Cascade Citizens Wildlife Monitoring Project

Thomas W. Murphy, Edmonds Community College

Summary

The Cascade Citizens Wildlife Monitoring Project (CCWMP) is a service-learning activity through which students in the Learn and Serve Environmental Anthropology Field (LEAF) School draw upon traditional ecological knowledge and observation skills to help solve a modern problem. The LEAF School employs service-learning as a form of participant observation through which students can come to better understand their own community, its subcultures and its interconnectedness within an ecosystem. In the winter, students assist the I-90 Wildlife Bridges Coalition with documentation of wildlife presence and movements along the primary east-west route across the Cascade Mountains. During the spring, summer and fall students collaborate with Conservation Northwest and Wilderness Awareness School to set up remote cameras to document the presence of rare carnivores in the Cascades. The 2009 LEAF School students are helping to place, set up and check cameras targeted for documentation of reported wolf sounds and sightings in the vicinity of Manastash (south of Cle Elum, Washington). The data collected by students is shared with government officials, environmental organizations and land managers to help guide the protection of wildlife corridors and the placement of freeway crossings.

Learning Goals

The LEAF School employs service-learning as a form of participant observation through which students can come to better understand their own community, its subcultures and its interconnectedness within an ecosystem.

In the Coast Salish and Sahaptin cultures of the Pacific Northwest the telling of stories, embedded with an abundance of information about particular plants and animals, serves as a primary means of transmission of traditional ecological knowledge. This multi-term assignment introduces students to these local indigenous stories, significant plants and animals of our region and some basic skills in reading animal tracks and signs. The students apply traditional knowledge and skills to document the presence and patterns of movement of wildlife in the Cascades.

The data collected by students is shared with government officials, environmental organizations and land managers to help guide the protection of wildlife corridors and the placement of freeway crossings.

Context for Use

The LEAF School consists of a series of field-based courses in human ecology. Students who have previously taken the initial introductory course may return in subsequent quarters to serve as mentors. The mentors meet simultaneously with introductory students and assist the instructor and community partners by taking leadership roles on various projects and activities. During the academic year this class meets for eight hours a day (plus travel time) one day per week and students earn 5-credits (quarter based system). During the summer students enroll for an intensive 15-credit program and meet for eight hours a day (plus travel time) for four days a week (including some overnight activities). This assignment is designed specifically for the LEAF School and could be adopted for similar field-based courses in anthropology, environmental science or biology. Parts of the assignment could be adapted for use in more traditional courses in environmental anthropology, human ecology, cultural anthropology, environmental science, biology courses focusing on regional flora and fauna, etc.

Timeframe

This assignment is designed to fit the multi-term, mentoring-based curriculum of the LEAF School. Students are exposed to the traditional ecological knowledge through the use of stories, beginning with the first day of the introductory class. The mentors select and read the stories to introductory students as part of a "daybreak" activity. The mentor selects a plant and animal from the story and provides additional detail about their habits, characteristics and needs. Throughout the quarter, students work collectively on a variety of service-learning projects in partnership with local tribes, governments, non-profits, business and industry. The Cascade Citizens Wildlife Monitoring Project requires a day of training and approximately three days of field work in the winter quarter (about 40% of the overall class meeting time). These field days are spread out throughout the quarter. The spring, summer and fall courses require a few hours of training and at least one full field day per quarter (a minimum of 12% of the overall class time). This training or field day should be positioned to coincide with the changes in the seasons that may limit access to the remote camera sites (after sufficient snow has melted for access and before the start of modern firearm hunting season).

Description and Teaching Materials

Traditional ecological knowledge consists of information about plants, animals and natural resources that humans have acquired over centuries of living in or near the same location. This knowledge draws upon a palette of observation skills that have traditionally enhanced human awareness and survival within an ecosystem. In the Coast Salish and Sahaptin cultures of the Pacific Northwest the telling of stories, embedded with an abundance of information about particular plants and animals, serves as a primary means of transmission of traditional ecological knowledge. This multi-term assignment introduces students to these local indigenous stories, significant plants and animals of our region and some basic skills in reading animal tracks and signs. The students apply traditional knowledge and skills to document the presence and patterns of movement of wildlife in the Cascades.

The Learning Activities

Student Handouts
  • Sit Spot - All Students
    Field Note and Observation Skills Exercise for Human Ecology, Spring 2009

    "So you can read a book and recognize a corporate logo? But can you "read" the world around you?"

    Overview:
    The human ability to read books, recognize corporate logos and make collaborative decisions is based upon a set of abilities that evolved as survival skills in ancient societies. Historically, most humans had well-developed abilities to recognize tracks, species and other signs from which they learned about the availability of the resources that they needed in their everyday life. These abilities have diminished with time.

    These natural signs are much like a complex alphabet or a multitude of corporate logos. We read them by recognizing what they stand for.
    • Mentoring Assignments - Anthropology 102 - 298
    Human Ecology, Spring 2009

    Overview:
    People in today's urban societies are highly mobile and often disconnected from the plants and animals with which they share this world. These mentoring activities are designed for you to take a leadership role in assisting students in Anthropology 101 to connect more with local plants and animals.
    • Human Ecology Field Project
    Snow tracking with cascade citizens wildlife monitoring project.
    PRE-FIELD ASSIGNMENTS:
    • Study Guide for Quiz #1

    Sit Spot (Microsoft Word 40kB Oct25 11)
    Mentoring Assignments (Microsoft Word 27kB Oct25 11)
    Human Ecology Field Project (Microsoft Word 188kB Oct25 11)
    Study Guide for Quiz #1 (Microsoft Word 164kB Oct25 11)

    Teaching Notes and Tips

    The Cascade Citizens Wildlife Monitoring Project is one of the most exciting and successful service-learning projects that I have developed for the LEAF School. I spent a little more than a year planning the project in collaboration with community partners. In the planning stages my partner and I volunteered for CCWMP. As volunteers we experienced the project first-hand, strengthened our wildlife tracking skills, and developed personal relationships with the community partners. We also enrolled in Wilderness Awareness School's Intensive Wildlife Tracking Course to build our tracking skills. With that experience I presented the leaders of the project with a proposal for some small modifications that would facilitate the training and scheduling needs of my class and offered the assistance of the students as volunteers. Our partners were very happy to make the small modifications I proposed and have been great to work with. I expect to continue this partnership and project over the next several years.

    Assessment

    Formal Assessments include field notes (see description of required elements in the assignment above) and quizzes that ask students to define conceptual terms, answer short questions and identify social organizations, plants and animals (including associated track and sign). A sample study guide is pasted below. This study guide includes questions associated with the Cascade Citizens Wildlife Monitoring Project, reading materials and other service-learning activities from the class.

    References and Resources

    Evergreen State College