This summer, here in our hometown in Montana, the 500 Women Scientists: Bozeman Pod has been hosting a series of science discussions dubbed "Suds and Science" at a local pub on the campus of Montana State University. Aiming to bring science to the community in a new and interesting way, they're featuring five scientists at each event presenting their work, claiming that to enjoy it all you need is a "thirst for knowledge!"
At their next event, Adventure Scientists' own Michelle Toshack and Anya Tyson will take the mic, talking about the 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. Anya and Michelle will have much to talk about, as women doing important science and putting their scientific knowledge and know-how to use for conservation. Get to know them better below the break.
Michelle Toshack, Pollinator Project Manager
Originally from Spokane, Washington, Michelle relocated to Bellingham to pursue an environmental science degree from Western Washington University. The North Cascades have been her most explored mountains, where she has conducted field work on owls, pikas, and butterflies.
She has been chasing butterflies since 2008, when she worked for the National Park Service to inventory butterfly species in North Cascades and Mt. Rainer National Parks. After the inventory was completed, the project transitioned into a citizen science effort called the Cascades Butterfly Project and she worked as the Field Coordinator to train and manage volunteers.
Michelle holds a MSc degree in pollination ecology from Simon Fraser University. Her research focused on the effects of surrounding landscape and farming practices on wild pollinators and birds.
Michelle loves trail running, gardening and playing with baby goats.
Anya Tyson, Timber Project Manager
Anya Tyson hails from the tangled green forests of the Oregon coast. A self-described “field trips major,” she studied the geology, botany, zoology and cultural history of the American Southwest at Colorado College. Afterwards, she spent several years in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem chasing wild animals including owls, wolves, cougars (and adjudicated teenage boys at a wilderness therapy center).
Lured east by education, Anya studied at the intersection of science and storytelling through the Field Naturalist Program at the University of Vermont. As a graduate student, Anya launched the Clark’s Nutcracker Project, leveraging the efforts of hundreds of hikers to research and protect the imperiled whitebark pine and its winged seed-disperser in western Wyoming. Wielding an accordion and a harmonica, Anya hooked many of her best volunteers with ecological songwriting.
In her heart of hearts, Anya will always remain a wildlife tech; you will find her packrafting, bushwhacking, and using binoculars whenever possible.
If you're near Bozeman, join Michelle and Anya for the event on Sunday, August 26. If you're farther afield, they'll be sharing their reflections on the event here afterwards!
Kelsey Scherer, an Adventure Scientists volunteer from Washington State has just sent in a sample from the biggest bigleaf maple leaf yet seen in our Timber Tracking project.
Since it's the DNA inside the leaf that we and our partners at the World Resources Institute are focused on––and that will help identify illegally harvested timber––it's nice to have a reason to step back and admire the grandness of a tree as a whole.
Here, Kelsey gives the background on finding and sampling this tree near a campground along a popular lakeshore in one of Washington's National Forests.
It was a hot day, so the lake was very busy with people swimming, paddle boarding, jet skiing, etc. We had just been backpacking for two nights, so one of my friends took a dip in the lake while I looked for the right tree. I had only been to this lake in the winter, so I hadn't seen the leaves before. It has a lot of those super mossy, mysterious-looking trees. I bet a lot of them were bigleaf maples.
I had just collected a sample at nearly 3000-ft elevation, which was hard because a lot of those trees are quite small, so I was excited to go down to the lake, which seemed like it would be a perfect location for bigleaf maples (low elevation, lots of water).
I remember looking at all of the “disappointing” normal sized bigleaf maples. Then there was this tree, which had many large trunks––at least four must have been way over the 75cm size requirement for sampling for the project. The other trees in the area had single trunks all smaller than the one I sampled.
Since I had made my friends wait while I found the very best tree, I logged the info, took the leaf, and hurried back to the car. I had been hoping to take advantage of the site to find the biggest tree so far, which I don’t think actually happened, but getting the biggest leaf instead was worth it.
The stem of the leaf was like a branch!
There are many more stories to tell from our Timber, Pollinator, and other projects this summer. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Instagram to keep up. And if you're out there participating, let us know if you have a story to share!
If you've ever wondered what it's like to experience the Adventure Scientists Conserving Biodiversity: Pollinators project first-hand in the field, here's your chance. Project Manager and butterfly expert Michelle Toshack showed the world how it works during LIVE videos with National Geographic Travel and National Geographic Magazine on Facebook. (Each one runs about 10 minutes.)
You can watch them both here.
This is just one piece of Nat Geo's outreach for their epic Yellowstone Live television event happening this week. The butterflies and wildflowers at the center of our work will bring viewers' attention from the iconic bison, wolves, and geysers to the smaller things that make up the unique and awe-inspiring Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.
If you've been inspired, join us as a volunteer, or pitch your project as a scientist!
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