My summer with the Tatoosh School was hands down the best investment I ever made. By facing unique challenges and adventuresome wonders in southeast Alaska I was able to take away an incredible bank of academic knowledge, expedition skills, and a newfound self-possession.
Tatoosh alums wear their Xtra-tuffs onto the airplane in Wrangell and on to work in academia, public service, education, conservation, and industry. From Buldir Island in the Aleutian chain to Washington, DC, they are on the move, and we couldn’t be more proud. Here are updates from a few:
I LOVED every single minute of my time in Southeast Alaska and still reflect on my experience often. Since then, I have been working seasonal wildlife jobs with Colorado Parks and Wildlife. After graduating from Colorado State University (a semester early thanks to Tatoosh!) I worked on a grouse study in Yampa, CO tracking brood status of relocated sage grouse. The following summer, I worked in Walden, CO on a waterfowl project where I was tasked with completing population surveys, assessing wetland habitat, and bird banding. In the winter season, I was employed as a Chronic Wasting Disease technician where I answered wildlife questions and sold unting licenses as well as removed lymph nodes from hunter harvests to send in for disease testing.
Tatoosh played a big part in preparing me for work in a field setting. The program taught me how fun that lifestyle of working outside every day can be and what a privilege it is to do work that matters. It also helped cement my decision to pursue a career in the natural resource field. The expedition skills I learned on this adventure and there is no better teacher than the Alaskan wilderness (and Erin and Peter)! Thinking back on the people I met, the sights I saw, and the lessons I learned from my time in Alaska still brings a smile to my face even years later!
The skills I acquired through my experience at Tatoosh School transcend expectations. It has been nearly 5 years since my time on Prince of Wales Island. The lessons I learned during my time there in problem solving, leadership, and the value of diverse perspectives have carried me in many pursuits. The year after attending Tatoosh, I was employed by The Nature Conservancy as a Field Forestry Technician on Prince of Wales Island, collecting field data for a LiDAR collaboration project that helped to characterize the forest structure as it related to wildlife habitat, timber, and cultural/traditional values. I then switched paths toward biomedical research where I took part in developing vaccinations for HIV. My skills in working as a team toward a common goal with an understanding of the complex processes involved in research were acquired at Tatoosh School. Since then, I have taken another turn and am now working toward becoming a speech and language pathologist. I have included my time at Tatoosh in each of my graduate program applications with pride. I am able to attribute knowledge gained at Tatoosh that will guide me through graduate school and aid in my growth as a practitioner. The value of diverse perspectives, academic rigor, and community building I learned at Tatoosh will serve me as I continue in my journey. I would recommend this immersive experience to anyone seeking personal growth, meaningful relationships, and lasting knowledge.
Inspired by other students who attended Tatoosh the year prior, I decided to take an alternative route in completing my field credits for Colorado State University. At the time I had no idea how much my experience in Southeast Alaska would fuel newfound passions for ecology and environmental policies. From the humble abode in Coffman Cove to holding class in the archipelago, Erin and Peter had a special way of sharing the wild and beautiful places they call home. Directly following Tatoosh I set off to Southeast Asia for a semester abroad, studying and traveling for about five months. After graduating from CSU with a degree in Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, I took a job as a Research Associate with Mountain Studies Institute in the San Juan mountains of Colorado. My research with MSI focuses on understanding the hydrologic complex of abandoned mine lands, utilizing remote instrumentation, and monitoring biodiversity in the high alpine.
I participated in the 6-week summer session with Erin and Peter in the summer of 2014. Seven adventure and research-packed summers later, the Tatoosh School still holds a dear, dear place in my heart. During this course, I met incredible friends from across the country, explored one of the most beautiful places on the planet, and confirmed my love of ecology. Following that summer, I participated in several field courses and worked in research labs at UCLA, UCSB, and Texas A&M University. I am now in the final years of my Ph.D. program at UCSB, exploring the impacts of trout introduction on terrestrial plant and pollinator communities around alpine lakes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. From my summers leading backpacking field research teams to my days in the lecture hall, I still use the skills I learned from Tatoosh and share stories about salmon, kayaking, and huckleberries with my students any chance I get. I’d take this course again in a heartbeat!
After completing my field course with Tatoosh School I returned to Oregon State University where I completed my BS in Natural Resources. Immediately upon graduating, I started an internship with the US Fish and Wildlife Service in central New Mexico. I have since continued my career in federal service with the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service. While with the NPS I’ve gone on to work at Valles Caldera National Preserve, Crater Lake National Park, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Mammoth Cave National Park. My career has taken me to many different parts of the country, but my work continues to be the same, interpreting science and cultural history of public lands to help foster connections with diverse stakeholders. Through interpretation and education, I hope to inspire the next generation of public land stewards.
Even though I’m now living thousands of miles away from the waters of Southeast Alaska, I’m often drawn back to my time spent with Tatoosh School and the wild places we lived and learned in. Whether it be the sound of sea otters cracking open shellfish for dinner or the sight of fireweed growing on a small rocky island, it’s an experience and place that sticks with you.
Following my Tatoosh course, I finished up my bachelor’s degree in biology at Portland State University. After working as a fisheries biologist on the Bering Sea, I moved to Eastern Oregon to join the North Fork John Day Watershed Council as a Restoration Project Coordinator. I next served as our Restoration Program Coordinator and John Day Basin Partnership Coordinator, and then moved into the Executive Director position in July 2021. At the Council, we represent broad interests and encourage collaboration between the people who live, work, and recreate in the North and Middle Fork John Day Watersheds. Together with our stakeholders, we plan and implement ridgetop to ridgetop restoration projects that are based on the best available science, promote native plant and wildlife species, respect culturally significant resources, and support our local rural communities. In addition to my work at the Council, I am a Grant County Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer, and I love to explore the Eastern Oregon landscape with my husband, Erik, and our dogs, Darwin and Daisy Mae.