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March 30th, 2020

To start off Citizen Science Month, Sharman Apt Russell takes us into the arroyos of southwestern New Mexico where she has been helping monitor wildlife. The tracks of mountain lions are common and easy to identify, but the tracks of the endangered meadow jumping mouse are rare. Would she recognize them if she saw them? How would she know for certain?

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The meadow jumping mouse has a saltatorial superpower: it’s able to leap ten times the length of its body, up to three feet. These animals are also good swimmers. And diggers. And sleepers. In some areas, they hibernate ten months of the year. In 2014, a New Mexican subspecies was listed as federally endangered, and that’s how I got to know these mice, study their footprints, and learn the word “saltatorial” (adapted for leaping).

Sharman Apt Russell (center, wearing the rainbow hat) at a tracking workshop

As part of a citizen science team in southwestern New Mexico, I help monitor the presence of keystone predators like mountain lion, black bear, bobcat, and white-nosed coati. Every few months, for seven years, this team has walked up and down the same sandy arroyo looking for tracks, scat, scrapes, and kill sites. When we find something—“Mountain lion! Over here!”--we measure and photograph and send that information to a conservation group that puts it into a national database. Years of such tracking has helped environmentalists negotiate freeway underpasses and overpasses for wildlife, as well as other protections. My citizen science team also watches for signs of endangered species like the jaguar, Mexican gray wolf, and—now—the big-eyed, pointy-nosed, long-tailed, multi-talented meadow jumping mouse.

Photo at right: bear tracks
Photo below, left: mouse tracks (unknown species)

But how well would we recognize the tracks of a jumping mouse? And how to distinguish them from other mice in our transect area? A few weeks ago, some friends and I had a go-round.

“So this track is about 3/8" long, with five toes not connected to the palm pad, with Toe 1 pointed to the side, Toes 2, 3, and 4 pointing up, and Toe 5 to the side. I think it’s a harvest mouse.”

“I was sure I put my reading glasses in my pack.”

“See how Toe 5 is really set back, almost at a 90-degree angle from the pad?”

“I’m not sure that’s a toe.”

“Harvest mice have slightly bulbous toes. I don’t think these are bulbous.”

“I love the mumbly sound of bulbous.”

“These toes are pretty thin.”

“The toes of the endangered meadow jumping mouse are thin.”

“Could this be the front foot of an endangered jumping mouse?”


“Well, long-tailed voles also have thin toes.”

“It’s the long hind feet of the jumping mouse that are so distinctive.”

“I don’t think it’s a vole. Definitely not a harvest mouse.”

We do what we are trained to do, take a photo with a ruler next to the track for scale and send that into the experts. In the next hour, we’ll come across the rear right footprint of a mountain lion, a shape we know very well. Mountains lion are not uncommon, if still wondrous. Today we feel a little ho-hum about the mountain lion. Maybe we just saw the track of a jumping mouse!

squirrel tracks (unknown species)

Author’s note: This citizen science team tracks for Sky Island Alliance, at www.skyislandalliance.org.

The scene and conversation described is only slightly made-up, as any tracker of wild mice will know.

Sharman Apt Russell is the author of Diary of a Citizen Scientist: Chasing Tiger Beetles and Other New Ways of Engaging the World

March 24th, 2020

The OSU Press remains open, although our office in Valley Library is closed until further notice. Staff members are working remotely and can be reached by email. At this time, we’re working hard to keep projects on schedule and to support our authors, readers, and publishing partners.

Please note that our distributor, the Chicago Distribution Center (CDC), will be unable to pack and ship books from its warehouse until further notice due to an Illinois state order. We have shifted many of our books to a remote manufacturing and delivery model to keep them available for purchase and delivery. We are also working to make more of our books available as e-books for immediate download through our website. However, many of our print books will be backordered and will not ship until after CDC reopens. We encourage you to order our print books from your local independent bookseller’s website or other online retailers. We are sorry for the inconvenience and appreciate your understanding.

Thank you for your support. Stay healthy.

March 24th, 2020

Recently, OSU Press interns Ashley Hay and Isaiah Holbrook attended PubWest’s annual conference. Both on the cusp of entering the publishing industry, they reflect on their experience at this publishing association’s conference below




Last week, I was lucky enough to attend PubWest in Portland as an intern at OSU Press. Despite my youthful status and relative inexperience in the industry, I encountered friendly conference-goers, thoughtful conversations, and colorful debates over the course of the day. While at times I found myself overwhelmed at the depth and community of the industry I’m planning to enter, I think this was a useful step in immersing myself into this strange new culture.

I primarily embraced the role of passive observer, newcomer to all the etiquette, relationships, and practices playing out before my eyes. I learned a lot of about marketing this way, sitting in panels that discussed generational marketing, metadata, Pinterest, and sensitivity readers. Debates over the diversity of editors raised questions I never would have thought to ask. Contracts that require authors self-promote was previously a totally foreign concept. Partnerships with libraries, schools, and local media outlets all hold significant potential, and I might not have learned about the strategic ways some publishers connect with their communities elsewhere.

