding, botanizing and stream-and-fish ecology, presented by expert naturalist, Rich Nawa.  Oh, and did I mention the evening private tour of the caves by mystic storyteller, John Roth?

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Scarlet paintbrush (Castilleja coccinea)

Even though it was near the end of the season for most blooms, the higher elevation Bigelow Lake meadows  were awash with hundreds of red and yellow flowers (Scarlet Paint Brush and Bigelow Sneezeweed).  Also there was a sighting of Washington Lily, a bloom that perfumed the air with  gorgeous fragrance.

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Washington or Cascade Lily (Lilium washingtonianum)

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California corn lily (Veratrum californicum).

The first evening of this two-day class, we all gathered at the Oregon Caves Chateau for a sumptuous dinner.  It was here that I started paying attention to the layout of the Monument buildings, pathways, and the Chateau itself. They were so cleverly and expertly designed to almost seamlessly wed wilderness, comfort and ease.   It is a tribute to the many people, Civilian Construction Corps, architects and contractors that their craftsmanship, care and commitment still remains for us to enjoy.

ImageStudent Ron Johnson at Bigelow Lake, abundant with Spatterdock (Nuphar polysepala).

CA Sister on Spruce - Mt Elijah

California Sister butterfly aboard a spruce on the Mt. Elijah trail.

The second day was full of cool splashing waters and tall shade giving trees.  We descended to Caves Creek behind the chateau, viewed aquatic insects on the undersides of submerged rocks, viewed aquatic insects on the undersides of submerged rocks, viewed and learned to identify rainbow fry from salmon fry by looking at them from the banks of the creeks using binoculars.  Enjoyed the trail along Grayback and concluded at the historic Grayback campground.

Photos from left: Base of glass canning jar imbedded in pillar of foot bridge, along Caves Creek trail; hikers headed for Bigelow Lake; student Kathy Mechling standing by Big Tree; a gold variant of Castilleja; Alice Eastwood erigeron (Erigeron aliciae) formed cheerful throngs along the woodland and meadow trails.

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State of Jefferson Dragonflies by Kathy and Dave Biggs

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Photo of Kathy Biggs and students by Dave Biggs.

Introduction to State of Jefferson Dragonflies

We taught a 2 day workshop at the Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma, OR. The first day we teach a ‘beginner’s’ class and take the folks to Lake Selmac to see the Skimmers, a few darners and some pond damsels. This lake is Ode-intense….I’ve NEVER seen more Widow Skimmers anywhere. They flew all about us, in-wheel, in-tandem, in pursuit, in battle, in all, great!! The Autumn Meadowhawk was a first for the workshop.

Eight-spotted Skimmer

Eight-spotted Skimmer

Widow Skimmer

Widow Skimmer

Our species list, all seen at Lake Selmac, except for those marked as occurring on Deer Creek and the Darlingtonia Fen behind it.

Autumn Meadowhawk, first sighting at Lake Selmac. Photo by Dave Biggs.

Autumn Meadowhawk, (teneral female) first sighting at Lake Selmac. Photo by Norman Barrett.

Lake Selmac species list, July 27

Grappletail, Deer Creek fen
 W. Pondhawk
8-spot Skimmer
Widow Skimmer
Flame Skimmer

 Blue Dasher
 Co. Whitetail Cardinal Meadowhawk
AUTUMN Meadowhawk, one teneral female, photos taken
Black Saddlebags, ‘tramea dance’ observed
Emma’s Dancer, Deer Creek
Sooty Dancer, Deer Creek
Tule Bluet
W. Forktail
Pacific Forktail
C. Green Darner

Intermediate Dragonflies

The 2nd day of our Siskiyou Field Institute in Selma, OR. we teach an ‘intermediate” class and then take the folks to Forks of the Illinois River State Park where we walk up the river in hopes of finding River Jewelwings and then search the rocky shoreline for Clubtails. This year we saw no Jewelwings as we walked up river to the small backwater area where they are usually the thickest….had just apologized to the group for probably arriving too late this season, when a bunch of females and one male showed up. Yey!!
At Lake Bolan, 5440′, we found thousands of bluets, every grass blade had one! …plus those in flight.

