Special Event Leans on Learning

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On Wednesday nights in July and August, guest speakers take their audience on a journey, exploring special topics in depth. This is the 37th year of the Summer Lecture Series, and the 50th anniversary of the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge. History is a big part of this year's lineup of topics. But there are also speakers on a range of science-based subjects, too.

The event is held in the Norm Dicks Visitor Center auditorium, which can seat up to 100 people. Tickets are only available in person at 6 p.m., first come, first served; and doors open at 6:30. Entry and parking for the event are free.

The Summer Lecture Series is sponsored by the Friends of Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge Complex. They supply gifts for the speakers as well as door prizes for attendees, chosen from their curated selection of items in the Nature Shop. The Nature Shop is open late on the evenings of the Series; and since all proceeds from the store go straight into the education and visitor services programs at the refuge, that makes it easy for people to support the event just by shopping. This year, there are special t-shirts and mugs commemorating the refuge's 50th anniversary, featuring a logo designed by a volunteer.

The first speaker on July 10 is Dr. Kristin Byrd, flying in from San Francisco from the U.S. Geological Survey in Moffett Field, where she is a Research Physical Scientist. She studies coastal landscapes with field data, satellite data, and mapping. Her background is in plant ecology, geospatial analysis, and outreach. Dr. Byrd’s research addresses a range of topics including private land conservation, carbon sequestration in tidal marshes, drought resilience in agriculture, and sustainability of ecosystem services (the benefits that ecosystems provide to people). Dr. Byrd and USGS colleagues recently completed an Ecosystem Services Assessment for the refuge. Her program will explore the many benefits the Nisqually River Delta offers to people.  Three things in particular are most valued by the refuge, the Nisqually Tribe, and the surrounding community.  These are: birdwatching, soil carbon accumulation, and fishery production.  Find out how the refuge provides these services, and why looking at how places like this work for us can help with planning and management.

On July 17, we welcome John Hughes, chief historian for the Office of the Secretary of State in Olympia. He retired as editor and publisher of The Daily World in Aberdeen in 2008 after a 42-year career in journalism. An award-winning investigative reporter and historian, he received the June Anderson Almquist Lifetime Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2004. Hughes is an alumnus of the University of Puget Sound and the University of Maryland, and a trustee of the Washington State Historical Society. He is the author of 15 books on Northwest history, including Booth Who?, a biography of Governor Booth Gardner. His biography of Federal Judge George H. Boldt, who handed down a landmark decision on treaty tribe fishing rights in 1974, was published on Feb. 12, 2024, the 50th anniversary of the Boldt Decision. John will discuss the life and legacy of Federal Judge George H. Boldt in his presentation. Fifty years ago, in Tacoma, on February 12, 1974, Boldt handed down his landmark ruling on Native American fishing rights. This Republican jurist said the treaty tribes were entitled to up to 50 percent of the catch in all their “usual and accustomed places.” The backlash from non-Indian fishermen was instantaneous, and the State of Washington appealed the decision all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1979, when the high court upheld the Boldt Decision, 6-3, the squabbling began to give way to the reality that all the stakeholders needed to join forces to preserve and enhance an endangered fisheries resource. Hear about the man who shaped fishing as we know it today in this state.

Dave Slater is our speaker on July 24. Dave has a Master’s degree in zoology and was a marine biologist, radiobiologist, and environmental chemist. He taught at the Boeing Leadership Center and led leadership courses and training in several countries. He brings his passion for birds in general and shorebirds in particular to his presentation, revealing how the adaptations of these remarkable birds serve them well. He delivered this program at the Grays Harbor Shorebird Festival in May this year to such acclaim that we begged him to do it again for the Series!

Our own refuge volunteer Mike Farley presents on July 31. Mike popped into the refuge office last year and peppered us with questions about the old apple and pear trees growing here, remnants of former farming. His fascination grew, and he took a deep dive into the history of farming in the Nisqually River Delta. the answers to questions like “Who built the twin barns?” and “What native plants did the Nisqually eat?” began to coalesce into a story describing how humans went from living in harmony with nature, to trying to subdue and overcome nature, and eventually developing a more harmonious relationship with nature. Mike grew up on a farm in southern Michigan. His father helped Mike and his sisters develop the habit of curiosity about everything around them. Mike learned the skills of working with fruit trees, later going on to work with nursery stock as well. Although he detoured off into a career in the Air Force, he still retained his interest in trees and is responsible for several of the landscape plantings around the City of DuPont. And he's a Green Guardian at the refuge, tackling invasive species invasive species
An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

Learn more about invasive species
with a team of other volunteers.

On August 7, Refuge Biologist Ryan Munes will introduce two graduate students who work with him to explore the impacts of invasive bullfrogs on native wildlife. They'll describe the control methods the refuge is using and share tales from the field and the lab (adventures happen in both!).

August 14 is reserved for a presentation connected to the refuge's 50th anniversary. Stay tuned to hear details later this summer!

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Biologist Erin Adams takes the podium on August 21 to talk about white-nose syndrome in bats. Bats are the number one predator of insects at night. Biologists and land managers are working to increase our understanding about bats, and conserve this group of wildlife facing the devastating wildlife disease white-nose syndrome, development impacts, and other threats. Hear about some of the work being done nationally, and more locally, for bats. We asked Erin to join us because we verified the presence of the disease here at the refuge earlier this year. Erin's work covered some of the coolest flying wildlife in Washington - butterflies, bumble bees, and bats. Erin serves on the Service's National White-Nose Syndrome Response team as a Regional Coordinator. 

Our final speaker in the Series on August 28 is refuge volunteer Christi McGinley. Christi found her way down a long, long rabbithole when she went looking for answers to historical questions surrounding the refuge. Who were the indigenous people who lived here and what happened to them? What is the Medicine Creek Treaty? What was Fort Nisqually? How did the delta become a refuge? If your interest is piqued by any of these questions, join us!

All of these excellent speakers will present in-person only. We do not have the funding or technology to offer online connections or videos. Contact us for more information by calling 360-753-9467, or writing to nisqually@fws.gov. We look forward to seeing you at the 37th Summer Lecture Series!

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