28 April 2008

Science-in-Society (NEWSSC08): Teaching & Engaging Across Boundaries

It felt good to come back, like coming home. Two years ago, I attended the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change; the theme was Ecological Restoration as Social Reconstruction. That workshop helped frame the National Science Foundation-funded research I am doing on citizen participation in developing Superfund remedies, and it also profoundly changed my attitude & approach toward teaching.

This year, the theme was "Teaching & Engaging Across Boundaries."

The workshop is an intensive 4-day experience with about 14 participants. We workshopped together from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day, and then spent several hours at our joint supper, followed by an evening group activity or two. The Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL) is a great place to host this workshop--quiet in the off season, a small & cozy village that lives for science, and even in the few minutes when you're "off-duty" you will run into the other workshop participants. We slept in double-rooms at Shope dormitory, and it was warm enough that we could eat our take-out meals from Captain Kidd's in the picnic area next to the Eel Pond:

The day's main activities took place primarily in a small room in Lillie Hall:

Workshop duties -- meal takeout for lunch and supper, regulating the time for sessions throughout the day, cleaning our room at day's end, etc. -- are divided so that it is, as faciliator and founder Peter Taylor calls it, a "self regulating workshop." My job was fetching beverages for supper, so that helped get me out on an afternoon walk. I like taking in the feel of the place, such as this "squid art" gate on one of the MBL docks:

The typical humble homes of Woods Hole:

And the beautiful but simple/low maintenance landscaping:

Even the cats of Woods Hole have the wise gaze of a serious scientist (T.S.Eliot forgot to write about this one!):

Each morning, breakfast began with a 7 a.m. walk to Pie in the Sky for coffee and a bagel (the place also has outstanding bakery treats), and there were invariably several other workshop participants there:

The weather was perfect (60s deg F, sunny, gentle breezes), which made it a bit difficult for EcoRover to be in an intensely interactive, indoor setting most of the day. We worked our butts off, as you can see by this typical individual session around the table. Ouch, my brain is sore! [left to right: Amy Lesen, Erich Schienke, Lee Worden, Paul Erikson, Mary McGuire, Jeremy Price, Wendy Hamblet]:

A brilliant element of the workshop is the "office hours" concept, where participants sign up to talk about their teaching or research with other participants. Office Hours normally are in sessions of two people, but occasionally there's a group of three [JoAnn Oravec, Kurt Jax, and Marisa Santos Matias]:

Each day is mapped on a posted page. In part it is scripted by the pre-planned agenda, but much of what happens is based on ideas or plans that emerged in prior days from participant-generated activities (that self-regulating workshop idea, again):

The workshop stresses careful listening and full engagement [Douglas Allchin, Peter Taylor, Kurt Jax, Wendy Hamblet]:

Even during breaks, everyone tends to stay very engaged -- either in small groups, or in working through their own thoughts about what just happened or is scheduled to happen next:

As a participant generated activity, my small group modeled a Forum Theatre exercise. As might be expected, a serious play about the moral obligations of physical & social scientists to various stakeholder groups among the post-Katrina citizens of New Orleans also led to some good (and funny!) improvisational theatre [Wendy Hamblet and Erich Schienke]:

Peter Taylor has a certain genius for organizing the workshop, and it includes one day with a few hours on the beach. We drove to the nearby Nobsca lighthouse:

Hiked down the rocky shore:

Past tidal pools:

Filled with snails and barnacles:

And then to the sandy beach. Where some brave souls bared their toes/soles to the gentle (and surprisingly warm) waters [here, Amy Lesen]:

I waded in too, and had this gorgeous jelly swim past along the bottom, then come up to have a look at me (well, it seemed that it was looking at me!). It's moments like this of deep engagement with nature that make EcoRover's life worth living:

The last night, participants had a superb last supper at the upscale (for me) Phusion Grille (great wine, but yikes does the beer list suck!). Our large group ate out on the deck where it was a bit chilly (note the coats) [Marisa Santos Matias, João Arriscado Nunes, Erich Schienke, Douglas Allchin]:

And the final goodbyes and group photo [Jo Ann Oravic had to catch an earlier flight, and is missing from this photo]:

