On a beautiful Sunday in June, 2022, Dr Karl Lillquist led an enthusiastic group on a tour of the Okanogan Highlands, observing and discussing evidence of ice sheets and glaciers that are visible on our landscape today. From glacial sediments, to sinuous eskers, to unexpectedly flat areas where ancient glacial lakes and river deltas once covered the land, Dr Lillquist explained how scientists puzzle out the processes that contribute to the geology and geography of a place. As if leading a field trip isn’t enough, Dr Lillquist developed the attached field guide, which is available for all to enjoy!
Amelia Marchand, of the L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, joins OHA to share her experiences and perspectives on traditional knowledge, or teachings, and the role of ecological knowledge within the bigger framework of cultural understanding that has been amassed over a millenia by indigenous peoples. She shares stories of her life and the inspiration that has driven her and her husband, Joaquin, to create the L.I.G.H.T Foundation, whose mission is to cultivate, enrich and perpetuate native plants and the cultural traditions of Pacific Northwest tribes.
To learn more and donate to the L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, visit the website at: thepnwlf.org
This special episode features many voices! The Tonasket Elementary School 5th Grade teamed up with OHA and Sarah Koenigsberg, who is an award-winning film-maker, educator, and, most importantly, beaver believer, to answer students’ questions about beavers and how they protect water quality, water quantity and healthy wetlands throughout the West. Before you listen, here is a story from Anna, Nature Detective!
Anna, Nature Detective
Season 2, Episode 5: Beaver Believers, The Next Generation
Anna is a daring and precocious nature detective. She loves to sing and dance, and make up songs and dances about the things that she observes. Anna LOVES animals (especially the fuzzy ones), and she is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. When Anna explores she likes to look at things close up, touch them, peer at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, but fortunately Anna is also very careful not to hurt anything, and to keep her distance when she comes across wildlife.
One spring day, Anna wakes up singing, “I like oceans and rivers, I like oceans and rivers, and everything that is wet. Even though, I been trying to go, on a mountain road, I can’t stand it. You’re. So. Cute.” Her dad laughs, “What are you singing about, Anna?” Anna looks at her dad sideways, and says “Beavers, dad! Of course.” It is very obvious to Anna. What else could she possibly be singing about?
Her dad nods his head seriously, remembering the beaver lodge they had seen last summer in the Okanogan Highlands. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is warm, the snow is nearly melted, so they decide to go pay the beavers a visit. Up they go, following that long mountain road to their favorite lake, where they set up a picnic, test the still- frigid water, and watch the birds busily flitting from tree to tree, some building nests. At the end of the day, as the light begins to fade, Anna and her family peer through their binoculars toward the rounded mass of tree branches along the distant side of the lake, and suddenly they see it! A little head, swiftly moving through the water toward the lodge!
Anna’s questions begin.
“Where is that beaver coming from?”
“Was that beaver swimming underwater?”
“Can beavers breathe under water?”
“How many beavers live in that beaver house?”
“How big are beaver babies?”
“What do beavers eat?”
“Are beavers nice?”
“Can I see a beaver close up?”
“How do beavers survive in the winter?”
“How do beavers build those dams?”
The questions go on and on, literally without stopping, for minutes. This beaver has sparked our Nature Detective’s curiosity! Luckily, she is not alone. Recently, the Tonasket Elementary School 5th Grade teamed up with Sarah Koenigsberg, beaver believer, educator and storyteller extraordinaire, to answer many of these same questions!
Join Sarah and the next generation of beaver believers to learn all about beavers, their important role in our highlands ecosystems, and more by listening to the most recent episode of Okanogan Highlands Alliance’s Highland Wonders Podcast. You can find additional episodes and more nature detective stories at okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Podcasts are posted on the OHA website (okanoganhighlands.org) and on the following podcast apps: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts and RadioPublic. Please read, listen (rate the podcast on your favorite app) and enjoy!