Species list for Forks State Park and Bolan Lake July 28th

Key:
I=Forks of the Illinois Rv.
B=Bolan Lake
D=Deer Creek

River Jewelwing – I, 5 f,1m
Emma’s Dancer – D, ~6
California Dancer – I, assumed this species, several
Sooty Dancer – I, several dozen; D, half dozen
Vivid Dancer – I, a few
No/Bo Bluet – B. abundant – both species have been recorded here before
Pacific Forktail I, a few m&F
Western Forktail- I, 1m & 1 f
Shadow Darner – B, 4 in-hand, more present, assumed this species
Common Green Darner – a male in flight
Pacific Clubtail – I (possibly this species photographed, awaiting Alan’s photos)
Bison Snaketail – I, ~10, including some males and females in-hand
Pacific Spiketail/Western River Cruiser -I,  possibly both species seen, but only from a distance
American Emerald – B, one female in hand. Other Emeralds over the lake assumed to be this species.
Eight-spotted Skimmer – I, 4-6 males
Four-spotted Skimmer – B, 1 male in-hand
Flame Skimmer – I, 2 males
Variegated Meadowhawk – I, 1 female photographed

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Female bison snaketail photographed by Dave Biggs.

Male Bison Snaketail photographed at Forks State Park, Illinois River

Male Bison Snaketail photographed at Forks State Park, Illinois River

Other dragonfly photos by student Alan Harper (Shown photographing horizontally below): http://www.flickr.com/photos/alanharper/sets/72157634868633220/

Norm Barrett

Dragonfly hunter Norman Barrett examines a netted species.

Class best Intermediate Dragonflies class on the lookout in Bolan Lake.
Photo by Daniel Newberry.
Dflies Class Biggs
Intermediate class at the Illinois River.
Photo by Dave Biggs.
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Botanizing Whetstone Butte by Christine Yee and Jon Carlson, CH

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Whetstone Butte landscape. Photo by Kathleen Pyle.

Botanizing Whetstone Butte with botanist Cecile Shohet was my first class at the Siskiyou Field Institute.  She was assisted by special guest field guide, geologist John Roth, who held the back end of our hefty class of 25 along the single trails.

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Botanist Cecile Shohet. Photo by Christine Yee.

Though we had two expert leaders, I was also impressed by how much knowledge there was within the class.  Among us, there seemed to be many people with much information to share – professional geologists, environmental studies students, bird lovers, and veterans of SFI.  My background is in herbal medicine, and I was eager to explore the landscape from the perspective of a botanist and geologist.

 Herbalists don’t tend to focus much on serpentine plants because of the toxicity of the soil.  While serpentine plants may not make good medicine for people, they are incredibly unique in their own right; they have found a way to thrive in an environment that is unfertile and has high concentrations of heavy metals.  Some species we saw, like Ceanothus spp., actually improve the soil by making nitrogen more available.  Other species evolved with lots of hair on their leaves and stems to retain more moisture.

It was also impressed upon me that the Klamath Siskiyou bioregion is unique this area never fully glaciated.  Consequently, there are paleo-ancient plant species that you can’t find in many other places, like Solider’s Oak (Quercus sadleriana). 

 Because of the Biscuit Fire in 2002, we were also able to see some unique species that sprouted after the fire, like the Knobcone Pine (Pinus attenuata), which spreads its seeds only through fire. 

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Knobcone pine. Photo by Christine Yee.

 The class was amazing, though the most memorable part of the class for me was being at SFI for the first time and staying on the grounds at Deer Creek.  The facilities are really comfortable, the land is so beautiful and well maintained, and the water in the creek is so clear.  I can’t wait to take another class and another opportunity to jump in creek!

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Stream orchids at Deer Creek. Photo by Christine Yee.

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Observations on Botanizing Whetstone Butte

By Jon Carlson, CH

As an herbalist and teacher of field botany residing in southwest Oregon I have spent many hundreds of hours exploring this region, though it was not until I attended Cecile’s lecture on serpentine ecosystems and the hike on Whetstone butte that I fully appreciated the uniqueness and diversity of these areas.  Between expanding my knowledge of serpentine geology and the selective pressures that gave rise to the multitude of endemic plant species in serpentine regions, I find myself with a deeper appreciation of these unique ecosystems.

Experiencing the diversity of all uniquely adapted serpentine plants against the starkly beautiful backdrop of whetstone butte was powerful!  Of particular note for me, was seeing the transition zone part way up the mountain where the serpentine soil began, as well as seeing a the Siskiyou Fritillaria and a rare Saxifage family plant nestled in the rocks on the mountain top.

 The Siskiyou Field Institute deserves special acknowledgement for their wonderful array of educational offerings in the areas of botany, geology, natural history, and conservation. 