But I found some ways to participate in conversations, as well. During PubWest’s “Peer Pairs,” an organized speed-conversation event, I received plenty of advice and stories from industry professionals about the start of a publishing career. “Confusion is a learning state,” one woman told me, a marketer who cited the numerous times she, herself, had failed initially. “Pump them for all the ‘why’ questions,” another woman—an educator—said, suggesting I use mentors to learn about the history of any industry I enter. In return, my Gen-X status became a boon as I found myself answering all sorts of social-media-related questions. (Yes, Twitter is a surprisingly useful platform for community engagement. No, you shouldn’t use the same hashtags on every platform.) 

To be honest, I certainly didn’t expect such a strong sense of community to emerge almost immediately. Amongst the two hundred or so attendees, most people seemed at least vaguely familiar with each other, and I’d often see conversations across aisles, shifting clusters of familiar faces, and warm greetings of old acquaintances. Keeping my ears to the ground, I picked up plenty of industry gossip, much to my delight. Speakers and panelists all had their own stories and experiences, which they were all too willing to share, and even the drier moments held gems of unknown phrases, histories, or ideas I feel lucky to have caught.

Broadly, I feel lucky to have had this experience. Being able to dive so quickly into a professional community like this was a terrific learning experience. While this time, I focused on listening to and absorbing others’ knowledge, perhaps in the future I’ll become the one initiating conversations—or even sitting on a panel myself.


 The PubWest conference enabled me to gain even more knowledge about the publishing industry through both the marketing and editorial lens. As a fiction student in the MFA Creative Writing program at OSU, most of my conference experience stems from AWP, and although the perspectives from a writer’s eyes and a publisher’s are completely different, there are parallels between the ways that publishers think and the ways in which I think about writing and marketing my own work.

One of the panels I attended spoke about generational readership in publishing and gave a brief overview of the interests and disinterests of the majority of readers from each generation (from the Silent and Baby Boomers to Gen Z and Gen Alpha). Through this panel, I realized that an awareness of audience is essential in knowing how to tailor your books and advertise them to your generational audience. But listening to the panel, I couldn’t help but relate this same marketing tactic/awareness to a writer, and how writers also have to be cognizant of their readers, who their stories might attract, and figure out how to broaden their readership even when their freedom of experimentation in their work veers away from their initial work. Even though as a writer I’m more focused on generating work than on attracting my audience, this panel made me aware that in order to be visible, a writer must pay attention to their readership.

From this conference, I came to further understand the universal conversation the publishing world is having about increasing diversity and representation within the process of book publishing. I attended another panel that focused on  what it means to highlight diverse books and voices through a predominately white industry. This discussion covered a variety of topics that raised various questions such as: Who is allowed to write about people of color? How can we be a better representative of diversity and inclusion from an editor’s standpoint? From a marketing/advertising standpoint? Should sensitivity readers only be limited to the transmittal phase? It was through this conversation that I further learned my desire to be in that conversation, to make my presence and voice known as a person of color, and to contribute to a small solution to a global issue.

Not only were the panels a learning experience, but also the keynote speakers, specifically Charlotte Abbott’s talk on reader engagement. Abbott’s speech encouraged me to think about how my position as an intern can contribute to readership engagement. She articulated that in the small press community, many of us strive to reach for a broader audience that is often more accessible to bigger-named brands/trade publishers than academic presses; however, that doesn’t mean that increasing readership engagement isn’t accessible to us. Abbott’s talk was a stepping stone for my understanding of how interns can be a part of that conversation and enabled me to take what I learned back to the office and begin to apply it to our everyday practice.

I’m very fortunate that my work at OSU Press led me to this conference and gifted me further educational access into the world of small press publishing.


March 11th, 2020
In Black Woman in Green, Gloria Brown and Donna Sinclair share Gloria’s journey as the first African American woman to become a forest supervisor with the US Forest Service. In this blog post, they describe their process and present an excerpt from the book.


Gloria Brown
: This book is for any female or minority interested in moving up in any organization. It will appeal to anyone interested in how the Forest Service works and why we all must do our part to save our planet. The book is about the people who work on the ground to respond to issues like the spotted owl, clean water, salmon, and recreation in national forests—plus many other jobs that are being done on national forests.

Donna: This excerpt illustrates perfectly the rhythm of writing and spoken word between Gloria and me that resulted in Black Woman in Green. Gloria typically drafted chapters and then I asked her questions to flesh them out, often to include more detailed descriptions. As we moved along in the process, such descriptions became increasingly second nature for her, and we also came to know one another so well that I sometimes added stories she had told me. We would then refine the sections together. I would type, she would speak, and we would seek just the right word and then read aloud to make sure of the flow.

This section is especially memorable to me because it reveals our joint process. In this segment we drew from our individual experiences of flying into Portland to create images familiar to us both—Mt. Hood and forests—combining the isolation of being dropped into whiteness with the color of forest and money that resulted from timber harvests. It also demonstrates Gloria's transition from an urban African American woman to a woman who walks in multiple worlds.