Nunatak: an Inuit word meaning a mountain peak jutting up through a glacier. A nunatak might not be a hospitable place to spend a few thousand years, but exposed rocky mountaintops are sometimes all that a few hardy species need to survive. In this episode, George Thornton, local educator, naturalist and botanist, shares his knowledge and experiences studying the unique plant communities found atop the highest peaks in the Okanogan. By connecting big ideas of climate, geology, and ecosystem dynamics, George makes sense of how some of the tiny alpine and tundra plants can be found here today, and why they might be in peril.
Anna, Nature Detective
Season 2, Episode 3: Islands in the Ice
Anna is a daring and precocious nature detective. She loves to sing, and dance, and make up songs and dances about the things that she observes. Anna LOVES animals, a
nd she is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. When Anna explores she likes to look at things close up, touch them, peer at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, but fortunately Anna is also very careful not to hurt anything.
“Red, Orange and Yellow! Green, Blue and Indigo! Viiiiooooolllleeetttt” Anna makes up the tune to her Rainbow Song as she traipses along a trail through a wildflower strewn meadow. It has been a long hike to reach this field of beautiful flowers. Fortunately her mom brought along a whole pack of power pellets…jelly beans of every color, to match the rainbow of flowers stretching out in front of them.
“Hey mom, let’s try to find a flower for every color of the rainbow, and take their pictures!”
“What a great idea!” Anna’s mom says, “When you are all grown up, these pictures will remind us of this amazing day!” Anna’s mom appreciates that Anna would rather take pictures than pick flowers. They learned recently that flowers are an important part of making seeds, and seeds are how plants reproduce and survive. If everyone picked wildflowers, we might not have any left to enjoy, but pictures are good forever and don’t hurt a thing.
And so the search for a rainbow of flowers begins.
There is the red paintbrush, “click, click” goes the camera.
Indigo lupine and yellow arnica, “click, click” goes the camera.
“Ok, Anna, what colors are we missing?”
Anna murmurs her rainbow song, and checks off colors on her fingers. “Orange! Green! Blue! Viiiiioooooollllleeetttt!” Anna sings.
Anna and her mom continue down the trail, and come to a place where a creek crosses the trail. There are different flowers here, where it is wet. They find a long, stalky green flower – they’ll have to look it up later. “Click click” goes the camera. They find a big, bright orange, speckled flower – a tiger lily. And a purple flower with lots of petals. Anna’s mom suspects that the purple one might be an aster.
“All we need now is blue!” Anna and her mom are stumped. They had already decided that the lupine is indigo, but they haven’t seen any truely blue flowers yet.
The two make their way to a place where jumbles of rocks lead up to a ridge. Anna starts to climb – her favorite activity. She climbs the first set of rocks, and as she crests the top she spies something amazing – a blue, almost green-blue, tiny flower. She never would have seen it if she hadn’t climbed the rocks or been so close to the ground – now that she looks more carefully, there are quite a few of these tiny blue-green flowers.
“Mom! Come up here! You have to! There are blue flowers!” Anna’s mom is skeptical, but she is also a good sport, so she carefully climbs up next to Anna, “Wow! What an amazing find! I haven’t ever seen a flower like this, Anna!”
After arriving back at home, Anna and her mom investigate. It turns out that the flower is called a glaucous gentian, a tundra plant, that is thought to be very rare in the Okanogan, and only found on the highest peaks! They are excited to learn more about how and why this pretty turquoise flower comes to be here, and wouldn’t you know, there is a podcast episode all about it. They settle in to listen to Islands in the Ice, with George Thornton!Learn all about Islands in the Ice as well as other natural history topics on Okanogan Highlands Alliance’s Highland Wonders Podcast. You can find episodes and more nature detective stories at okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.
In this interview-style episode, Lynda Mapes of The Seattle Times joins OHA in discussing her newest book, Orcas: Shared Waters, Shared Home. From Tonasket to the Salish Sea, our ecosystems are connected by the water and the wildlife that travels through our region. Learn about salmon, orcas, and the people whose lives revolve around the aquatic habitats of Washington on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or wherever you normally listen!