For those who want to know more about the Science-in-Society workshop, I can offer a short list of my own perspectives on what happened, why it was important, and how it affected me:

1. The international character of the workshop: Marisa and João are from Portugal (Center for Social Studies, University of Coimbra); Kurt is from Germany (Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research in Leipzig, and Department of Ecology with the Technische Universität München); Wendy is from Ontario, Canada, and is now with the University Studies Department at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro; and Peter is from Australia and now with University of Massachusetts-Boston. In our day-to-day academic lives, we get very ethnocentric about the meaning of environment, ecology, teaching, political engagement, and other interests. Intense and meaningful interaction with persons of other cultures helps disabuse me of my dull ethnocentric practices.

2. The interdisciplinary character of the workshop: For example Douglas is a Science & Technology Studies prof with the University of Minnesota, and most participants did share some interest in and experience with STS. Others, however, brought great interdisciplinary perspectives, such as Mary's work in public history, Wendy's understanding of the philosophy of violence, and Jo Ann's experience with business, economics, and creative communities. The range of creativity and intelligences of the group was amazing, and every interaction seemed to fire neurons that I didn't know I had.

3. The diversity & good will of the participants: Well, we were all white and of European descent, but there are other kinds of diversity. In part, these were covered by (1.) and (2.) above, but there is more to it than that. I've been in other so-called workshops with diverse smart people, but often times things didn't go so well: big egos dominated the sessions, faciliators talked too much or misunderstood participants, or it all felt like "workshop in a can, just add hot water..." Here, the mix of young and old (well, middle aged anyway, I guess I can admit to that) along with the interdisciplinary mix really seemed to work for us. This must in part stem from a good selection of participants, those who are open to what might happen. For example, Amy was very strong in this regard, and could draw on her New York City to Woods Hole to New Orleans experience and bring insights to whatever was happening at any given moment. And Erich's challenging critical attitude never let naieve assumptions pass too easily, helping press all of us to be clear about how and what we valued in the various sessions.

4. The mix of techiques with which Peter structures the workshop:
Peter has spent much of his academic life exploring reflective, critical, and creative thinking, and how these things work out in pedagogical settings. Along the way, he has built up an awesome tool box. He brings structure to the workshop, but also seems to know when to let things happen. Well structured techniques such as "dialogue and dialogic discourse" help make these unexpected but fruitful things happen. A lot of Peter's success is, I suppose, rooted in tacit knowledge. But he could write a great Idiot's Guide to Self Organizing Workshops.

Over the next year or so, slow learner that I am, I'll probably digest this a little better and process it into my teaching, research, and life. For now, I'm thankful for the experience, and there are of course student projects to advise, final grades to submit, graduate candidate defenses to chair, and committee work to be done.

Woods Hole: via Boston

I was honored to participate again this year in the New England Workshop on Science and Social Change in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Woods Hole is a 2-hour bus ride from Boston, and so I had some time to visit my daughter, Emily Munday, who is a sophomore in the Marine Biology program at Boston University (BU).

We met for a quick coffee and bagel at one of Boston's ubiquitous Dunkin' Donuts shop. Emily invited me to attend a seminar on lobster research by one of Professor Jelle Atema's graduate students. Before the talk, we had some time to stroll around the BU campus on a beautiful spring day with the cherry and magnolia trees blooming:

BU has some great sculpture, like this one -- "Homage to Durer" by Igael Tumarkin (Albrecht Durer is a favorite artist of mine, and I use his work to illustrate themes of the early scientific revolution):

Here's another nice piece, titled "Exlplosion" -- in front of the Science Building, of course:

And, in the basement of the building, boxes of "Instant Ocean" ready to create needed habitat for the lobsters and other marine critters:

It was a great seminar, and I was able to connect a lot of the ideas about lobster genetics, local population differences, and loyalty to particular local environments (the larva, after dispersal by ocean currents, find their way back "home") to things I've learned about freshwater fish. What I did not (and it's a specialty of Dr. Jelle and his students) is the incredible ability of lobster to sniff out not just chemical sensors that mark home water, but also things like a male lobster that loses a fight. Cool stuff, and it makes me wonder if salmonids don't have the same ability, given their tendency to sort out into particular "stations" with very little aggressive interaction.

