12 episodes

Join Okanogan Highlands Alliance in learning about the ecosystems and wildlife of the Okanogan Highlands of north central Washington! In this podcast, scientists and educators share their stories and knowledge of the natural history of our unique area - the Okanogan Highlands. To learn more about OHA, please visit our website okanoganhighlands.org.

Highland Wonders Okanogan Highlands Alliance

    • Science
    • 5.0 • 7 Ratings

Join Okanogan Highlands Alliance in learning about the ecosystems and wildlife of the Okanogan Highlands of north central Washington! In this podcast, scientists and educators share their stories and knowledge of the natural history of our unique area - the Okanogan Highlands. To learn more about OHA, please visit our website okanoganhighlands.org.

    Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)

    Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK)

    Amelia Marchand, of the L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, joins OHA to share her experiences and perspectives on traditional knowledge, or teachings, and the role of ecological knowledge within the bigger framework of cultural understanding that has been amassed over a millenia by indigenous peoples. She shares stories of her life and the inspiration that has driven her and her husband, Joaquin, to create the L.I.G.H.T Foundation whose mission is to cultivate, enrich and perpetuate native plants and the cultural traditions of Pacific Northwest tribes.

    To learn more and donate to the L.I.G.H.T. Foundation, visit the website at: thepnwlf.org

    Check out this article by Amelia Marchand, from June 22, 2022: Climate and Cultural Vulnerabilities of Indigenous Elders, published in the Generations Journal of the American Society on Aging.

    Additional resources to learn more (list specially curated by Amelia Marchand):

    Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network: an opportunity to learn about (and add your local) unusual environmental, animal and weather events world-wide.

    2021 Status of Tribes and Climate Change (STACC) Report  produced by The Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals

    Guidelines for Considering Traditional Knowledges in Climate Change Initiatives : a practical guide to developing collaborations that honor traditional knowledge and minimize risks to indigenous peoples who might be sharing traditional knowledge. Intended audience: agencies, researchers, tribes and traditional knowledge holders (and valuable information for everyone).

    Citing Indigenous Elders and Knowledge Keepers: How to cite oral traditions and ways of knowing in a way that honors and recognizes information shared by indigenous knowledge keepers on a level with written sources.

    Find the full theme song, Blessed Unrest, by Tyler Graves on Spotify, Apple Music, or your favorite music platform.

    For more information about Okanogan Highlands Alliance, or to become a member or volunteer, visit: okanoganhighlands.org or email us at info@okanoganhighlands.org

    • 48 min
    Beaver Believers: The Next Generation (Part 1)

    Beaver Believers: The Next Generation (Part 1)

    This special episode features many voices! The Tonasket Elementary School 5th Grade teamed up with OHA and Sarah Koenigsberg, who is an award-winning film-maker, educator, and, most importantly, beaver believer, to answer students' questions about beavers and how they protect water quality, water quantity and healthy wetlands throughout the West.  Before you listen, here is a story from Anna, Nature Detective!

    Anna, Nature Detective

    Season 2, Episode 5: Beaver Believers, The Next Generation

    Anna is a daring and precocious nature detective. She loves to sing and dance, and make up songs and dances about the things that she observes. Anna LOVES animals (especially the fuzzy ones), and she is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. When Anna explores she likes to look at things close up, touch them, peer at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, but fortunately Anna is also very careful not to hurt anything, and to keep her distance when she comes across wildlife.

    One spring day, Anna wakes up singing, “I like oceans and rivers, I like oceans and rivers, and everything that is wet. Even though, I been trying to go, on a mountain road, I can’t stand it. You’re. So. Cute.” Her dad laughs, “What are you singing about, Anna?” Anna looks at her dad sideways, and says “Beavers, dad! Of course.” It is very obvious to Anna. What else could she possibly be singing about?

    Her dad nods his head seriously, remembering the beaver lodge they had seen last summer in the Okanogan Highlands. It’s a beautiful day, the sun is warm, the snow is nearly melted, so they decide to go pay the beavers a visit. Up they go, following that long  mountain road to their favorite lake, where they set up a picnic, test the still- frigid water, and watch the birds busily flitting from tree to tree, some building nests. At the end of the day, as the light begins to fade, Anna and her family peer through their binoculars toward the rounded mass of tree branches along the distant side of the lake, and suddenly they see it! A little head, swiftly moving through the water toward the lodge!