And here is a story from Anna, Nature Detective!
Anna surfaces briefly, then glides back underwater, swimming against the current. It is a fast current, and the cold, clear water feels just right against her red sides, her glinting scales. She is headed upstream, back to the place she was born.
As she makes her way upstream, away from the ocean, she is thinks back to the last time she was in fresh water. Anna barely remembers that trip downstream four years ago, she was so small! As she swam from the river to the sea, the waters gradually got saltier. She knew she had arrived in the sea because the water moved differently – in and out and in swirls, pushing every which-way. She had to get used to that salt, the currents, and the new animals and plants she swam past, and there was no time to dilly dally.
There was lots of food to eat in the sea, but there were also lots of creatures that wanted to eat Anna and her salmon friends! She found her way out to the deep water, where she could hide from the big barking sea lions and the huge bald eagles that pounced from above. Anna snacked on whatever came along – fish, water bugs, anything, really. Out in the deep water, Anna felt a little safer – she could swim fast and deep and she could swerve like a champ! Black and white orcas were everywhere. They were there in the deep water, they were there in the shallow water, they were close to land and out in the open sea. Always on the prowl, the orcas were fast and somehow knew right where the salmon were, even in the dark. As time passed, Anna got bigger and faster and smarter.
One day something told her it was time to head for home, back through the shallow sea to the river mouth, where that fresh water smelled so familiar…
Anna woke with a start. “Mom, I dreamed I was a fish! A salmon! And I was four years old, just like me, but I was really OLD. There were rivers in my dream, and the ocean, and other fish, and sea lions, and orcas! Can we go to the ocean?” Anna’s mom said, “wow, what an exciting dream! You know what we should do? We should go down to the river – I bet we can see salmon in the Okanogan River right now!” “Yeah, let’s do it!” Anna yells.
As Anna and her mom watched the big salmon holding their position in the river’s current, they thought about the lives of these big fish and the cycle of life for the salmon and all of the people and wildlife that depend on them, like the orcas in Anna’s dream. Soon, these surviving big fish would lay their eggs and then die, but even then they are a part of the system, their bodies nourishing the plants and animals that live in and around the rivers. How amazing is that? Anna announces, “I love salmon. I want to learn all about them and I want to be their friend.”
To learn more about salmon, orcas and the rivers that connect them, check out the new Highland Wonders Podcast episode: From the Okanogan to the Sea, featuring a discussion with Lynda Mapes about her new book, Orcas: Shared Waters, Shared Home, co-published with the Seattle Times.
Read the Book! Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home by Lynda Mapes
Find an Exhibit! Seattle Aquarium: seattleaquarium.org/exhibits/Orca-shared-waters-shared-home
Click the button above to go straight to the Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunatak presentation, which initially aired on Friday, January 7, 2022. If you have questions for George, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
High, craggy peaks rise to the West of the Okanogan. These mountains are home to unique plant communities, and our glacial history holds a clue as to why and how those plants come to live where they do. The changing climate endangers these indicators of our glacial past. In this edition of Highland Wonders, we will discuss various theories about local natural history and ecology using Chopaka Mountain as a primary example of several nearby Eastern Cascade peaks.
Join OHA and George Thornton, high school teacher, botanist, and lifelong nature enthusiast, on January 7, 2022. George has lived his entire life in the Okanogan. He taught for 33 years, worked summers doing vegetation surveys for the Forest Service, and has hiked and explored most of the north Okanogan area.
Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) is thrilled to announce the start of season 2 of the Highland Wonders Podcast: an opportunity to learn about the natural history of the Okanogan from the comfort of your home, car or skis! Over the course of this winter, monthly episodes will focus on the life that makes the Okanogan such a unique and beautiful place, starting with the Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan! You can find episodes here, or wherever you normally get your podcasts.
