Umpqua Watersheds Blog

Education-Committee Chair updates

…not everyone gets to PET A WHALE…

Published September 3rd, 2018 in Education-Committee Chair updates

Ken Carloni, Ph.D.

Baja tour evaluation comment

Copyright Ken Carloni

Ken Carloni

 As many of you know, I retired from full-time teaching at UCC in June. My plan was to continue to teach the field courses I’ve reported on in the pages of past 100 Valleys newsletters as a part-time instructor. Unfortunately, that plan has been dashed.

For a variety of motives, the new UCC administration has cancelled the Baja class and reassigned the Field Botany tour to another instructor (I’d be happy to chronicle the sordid details over several pints). After fighting as hard as I could to save these courses, I ultimately had to admit defeat. Dejected and demoralized, I spent the last couple of months trying to decide if all of the stress and heartache was worth the effort to rebuild these opportunities.

The heartfelt encouragement I’ve gotten from my students over the last few months has given me the emotional strength to find a new home for these tour-based educational experiences. Here are some of the other comments from participants of the most recent Baja tour that inspired me to keep the dream alive:

“Sharing this experience and being able to learn with such wonderful people and a passionate professor made this course and trip exceed my wildest dreams!”

“This course is more than I ever could have expected… [it] reinvigorated my love for learning and my passion for all scientific fields.”

“Ken as an instructor is inexhaustibly passionate about teaching; he easily answers any barrage of questions with a return volley of knowledge bombs that only a life time dedicated to learning and teaching could deliver.”

“I really enjoyed the ease of travel and meal planning that the Green Tortoise provided. It made each meal an efficient team effort, and travel night and day without any problems. The bus not only was a comfortable place to sleep and travel, but it allowed us to focus on learning, and the teachers to focus on teaching, without worrying nearly as much about the driving, meals, etc.”

“Every stop was meaningful and educational, and I learned more than I ever could have imagined.”

“The entire experience was life changing. I LOVED getting the hands on knowledge; from Ken’s life biology to Matt [Hunter]’s knowledge of birds; Alan [Bunce]’s snorkeling tips; and other various community members.”

“Ken coordinated and organized the entire trip perfectly… You don’t get this kind of learning in the classroom… I can guarantee that if you have any love for learning, you will come back changed.”


After getting encouragement like this, how could I not put my shoulder back to the wheel and forge a new path forward? Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been investigating new venues for delivering the life-changing field experiences I’ve developed over the last decade. I am exploring options to offer the tours (“Evolution, Diversity and Ecology of the Baja Peninsula” and “Field Botany of SW Oregon and N California”) through another Oregon university, through the Siskiyou Field Institute, and/or directly through UW’s Education and Outreach initiatives. I plan to continue to contract with the world-renowned Green Tortoise Adventure Travel company ( – hands-down the most comfortable, friendly and efficient platform for ed-venture travel.


So how can you help keep ed-venture tours alive and thriving? Join us on one of our upcoming tours! The last Baja tour included riders from 19 to 75 years old, and accommodated a range of dietary needs. Tentative dates for the Baja Tour are March 21-31, 2019, and June 18-23, 2019 for the Field Botany Tour. Please send an email to if you are interested in either or both of these tours, and I will keep you abreast of the details as they get worked out.

I was recently straightening up my office and found a slip of paper from a fortune cookie from several months back. It reads, “Investigate the new opportunity that will soon become an option.”

I’m on it.


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