    Anna’s questions begin.

    “Where is that beaver coming from?”

    “Was that beaver swimming underwater?”

    “Can beavers breathe under water?”

    “How many beavers live in that beaver house?”

    “How big are beaver babies?”

    “What do beavers eat?”

    “Are beavers nice?”

    “Can I see a beaver close up?”

    “How do beavers survive in the winter?”

    “How do beavers build those dams?”

    The questions go on and on, literally without stopping, for minutes. This beaver has sparked our Nature Detective’s curiosity! Luckily, she is not alone. Recently, the Tonasket Elementary School 5th Grade teamed up with Sarah Koenigsberg, beaver believer, educator and storyteller extraordinaire, to answer many of these same questions!

    Join Sarah and the next generation of beaver believers to learn all about beavers, their important role in our highlands ecosystems, and more by listening to the most recent episode of Okanogan Highlands Alliance’s Highland Wonders Podcast. You can find additional episodes and more nature detective stories at okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts.

    • 38 min
    The World Needs More Birders

    The World Needs More Birders

    Are you interested in learning more about birds? Are you looking for resources to help you learn to identify birds by sight and sound? Are you interested in contributing your bird observations to science? Are you looking for answers to the question, “What’s so special about birds, anyway?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, this episode is for you! Dick Cannings, author, educator, biologist, member of the Canadian House of Commons, has fostered his lifelong fascination with birds and has crafted his career to teach and show people why it is important to protect the natural world. He has a lot to share about his experiences, why citizen science is so crucial in collecting information about our world, and how anyone can contribute to these efforts!

    Dick Cannings:

    More about Dick Cannings, his books, and instructions about how to build an owl nest box: dickcannings.com/

    Birding Organizations and Learning Resources:

    Cornell Lab of Ornithology: https://www.birds.cornell.edu/home/

    Audubon Society: https://www.audubon.org/

    North Central WA Audubon Society: https://ncwaudubon.org/

    Birds Canada: https://www.birdscanada.org/

    Citizen Science Projects:

    The Great Backyard Bird Count: https://www.birdcount.org/

    Project Feeder Watch: https://feederwatch.org/

    Christmas Bird Count: https://www.audubon.org/conservation/science/christmas-bird-count

    Breeding Bird Atlas of Washington*: http://naturemappingfoundation.org/natmap/maps/

    North American Breeding Bird Survey: https://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/bbs/

    Short Eared Owl Survey: https://avianknowledgenorthwest.net/projects/

    Nestwatch: https://nestwatch.org/

    Migration Monitoring: https://www.birdscanada.org/bird-science/canadian-migration-monitoring-network-cmmn/

    Project FeederWatch: https://feederwatch.org/

    *also contains maps for amphibians, mammals, reptiles

    Birding Apps and Websites (ID by sight and sound, record your sightings):

    Merlin Bird ID: https://merlin.allaboutbirds.org/

    E-Bird: https://ebird.org/home

    Dendroica: https://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica/

    Okanogan Highlands Alliance: who we are, what we do and how you can get involved: okanoganhighlands.org

    Email us at: info@okanoganhighlands.org

    • 46 min
    Islands in the Ice: Nunataks

    Islands in the Ice: Nunataks

    Nunatak: an Inuit word meaning a mountain peak jutting up through a glacier. A nunatak might not be a hospitable place to spend a few thousand years, but exposed rocky mountaintops are sometimes all that a few hardy species need to survive. In this episode, George Thornton, local educator, naturalist and botanist, shares his knowledge and experiences studying the unique plant communities found atop the highest peaks in the Okanogan. By connecting big ideas of climate, geology, and ecosystem dynamics, George makes sense of how some of the tiny alpine and tundra plants can be found here today, and why they might be in peril.

    And now, Anna, Nature Detective. A story for kids of all ages.

