Out of the Classroom and Into the Woods

bio students group pohot


Every fall, the Montrose High School AP Biology class, along with their teacher Rusty George, spentdthe school day outside on the Uncompahgre Plateau getting hands-on experience in forestry and ecology work.  The class learned how to collect vegetation data involved in the monitoring efforts of a larger forest restoration effort: The Uncompahgre Plateau Collaborative Forest Restoration Project. 

This science-based restoration project is a joint effort between the USDA Forest Service, Uncompahgre Partnership, CSU’s Colorado Forest Restoration Institute, conservation groups and forest product industry which seeks to enhance the resiliency, diversity and productivity of native ecosystems on the Uncompahgre Plateau.

“Students had an opportunity to learn about forest ecology and management through actual field protocols for gathering information,” said Rusty George.  “The student’s enthusiasm was exciting and they loved being out in the forest.”  Tim Garvey, silviculturalist for the Forest Service, explained to the students the need for treatments in the forest, including reducing the risk of large, severe wildfires.  "It is heartening to see in these young citizen scientists, such keen interest in the ecology and management of their local public lands."

student with tape measure

AP Biology student measures DBH (diameter at breast height) of a ponderosa pine. 

student taking core sample


Biology student bores a core sampler into the pine to remove a cross section of the tree trunk to estimate age.

student read core sample

Biology students measure the core sample to estimate the age of the tree.

Summer Forestry Intern Program

In addition to school field trips, the USDA Forest Service and Uncompahgre Partnership have also established a summer forestry intern program (FIP).  “every summer, we hire a 2-3  Montrose high school students to work for us.  They have done excellent work under the supervision of a Montrose High School Biology Teacher”, said Tammy Randall-Parker, Forest Service Ouray District Ranger.   “The involvement of the high school students on the forest monitoring,  helped the Forest Service get a Forest Restoration grant that will support forest monitoring work for many years to come.”

A high school intern instructs volunteers on the methodology of the plant transects.

Intern reading core sample

A high school intern measures the core sample of an aspen tree.

“We are interested in promoting environmental education and community-based conservation efforts”, stated Pam Motley, education coordinator for the Uncompahgre Partnership.   “We hope to continue involving high school students in our work.  Passing this knowledge and awareness onto youth is vital to future forest health and the communities of western Colorado.”

“The Forest Service is very appreciative of our great working relationship with Montrose High School”, Randall-Parker said.  “We need to recruit some of these students to be our future work force and the more these students know about forest management issues will help the Forest Service better manage our lands in the future.”

Getting in-depth with nature: Four teen interns work to restore forest on Uncompahgre Plateau (News Release July 2010)

For more information on the Uncompahgre Monitoring Project Contact:- Jim Free, Program Director (jcfree2@msn.com)

Uncompahgre Partnership