Following the reauthorization of the Lakeview Federal Stewardship Unit, the Lakeview Stewardship Group (LSG) gave Richard Hart, a noted Ecologist, the task of developing a monitoring plan that would answer the questions asked by the LSG. The Chewaucan Monitoring Plan was funded by the Fremont/Winema Resource Advisory Council for the 2002 field season. One of the goals of the monitoring plan was to create an educational link between the monitoring effort and local schools. This was initiated by employing high school and college students who were enrolled in, or had gone through Lake County schools.
Concerns over the use of “untrained” undergraduates as field technicians and the viability of data collected was addressed by Clair Thomas the Field Science Instructor at Lakeview High School. “In Field Science a student is taught to carry out field studies following accepted protocols.
“The importance of thorough recording with attention to detail is evaluated. Students become proficient at the identification of local plants, insects and other organisms throughout the class. Students can elect to take the class for 5 college credits from Oregon Institute of Technology in the Applied Environmental Sciences department. Throughout the year students will participate in six diverse, in-depth field studies.”
Development of Methods
Richard Hart, commented during the field season that “I have a lot of trust and faith in this group and the chemistry of it. I know there were a lot of questions about having young people collect the data, being able to do a faithful job of measuring and recording, but I have never been met with anyone on this team that slacked.”
Eight students were hired full time from a pool of applicants. Six of the applicants were college students and two were beginning their senior year of high school. Several other students participated on a part time basis. Their commitment was apparent as they enthusiastically collected and identified riparian plants and macro-invertebrates, during the initial days of training. This unabated enthusiasm increased throughout the field season. Lunch-times were spent discussing new specimens, the meaning of data collected, how it related to other areas investigated and how it tied into current understanding.
It was not uncommon for students to climb a ridge looking for successional changes, seek out unique organisms, dissect a stump or log, analyze soil, or investigate a unique niche during their breaks or even after they were finished for the day. Neal Richards, a sophomore at the University of Idaho, when asked what the experience meant to him replied: “It’s meant a lot and has brought a passion into my observations.” Grant Morrison , a senior at Lakeview High School responded, “This experience has caused me to think a lot about my life.”
Students were trained in all methods and then organized by specialties, based on their strongest interests, to collect most of the data. This brought consistency to the data and an ability to become an “expert” in a particular subject. Richard Hart spent a lot of time identifying representative and transitioning sites for surveys. At the beginning of each site survey, which could take several days, the participants would walk through the area discussing the reason the site was chosen. New plants and other native life would be identified, tree diseases and symbiotic relationships discovered, relationships between components of the site discussed, and comparisons made between past sites and the current site.
Our Work Revisited
At the end of the site surveys the discussions were re-visited to compare expectations with reality and implications for the site. Alex Plato, a post graduate student of Western Baptist Bible College and currently attending graduate school, was given the daunting task of quality control in addition to his specialty of aquatic macro-invertebrates. He observed: “in my conception of what science is, and what a scientist should do…this seems ideal. You have a bunch of people together open to ideas and seeing things.
“We haven’t been trained in the systematic way we’ve been trained by lifelong observers of the ecosystem and are being encouraged to use our own intuitions and develop innovative ideas. We learn to trust in our intuition to some degree and to go with what we feel…with what we see, and then, altogether, we can check it out and come up with a pretty accurate observation. This seems like ideal science to me.”
As the summer progressed students began to take a new interest in the relationship between the land and the local communities that use them. Tynan Granberg, a freshman at Yale, commented, “It’s kind of special to be out here doing meaningful work in the same locations that I played around in my childhood.” Luke Dary, a senior at Oregon State University, added, “When you start getting involved in the area around where you live…living in place becomes more of a desire.” Neal Richards replied, “It makes me feel more responsible for the forest and what goes on here…in the community.” Grant Morrison summed it up, “If we do have an impact on this forest, I’ll probably be around in my old age to see it…and I’ll remember the places we went and the things we did. It’s neat to think that I can have a positive impact and that I’ll be able to see that change.”
Throughout the summer students reflected on the role of man in the ecosystems. As this discussion developed over time students began to passionately discuss the complexity and interrelatedness of all components of the ecosystem.
Tynan Granberg summed up the groups consensus when he said, “We have learned to look at all things as a cohesive whole with more relationships.” This frequently led to discussions concerning the role of man in the ecosystem. Alex Plato commented: “I have learned that we have a responsibility to the entire forest. I have developed a huge respect for nature and the outdoors. I have a pride for my hometown and I think that is lacking in a lot of places. Here we have this outdoors, this great beautiful place, God’s creation that we can work in. It means a lot to me. We must be good stewards of it. We can contribute to it and be a part of it’s beauty.”