During a weekend in August, my group of OSU Extension interns and I drove down to Grants Pass for a two-night adventure in Oregon’s beautiful forests. On the first day, we had booked an all-day guided whitewater kayaking and rafting adventure down the Rogue. We met our guide in the morning and he stayed with us all day. He was constantly watching out for our safety, answering our questions, and making sure we had a great time.

The next day, we had a tour through the Oregon Caves National Monument. It was led by a volunteer, who had graduated from Oregon State University in 2018. Because this was a family trip, she had demonstrations and spoke at a level that everyone could understand. She learned everyone’s names, warned us when we might bump our heads, and was incredibly informative.

Later that day, we drove down to California’s Redwood National and State Parks, where we met a park ranger for a free guided tour through Stout Grove. This was another family tour, with people from all over the world joining in. The ranger was incredibly enthusiastic and informative; she spoke to people of all ages and led a very interactive tour.

By the end of the weekend, we had taken three very different tours. The first was more recreational, the second was a paid tour through the caves, and the third was a free tour in the state park. All three were incredible and informative but had very different approaches to their guiding style. It demonstrated how guides need to be able to adjust for the needs of their group members, but also how varied guiding positions are and how their training corresponds to that.

You might be surprised to hear about the importance of dairy to Oregon’s economy. Milk is actually Oregon’s official beverage and the third greatest agricultural commodity in the state, with more than 350 farms and 120,000 cows. As you can see in this photo from Google Maps, Tillamook is a mainly agricultural town with many plots of land. Oregon’s dairy industry contributes more than $1 billion to the economy every year. Milk has always been a largely produced product, but specialty cheeses are gaining worldwide recognition.

You may have heard the rumor that Tillamook has more cattle than people, as it is a bustling, dairy-producing county. This goes back to European settlement when 91% of wetlands were drained for agricultural, residential, and commercial development. The dairy farms are established along eight rivers, five bays, and the ocean, which can pose a major environmental problem. Check out the screenshot from Google Maps below!

One of these problems results from grazing livestock—the production of manure and urine. Fecal bacteria can pollute streams when directly deposited by livestock or through overland flow. Direct deposit is more common and more impactful, because the soil will not filter the bacteria. Overland flow occurs when rain or snow goes beyond infiltration capacity, or the rate at which water can be absorbed by soil and drains into a body of water instead of being absorbed. The nutrients and bacteria from runoff can be harmful to wildlife and people, as it drains into the water table and can carry harmful diseases.

One solution to this problem is the effective and affordable use of water tanks, which reduces the time that livestock spend drinking in natural bodies of water by more than 90%. This will decrease how much waste is directly deposited into water and also improves the health of the livestock.

There are many more problems associated with livestock and water runoff, so it is important to learn about how this affects people and wildlife, implement prevention techniques, and practice sustainable farming.





Livestock Management and Water Quality

The Gross Way Water Pollution From Livestock Affects You

Erik Urdahl founded The Spout, an organization that provides information for whale watchers and whale enthusiasts, back in 2009. Urdahl realized that many people who lived in Oregon and along the coast had never seen a whale before—he wanted to get people excited about them. He describes The Spout as “a how-to guide for whale watching, because that was the thing I just kept discovering. People just don’t know when to come or where to look, but it’s really simple actually.”

Another one of Urdahl’s initiative is to make interpretation more exciting. From his experiences, interpretation can be pretty dry sometimes—it’s hard to get people excited about something. He suggests helping people spot the whales first, which gets them excited, and then trying to backfill with scientific information.

Another way that Urdahl believes science outreach can be done is through art and technology. “We have this approach of going up to somebody and throwing a lot of information at them, whereas you could share some images or maybe a video to get them excited about what’s out there. Once somebody gets an idea of what they could be looking at it seems easier to get them actively engaged in it. I think that interpretation can feel a little stale, particularly with certain generations so it’s sort of on us to find better ways to make connections and get them interested. I think art and tech can help immensely.”

When asked about the best part of running The Spout, Urdahl says, “I did a project one year where I took a bunch of people whale watching for the first time and documented their reactions, which ranged from squeals of delight to awe-struck tears. I followed up with some of those people afterward and discovered that some had taken more of an interest in ocean conservation, which is really the whole point of it. I don’t expect anyone to fall in love with whales after looking at a website or being told how big they are. But if we can get people to make some sort of emotional connection with these animals and their world and combine that with some knowledge, then hopefully they will make decisions in their everyday lives with ocean health and general conservation in mind.”

Check out https://thespout.org/ for more information and how to become a whale watcher!