“Soil science & story: Connecting the worlds below & above our feet”

With Luke Cerise | Friday, February 1st

Soil Scientist Luke Cerise returned to the Highland Wonders educational series to build community understanding of the stories hidden beneath the ground in our local soils — and how this understanding can help shape the way we manage our landscapes. Luke discussed soil memory, and how inherent soil characteristics are retained even when dramatic changes happen above ground, which can help us interpret the history of the landscape.

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Luke Cerise, US Forest Service Soil Scientist, hand textures soil in Myers Creek, north of Chesaw, to gauge the clay/silt/sand composition

On June 14th, soil scientist Luke Cerise discussed the soil environment at the Triple Creek site north of Chesaw, on the ground with community members. In this event, we learned about the living layer of the earth, soil; where air, water, minerals, and a vast array of macro and microscopic organisms make life on land possible. Climactic processes (such as freeze-thaw & weathering) have acted upon geologic processes (such as glaciation & volcanism) over billions of years to create sand, silt, and clay that make up what is considered soil.

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Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) provided another extraordinary outdoor learning opportunity: a tour highlighting the geology of the highlands, expanding on what was shared during the past three years’ Highland Wonders geology tours. On Saturday, August 16th, Geology of the Okanogan Highlands, Part IV was led by a team of speakers who each brought a different emphasis. The team was headed by Dr. Karl Lillquist, a professor in the Geography Department and Co-Director of the Resource Management Graduate Program at CWU. He was also an instructor for the Ellensburg Chapter of the Ice Age Floods Institute, and co-led last year’s OHA Geology Tour. Karl has degrees in Geography and Geology, and a special interest in geomorphology, a field of study that focuses on landforms and how they originated.

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On August 17th, 2013, an extraordinary outdoor Highland Wonders event took place: a tour highlighting the geology of the highlands, expanding on what was shared during the past two years’ geology tours. Geology of the Okanogan Highlands – Part III, was lead by a team of speakers who each brought a different emphasis.

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2012 Geology Tour map (click to enlarge)

OHA’s 2012 outdoor Highland Wonders season closed with an all day tour, “Geology of the Okanogan Highlands,” led by Steve Box (USGS), Ralph Dawes (WVC), and Cheryl Dawes (B.S. Geological Sciences). Transported by a school bus, community members stopped in several locations along a loop that spanned the Republic and Toroda Grabens as well as the Okanogan Metamorphic Core Complex. From pictographs to garnets, and from volcanic/granitic faults to the highly unusual Corkscrew Mountain, the group considered a diverse array of features that shape the landscape as we know it.

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Q: When I look around in the Highlands, sometimes I think I’m seeing ancient volcanoes. Is this true?

A: In reality, there are no volcanoes around there. That is the first point to get across…

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On August 6th, 2011, Ralph Dawes led a caravan tour highlighting the geology of the highlands. You can use this webpage to learn about what we saw, or even go on the tour on your own, using the information found here.

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