After a long quest on the Orange Line trolley and a bus (we were in search of the Museum of Bad Art -- EVERYONE should visit while in Boston), it was time to find supper before I caught the bus to Woods Hole. And what a sumptuous meal it was, at a humble place on the waterfront called the Barking Crab:

We had some great raw oysters (they had some really good "briny" tasting ones) and a couple of pounds of Dungeness crab (and, for me, a couple of pints of Harpoon IPA--my favorite beer when I'm in the Boston 'hood). The place was packed, but the waiter made a spot for us at the bar so we did not have to wait and I could make my bus (note the rock -- that's the Barking Crab version of a claw cracker):

Happy place. Good food. Great company. EcoRover can't wait to eat there with Jan Munday when BU hosts the Northeast Conference swimming championships next year!

19 April 2008

Springtime is Creeping up the Slopes

Springtime is creeping up the slopes of the Continental Divide in the Northern Rockies of Montana. The sun is a little further to the north each morning and evening, and a little higher in the sky throughout the day. The snow is gone around the house, and the bitterroot leaves are green and packing away energy for flowers to come.

Dave Carter, RTD, and I went for a hike in some hills overlooking the Cardwell Canyon of the Jefferson River. Lewis and Clark passed through here in late July/early August, 1805, and called the area "third mountain gap:"

We hiked along a ridge that might have been the same climbed by Clark as he reconnoitered the landscape:

There are great views, of course, west and to the Highland Mountains just south of Butte:

It's rough country, with vertical slabs of limestone that sometimes run for a mile or so, creating sparsely vegetated ridges separated by sagebrush valleys and even a few trees on northern aspects:

Though it doesn't look like moose country, there was sign of a cow and calf having wintered here:

Like mule deer, they must like the mountain mahogany:

And the bitterbrush:

Nothing like a cool spot of snow to press your ass into on a warm, sunny spring day:

And lo,"Consider the lillies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor sping; and yet I say to you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these!"

Several days later, I drove over the Continental Divide to the Bitterroot, where I gave a talk about the Big Hole River and fluvial Arctic grayling to the local Trout Unlimited chapter. I drove through the Big Hole and up Trail Creek and across Chief Joseph pass. Still lots of snow in the Big Hole, here a view toward the Pintler from the Mule Ranch on Deep Creek:

Near Hamilton, RTD and I found a nice campsite in the ponderosa pines at the mouth of Blodgett Canyon. Just enough light to build a nice fire to sprawl in front of and relax before bedtime:

And enjoy the nice view of the rimrock above camp:

You can press your nose into a ponderosa trunk and inhale the aroma of vanilla. And I love the graceful, long needles of the ponderosa:

Just after making my morning coffee, I strolled out to a sunny point and sat down. Looking up toward that rimrock, I watched several mule deer work their way up the grassy zig-zag chute. The deer in the rear of the group spooked and bolted back down the chute, but the deer in the lead stood fast. Hurrying back to the tent, I grabbed my binoculars, found a spot to sit, and watched a mountain lion slip from the rock into a patch of bruch 50 yards or so above the deer. I thought I was going to witness a Wild Kingdom moment, but the deer stood its ground, the lion remained in the brush where I could not see it, and after about 20 minutes I decided to finish my breakfast and pack up. By which time another bunch of deer walked into camp, seemingly unafraid of me or the excited whimpers of RTD:

On my way back to Butte, the ice was just starting to break up on the upper Big Hole River near the Fishtrap Access Site and Sportsman's Park:

Here and there throughout Montana, as here at Fishtrap, you will see the cool fence post art sculptures by Cory Holmes of Havre:

A mating pair of sandhill cranes look forlorn out there on a still frozen meadow:

But spring is on the way, as these pussy willows will attest:

Almost home to Butte, I'm welcomed back by the herd of antelope in Butori's pasture along the Crackerville Road:

See also:

Lewis & Clark in the Cardwell Canyon

Montana fencepost art

15 April 2008

Beryl Nell Munday, b. 15 April 1905

Grandma Beryl would be 104 years old today, and was 93 at her death in 1998. She was a great woman, though I would not always have said that. As a child, I thought she was the meanest woman in the world. She could snap a wet washcloth at blinding speed across the mouth of a sassy 8-year old boy. And it didn't help that she would dress me in something orange when sending me off to school on St. Paddy's day. As my Uncle Jim liked to explain, "Dad never laid a hand on me. But Ma sure made up for it." However, Grandma Beryl went through a remarkable transformation after Gramps died, becoming a kind, patient, and mellow woman.

