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April 30, 2014

River Stories presents at McKenzie Memories event

RiverStories2014CozmicOn April 7, an audience of over 300 people at Cosmic Pizza in Eugene were treatedto a presentation by the River Stories Team–part of the Environmental Leadership Program–who took the podium to present a collection of narratives at the McKenzie River Trust’s annual McKenzie Memories event. As the presentation drew to a close, the audience grew quiet as they listened to the words of McKenzie river guide Jon Payne: “Take the bluest sky, add it to the bluest water, then add as many shades of green as you can imagine on the border, and you’ll look at the McKenzie River.”

Since the start of Winter Term, the River Stories team has been listening hard to stories about the McKenzie River – stories of crossing the McKenzie River in a rowboat to get to school, stories of lodges burning down, stories of learning how to fish for the first time, stories of teaching others how to read, listen, even speak to the river – which, it turns out, is not unlike life.


Over the course of Winter and Spring Terms, students have been thinking critically about the ways stories impact the way we feel about place, how they bring us into community with the more than human world, and how they move us to act. Students received training in media ethics and interviewing before hitting the ground to do fieldwork using array of media techniques – including audio, video and photography. The River Stories team is in the process of implementing an interactive public art project throughout Eugene and the McKenzie and curating an installation at the Lane County Historical Museum that will go up June 7 and run through January 2015.Working with community partners, including the McKenzie River Drift Boat Museum, the Lane County Historical Museum and the Oregon Folklife Network, the team is focused on gathering stories in an effort to inspire stewardship for the McKenzie River, Eugene’s sole water source.


December 19, 2013

Louise Westling publishes book

ENVS core faculty Louise Westling has published a book presenting the philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty as a theoretical grounding for studies in environmental humanities. The Logos of the Living World: Merleau-Ponty, Animals, and Language draws on interdisciplinary research to argue that human and animal semiotic activities—including cultural and linguistic behaviors—are not separate phenomena, but rather exist on a continuum.

The Logos of the Living World“As more people become excited about working in the environmental humanities,” Westling explains, “theory is critical. I focused on animals because they are the environment closest to us, and here Merleau-Ponty gives us exactly what we need. He was interested in the place of humans in connection to animals, and in breaking down ideas of dualism between the two.”

Her analysis, which uses Merleau-Ponty to frame texts as diverse as Euripides and Eudora Welty, also emphasizes his fascination with the sciences and the ways in which evolutionary biology and ethology can assist cultural engagement with animals.

As she continues her work with environmental humanities and the field of biosemiotics, Westling asserts that such wide-raging curiosity is key: “the creative imagination works across all disciplines. Science helps writers think about the world, and the humanities shows scientists the culture they’re working within.”

March 14, 2013

Nature Photographers of the Pacific Northwest meet

"Stars in Motion" by Mason Trinca

The Environmental Studies Program cosponsored the Twenty-fifth Biannual Meeting of the Nature Photographers of the Pacific Northwest. Frans Lanting, hailed as one of the great nature photographers of our time, served as the guest speaker. His morning presentation was entitled “Eye to Eye with Life” and his afternoon presentation was “Cheetahs on the Run.”

As in past meetings, there was a digital projected image competition and a print competition. The three categories for the competitions were scenic, wildlife, and plantlife. Advanced Camera was also present to clean digital sensors at a bargain price.

The meeting took place on Saturday, April 6th from 10 am to 5 pm in Columbia Hall on the University of Oregon campus. All nature photographers, amateur and professional, were invited to attend.

Additional information may be found here.

Selections from Frans Lanting’s work are available at his website.

November 29, 2012

ELP teams publish research in OUR Journal

Two 2012 ELP teams, the Stream Stewardship Team and the Restoration Research Team, and Sierra Predovich, an environmental science major, each recently published an article in OUR Journal, the Oregon Undergraduate Research Journal.

The Stream Stewardship Team’s article, “Restoration Monitoring on the McKenzie River, Oregon,” presents the team’s findings on the effects of large woody debris that the US Forest Service placed in a side channel of the McKenzie in 2011. The team measured pebble size and surveyed the stream morphology, and then compared their results to those of the 2011 Stream Stewardship Team. They conclude that there were small but significant positive changes in both the stream’s sediments and morphology.

