Ear to the Ground – Ned Buckingham, Olympic Park Institute

Ear to the Ground – Ned Buckingham, Olympic Park Institute

nedsmallWhat is your current job title?

I am a Field Science Educator for the Olympic Park Institute.

How did you get into this field?

My educational background is in Biology and Secondary Education, and when I graduated from college, I just wasn’t ready to teach in the classroom.  I had an urge to be outside; to live in and experience natural places. Teaching in an outdoor setting seemed to be the best of both worlds.

What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on developing a bird feeding behavior/natural history curriculum that is usable for a wide range of students. I’m also at the early stages of developing a hands on, long-term river ecology program which would get students to monitor – via underwater video footage, as well as stream health monitoring – changes or consistencies in the river ecosystem we have access to near our facility.

What is your favorite part of your job?

Opening students eyes to the natural world, and giving them the tools to learn about it and enjoy it keep me coming to work every day.

If you could change anything about your work, what would it be?

I’d love to have more time to impact students. If I had the ability, I would love to see longer programming.

Where do you find inspiration for the work you do?

I find my inspiration from the beautiful places I work, and from the people teaching by my side. To see my fellow educators teaching to their passions about this place inspires me.

What is your favorite resource or tool for teaching about the environment?

My favorite tools for teaching about the environment are current issues. Here on the Olympic peninsula logging and land management are a great resource to get students thinking about land as a resource, and how it is cared for and managed. Frequent field trips to various sites around the peninsula give students great access to seeing clear cuts and other managed lands, which can lead to phenomenal discussions.

Where do you go when you want to recharge your batteries?

Moving water and big mountains recharge my batteries. By either playing or exploring in them, going for a run near them, or just taking them in, I feel myself being recharged.

What is your favorite place to visit in the Pacific Northwest?

The Northwest is way too spectacular to pick one favorite place! Unfair question! I do find myself drawn to rivers, with the Solduc being closest to my house.

What is your favorite nature/environment book?

My current favorite book is Gary Larson’s ‘There’s a hair in my Dirt’. I like that students often miss some of his adult humor, but are still able to take home his message.

Who do you consider your environmental hero?

I can’t pick one name to represent my environmental hero, but I consistently look toward my students as heros. They have the power to make informed, positive decisions, and are the sponges which soak up information and experiences and can help make a positive impact.

Ear to the Ground – Saul Weisberg, North Cascades Institute

Ear to the Ground – Saul Weisberg, North Cascades Institute


This interview is the first in a series that will be a regular feature in Clearing. Check back each month for a new interview with a leading environmental educator in the Pacific Northwest.

Saul Weisberg is executive director and co-founder of North Cascades Institute. He is an ecologist, naturalist and writer who has explored the mountains and rivers of the Pacific Northwest for more than 30 years. Saul worked throughout the Northwest as a field biologist, fire lookout, commercial fisherman and National Park Service climbing ranger before starting the Institute in 1986. He authored From the Mountains to the Sea, North Cascades: The Story behind the Scenery, Teaching for Wilderness, and Living with Mountains. Saul serves on the board of directors of the Association of Nature Center Administrators, the Natural History Network, and the Environmental Education Association of Washington. He is adjunct faculty at Huxley College of the Environment at Western Washington University. Saul lives near the shores of the Salish Sea in Bellingham, Washington with his wife and daughters.

Clearing talked to Saul on April 12, 2010:

You were the co-founder of the North Cascades Institute in 1986 and have been its executive director ever since. What changes have you seen in the field of environmental education over the years? (more…)