 

 

 

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Little Climate Change on the Prairie

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by Daniel Newberry, SFI Executive Director

If you’ve been out to Deer Creek Center in the past few years, you’ve probably noticed the fenced area the size of a house filled with sprinklers and heat lamps. It sits in the pasture next to the gravel road shortly after you turn off Illinois River Road.  This enclosure is one of three facilities in the Pacific Northwest that comprise a study designed by ecologists Scott Bridgham and Bart Johnson of the University of Oregon.

Their research is attempting to answer two questions: How will climate change affect native plants in imperiled prairie ecosystems?  How certain restoration practices might be in protecting these ecosystems as climate change progresses?

To answer these questions, these scientists have established three research locations:  Deer Creek Center in southern Oregon, and on preserves managed by The Nature Conservancy near Eugene and in western Washington.  In each of the three enclosures are a series of treatment and control plots.  In the treatment plots are either heat lamps, sprinklers, or lamps and sprinklers.  The purpose of this hardware is to simulate the warmer and wetter conditions predicted for the Pacific Northwest.  The rate of plant growth in the plots helps determine how the plants are likely to fare under climate change.

We managed to catch up with Scott Bridgham by phone earlier this week.  He and Bart Johnson are currently writing up the results from the initial phase of their research.

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SFI: Why the focus on prairie ecosystems?

Bridgham: Grasslands and associated open areas—which would include things like oak savannah—were (once) a predominant habitat type from southwestern Washington south of Seattle all the way down into Northern California. Many of those open ecosystems have been lost, depending on how you define them, only 1 to 10% of them are left, so they’re considered one of the more imperiled ecosystems in the U.S.  The reasons for loss have been myriad, some of which have been due to development and agriculture but one of the biggest ones of them have been succession to denser forest, often Douglas fir due to reduction in fire frequency with Euro-American settlement. They harbor many species, a few are rare and endangered species.  Another problem in these ecosystems which is true in this part of the world and around the world, is the effect of invasive species in the native communities.

SFI: What types of plants are you studying?

Bridgham: They’re species that are range-limited to somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, sort of on this side of the Cascades. They include grasses and forbs, perennials and annuals, so a pretty big distribution of species with different life history traits… From a larger perspective this should be a pretty representative group of species that would occur in grasslands.

SFI: So you’re looking at what happens when the temperature increases by 3 degrees Celcius and with an increase in 20% of the intensity of precipitation, both of which are what some climate change models are predicting for the Pacific Northwest.  What have you found so far?

Bridgham: The precipitation treatments have had very little effect in everything we’ve looked at, which makes for a short story.  The warming is much more interesting.  Much of its effect is actually in drying the soils .

What we found is, interestingly, not species-dependent, which is—I was surprised—that the species with warming (treatments) do poorer in their current range, even if it’s at the northern edge of their current range.  If we move them beyond their current range, they do fine or even better than they would have done further south in their range. It’s kind of what you’d expect but no one has ever done this experimentally, to my knowledge.

SFI: So if these native plants can migrate northward as the climate warms, they’ll survive?

Bridgham: The conundrum is, they’ve got to get there in a highly fractured landscape, because there are only islands of appropriate habitat that are, these days, very far apart.

SFI: In your study, you’re also looking at restoration techniques aimed at helping these vulnerable native plants, primarily against the exotics.

Bridgham: We knocked back the vegetation that was in the plots, which is primarily exotic species in all three sites… then we put in a broad suite of native species, around 30 total, so many more than just the range-limited species. Then they grew up and we had things that came out of the seed bank and they often were exotic species but whatever was in the seed bank, and we let them duke it out.”

It seems like the exotic species do better in the warmed plots—which is not good. So there’s a pretty strong suggestion that with climate change these grasslands are going to be dominated more by these annual exotics versus a mix of perennial natives and exotics, which would be a pretty major change in plant functional group which has lots of implications.

SFI: You mentioned that Oregon’s grasslands have been dominated, historically, by perennials.

Bridgham: They were dominated by perennial native bunchgrasses.  But when California was colonized way back when by the Europeans, they quickly introduced exotic grasses, so they have (now) been there for a very long time, and all their grasslands have pretty much dominated by annual exotic species with very few exceptions.

SFI: So it’s not just people who are moving from California to Oregon!  How are these exotics taking over? What’s happening, as it were, on the ground?