Assessing the Relationship Between Topography and Plant Diversity in Restored and Remnant Wet Prairies” discusses the Restoration Research Team’s study conducted in six different restored and remnant wet prairies in the West Eugene Wetlands. At 200 points at each site, the team measured the vegetation cover, leaf litter and water depth, and soil surface elevation to assess whether microtopographic heterogeneity, or small variations in the soil surface, increases native plant cover. While their results did not prove statistically significant, based on their observations the team concludes that microtopographical variation does have beneficial effects on native plants.

In her article, “Stomata Density of Orchids and Cloud Forest Humidity,” Sierra Predovich discusses her experiment on two different types of orchids collected in Monteverde, Costa Rica. Sierra placed specimens of a larger orchid with water-holding pseudobulbs, Pleurothallis aristata, and a miniature orchid that does not have pseudobulbs, Maxillaria sp., in a humid and a relatively nonhumid environment to see how the two species’s stomata, or leaf pores, would react. She also took imprints of the two species’ leaves and found that the density of their stomata differed significantly. She concludes that the miniature orchid is likely to be at risk if climate change disrupts the precipitation patterns of the region.

Full-text PDFs of the three articles can be accessed here.

October 10, 2012

Environmental Leadership Program Presents “McKenzie Memories”

In partnership with the McKenzie River Trust, the Environmental Leadership Program showed historical films and photographs highlighting the watershed’s history and people at the Bijou in early October. Our special guests – Roy Pruitt, Dave Helfrich, Dr. Alan Dickman, and Ken Engelman – provided expert commentary. Also, ELP student Cassidy Ventura presented beautiful images from the Fall 2011 MyMcKenzie photography project.

What was it like to live along the McKenzie River in the early 1900s? What did famous structures such as Goodpasture Bridge and Leaburg Dam look like 60-70 years ago? What do you remember? These were some of the questions explored during this special viewing of rare images of early settlers, river log drives, the McKenzie White Water Parade, and other iconic memories. We showed four short films, with expert commentary during or after each film: “A Picture History of the Early Logging of the McKenzie, Willamette and Fall Creeks,” “Shooting the Deschutes,” White Water Parade film footage, and “McKenzie River Holiday.” Afterwards, ELP presented stunning modern images of this magical river. Guest speakers and audience members then shared personal reflections on the history of the McKenzie. Visit the McKenzie River Trust’s website for more information.

January 27, 2011

Environmental Leadership Program MyMcKenzie Project Featured in Cascade Magazine

Through photography and interpretation, students created a portrait of the McKenzie River. As they discovered the river and its people, they sought to reflect the river’s colors and motion, as well as the many relationships people have with this remarkable place. Their work was featured in the Spring 2012 issue of Cascade Magazine.

Read the team’s photo essays and enjoy more of their pictures by visiting their website! Visit Columbia Hall to see their photography exhibit on display.

Project Background

The McKenzie River has long been important for clean drinking water, fish and wildlife habitat, recreation, hydropower, irrigation, transportation, and inspiration. However, it has been impacted by development, habitat loss, channelization, water diversion and other impacts. Despite these challenges, it is still an incomparable treasure and one of the last strongholds for wild salmonids.

It is our hope and belief that people will protect and restore the McKenzie if they appreciate its special wild beauty. Images can evocatively capture the ever-changing and sometimes hidden personality of a place. Come experience the magic of the McKenzie through photography and stories and contemplate your own relationship to our unique heritage, the McKenzie River.

ELP Student Photo Credits (clockwise from top left): Mason Trinca, Rick Gurule, Angelina Hellar, Cassidy Ventura, and Nathan Ogata.

September 23, 2010

Environmental Leadership Program now accepting applications!

We are currently accepting applications for the 2011 ELP Program!
Applications are due Wednesday, November 3rd by 5:00 p.m.
Learn more about the Environmental Leadership Program