She was born Beryl Nell Fitzgibbons on High Street in the Fifth Ward of Bradford, Pennsylvania, to a Scot-Irish Presbyter family. As a child, her parents moved a few houses down to 37 High Street, and she lived in that house through 50 years of marriage and for several years after. She married Gramps (Eugene Patrick Munday) in 1925, as I recall. He died in 1979. Their marriage caused some tension among the in-laws, given Gramps' staunch Irish Catholic background.

Here a photo of young Beryl:

Grandma Beryl was a great naturalist and lover of animals. As Gramps liked to say, "She would make pets out of worms if that's all there was." I lived with my grandparents from about the age of three, after my folks split up. During those years, we had dogs (Gramps favored and hunted with hounds), cats, several rabbits, a duck or two, and hamsters. Then there were the numerous stray cats that always found a ready meal on our porch, as did the occasional half-tame skunk. Gram, half-asleep, went out on the porch one dark morning to give the cats a little milk. As she bent over to pour milk into the saucer, she scratched the stray behind the ears. Only as she was standing up did she realize it was a skunk. And there were the many birds, mice, and baby rabbits that the cats dragged in and that Gram nursed back to health.

While Gramps was alive, she arose early each morning and fixed him breakfast. This was invariably a cooked breakfast--eggs, pancakes or toast, and some kind of meat during the years he worked (he didn't fully retire until after age 70), and hot cereal in later years. She was not a morning person, and often stayed up late reading or watching horror movies or episodes of shows like the Twilight Zone. This business of staying up late and rising early made her cranky, I think, for after Gramps died she slept in until 10 or 11 or sometimes later. It sure improved her temper.

Gram was a great cook and excelled particularly at baking fruit pies. We picked a lot of blackberries and wild apples, and if you brought home huckleberries or raspberries or cherries (from Mary Girard's trees) they made a good pie too. We tended a big garden at Gramp's oil lease at Foster Brook, and Gram did a lot of canning. One year with a bumper crop of blackberries we picked pail after pail. We gave many quarts to relatives and neighbors, but 72 quarts made it into canning jars and we ate a lot of blackberry pie that winter.

During the years that Gramps managed the Cobb family oil lease in Nichols Run, New York, he employed a helper named Charlie Heinz who boarded with us. Charlie, though an ex-con that eventually ended up back in prison, was a gentle and caring man. He loved Gram, and appreciated her cooking. He was a big guy with a huge appetite. One of his first days at our table, Gram set out a pie and told Charlie that, as our guest, he could choose the first piece. He smiled wide and replied, "I'll just have that big round piece."

In Grandma Beryl's later years, she moved down to Rochester Street, across from Jan's mom Jean Giardini and next to Jan's Aunt Mary. She was also lucky to have another neighbor from High Street near by. Emil and Helen Larson had lived just a few doors up from us on High Street, where they raised three sons and two daughters. Gram had babysat and helped raise Helen.

Susan Larson, the youngest of Helen and Emil's daughters, had also moved to Rochester Street, where she raised a son and a daughter. Susan and her kids visited often with Gram, and the friendship brought her much joy. I'm not sure that neighbors and neighborhoods like that still exist in America. We're all too mobile and too busy.

Jan, Emily, and I visited Gram in Bradford each summer, but it was never enough time. Emily came to know Grandma Beryl well, though, and I think it made a mark on her. They certainly shared a deep love for and understanding of animals.

The year that Gram died, she wrote and told us to plan a good long visit because it would be the last one. She was in a nursing home and not very happy with life. Her eyes had failed to the point where she could no longer read large print books, work crossword puzzles, or see the television. Her hearing was long gone. The final straw, she said, was that she could no longer taste food. It was a good summer visit, with drives to the cemetary to tend graves, visits to favorite places she and Gramps had picnicked, and long reminiscences about favorite people and events. She held Emily while I pushed her wheelchair, and she fed young Roly-The-Dog french fries and bits of her hamburger from the Drive-In at Custer City. We laughed and cried every day. Gram decided to die that winter, refusing to eat after instructing the nurses that there would be no feeding tubes or other interventions. When our time comes, we should all embrace death so gracefully.

