Adventure Scientists Project Managers Michelle Toshack and Anya Tyson represented both the work we do as a whole and the role of women in particular in science and conservation at a gathering earlier this week. Hosted by the 500 Women Scientists: Bozeman Pod and held at Bunkhouse Brewery the event focused on their work on our Conserving Biodiversity: Pollinators and Timber Tracking projects respectively.
500 Women Scientists is a grassroots organization dedicated to standing up for women and for science, pushing to build an inclusive and diverse scientific enterprise.
"It appealed to me that their mission isn't only to foster the women-in-science community," said Anya. "They also have this outward-facing mission of making science more accessible, exciting, and fun for the general public."
Anya's previous work involved working with at-risk teens, reaching them through engagement in the outdoors and any other tools at her disposal––including playing the accordion. "I love science communication and science engagement and I have a lot of that in my everyday work at Adventure Scientists, but with so much being computer-based, it is such a joy to be looking people in the eye and seeing them laugh and smile, and feeding off of their in-person energy."
With such energy in the room, it was the perfect time to bust out that accordion once again. As the Project Manager for our Timber project, she naturally (?) turned to the hit song "Timber" by Pitbull featuring Ke$ha for inspiration. Have a listen below:
So how did it all go over, women in science speaking about conservation at a bar on a Sunday evening?
"It was awesome," says Anya. "It was a really good cross section of some early-career (maybe college) folks, and then our peers and other scientists that were presenting, and I think we caught some people by surprise––they were just going for a beer. That's kind of fun, to have an ambush of science communication."
"I think it's important to disrupt the traditional ways that we present research to the public. We got some of those same people who would have come to hear us in a lecture hall who just came to the brewery instead, but we also got those ambush folks."
As for Michelle, her experience at the 500 Women Scientists event was perhaps best summarized by a recent encounter outside this event. "My 9-year-old niece has recently expressed a strong interest in science," she said. "And when asked what she wants to study she happily responded, 'I want to be a butterfly scientist!'"
"What 500 Women Scientists does is really appealing to me because it's a network that's about collaboration and showcasing the role of women in this field," added Anya, "but it's not just 'We're women, we're in science, hear us roar!' They also have this mission of a broader service to science."
To that end, consider that person Michelle mentioned––girl or boy, old or young. When there's someone new dreaming of a career science, that's a win for everyone.
Matt Mikkelsen and Palmer Morse are outdoor data collectors.
They're not carrying vials or baggies though. They're toting microphones and cameras, recording the audible environment we all experience but mostly fail to perceive.
As Spruce Tone Films, these two adventurers are helping bridge the gap between visual and audible information, doing research and sharing stories with sound ecologist Gordon Hempton and others.
We caught up with them to learn more about what the soundscape can tell us about the landscape, to understand the struggle to preserve natural sounds in our human-filled world, and to discover how we can train our own hearing to give us more information and more enjoyment on our adventures and explorations.
Watch Matt and Palmer's film about Gordon Hempton, Being Hear.
Explore Gordon's work at soundtracker.com.
See (and hear) more clips at sprucetonefilms.com.
What do whale sharks, mountain lions, and urban farms have in common?
They all factor into the diverse career trajectories of three Adventure Scientists staff members. In this webinar, Pollinators Project Manager Michelle Toshack, Timber Project Manager Anya Tyson, and Projects Team Lead Katie Christiansen discuss the experiences and choices that have defined their careers.
Moderated by our own Volunteer Coordinator Jessie Kay, this hour-plus session features a trio of strong women fielding a variety of questions about how to pursue conservation-oriented jobs, training, and education. Volunteers from both the Timber and Pollinators Project drive the conversation with excellent questions and commentary.
As always, our volunteer network amazes us with their unrelenting desire to direct time, energy, and talent towards making the world a better place!
By Ian Mahaffey
There’s something you should know about me before we get started: I'm kind of a map nerd. I took multiple GIS courses in college and fawn over the artistic work of James Niehues in a way more closely resembling a Justin Bieber fan than an art aficionado. So when it came to picking sample locations for the Timber Tracking Project, I approached it with just as much enthusiasm as the part where I actually got to go outside.
Each volunteer was given a zone they were responsible for, and each zone came with its own required number of samples. I was assigned Zone 51, which required 15 samples. It spanned most of Yosemite National Park, as well as portions of Stanislaus and Sierra National Forests.
I saw the task of point selection as a fun geospatial puzzle, combining the elements of habitat, accessibility, permit availability, and a minimum distance of 5 miles between samples to come up with high quality data points. Adventure Scientists provided us with two apps to aid in our point selection. Magpi+ was used to collect all of the data we needed in the field, and Gaia GPS was used to mark waypoints and to easily determine if we were on public land. Together these two apps turned my cell phone into a powerful data collection computer.
My first trip was successful, despite not gathering quite as many samples as I had hoped. I finished that trip confident that my next trip, planned for the first weekend of August, would be smooth sailing. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans for the Sierra.
The Ferguson Fire began in July on (of all days) Friday the 13th, only a few days after I exited the field. By the time I was able to get back into the field three weeks later on Saturday, August 4th, the fire was only 35% contained and all three western entrances to Yosemite had been closed until further notice.