Bridgham: Perennial plants and the annual plants, they have very different phenologies of how long they stay green, when they fruit. If there are closely evolutionary coupled cycles between species and their pollinators, then that can certainly be disrupted.

SFI: Take us forward 50 years.  You told me that perhaps 99% of the people may not be able to tell the difference between the current perennial-dominated Oregon grasslands and the exotic-dominated grasslands that may be here in the future.

Bridgham: There are a lot of reasons that people give why you should protect biodiversity but it comes down, for me, to an ethical question: do we as humans have the right to decimate native fauna and flora?

SFI: So climate change, at least in grasslands in our area, is likely to cause a loss in biodiversity?

Bridgham: Yes.

Scott Bridgham is a professor at the University of Oregon’s Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

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Roberta the Hairworm

Roberta

By Kathy Mechling, M.D., SFI Board President

We were peering into the old horse trough to see how the tadpoles were progressing.  We saw no tads, they had probably metamorphosed and jumped out, but there was a lovely sinuous worm.  She was very thin, like spaghettini, tan colored; about 8 inches long with no obvious markings –no stripes/spots/head/tail/fin –no nothing.  She was not a familiar human pathogen, but she was familiar.

An internet search soon led past whip, flat, tape and round worms, to the lovely horse hair worms.  Turns out they are parasitic grasshoppers only.  I learned the males and females mate in big clusters (Gordian knots) in creeks or streams.  The fertilized eggs later hatch as larvae who sink to the muddy bottom since they can’t swim or float.  There, a hairworm larva “enters” the larva of an insect such as a mosquito, mayfly or midge.  Weeks or months later when that insect larva metamorphoses, it flies away carrying the hairworm cyst back to dry land.  From there, if lucky, it will be eaten by an omnivorous grasshopper.  Inside the grasshopper the hairworm cyst carefully devours most of the grasshopper guts, leaving only the jumping muscles, the heart and the brain.  When the hairworm is ready to hatch, it turns the grasshopper into its zombie and commands it to march toward water, then the final command is to jump into the water where the adult hairworm then crawls out the grasshopper’s rear.

I could not have made this up.

The internet search also turned up the Hairworm Biodiversity Project in Albuquerque.    Hot diggity!  They are recruiting “Citizen Scientists” to submit hairworms from around the world.  I quickly emailed them about my find, and Dr. Ben Hanelt wrote back that he didn’t have any critters from Oregon.  Game on.  I would encourage you to google the project.  Their logo is one of the best I have ever seen.

The horse trough hairworm was found at the Robert Whittaker house, which was named after the Ecologist who explored the Kalmiopsis wilderness in the ‘50s.  Roberta seemed to be a good name for her.  As a side note, Whittaker formulated his theories of ecosystems from data collected in the Kalmiopsis, taking careful measurements of plants and the physical characteristics of their immediate environments at his research sites.  Some brilliant scientists {1} recently revisited these same sites and documented changes in those plant communities.  Because the only significant change in the environment over the last 57 years is an increase in temperatures there of about 2 degrees, they have documented changes in ecosystems that are probably due to climate change.  Whittaker knew nothing of climate change, but his work is helping with the study of plant and animal survival and adaptation in this time of rapid environmental change..

Dr. Hanelt instructed me to put Roberta in a plastic container with clean water and then put her in my refrigerator until I could mail her, reassuring me she is not a human pathogen.  I recycled a Party Peanuts jar.  As you can see, she seemed happy there.

Monday morning we repackaged her into a Ziploc bag sealed in another bag, then into a little mailing box.  With her bags packed, she was off to warm, sunny Albuquerque.

Two days later Dr. Hanelt emailed me that my  hairworm had arrived alive and well, and that the species Gordius robustus had not been documented in Oregon before.  However, alas, he informed me that my hairworm was Robert, not Roberta.

It is such a beautiful world.

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 Notes:

{1} Damschen, Ellen I, Susan Harrison and James B Grace.  Climate change effects on an endemic-rich edaphic flora: resurverying Roert H. Whittaker’s Siskiyou sites (Oregon, USA)  Ecology 91(12), 2010, pp3609-3619

Hairworm Biodiversity Survey: http://www.nematomorpha.net/

Ben Hanelt, PhD, is a Research Assistant Professor at the Center for Evolutionary and Theoretical Immunology in the Department of Biology at the University of New Mexico

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2012 youth education year-in-review

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By Aliza Kawecki, SFI Lead Youth Instructor

Hiking on the upper property at DCC along the creek this fall, I turn around to face a group of ten middle-schoolers following me. They’re all smiling and chattering back and forth with each other and suddenly we hear a sound: “whe whe whe.”