I needed to understand how a region works “in the field.” So, Tom and John facilitated a two-week detail to the information office in Region 6, in Oregon, on the other side of the country. This was my first plane ride ever, and it exposed me to an entirely new world. As the plane circled to land at the Portland International Airport, I was struck by the brilliant white-topped peaks of Mount Hood. I had seen the Smoky Mountains, but never anything like this! I also quickly realized that Oregon’s population was as white as the mountain’s peaks. I had worked with Caucasians for a long time, but never before had I seen a place with no African Americans. Yes, I learned there were a few in the state—about 37,000 in a population of 2.5 million—but they were not very visible in the Portland Regional Office (RO), the city’s downtown area, and especially not on the Forest Service districts I visited. The most diversity I saw in Portland was in the personnel office, the mailroom, and the civil rights office; when I visited the Willamette National Forest, I saw no people of color. There were women, but at the forest and district levels, no one looked like me.

What I did see everywhere I looked was Northwest green, the color of money in the Forest Service, and the hue of deliverance for me. Oregon’s lush Willamette Valley took my breath away as an employee named Jerry Mason drove me to the Willamette National Forest supervisor’s office in Eugene. The Willamette National Forest stretches more than a hundred miles along the western slope of the Cascade Range, extending from Mount Jefferson east of Salem to the Calapooya Mountains northeast of Roseburg. Mount Hood dominates the Portland landscape, while Mount Jefferson looms above the crystal-clear lakes, cascading waterfalls, and vibrant plant life of the Willamette Valley and its national forest. To me, these were some of the prettiest landscapes in the country. Of course, I hadn’t seen a lot. Although I had been with the Forest Service for nearly ten years, I had never been in a national forest.

When I saw the massive trees, bigger than any living thing I had ever seen, soaring hundreds of feet into the air, a million fragrant needles sending oxygen into the atmosphere, I felt that I was in a cathedral, a church more powerful than any other. The Douglas-firs, true firs, and pines towered over me. Brilliant shades of green and gold moss and lichen brought the forest to life, while the flaming red of Indian fireweed burned into my consciousness, and the solitude of the trails calmed by soul. There were no cars, no streetlights, and very few people; just trees, rivers, and wildlife. I had never known solitude like that, even in a park. At a cookout in DC, there were people everywhere. This was different. People walked the trails, but the forest enclosed you in solitude. I had sent out pamphlets about forest ecology but had never walked in the forest. I had provided schools with educational materials about the environment, but had never seen old growth. For me, visiting the Willamette forest was like going into a darkroom and having the light come on slowly to reveal a new world. I had so many firsts, my parents didn’t believe my stories. I decided then to one day work on the Willamette. Daddy did say that if I ever got to live in Oregon, he would love to visit and fish for some salmon. I eventually got to Oregon, but Dad died before he could catch that fish.

Excerpt from Black Woman in Green
by Gloria Brown and Donna Sinclair, copyright © 2020.
ch. 1, pgs.17-18
February 13th, 2020

On this Valentine’s day we celebrate a different type of love—our love for the great state of Oregon! On February 14, 1859, Oregon was officially granted statehood by President James Buchanan. To recognize this day in honor of Oregon’s 161st birthday, we are sharing a snapshot of Oregon’s history through the development of sports. Brian S. Campf’s Sporting Oregon highlights the growing popularity of sports such as baseball, football, and basketball during the mid-1800s, and the unity and camaraderie that sports inspired in Oregonians. What better way to depict Oregon’s history than through excerpts of Sporting Oregon!

Baseball [pp. 6-8, 88, 174]

The first pitch for organized baseball in Portland was thrown . . . [when nine] of the city’s young athletes gathered in the office of J. W. Cook, a bag factory, on the evening of Monday, May 28, 1866, to form a team. . . . They met again on June 2 and emerged with team officers and a name befitting them: the Pioneer Base Ball Club (PBBC). Thirty members were added to the club’s rolls just over two weeks later, including Joseph Buchtel, a player who managed the club and would become the face of early Portland baseball. Thirty-one men from among the city’s population of 6,508 signed a constitution the club adopted. Portland was a small town then, with one architect, four hardware stores, six restaurants, nine bakeries, and one astrologer.

Less than two months after the team formed, the Oregonian called baseball “exhilarating,” observing that the spirit of the Pioneer’s play showed that “its enlivening effects are by no means a small matter,” and called the club’s progress “remarkable.”

Bat and ball games were not new to Oregon. One of baseball’s predecessor games, town ball, had been played in Oregon since the pioneer days. In a 1900 Oregonian story, an Oregonian born in 1848 recalled his experience with the sport as a boy:

The ballground had four corners, similar to our baseball ground, with a pitcher and a catcher. We did not know anything about curves, but threw the ball over-hand right from the shoulder. We did not stand on the bases as in the modern game. The striker [batter] had to run the bases, and if we could catch the ball on the fly or on the first bound the striker was out. If, when he ran from one base to the next, we could throw the ball in front of him, that is, between him and the base he was trying to reach, he was out. If we could hit him with the ball while he was running from one base to the next, he was out. It would be surprising how quickly one side could be caught out and the other side let in.

