Umpqua Watersheds Blog

Education-AmeriCorps, UW Blogs


Published March 8th, 2023 in Education-AmeriCorps, UW Blogs

By Jessica Saxton

Left to right: Rebekah Malon, Jessica Saxton, Jon Blalock, and Kirk Blaine gathering willow trees along the South Umpqua river at Deer Creek.

It has been roughly six months since I joined United Communities AmeriCorps and Umpqua Watersheds as the Environmental Education and Outreach Leader. During this time, I have gained many new skills and look forward to learning more during the rest of my service. I’ve met many new and interesting people through my work alongside colleagues, students, and community volunteers. I look forward to participating in upcoming projects and activities.
During February, I worked alongside Jon Blalock and Jeff McEnroe with the BLM and Rebekah H. Malone from the City of Roseburg to clip willow trees along Deer Creek Park. The willows are very thick along the river embankment and needed a bit of trimming. Fortunately, these clippings will be used by the BLM along Rock Creek in the Archie Creek burn area. Hopefully, within a few years, these cuttings will become young trees that provide shade and protection to aquatic life. I truly enjoyed working on this project and am excited to participate in upcoming restoration projects!
Living Downstream Radio Show
I’ve interviewed some amazing people as host of the show and gained confidence in my communication skills. I enjoyed interviewing Ken Carloni, vice president of Umpqua Watersheds and a long-time educator,  about the Rock Creek Fish Hatchery and the impacts of the Winchester Dam on the Salmon and Steelhead population. I also interviewed Steven Rumrill—the Shellfish Program Leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Over the past 20 years, Steven has studied diverse groups of organisms (primarily echinoderms, mollusks, and crustaceans). These organisms occur in various habitats, including central and southern California’s rocky intertidal zone and subtidal kelp beds, the nearshore Pacific Ocean waters above the continental shelf, and several semi-enclosed estuaries in the continental shelf of Oregon, California, and Washington. Steven spoke about the impacts of the sea star wasting disease on Sunflower sea stars and other species. The sea star wasting disease only impacts Sunflower sea stars, and their population has significantly decreased since the appearance of the disease.
The next interview featured guest speaker Chris Rusch with the Douglas County Master Gardeners. We spoke about the upcoming events, spring gardening practices, and plant species for the Pacific Northwest. Some upcoming activities put on by DCMG include Spring into Gardening Workshop (March 11, 2023), Plant & Garden Expo (May 6, 2023), and Trash to Treasure Sale (June 3, 2023). The next episode featured Al Walker, who spoke about restoration work and progress on their property since the Archie Creek burns—planting trees, rebuilding their home, and restoring the land. The Umpqua Tribe of Indians once managed and lived upon the land. Al spoke about the history of the land. The most recent episode features a local Douglas County band called Face for Radio. The members Erik Schnautz, Lowell Smith, and Mark Rochester discuss their new music release and the inspiration behind the music. If you want to listen to any of these episodes, don’t hesitate to check out Living Downstream on the KQUA website!

I have been working to develop new activities for local schools and clubs. The help and guidance of Fremont Natural Resources Teacher Robyn Bath-Rosenfeld have allowed me to improve my leadership and education skills. I look forward to working with more teachers in our community and providing resources. Fremont’s seventh-grade students learned about tree rings. They had the opportunity to explore real tree rings and learn how to determine tree age. They also learned about micro and macroinvertebrates by using a microscope. They explored different species and recorded them in their nature journals.
Recently, the Boys and Girls Club students tried a new activity called The Incredible Journey. They traveled through different ecosystems as a water molecules, collecting beads at each location to document their journey. The students enjoyed this fun physical activity that made them question where water molecules travel. They also created a caste of animal tracks to explore and compare. They discussed what type of animals would have different feet structures and why they are different. They especially enjoyed comparing the bear paw to the rabbit and bird feet. This past week the kids had the opportunity to paint leaves and imprint them on paper. They enjoyed exploring the different types of tree leaves and printing them on paper.
In April, Alexandra Harding’s class at Jolane Middle School will participate in our “Environmental Detectives” series. The activities are for middle school students and are designed to educate them in a fun and imaginative way about river health and pollution. Students are assigned the role of detective to investigate a mass fish die-off event in a fictional area.
In other news, Umpqua Community College Natural Resource Club is officially up and running. We had our first meeting in February and will continue to have them twice a month. I look forward to the upcoming activities and volunteer projects we will work on together!
Martin Luther King Jr Day Park and River Cleanup
Coordinating the Martin Luther King Jr Day Park and River Cleanup event in January was my first experience organizing a large team of volunteers. Over four hours, we made a magnificent difference at Stewart Park. We picked up everything from unidentified piles of goop to an entire soaked sleeping bag, waterlogged jackets, a shopping cart, and a “family of socks” one of the kiddos found. When we finished, volunteers struggled to find trash to pick up! The event was a great success for the environment, myself, and all the volunteers who gave their time. A coordinator does many things to prepare for an upcoming event. I filled out paperwork, sourced materials like trash bags, coffee-making supplies, and bagels, and worked with SOLVE to receive materials for the event. I also contacted a worker from the City of Roseburg for help with permits and dumpsters. Thank you to Tracy Moser and Rebekah H. Malone! I also had the opportunity to broaden my advertising skills. I practiced making and posting physical and virtual posters. I contacted community members to ask them to attend and spread the word. It all came together in the end, and I came out with more knowledge and confidence to face the next event I’ll coordinate. Thank you to all the volunteers who donated their time to help clean such a beautiful community park!

Crater Lake National Park Snowshoe Hike
Oregon has received much snow in the last few months, and Crater Lake was perfect for my first snowshoe hike. It was breathtaking and an incredible experience. Along with 18 other volunteers, we trekked out on 10 feet of snow with an awesome park ranger. The ranger’s information along the trip was interesting, including some fun sound effects! After trekking for a while, we reached the rim of Crater Lake and took a group picture.



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