    Anna is a daring and precocious nature detective. She loves to sing and dance, and makes up songs and dances about the things that she observes. Anna LOVES animals. She is the kid who can catch the cat that no one else can. When Anna explores she likes to look at things close up, touch them, peer at them through her Nature Detective hand lens. Sometimes, things that can’t run away suit Anna’s detective style best, but Anna is also very careful not to hurt anything.

    “Red, Orange and Yellow! Green, Blue and Indigo! Vioolleetttt!” Anna makes up the tune to her Rainbow Song as she traipses along a trail through a wildflower strewn meadow. It has been a long hike to reach this meadow. Fortunately her mom brought along a whole pack of power pellets…jelly beans of every color, to match the rainbow of flowers stretching out in front of them.

    “Hey mom, let’s try to find a flower for every color of the rainbow, and take their pictures!”

    “What a great idea!” Anna’s mom says, “When you are all grown up, these pictures will remind us of this day!” Anna’s mom appreciates that Anna would rather take pictures than pick flowers. They learned recently that flowers are an important part of making seeds, and seeds are how plants reproduce. If everyone picked wildflowers, we might not have any left to enjoy, but pictures are good forever and don’t hurt a thing.

    And so the search for a rainbow of flowers begins.

    There is the red paintbrush, “click, click” goes the camera.

    Indigo lupine and yellow arnica, “click, click” goes the camera.

    “Ok, Anna, what colors are we missing?”

    Anna murmurs her rainbow song, checking off the colors on her fingers. “Orange! Green! Blue! Viiiooollett!”  Anna sings.

    Anna and her mom continue down the trail, and come to a place where a creek crosses the trail. There are different flowers here, where it is wet. They find a long, stalky green flower - they’ll have to look it up later. “Click, click” goes the camera. They find a bright orange flower - a tiger lily. And a purple flower with lots of petals, which Anna’s mom suspects might be an aster.

    “All we need now is blue!” Anna and her mom are stumped. They had already decided that the lupine is indigo, but they haven’t seen any truely blue flowers yet.

    The two make their way to a place where jumbles of rocks lead up to a ridge. Anna starts to climb - her favorite activity. She climbs the first set of rocks, and as she crests the top she spies something amazing - a blue, almost green-blue, tiny flower. She never would have seen it if she hadn’t climbed the rocks or been so close to the ground - now that she looks more carefully, there are quite a few of these tiny blue-green flowers.

    “Mom! Come up here! You have to! There are blue flowers!” Anna’s mom is skeptical, but she is also a good sport, so she carefully climbs up next to Anna, “Wow! What an amazing find! I haven’t ever seen a flower like this, Anna!”

    After coming down the mountain, Anna and her mom investigate, and it turns out that the blue flower is called a glaucous gentian, a tundra plant, thought to be very rare in the Okanogan. They are excited to learn more about how and why this tiny flower is here.

    • 47 min
    Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunataks

    Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunataks

    Okanogan Highlands Alliance (OHA) is excited to announce an online Highland Wonders educational event as well as podcast episode, featuring local educator, naturalist, and botanist, George Thornton on January 7th, 2022 at 6:30pm. The lecture will be a live presentation via YouTube at:


    If you miss this talk, don't fret! In mid-January, the podcast version of this talk will be right here on the Highland Wonders Podcast.

    George Thornton has spent his life and career learning about and exploring the Okanogan and discovering the secrets of our local flora, fauna, and ecosystems. In this presentation, Okanogan Ice Islands: Nunataks, he will focus on the rocky, exposed portions of Chopaka Mountain, and how and why some of the rarest plant communities of the Okanogan have survived there through the millennia. George will share his understanding about the unique plants found on the high, craggy peaks, and investigate the clues they hold to past and future climate and local ecology. George shares “Beyond the beauty of Chopaka, I’ve come to know the mystery behind the unusual collection of Arctic tundra remnant on the peak. I’ve wondered what it tells of our past and whether it offers a glimpse into our future.” We hope that you will join us in the new year as we continue to learn about the natural history of our area.

