PORTLAND, Ore. (June 20, 2019) — Forest Service employees from Portland, Ore. were at the Oregon Zoo’s first Twilight Tuesday event of the season, June 18.
Twilight Tuesday events feature reduced-price evening admission to the zoo, as well as live music, expanded food options, and a variety of education stations staged around the zoo’s performance lawn.
“Zoo visitors are a perfect audience to learn about what the Forest Service is doing with habitat restoration. There are lots of families, lots of young, enthusiastic kids who are interested in learning about the natural world,” Gala Miller, acting conservation education program manager for the agency’s Pacific Northwest Regional office, said. “It’s also allows us to share important information, like white nose syndrome in bats, endangered species protection and preservation… and its about being in community, introducing a non-traditional audiences to the Forest Service and what we do.”
Zoos are often associated with the opportunities they offer view exotic animals, but modern zoos also provide a wealth of research and conservation resources that benefit local, native wildlife.
For example, Staff from the Oregon Zoo’s Butterfly Lab help supervise the raising of threatened and endangered butterflies which are used to repopulate fragmented wild habitat in places like western Washington and Oregon’s Coast Range.
At the July 18 event, Forest Service personnel conducted their own “Butterfly Lab” with zoo visitors, educating young people about the environmental importance of butterflies and other pollinators, butterfly migration patterns, and some of the challenges facing the Pacific Northwest’s endangered and threatened butterfly species.
The Forest Service’s partnership with the zoo is based on its shared mission to educate youth about the natural world, Miller said. The agency partners with the zoo on conservation events throughout the year, including youth summer camps and overnight programs.
The next Twilight Tuesday event at the Oregon Zoo is scheduled for July 16, and the final Tuesday in the series is Aug. 20, and the Forest Service will share news activities at each event, Miller said.
Ron Kikel is a bird man. And an ant man. And a wasp guy. Those aren’t his superhero aliases – they’re descriptions of just some of his work as a conservation education specialist for the Mt. Hood National Forest.
But, Kikel is probably best known as the “owl guy.”
Jack is a 12-year old Great Horned Owl. He’s also blind in one eye. Jack was rescued after tangling with some barbed wire, and rehabilitated several years ago by the Rowena Wildlife Clinic, which partners with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to care for disabled raptors and trains them for use in educational settings.
Kikel met Jack in 2010, at a Wild for Wildlife event. Jack was working with his caretaker, Dr. Jean Cypher, at the time to provide conservation education to students. Kikel was doing similar work for the Forest Service, using a taxidermied owl as a prop.
Their encounter inspired Kikel to pursue training to become a raptor handler, himself.
“With taxidermy, you are mostly talking about anatomy. Kids ask a lot of questions about where the bird came from, sometimes it gets a little off-track,” he said. “Show them the live owl, and you have their attention for at 30 minutes, at least.”
These days, Jack and Kikel work as a team to provide conservation education at schools and public events located near Kikel’s “home base” at the Hood River Ranger District in Parkdale, Oregon.
Sometimes, Jack even joins him at the ranger station’s front desk, where Kikel provides visitor information and the owl has his own perch.
“He’s a star. Everyone likes him a lot,” Kikel said. “He’s probably the best coworker I’ve ever had.”
Kikel isn’t just a bird man, he’s also a bug guy. He’s known in the Forest Service’s regional conservation education community for his nature photos, many of which feature dramatic close-ups of the nature he finds around him.
In his prior career, photography was Kikel’s job. He served 20 years in the Air Force, 12 of them as a photographer working in medical research and forensics.
“I worked at Wilford Hall, a big research hospital. So we had an infectious disease lab, dermatology, poison control. They’d want (close-up) photos for teaching, so I took some courses in it,” he said.
Today, skills he once used to photograph scorpions and fire ants for environmental health brochures given to deploying service members are the same ones he now uses to capture breathtaking images of Pacific Northwest beetles, birds and butterflies.
To avoid disturbing his subjects, Kikel often works with minimal gear, often taking photos with just an old Nikon D-50 camera, a manual macro lens, and sometimes a flash.
Despite the seeming spontaneity of this approach, he said macro photography is actually a very slow-going endeavor.
“It takes a lot of patience, because your subjects aren’t going to sit still,” he said.
These days, Kikel said, he considers his photography to be not his job, but his passion.
But he still finds lots of inspiration at the office.
“Mt. Hood is right outside my window… I can watch it change with the seasons,” he said.
While Kikel credits patience for his most successful shots, he said sometimes a little luck is also required.
He was experimenting with a new camera when he caught a striking image of a Cooper Hawk perched just outside his bedroom.
“I was shooting (pictures of) the birds at my feeder, through the window, and suddenly they all bolted,” he said. “Then I looked up, and said ‘well, that’s why… I’d better get this dude’s picture before he takes off!’”
Whether he’s providing customer service at the ranger station, giving wildlife education talks, or providing tours of Cloud Cap Inn, it’s the interpretive element that drew him to his job.
Seeing the world through a different lens, and being able to
share it, is what draws him to photography, as well.
“It’s really an incredible world, when you see it close up,” he said.
Source information:Catherine “Cat” Caruso is the strategic communication lead for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s Office of Communications and Community Engagement, and edits the “Your Northwest Forests” blog. You can reach her at email@example.com.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Sept. 3, 2018 – The Cascade Head Scenic Research Area Coordination Team invites the public to help develop a proposal for a sustainable trails plan for the Cascade Head Scenic Research Area. Community members are invited to attend a public meeting to learn about and share thoughts on recreational access and to complete an online survey.
Recreational use at Cascade Head has increased, presenting new challenges and opportunities with the trail system, trailheads, and parking areas.
“In order to develop a proposal that meets the needs of visitors, landowners, and land managers, we’d like to hear from our neighbors and other interested citizens early in the process,” Deb Wilkins, Hebo District Ranger, said.
The public open house will be held Thursday, September 27, 2018, from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Lincoln City Community Center, 2150 NE Oar Place, Lincoln City, OR 97367. This open house is the first of multiple opportunities people will have to learn about and provide input on the project from proposal development through any possible decisions.
A brief survey has also been developed for the public to provide feedback regarding trail use, how people access the trails, improvements that could be made, and how the trail system can be best designed to allow for recreational use and still protect the incredible natural resources of this special area. The survey can be found at www.surveymonkey.com/r/CHSRA.
The Coordination Team is a group of land managers, which includes the USDA Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy, Westwind, Lincoln City Parks & Recreation, and Cascade Head Ranch. The team is receiving technical assistance and facilitation throughout this planning process thanks to a grant from the National Park Service’s Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program.
The 9,670 acre Cascade Head Scenic-Research Area was established by President Ford on December 22, 1974 “to provide present and future generations with the use and enjoyment of certain ocean headlands, rivers, streams, estuaries, and forested areas, to insure the protection and encourage the study of significant areas for research and scientific purposes, and to promote a more sensitive relationship between man and his adjacent environment.”
The coastal headland provides critical habitat for native prairie grasses, rare wildflowers and the Oregon silverspot butterfly and provides recreational, research, educational, scenic, and estuarine resources, which have national significance.