Balls for town ball were made by unraveling an old sock or stocking and wrapping the yarn around a piece of leather until it was the right size. Then “we would carry in the wood and do all kinds of chores to get mother to cover it with a piece of old pants leg or coat sleeve.”

A Medford resident claimed to have organized Oregon’s first baseball team in Corvallis in 1856, ten years before the Pioneers formed. “No, it wasn’t ‘town ball’ we played, but the original game of baseball,” he told the Medford Mail Tribune in 1910. Their only equipment was a bat whittled from native wood and a ball that at first was rubber and later was made of yarn covered in buckskin with a rubber center. “That ball was the most valuable piece of property belonging to the club,” he added. “If in playing in open fields, as we did in those days, the ball was ‘lost,’ the game was called until the players, spectators and even the umpire had searched until they found it.”


A note on the back of the 1909 “The Lions” of Scio postcard of female players reads, “This team beat the Star Nine 3 to 1 in a 5-inning game.” The Oregonian had previewed the contest: in Scio, “a unique feature of the carnival of sports to be held here the latter part of this week will be a baseball game next Saturday afternoon between two teams composed entirely of girls. A number of local girls have been practicing strenuously for the contest and it will be an interesting exhibition.”



Southpaw pitcher Jimmy Claxton became the first African American to play organized baseball in the twentieth century when he pitched for the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks on May 28, 1916. That same year he became the first black player to appear on an American baseball card (with the Oaks). He kneels in the front row, far right of this postcard of Portland’s 1914 Hubbard Giants baseball team, named for its manager Lew Hubbard. He played for them in 1915, as well.

Football [pp 25-26, 105] 

On November 12, 1892, Pacific University became Oregon’s first college team to enter the football fray, defeating Bishop Scott Academy 18–6. The following year, Pacific University played in the state’s first intercollegiate football game, trouncing Oregon State Normal School (now Western Oregon University) 54–0 on November 3. Only one or two of its players from the normal school had ever seen a game.

Five hundred people in Corvallis paid ten cents apiece to see Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University) play its first foot-ball game on November 11, 1893. The Corvallis Gazette explained the new game to its readers, starting with this preamble: “Many of our people have never witnessed a game of football as it is now played, and as there is to be a contest between our boys and the visiting team from Albany tomorrow afternoon, perhaps a few simple points as we remember them will be of interest, the details of which can only be understood by seeing the men on the field.” OAC cruised to a 62–0 win over Albany Collegiate Institute (now Lewis & Clark College). “The Albany team proved no match for the Agricultural boys. In fact they were mere playthings,” according to the Oregonian.

Elsewhere in the school ranks, Portland Academy had a team by early 1893 and Portland High School (now Lincoln High) had one by November. Perhaps the most delightful story of a new team comes from Salem’s Willamette University, which would have been practicing in November but for an important missing ingredient: “The foot-ball has not arrived as yet so the boys have been creating exercise for themselves, by getting the field in good shape.”. . .

Beneath the mild heading of “Other Oregon News,” the Oregonian sandwiched a brief article about that historic contest between stories on business picking up in Pendleton and a Jacksonville boy who cut his foot chopping wood: 

Eugene, March 24—The first match game of football this city has witnessed was played today between the teams of Albany college and the University of Oregon. The Albany boys were outplayed at every point, and the score stood 44 to 2 in favor of the University of Oregon. Two of the Albany men were slightly injured.



The 1909 Eugene High School football team in the postcard expected to vie for

the Western Oregon interscholastic championship (they had won it two years earlier). They did not disappoint, beating every high school they played in 1909 after losing their first game 18–0 to the University of Oregon freshmen squad. Unsettled claims for the 1909 state title were asserted by Eugene High and by Portland’s undefeated Washington High School team. 

[pp, 32-33, 89]

A March 16, 1895, Oregonian article described the sport’s appeal. “An exciting game of basket-ball was played last night in the gymnasium hall of the Young Men’s Christian Association. This is a new game, and is just being introduced here. The rules are such as to avoid the roughness and liability to injury of foot-ball; yet the exercise brings into play and develops about every muscle and portion of the body. It is a great fad in the East, and promises to be a most enticing amusement and exercise here.”

By late April 1895, at Portland’s East Side YMCA “a lively game of basket ball” was being played on most evenings, nine to a side played in a contest in May, and by July basketball was the “principal amusement” there. A sense of the action comes from the following excerpt from the Oregonian’s coverage of the May game:

A game of basket ball was played yesterday afternoon at 5 o’clock on the East Side YMCA field between the regular nine and the “scrubs.” It was the hottest game yet played, the practice the players are receiving being plainly evident. The features of the game were the first goal made by the regulars in three throws, Gwilt’s remarkable agility and sprinting to keep from being hit by the ball, McMonies’ high-jumping, and Van Auken’s fine goal-throwing. The score was 4 to 2 in favor of the regulars.