    OHA is a non-profit public interest organization that works to educate the public on watershed issues. The Highland Wonders program features the natural history of the Okanogan Highlands and surrounding areas. In addition to live presentations, you can learn more by tuning into the Highland Wonders Podcast, found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you normally get your podcasts. For more information, visit: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders, or contact jen@okanoganhighlands.org(509-429-4399).

    • 4 min
    From the Okanogan to the Sea

    From the Okanogan to the Sea

    In this interview-style episode, Lynda Mapes of The Seattle Times joins OHA in discussing her newest book, Orcas: Shared Waters, Shared Home. From Tonasket to the Salish Sea, our ecosystems are connected by the water and the wildlife that travels through our region. Learn about salmon, orcas, and the people whose lives revolve around the aquatic habitats of Washington. And here is a story from Anna, Nature Detective!

    A Story: Anna, Nature Detective, S2:E2 From the Okanogan to the Sea

    Anna surfaces briefly, then glides back underwater, swimming against the current. It is a fast current, and the cold, clear water feels just right against her red sides, her glinting scales. She is headed upstream, back to the place she was born.

    As she makes her way upstream, away from the ocean, she is thinks back to the last time she was in fresh water.  Anna barely remembers that trip downstream four years ago, she was so small! As she swam from the river to the sea, the waters gradually got saltier. She knew she had arrived in the sea because the water moved differently – in and out and in swirls, pushing every which-way. She had to get used to that salt, the currents, and the new animals and plants she swam past, and there was no time to dilly dally.

    There was lots of food to eat in the sea, but there were also lots of creatures that wanted to eat Anna and her salmon friends! She found her way out to the deep water, where she could hide from the big barking sea lions and the huge bald eagles that pounced from above. Anna snacked on whatever came along – fish, water bugs, anything, really. Out in the deep water, Anna felt a little safer – she could swim fast and deep and she could swerve like a champ! Black and white orcas were everywhere. They were there in the deep water, they were there in the shallow water, they were close to land and out in the open sea. Always on the prowl, the orcas were fast and somehow knew right where the salmon were, even in the dark. As time passed, Anna got bigger and faster and smarter.

    One day something told her it was time to head for home, back through the shallow sea to the river mouth, where that fresh water smelled so familiar...

    Anna woke with a start. “Mom, I dreamed I was a fish! A salmon! And I was four years old, just like me, but I was really OLD. There were rivers in my dream, and the ocean, and other fish, and sea lions, and orcas! Can we go to the ocean?” Anna’s mom said, “wow, what an exciting dream! You know what we should do? We should go down to the river - I bet we can see salmon in the Okanogan River right now!” “Yeah, let’s do it!” Anna yelled.

    As Anna and her mom watched the big salmon holding their position in the river’s current, they thought about the lives of these big fish and the cycle of life for the salmon and all of the people and wildlife that depend on them, like the orcas in Anna’s dream. Soon, these surviving big fish would lay their eggs and die, but even then they are an important part of the system, their bodies nourishing the plants and animals that live in and around the rivers. How amazing is that? Anna announces, “I love salmon. I want to learn all about them and I want to be their friend.”

    Learn more about salmon, orcas and the rivers that connect them, at: okanoganhighlands.org/education/highland-wonders/ or wherever you normally find your podcasts.

    Additional resources:

    Orca: Shared Waters, Shared Home by Lynda Mapes

    Seattle Aquarium: seattleaquarium.org/exhibits/Orca-shared-waters-shared-home

    Take Action:

    OHA: okanoganhighlands.org

    Okanogan Conservation District: okanogancd.org

    *Search the Internet for more conservation organizations in your area*

    Find Your Senators' Contact Information at: https://www.senate.gov/senators/senators-contact.htm

    • 47 min

Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5
7 Ratings

7 Ratings

erinvs ,

Thumbs up

Love learning more about the animals of our valley, should be required for all who want to feel more connected to this wild and lovely corner of the globe.

Solomon 4747 ,

Great Nature podcast

Fascinating podcast on all the critters in the forest. So you can be the brain guy around the camp fire that knows cool fact about cool animals.

hannakli ,

Nature Explained

Fantastic series that delves deep into natural history topics. Informative, rich with details, easy to absorb. A refreshing option, listen and learn!

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