In California, bigleaf maple habitat usually occurs between 1000 and 6000 feet in elevation, and near rivers or in canyons. This perfectly described the terrain west of Yosemite that the Ferguson fire was consuming. When I contacted Joanna Clines, Forest Botanist for Sierra National Forest, asking where I should go to complete the project, she admitted to me that the bigleaf maple sites she had been planning on telling me about were no longer accessible due to the forest closures.
This geospatial puzzle was quickly becoming a Rubik’s cube beyond my ability.
I decided to head south of Yosemite to the east side of Highway 41. Constrained by a forecast of poor air quality and the closure of the forest west of the highway, I hoped I would be able to achieve a modest goal of two samples from that area to bring my grand total up to four.
I camped out in my car Saturday night to avoid the smoky air and woke up early Sunday morning to commence my investigation. Despite searching 10 miles of Highway 41 and over 7 miles of Forest Service roads, I left the field empty-handed, unable to find a single maple.
After returning home I began planning my last collection trip. With no signs of the maples east of Highway 41, and Yosemite Valley and Highway 140 closed, I was going to have to rely heavily on the remaining terrain along Highway 120. I found four sites along Highway 120 in addition to the two I already had. By cheating the five mile buffer, I could squeeze out two additional sites, bringing me to a total of six sites to visit.
It was going to take a miracle to reach ten high quality samples, let alone fifteen.
Luckily for me, CalFire and the U.S. Forest Service employ miracle workers by the thousands. Two days after my empty-handed trip, the Highway 120 entrance into Yosemite opened, followed by an announcement that the Highway 140 entrance and Yosemite Valley would be open the following Tuesday.
With this information, I was able to devise a new plan consisting of thirteen possible sites to visit over the course of a three day trip that snaked between Yosemite and the National Forests. My first three points yielded great samples, and I began feeling like I would reach fifteen samples in no time. My fourth site turned out to be unproductive, but not all hope was lost. I had downloaded each of my planning maps into Gaia GPS, and combined with Google Earth I was able to make adjustments to my search on the fly without even having to leave the field.
Over the course of that trip I covered an area of 450 square miles, bagging ten samples for a total of twelve samples contributed to the project.
While I am disappointed I wasn’t able to reach the goal of fifteen samples, I know that I gave it my best shot under the circumstances. Each day consisted of driving, hiking, sampling, and camping in 95-degree heat and smoky air, but if it was supposed to be miserable, I didn’t notice. The Sierra are “la mia oasi di pace,” my Oasis of Peace. Any moment I get to spend living and learning in those mountains is a moment well spent. My enthusiasm for maps certainly helped me navigate some tricky conditions in the field, but when it comes down to it, I wanted to be out there to help protect the mountains I love.
In that case, I suppose you could call me a nature nerd, too.
Data collected July and August 2018 in Zone 51 for the Timber Tracking Project
I’m so glad I was able to lend a hand to Adventure Scientists in their mission of data collection and conservation. I also want to give a huge Thank You to the nearly 3,000 personnel who worked on the Ferguson Fire, as well as wildland firefighters across California and the West fighting equally dangerous and damaging fires of all sizes this summer.
For more photos from Ian’s Timber Tracking Project trips, check him out on Instagram @MrMahaff.
Legendary explorer, filmmaker, journalist, and ocean conservationist Jon Bowermaster talks to Gregg this week in the latest episode of The Green Radio Hour with Jon Bowermaster on Radio Kingston.
Jon has been a long time friend and supporter of Adventure Scientists, having first met Gregg through their adventures and awards at National Geographic. He currently serves as a member of our advisory council.
After a nice backstory and catch-up on our latest projects in the field and in development, Jon is joined by guitar-player and singer Mike Merenda, talking about music and the environment and the upcoming Summer Hoot in New York.
So sit back and relax, start cooking dinner, get going on your workout, or do whatever it is you like to do when listening to the radio, and enjoy this one-one-one conversation between explorers making a difference.
By Anne Lewis
I am headed out to the Badlands this afternoon––a quick overnight to jump start the field work of observing butterflies in the wilderness for the Adventure Scientists Pollinators project. I feel fortunate to live near enough to make weekend jaunts. I will also be keeping a field journal on Open Explorer to document my expeditions.
I have several things on my mind.
1. Drought. Last year, the Badlands were in deep drought. The September landscape which should have looked faded and dry was as gray and dead as November's. The spring rains for this year were good. In fact the last time I was there there was 2 inches of rain in one night. (That was fun.) The most recent report from the US Drought Monitor reports the Badlands are not even abnormally dry so I am hopeful that I will find some nice plants and therefore butterflies as plains plants are adapted to drought so they thrive when the moisture is even middling. I did find a variegated fritillary butterfly on a rubber rabbitbrush in early September of last year (photo below). You have to be pretty tough to live on the plains.
2. Weather. The forecast for Saturday is for smoky (distant wildfires) and thunderstorms, mainly later. I have a deep respect for the Badlands because of bison, rattlesnakes, and lightning. The grasslands are an ecosystem managed by fire and fire on the prairie is caused by lightning. I've been caught once in a thunderstorm on the plains and that was once too often. My plan is to be homeward bound when the storms move in as I need to be back home by later Saturday afternoon.
3. Excitement! Not everyone finds the idea of wandering around the grasslands taking pictures of flowers hoping to find a variegated fritillary exciting. But that's my geek and I'm grateful to Adventure Scientists for me giving me an outlet.
There are still volunteer spots available for the Pollinators and Timber projects, though the season is wrapping up, so if you want to get in, sign up soon!
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