Play improved with practice. In intramural women’s athletics at the University of Oregon, “the ladies teams of basket ball continue to practice as rigorously as if they were to enter some inter-collegiate contest,” the Daily Eugene Guard reported in February 1895. . . .

Women thrived in the game. In 1895, the first athletic exhibition given by the Multnomah Club’s “lady members” included a basket-ball contest played before at least four hundred spectators. Wearing red or white ribbons to identify their sides, they played two ten-minute halves to a 3–1 final score. Young men watching “yelled as if they were on a football field."


The center for Astoria High School’s women’s basketball team is featured on a postcard mailed in February 1909 to William E. Gregory, Captain of the USS Armeria, detailing past and future games.

The team disbanded in November 1909 after the coach insisted they play under girls’ rules; the team countered that other teams would only play them under boys’ rules.




January 14th, 2020

The 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified 100 years ago today, giving women the right to vote. Long before they could vote, women in Oregon were shaping our history and fighting for political, social, and economic justice. Among them was Marie Equi, a Portland physician and one of the first "out" lesbians in Oregon. Today's blog post examines some of the ways that Marie Equi has made her way into contemporary classrooms and offers some suggestions for further reading.

*           *            *           *           *


The life story of Portland’s Dr. Marie Equi continues to appear in Pacific Northwest curriculum, according to Equi biographer Michael Helquist. Last spring an 8th grader in a private school in Portland contacted him through his website to ask about the history of abortions in Oregon. The student was curious about enforcement of the anti-abortion laws, and he asked how Equi had avoided prosecution. The student wrote that his inquiry had been approved by his school counselors since he had a well-defined project that he had already begun to research. He also took the occasion for an author interview, asking about motivation, obstacles, and the persistence needed to write history. 


On May 1st of last year, Professor Kimberly Jensen of Western Oregon University invited Helquist to speak to her undergraduate class, Women in Oregon History. Rather than a personal appearance, Helquist participated in a two-hour Q and A with the students via WebEx. All the students – about twenty young women and men– had read the full biography before the session, and they had prepared a list of questions and interests.


The comments and questions were spirited and probing, according to Helquist. “They were so appreciative of speaking to the author of one of the books they had enjoyed.” One spoke of her disappointment in not hearing about Marie Equi earlier in her schooling. This led to a discussion about historical erasure. Several expressed interest in pursuing a career in history. And they were especially curious about the research and writing process. The politics of abortion recurred again in questions. Following the discussion, Helquist notes, “the students mailed me a thank-you card with individual comments. I found it important that so many thanked me for ‘taking time’ and for ‘allowing us to engage with your book, knowledge, and personal experience.’ To me it suggests that students not only appreciated a change in classroom learning but also crave the interaction with someone from the outside listening to them individually.” 

 (For more information about using Marie Equi in the classroom, contact michael.helquist@gmail.com)

*           *            *           *           *

For further reading, check out these books about women who changed the course of Oregon history:

Beyond the Rebel Girl: Women and the Industrial Workers of the World in the Pacific Northwest, 1905-1924 by Heather Mayer

A Force for Change: Beatrice Morrow Cannady and the Struggle for Civil Rights in Oregon, 1912-1936 by Kimberley Mangun

Marie Equi: Radical Politics and Outlaw Passions by Michael Helquist

The Only Woman in the Room: The Norma Paulus Story by Norma Paulus

Remembering the Power of Words: The Life of an Oregon Activist, Legislator, and Community Leader by Avel Louise Gordly

Shaping the Public Good: Women Making History in the Pacific Northwest by Sue Armitage

Up the Capitol Steps:A Woman's March to the Governorship by Barbara Roberts

With Grit and by Grace: Breaking Trails in Politics and Law by Betty Roberts

Yours for Liberty: Selections from Abigail Scott Duniway's Suffrage Newspaper edited by Jean M. Ward and Elaine A. Maveety

December 13th, 2019
If environmental scholar Peter Brewitt didn’t have his hands full with two young daughters, he could moonlight as a film critic. In this guest blog post, Brewitt explores the unexpected connections between Disney’s Frozen franchise and Same River Twice, his 2019 book on dam removal.

* * * * * * * * * *

Peter Brewitt(Massive spoilers ahead for Frozen 2. Also Frozen. This should be fine because, to judge by ticket sales, you’ve probably already seen them.)

I have two daughters, but for the last few years, I’ve felt like I have four: Penny and Lupin, princesses of House Brewitt, and Anna and Elsa, princesses of Arendelle. I know I’m not alone in this—Anna and Elsa have joined many, many families. The first thing my older daughter wanted to be when she grew up was an Elsa. My younger daughter has only just turned two but demanded a toothbrush with Anna on it and totes around a stuffed Olaf (the snowman) instead of a teddy bear. I know all of the songs by heart. So of course, when Frozen 2 hit theaters, we (except for the two-year-old) went to see it immediately. I really liked it, but I did not expect it to be about environmental interest groups, political framing, and dam removal. Which is to say, my book.

