“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks…..” John Muir
Summer 2012 was an outdoor experience for the CYCLES group. Teachers, researchers and facilitators spent a significant time amongst the various elements of nature, enjoying and learning from it every possible way. The adventure began on August 5, 2012 when the 2nd annual workshop began at Itasca Biological Research Station. Located at the convergence of coniferous, eastern deciduous and tall grass prairie ecosystems, Itasca Biological Research Station provided an excellent opportunity for understanding habitats in their pristine forms. Workshop participants stayed on-site at the research station and engaged in hands-on activities, excursions and field trips about this year’s theme of the impact of Global Climate Change on Water Resources in US. Itasca being the headwaters of the Mississippi river turned out to be the most optimal location for having scientific and culturally relevant conversations around water.
We started off with a Native water blessing ceremony and then proceeded this culturally congruent experience towards discussions involving western science. Using limnological techniques to study various physico-chemical parameters like lake depth, turbidity, water temperature, dissolved oxygen (DO), salinity, and density, the participants examined Lake Itasca’s water quality. Then through extensive data-based discussions, the group was able to generate an understanding about how seasonal variations in lakes are experiencing long-term impacts due to the changing climate. By focusing on some key concepts like dissolved oxygen, salinity and pressure, the participants were able to understand the importance of watershed drainage and anthropogenic nutrient pollution in the water bodies of Minnesota.
As if canoeing on the lake and nature walks were not enough fun, we were also able to participate in a high altitude ballooning experience. High-altitude ballooning involves using helium-filled (or hydrogen-filled) weather balloons to lift payloads (boxes containing data collection instruments) into the upper atmosphere (up to about 90,000 feet). Balloons grow in the upper atmosphere until they spontaneously burst, after which the payload returns to the ground by parachute. On-board GPS receivers and ham radios send out location information using APRS format so the balloon can be tracked from the ground and recovered.
Through out the week, we were fortunate enough to have Native researchers and teachers on the team who guided our efforts and experiences and kept the knowledge flow culturally relevant. This cohort plans to meet for five follow up workshops where these conversations will be carried on in greater details and even more focused on specific issues related to water quality and global climate change.