Orientation: WSU Science Hikes provide unique perspective

sciencehikesRGBIn the summer of 2011, Weber State University students Sara Yearsley and Amanda Gentry teamed up with Ogden Weber Pathways and the WSU Geology Department to create the Science Hikes program. After a successful response from the community, the program continued in the summer of 2012 with an emphasis on botany, leading to the program originally being called “Yikes! Science Hikes!”

“We were able to provide microbiology hikes that discussed the organisms that live in the water, botany hikes (that) helped to identify native plants in the area, and more,” Yearsley said.

The program continued this summer and was expanded to include almost every WSU science-related department.

“We not only received a greater turnout in volunteers, but almost every hike has had a large crowd, and most leaders have been asked to repeat their hikes,” Yearsley said.

This year’s hikes were split into two segments to avoid the midsummer heat. The first segment occurred during May and June, and the remaining hikes will continue with the start of the fall semester.

“The upcoming hikes are going to be great,” Yearsley said. “One of the upcoming hikes, ‘Bug Out’, will be led by WSU professor Dr. John Mull, who will talk about the insects in the area. Another will be led by Dr. Adam Johnston and his students that plan to go into the education profession. There will also be a hike led by two students, both from different fields — botany and microbiology. (The hike) will show the world in a unique way: big versus small or invisible versus visible.”

Yearsley said the second session of hikes will have a unique aspect to them that is different from previous hikes.

“Dr. Johnston will be bringing out science exploration backpacks filled will all kinds of neat tools and supplies to help children discover all the wonder of the mountainside,” she said.

Stephanie Mitts, a WSU environmental geoscience major, led a hike on land formations and environmental geoscience at the Beus Canyon Trail this summer.

“I had a great time doing it,” she said. “I think it’s a great program to get the community involved in science and get Weber students out volunteering.”

Yearsley said that all WSU students, faculty, families and groups are invited to participate or volunteer in the hikes.

“I have found that this program is not only really important to the community in general, but is becoming an avenue for local teachers to learn about their surroundings and scout groups to utilize as a tool,” she said.

Maile Madesen, a WSU student, said she plans on going on one of the hikes this semester.

“I go hiking with my friends a lot,” Madesen said. “Often when I’m hiking, I notice things and wonder about them. It would be so cool to ask questions and to know about a lot of the things that you observe when hiking.”

The Science Hikes will continue despite Yearsley’s and Gentry’s recent graduation from WSU.

“Weber Pathways wants to begin discussions regarding maintaining this program in the future,” Yearsley said. “I have such a passion in hiking and promoting science education that I will continue to assist in coordinating this amazing program, provided I continue to receive support from the College of Science.”

The remaining hikes will be held on Aug. 31 at Taylor Canyon (29th Street Trailhead) at 9 a.m., Sept. 7 at the Burch Creek Trail (trailhead around Ridgedale Drive) at 9 a.m., Sept. 14 at the Beus Trail at 10 a.m., and Sept. 21 at the 36th Street Trailhead at 10 a.m.

More information on Science Hikes and other upcoming community science events is available at http://webercsme.org/.