Each episode will be accompanied by a nature detective story, where a younger audience can follow along as Anna, Nature Detective, uses her imagination and explores the podcast’s subject.
The stories and podcasts will be posted to the OHA website (okanoganhighlands.org) and on the following podcast apps: Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Breaker, Castbox, Google Podcasts, Overcast, Pocket Casts and RadioPublic. Please read, listen (rate the podcast on your favorite app) and enjoy!
Anna, Nature Detective
Season 2, Episode 1: Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan
Last year, Jack the Nature Detective took us along on his adventures in the Okanogan Highlands, as he explored with his family and learned all about local wildlife, from grouse to bats to owls to bighorn sheep to common loons. This year, Jack is off to kindergarten, and in a solemn ceremony that took place at the end of August, Jack presented his cousin, Anna, with her very own Nature Detective tools and an official badge. Let’s get to know Anna!
Anna is a different kind of Nature Detective than Jack. Where Jack is cautious and careful, Anna is daring and precocious, where Jack is quiet and observant, Anna spends half her time singing and the other half chatting. Where Jack is particular about calling things by their proper name, Anna makes up her own names for her discoveries. She LOVES animals, and she is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. She loves exploring things close up, touching them, peering at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, and so, this month, Anna finds herself exploring the mushroom world!
“Hey mom, what are these slimy things?” Anna hollers from the back yard.
“Ohhhh noooo, not again!” her mom remembers back to the week before when Anna brought two heaping handfuls of deer droppings into the kitchen. She runs outside to find Anna poking at a perfect circle of mushrooms growing in the backyard. “Oh, how pretty!” Anna’s mom says “I think that’s called a fairy ring.”
Anna gasps, “a fairy ring? Made by fairies? Let’s check it out!” She pulls out her hand lens and looks at the top of one mushroom. It’s smooth, brown and slippery. She looks at the stem, tan and shaggy. Then she looks at the underside of the mushroom top. “Wow! What are those stripey things?” Anna and her mom look carefully at the mushroom, and then Anna draws what she sees in her notebook. Later on, they look in a book and find that the top of the mushroom is called the cap, the stem is called the stem, and the stripes underneath the cap are called gills.
“So… mushrooms have gills… like fish. And a cap, like an umbrella. And I don’t know why, but they grow in a circle like a fairy would make. I’ll call this a Fairy Gillyhat!” Anna says. Anna and her mom go and wash their hands, because, as their book told them, some mushrooms can be poisonous. From that day on, Anna finds mushrooms all over the place – growing on tree trunks, in the grass, on logs in the forest, everywhere! But why are they everywhere? And why are some poisonous, but some you can eat? What do mushrooms eat? Anna has lots of questions, and luckily for her, Helen Lau, of the US Forest Service has lots of answers in the latest episode of the Highland Wonders Podcast!
Learn all about Wild Mushrooms of the Okanogan (and catch any Season 1 episodes that you may have missed) at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.
…with Carrie Lowe of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife
Friday, September 24, 2021 at 7:15pm at the Tonasket Elementary School Parking Lot
Moose: they live alongside us, from the valley floor to the highlands, and despite their enormous size, are only rarely seen. Join Carrie Lowe, wildlife biologist with Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to learn about the life history, population trends and challenges facing moose in our area.
Carrie Lowe works with game and nongame species in Spokane, Lincoln, and Whitman Counties. Prior to coming to Washington in 2013, Carrie spent time teaching at an outdoor science school in North Carolina, and worked on a variety of research projects, including loggerhead sea turtles in Georgia, mesocarnivores in the Sierra Nevada, black bears in Louisiana, grizzly bears in Montana, and bighorn sheep in Hells Canyon. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Hope College in her hometown of Holland, MI and her M.S. in Wildlife & Fisheries Science from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Join OHA in a unique, free community event – enjoy Carrie’s engaging in-person talk from a blanket, a camp chair or your vehicle, listen through your FM radio!
COVID Precautions will be in place: social distancing, individually wrapped desserts available by donation