Quick background if you don’t know Frozen . . . Arendelle, a lightly disguised Norway, has two princesses. Elsa, the older sister, possesses the power to shoot ice out of her fingers. Anna, the younger one, has no such power but DOES have a spunky personality. Their parents die at sea (Disney trusts kids to deal with some heavy themes between catchy showtunes; Frozen is based on Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Snow Queen”), Elsa freezes Arendelle but eventually sorts out how to harness her powers and be herself, and in the end, everyone learns about love, understanding, and the importance of taking action to fight climate change.

Frozen 2 is also about love and understanding, but this time the characters come together through dam removal. The action takes us north of Arendelle, to the tribal lands of Northuldra. The girls’ dad, King Agnarr, had been part of a state visit there as a young prince, and Arendelle had built a dam to support economic development in the Northuldrans’ pre-industrial landscape. But the dam, the girls discover, was really an instrument of colonial violence—the girls’ grandfather, a nasty combination of Andrew Jackson and Otto Von Bismarck named Runeard, built the dam to destroy Northulda’s magic and open the land for conquest. What’s more, Elsa and Anna turn out to be half Northuldran themselves! They decide to destroy the dam, and they rouse Earth Giants to do just that. Elsa uses her powers to divert the uncontrolled dam release away from Arendelle, and everyone, again, lives happily ever after or until the inevitable sequel.

And it’s all true! Other than talking snowmen and ice magic. In real life, dams have been and still are used to destroy indigenous livelihoods, displace local communities, and force the dominant culture onto native people who live near the river. The Northuldrans are directly based on the Sami, the indigenous people of northwestern Europe. Norway’s dams (96 percent of Norway’s power comes from hydro) have destroyed the Samis’ traditional resources and stoked political conflict. While Disney seems to have done a pretty good job partnering with Sami people to make the movie, the magic of Northuldrans, and Arendelle’s fear of it, parallel a worldwide tendency to treat indigenous people as extra–human beings, like fairies or hobbits. Honestly, I’m impressed that Disney raised all this in a movie for elementary schoolers.

So how to deal with the industrial mistakes and limited perspectives of the past? In Frozen 2 and Same River Twice, the same lessons apply. In river politics, we’re all stuck with one another, and all stakeholders need to communicate in order to make any progress at all—there is always someone else downstream. Different people frame and value nature differently. Failure to coordinate with one another results in conflict, whether because a magical mist descends upon the watershed or because a nonmagical mist of lawsuits descends upon the United States courts. And when a dam is useless or harmful (of course some of them are useful), it should be removed. Though I have to recommend a responsible engineering approach that minimizes downstream impact; I cannot recommend the Earth Giants.

December 10th, 2019

In today's blog post, coauthor and illustrator M.L. Herring gives a glimpse into the progression of a few of her illustrations featured in the Ellie and Ricky series (co-written with Judith L. Li). She also shares some of Ellie and Ricky’s various adventures throughout the series and highlights the ways their journeys have been integrated in the classroom and beyond. 



After four books covering four seasons, four regions, and four fields of science, our fictional eleven-year-olds, Ellie and Ricky, have completed their exploration of Oregon.


It’s been quite a journey for these intrepid kids, and for me and my coauthor Judy Li. Ellie’s Log began this adventure, as Ellie and Ricky explore the old-growth forest of the Oregon Cascades. The log, of course is not just a toppled old tree. The log is also Ellie’s journal, where she records what she and Ricky discover after a snowstorm delivers 220 feet of vertical life down to eye-level. The John Burroughs Society honored Ellie’s Log, the first time the society ever awarded a book of fiction.


Ellie’s Log struck a chord. It was clear that Oregon kids wanted to explore their own backyards and teachers needed engaging ways to meet new learning standards for science and the humanities. The OSU Press realized the importance of building a pipeline for future scientists and communicators. So the series was born.


Ricky’s Atlas allowed us to showcase Ellie’s friend Ricky, the son of Mexican immigrants, whose point of view expands Ellie’s world. In this summer story, Ricky invites Ellie to join him on a visit to his uncle’s ranch in Eastern Oregon. It’s fire season, and the kids see firsthand what wildfire means to people living in the West. Their journey gave us the chance to illustrate how fire continues to shape our arid lands and communities.

You have
to be quick to sketch wild animals. Sometimes you can draw only a few lines that you later develop into a realistic picture of what you saw.

Ricky, as it turns out, loves maps, and the atlas he creates during his visit is a playful exploration of time and space at multiple scales. However lighthearted, Ricky’s map-making follows the standards for geographic education established by the National Geographic Society. Ricky’s Atlas won the AAAS/Subaru award for the best hands-on science book of 2017.