10 April 2008

Comment on the Natural Resource Damage Program Consent Decree & Proposals

I hope that everyone interested in the future of the Upper Clark Fork River Basin sends comments to Montana's Natural Resource Damage Program regarding the 2008 Consent Decree and proposals on how to spend the money on the Clark Fork River ($26.7 mill), Butte Area One $28.1 mill), and Smelter Hill Uplands ($13.2 mill).

Comments are due 12 April 2008.

More information, including the Consent Decree and the individual plans, may be found at: http://www.doj.mt.gov/lands/naturalresource/lawsuithistory.asp#settlement2008

Please note in particular two things:

1. Efforts to arbitrarily take $2.5 million from the Clark Fork settlement for work on the Blackfoot; and

2. The different alternatives for Butte—including tailings removal vs. subsidizing a Basin Creek filtration plant/Big Hole pipeline. Note that I do not expect my views on this to win a popularity contest with some local government boosters.

Here are my comments:

To: Natural Resource Damage Program
Montana Department of Justice
P.O. Box 201425
Helena, MT 59620-1425

RE: Public comments on the 2008 Consent Decree and various restoration proposals

Thank you to staff at the Natural Resource Damage Program for completing the Consent Decree and for this opportunity to comment on the restoration plans for the river, Anaconda Uplands, and Butte LAO. Please consider the following comments:

1. “State of Montana’s Revised Restoration Plan for the Clark Fork River Aquatic and Riparian Resources,” DOJ/NRDP November 2007

In general, I agree that Alternative One is the preferred alternative.

• However, the difference between the different amounts budgeted for removal of tailings that are buried vs. removal from outside bends in Alternative 1 vs. Alternative 3 appears rather arbitrary. Be flexible on these categories in terms of what is actually found during remedy. It might end up being wise to remove far more tailings (as in Alternative 2) if contamination proves to be higher or more extensive than currently believed.

• Spend more on planting willows or other woody vegetation. On other stream restoration projects, including Silver Bow Creek and the Mill-Willow Bypass, willow planting proved to be a challenge and may be a limiting factor in restoration success.

• Do not bleed $2.5 million from the Clark Fork restoration in order to do work on unrelated area of the Blackfoot. This makes no more sense than spending Clark Fork restoration funds on the Bitterroot or Kootenai. Use the money for restoration where the damage was done and for the purposes that the lawsuit was fought.

• Acquire more land and extend the conservation easement through the river corridor wherever possible. A 100-foot corridor is very minimal for a new restoration project on a river that is very laterally dynamic. In some areas, healthy habitat and meander pattern might suggest a 500-foot corridor.

2. “Draft Conceptual Smelter Hill Area Uplands Resources Restoration Plan” December 2007

In general, I agree with this plan.

• In reseeding plans, minimize or eliminate the use of non-native species. This seems to be the intent of the remedial action work plan, but did not seem to be clearly spelled out.

• With adequate liming, re-contouring, and native grass seeding, the natural recovery of native forbs and woody species may be quite remarkable. Note how such recovery has largely proceeded in Joiner Gulch, which has received no remedial work.

3. “Butte Area One Restoration Planning Process and Draft Conceptual Plan” NRDP November 2007

Without a restoration plan that greatly augments remedy, this area will long suffer from the horribly inadequate Record of Decision under EPA remedy.

For this reason, I strongly support Alternative One.

• To insure the long-term health of Silver Bow Creek and the Upper Clark Fork River, it is imperative to remove both the Parrot Tailings and tailings at LAO/Metro Strom Drain.

• Large scale removal actions must be preceded by construction of a settling basin/treatment pond to prevent additional tailings from recontamination of remedied/restored portions of Silver Bow Creek. Such recontamination has already occurred and is occurring because of the lack of a settling basin/treatment pond, and it is wrong for EPA to allow this. If EPA will not require Arco-BP to fix this problem, then NRDP must.