The boy behind me looks up at and says with a puzzled face, “ What the heck is that sound?”

I know it’s familiar and just at the tip of my tongue and a quiet boy behind him says, “It’s a Red-breasted Nuthatch. My dad says it sounds like a truck backing up.” Seconds later the boy’s i.d.  is confirmed when we see the reddish brown rump of a Red-breasted Nuthatch as it performs its acrobatical movements on the trunk of a Douglas fir.

I smile at the quiet boy. “ You’re totally right and there it is!”

The entire group falls silent as we watch the bird hop up and down spinning in circles. Then as if the nuthatch can sense us watching, it flies off and we continue down the trail. The first boy calls out from behind me, “ Man! I wish school was like this everyday.”

At this comment, my heart smiles. Hearing kids’ positive feedback reminds me how important the Youth Education Program is. We continue to a point where the trail splits, one half of the group heads to the geology sign with their teacher, the rest head down to the creek with me. I pick a leaf from a plant growing along the creek and fold it in half to release the scent. I pass it around for kids to smell. “What does it smell like?” I ask.

“ Mmmm. Like mint. Like spices. Like… I don’t really know.” I tell them how this leaf is used as a flavor in spaghetti sauce. “ One boy shouts, “ Oh yeah, my mom uses this. It grows at our house!”

We continue on into the lesson, which involves taking the temperature and pH of the creek in order to determine its health. Students wearing protective goggles hold their pH samples up to the light trying to judge the color. Everyone is involved in the process, as they are split into pairs so that everyone can experience collecting data.

We meet up with the other half of the group back at the split and one boy exclaims, “ We didn’t see the rock!”

I look at him and ask, “You mean the serpentine, it was everywhere how could you miss it?”

The boy replies, “ No, I mean the big chunk of it you showed us a picture of in class.”

I smile, realizing the boy expected to find the exact example I showed the class. I reply, “ Well I’m excited you were paying attention, but that picture was to show you a good example of what to look for. Did you find smaller pieces?”

“Oh yeah. I just wanted to find the big one. It looked pretty cool.”

Wanting to encourage him, I reply, “We’ll keep an eye out, you might find it somewhere else, now that you know what to look for.”

He nods and says,” Yeah I like rocks. I have a collection of them at my house. I’ll keep looking.”

This is just a little piece of the awesome season we had at the Siskiyou Field Institute in the Youth Education Program. I also had the pleasure of working with two fantastic instructors, Ellie Armstrong in the spring and Jess Kelleher in the fall. This spring we offered a program called “Songbirds, Science and Outdoor Schools,”  where students learn about local songbird populations. We taught this program in partnership with the Klamath Bird Observatory and had the pleasure of working with Jeanine Moy, who works for KBO. We received lots of positive feedback from teachers on the overnight program serving nine schools in Southern Oregon. I look forward to offering it again in the spring of 2013.

In partnership with the Oregon Caves, we also offered a two-day field trip to both DCC and Oregon Caves. Students collected data in creeks at both sites to assess the health of the watershed.  This program ran in the spring and fall this season and is free of charge to students, thanks to grant funding! We are excited to offer this again in the spring of 2013 and have a long list of teachers interested in participating.

Two new classes were implemented this season, “Memorable Mammals” and “Geobotany.”  “Memorable Mammals” was offered to third-grade students, teaching them about the characteristics of mammals and how to track them.   “Geobotany” took middle school students up into the Darlingtonia fen to learn about them up close and personal. This spring, we were able to accommodate a group of 80 from Portland for this program!

During the summer we offered two middle school single-gender wilderness day camps. While these were a lot of fun, we hope to increase enrollment next year by offering an overnight camp so that parents will not have the added expense of driving back and forth each day, and so we can increase the wilderness camp experience for participating kids. We also plan to expand programming to offer three-day, single-gender backpacking trips next summer and hope to be able to provide gear to teens in need, through donations and grant funding!

This fall we also have been participating in an afterschool program offering natural history and science-related activities to students in the local elementary school and middle school. This has allowed us to get to know some of the local students much better, as we have been seeing the same kids week after week!

Overall, it has been a very successful season and I look forward to coming back next February to continue the very important work Siskiyou Field Institute does in connecting youth to their local environment!

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