Stories from the Field

Elwha Exploration Day

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On May 4, board members, supporters, and community members joined NatureBridge environmental science educators at our Olympic campus for Elwha Exploration Day. This annual outreach day offers participants the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of NatureBridge students discovering the Elwha River’s history and engaging in hands-on science activities exploring the river’s ongoing restoration.

The day began with coffee, banana bread, and lunch packing in Rosemary Inn, as NatureBridge staff welcomed guests to our campus and encouraged them to explore the Skins and Skulls Lab, which was open to visitors. Campus Director Jen Kidder and Education Manager Emily Volz convened the group, encouraging participants to share with one another their connection to NatureBridge and their interest in Elwha Day. Education Manager and Science Lead Chelsea Leven then presented a brief history of the Elwha River and its dams (both their implementation and removal), along with stories and images describing the Elwha's significance to the indigenous people of the area who have lived and cared for the lands and waters here since time immemorial. 

Everyone then relocated to the River Room, where participants visited our salmon tank, inside which 300 young fry are maturing in anticipation of soon being released into a local waterway. Guests also explored the River Room’s interactive exhibits utilized by NatureBridge students as they learn about erosion, climate, and the Elwha River.

Then it was time to head out into the field! Participants and educators carpooled together to the banks of the Elwha River along with a trunk full of science gear. After enjoying their sack lunches along the banks of the river, participants had the opportunity to learn from NatureBridge environmental science educators Cheyenne, Louisa, and Felicity while exploring an area that, before the removal of the dams, had been underwater for years. With the help of Chelsea and Emily, attendees split into small groups to measure water turbidity, pH, and flow rate, and collect and identify macroinvertebrates that call the Elwha River home—all while using the same equipment and lesson plans utilized by NatureBridge students. Everyone enjoyed learning about the community science projects in which students have the opportunity to participate by sharing their findings from these riverside experiments with local scientists.

Following a walk along the riverbank to the mouth of the Elwha, the group listened to the sounds of the river entering the Strait of Juan de Fuca and marveled at the incredible adaptations of the Elwha over the past century. Felicity then led everyone in a gratitude exercise, with many participants remarking on their thankfulness for the opportunity to spend time in nature and learn more about their environment through NatureBridge. For our part, we are grateful to everyone who attended this year’s Elwha Exploration Day with us, and we hope to see you again soon in Olympic National Park!

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