In Ricky in the City, Ricky and Ellie travel to Portland on a school exchange in October. There they hone their skills of scientific observation to help monitor urban wildlife. Going beyond curiosity-led exploration, Ellie and Ricky are now working side-by-side with natural area managers on a citizen-science project to map wildlife connections throughout the metro area.


Ricky in the City gave me the chance to draw animals of the Willamette Valley, including these river otters, a common sight on Sauvie Island and on our farm. 

This gave Judy and me the chance to dive into the region’s many conservation organizations. We illustrate how the world is expanding for Ellie and Ricky, with new friends and new experiences in an urban setting familiar to half of Oregon’s kids.


And finally, Ellie’s Strand records one single winter day, when Ellie and Ricky travel to the coast to volunteer for a beach cleanup. By now, our two Oregon explorers are becoming adept at observation of the natural world around them. But the edge of the Pacific Ocean challenges them on a global scale.


Their day at the beach reveals amazing coastal creatures bathing in tidepools, hidden in beach wrack, and frolicking offshore. This was, of course, a joy to write and illustrate. But as they collect trash from their strand of beach, Ellie and Ricky soon realize the global scale of ocean pollution that threatens those creatures. It’s a feeling that is familiar to all of us who know and love the ocean, and we wanted especially to show how Ellie and Ricky rise to the enormity of the task. They realize the superpower of collaborative work, a recognition that is empowering children around the world.


I sketch what I see, and that means that I often sketch what’s in my hand. This is a drawing of California mussels for Ellie’s Strand 

The adventure continues. Judy and I are now at work with OSU Press to expand ways to encourage kids to explore nearby natural areas. Oregon Sea Grant has adopted Ellie’s Strand as a centerpiece for the Coast STEM Hub teacher training. Ellie’s Log and Ricky’s Atlas are used by the Oregon Natural Resources Education Program and OSU Extension Service for outdoor education. And the newest book, Ricky in the City, is quickly gaining a following among kids and teachers in Portland and beyond.


We hope that for years to come, young readers across the state will go outside with Ellie and Ricky to explore and record their own place in Oregon.




M.L. Herring lives on a peach farm in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, where she writes and illustrates works of science. She is an associate professor emeritus of science communication at Oregon State University.



December 6th, 2019
The Other Oregon Book CoverIn The Other Oregon, Thomas R. Cox explores the complexities of Oregon east of the Cascades with a thorough, multidisciplinary eye. He focuses on the interactions between environmental history, cultural and physical geography, natural resource management, and the people of the region. Here, an excerpt from his preface reveals a bit more about his background and approach.


Growing up in Redmond in the 1940s and 1950s, my friends and I used to bewail the inattention to our section by the state’s politicians and the metropolitan press. Eastern Oregon ought to be a separate state, we argued. And when I arrived at Oregon State as an undergraduate, I was both surprised and pleased to learn that classmates from Ontario, on Oregon’s eastern border, had engaged in the same discussions. Meanwhile, various and sundry fraternity brothers chided me for being from the “great desert,” to which I responded that I would rather bask in the sun like a lizard than be a “moss-back” from “the great swamp.” The stereotypes on which these exchanges were based, like most such, were oversimplifications. Vast stretches east of the Cascades—south from Bend, between Klamath Falls and Lakeview, and in the Blue and Wallowa Mountains—are forested, and north of the Blues mile after mile of onetime bunchgrass steppe now sport highly productive wheat ranches. Nor is the Westside a vast swamp; major portions of the Willamette, Rogue, and Umpqua Valleys receive so little rain they have never been forested in modern times. Yet, all in all, west of the Cascades is a well-watered land, while relative aridity dominates east of the range.

Thus stereotypes persist, and they are not limited to the fantasies of teenagers or rivalries of undergraduates. An old prospector, scouring the sun-drenched Pueblo Mountains in far southeastern Oregon, long ago commented on Western Oregon and its people: “Too many trees,” he opined, “It gives them a narrow vision, and they can’t see out.”

One can accept that the prospector had touched on a basic truth without falling into the maw of environmental determinism. As nineteenth-century historian Theodor Mommsen reputedly said, “Don’t speak to me of environmental determinism. Where once lived the ancient Greeks now live the Otooman Turks!” The relatively dry, challenging environment east of the Cascades presented opportunities quite different from those of the Willamette Valley; this harsh land drew people of a different sort, people who brought with them values and attitudes that shaped the economy, society, and outlook of the area and thus laid the foundation for the east-west divisions that, in spite of an ongoing influx of outsiders, have continued to the present day. The region’s identity remains shaped by the land and the ways that people have survived—and even prospered—on it. And for those who have not prospered, a certain pride remains in simply having persevered in this challenging place.