• Funds from this settlement should not be used to construct a filtration plant for the Basin Creek reservoirs. This is an obligation of local government and the citizens of Butte-Silver Bow that has long been neglected. Other communities in America that depend upon surface water took this step long ago without Superfund money. Furthermore, it seems that B-SB has exaggerated its dependence on Basin Creek water—I would like to see evidence that it constitutes “30% of Butte’s supply.” That said, Butte-Silver Bow should, if it wishes, be able to apply for funding from NRDP through the normal process and make its claim in competition with other restoration/replacement proposals.

• Plans to create a Butte NRD Restoration Council should be thought out carefully. While it appears convenient to earmark a separate fund for Butte restoration and create a separate council for overseeing this fund, it might well result in the unwise expenditure of funds for civil infrastructure at the expense of much needed environmental restoration.

Thank you for this opportunity to comment on plans regarding the Consent Decree,

Pat Munday

09 April 2008

John Driscoll & The Steward online magazine

My friend and fellow Walkervillain [sic] Ed Dobb drew my attention to John Driscoll's e-zine, StewardMagazine .

Driscoll is a Butte native now living in Helena, and a former Montana legislator and Pentagon employee. The zine takes its name from Butte's Steward (aka Stewart) Mine, one of W. A. Clark's properties that made up the original Amalgamated Copper Company in 1899 and was later merged with the Anaconda Copper Mining Company.

Many of the essays are Driscoll's own (see for example "My 9-11 Experience at the Pentagon") .

He also has his eye out for other interesting and relevant news and fiction, including historical treasures such as Joseph H. Duffy's poem "The Kid from Butte, Montana" (1930).

As Barack Obama said to end his speech at the Butte Civic Center, "Tap 'er light."

Stewart Mine, Montana DEQ website.

07 April 2008

Barack Obama in Montana: Time for Change, Time for Hope

My wife (Jan Munday) and I were disappointed that we could not get tickets to the annual state Democratic dinner here in Butte. Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke. Either is an excellent alternative to John "Iraq: 100 more years" McCain, aka "the Bush third term."

Like a lot of middle-aged women who grew up with feminism and expanded opportunity for women, Jan finds Clinton a good candidate. So do I. Still, I prefer Obama and welcome the prospect of a president who is younger than I am. And so we left Butte at 6 a.m. Saturday morning for the 120-mile drive to the Obama rally at the University of Montana-Missoula. Normally, you can set the cruise at 85 mph and it's a quick trip, but a spring storm layed down sheer ice from Deer Lodge to Rock Creek. Made me glad for Jan's Subaru with 'em studded tires!

The line was about 8,000 people long by the time we parked, walked across the pedestrian bridge over the Clark Fork River, and found the end of the line at 8 a.m. Here's the line, folded up and down (and up and down) along the campus streets:

The doors opened at 8 a.m., the line moved slowly, and we were inside at 9:30 a.m. There were t-shirt and button vendors, and lots of volunteers signing up new voters. Waiting in line was a great social experience, chatting with the group from Missoula, a young couple from Minnesota and Vermont, some college students, and the couple from the Bitterroot:

Barack Obama is a tremendous orator, and his message resonated with the crowd. He spoke without a podium, using a hand held microphone and adressing the crowd in every direction:

Obama's position on getting out of the costly war in Iraq was especially popular, as were his positions on universal health care and a big higher education tax credit (in return for service). Some folks we talked with at the rally have been conservative Republicans all their lives, but they are fed up with Bush's huge budget deficits and his scorn for constitutional protections. What a crowd pleaser when, at the end of his speech, folks surfed their babies up to the front row for a good luck kiss!

Later that day, Obama arrived in Butte for the party dinner. You can tell this guy has worked the tough neighborhoods of South Chicago, and is comfortable wherever he goes. As on his visit to the M&M Bar and Cafe -- Butte's landmark watering hole -- to rub elbows with "real Butte:"

Yes we can!

More information: http://barackobama.com

Obama at the M&M photo by John Grant Emeigh from the Montana Standard photo gallery webpage, http://pictopia.com/perl/gal?gallery_id=40268&sequencenum=12&provider_id=607&process=gallery&page=thumbnails