More lies behind these differences than relative levels of precipitation: the contrasts are cultural as well as environmental. Some years ago Dorothy Johansen, in her presidential address to the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association, sought to explain the palpable differences between Oregon, Washington, and California—although her “Oregon,” like that of my daughter’s roommate, clearly lay west of the Cascades, particularly in Portland and the Willamette Valley. Echoing Louis Hartz’s fragment thesis, she argued that original settlers set the tone for each of the three states and thus shaped their societies in the years that followed. In his bicentennial history of the state, Gordon Dodds took much the same position—as did I some years ago in trying to delineate the sociopolitical differences among Oregon, Washington, and Idaho through a study of the state parks movement in each. All of us reflected the earlier argument of Earl Pomeroy, that settlers of the American West brought with them cultural baggage that shaped what they did and what they built. Experience in its varied forms reinforced the mix.

Excerpt from The Other Oregon: People, Environment, and History East of the Cascades by Thomas R. Cox, copyright © 2019.
November 19th, 2019
On today’s blog post, author Gretel Van Weiren shares with us some tips for getting kids outside. Her new book, Listening at Lookout Creek, reveals her spiritual practice as it has evolved with her—and her family’s—changing lives. Listening at Lookout Creek additionally explores the development of her own deep connection with the natural world—and that of her overscheduled teenagers’, despite their hyper-tech, hyper-busy lives.

10 Tips for Getting Your Kids Outdoors

We all know the data, mostly from personal experience: kids today are spending an inordinate amount of time on screens indoors and it is not healthy. We also know that time spent off screen outdoors is incredibly beneficial for childhood well-being. One recent study showed that just 15 minutes spent outside, whether in an urban park or a forested area, had significant psychologically restorative benefits. So how do we get our kids outside in today’s hyper high-tech world? This is a question that I have pondered since my own three children, now teenagers, have been small. Here are some ideas that I have gathered over the years.

1. Take food. This is a trick that I learned from my father, who on almost every fishing expedition would bring a snack that we were not otherwise allowed to have at home. Even with teens, I have learned that taking food on outings makes a huge difference for morale and serves as an enticement for future outdoor activities. My son Carl likes jerky, and daughters, Inga and Clara, chocolate.

2. Invite friends. This is a great one for kids of all ages, most of whom are happier when they are with their friends. Pack a picnic, meet at a park or sporting event, go on a bike ride or hike. And when they are together, give them the freedom to do what they want and try not to intervene (within reason, of course).

3. Ask them what they want to do. I cannot tell you how many times my kids have refused to go outside because it was my idea, not theirs. Sure, tell them that they need to go outdoors at some point during the day, but let them do what they want to do and on their time. When they do get up the gumption, which I promise they will, even if with some gentle prodding, be truly open to what they choose—even if it involves the phone some of the time.

4. Do it with them. I am convinced that mother used to send me and my three sisters outdoors immediately after school (and I mean within 10 minutes) because she wanted some peace and quiet to make dinner. And believe me, I completely understand the need. But studies show that it helps to get kids outside if you are willing to go with them. Learn to be, at least occasionally, a “companion in wonder,” as naturalist Rachel Carson famously termed it. You will enjoy it more than you think you might, and be healthier for it.

5. Work it into their study schedule. This is something that I started to do when my children entered high school and began to have so much homework and so many extracurricular activities that there was virtually zero free time to do anything else. We live in Michigan, so the weather dictates this activity, but for a good chunk of the year, I have a small table set up outside the front door where they can sit and do homework, even if for a few minutes. A neighborhood park with a picnic table, coffee shop with outdoor seating, or quilt spread on the grass also works.

6. Reward them. Repay them with something that they like when they do go outside. I am not talking about a new iPhone or car. You would be surprised, actually, at how small the remuneration needs to be for this to work. Think extra time on the x-box or simply promising them that you will not badger them for the rest of the day. Yesterday, for example, I made Carl a milkshake after he had voluntarily taken our dog outside.

7. Take their phone. Or, better yet, have a designated drawer in the house where they (and you) put the phone when a little stress reduction is needed. I know this is an incredibly unpopular proposal, especially among teens, but remember, you are the parent and are likely paying for a significant portion of their livelihood, including their phone. The time frame does not have to be long—15 minutes or so will do. But tell them to unplug and go do anything outdoors. I promise, over time, they will notice a difference in their mental state. Eventually, I have learned, they may even come to do it on their own.

8. Do chores. Make sure you give a list of options. It can be as small as taking the dog or garbage out or collecting the mail. Monetary compensation is always a good incentive. But so is simply reminding them that they are an integral part of the family unit who is needed to make it all work on a day-to-day basis. I cannot tell you how many times I have forced my children to do yardwork and they have come away seeing the value in it, for themselves and the noticeable difference.

9. Surprise them! There is nothing like a good surprise to make your children appreciate the outdoors. And again, like many of the above, it can be something very small. A short walk with an ice-cream cone on the first day of spring or permission to stay up late to see the full moon.

10. Make outside somewhere they want to be. In his popular book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, journalist Richard Louv quotes a child he interviewed who said that the reason that he prefers it indoors is because that is where all the plugs are. Make your yard or patio a place that is enticing to be. Add a hammock, pot of flowers, bird feeder, or comfortable chair. And again, bringing food outdoors always seems to work.
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