30 Year Anniversary: A Look Back at 2016

As today marks the last day of 2016, what better place than Chattermarks to look back at the memories and highlights of the year here at the North Cascades Institute. I have only recently joined as a contributor to the blog and many of the posts this past year were submitted by guests, naturalists, C15 graduate students and Ben Kusserow – our previous blog editor who left intimidatingly large shoes to fill! Before I started the graduate residency program, I frequently came to Chattermarks to get a better idea as to what my life would be like in the upper Skagit and the work being done by the Institute. The first hand narratives, naturalist tidbits, and expertise of all these contributors painted a rich picture, helping to prepare me for this year of living in the North Cascades. I hope you’ve found their contributions as helpful and informative as I did. Enjoy this look back at 2016!

Mountain School

One last group photo before these 5th graders head back to Bellingham after three days of Mountain School.

In my mind there isn’t a program at NCI that can compete with the energy and enthusiasm of Mountain School. Hundreds of students from all over the state participate in the program during fall and spring, spending three to five days exploring the trails and learning about mountain ecosystems through interdisciplinary activities.

  • We always hope that when the students leave, they are taking with them positive and lasting memories. This year, instructors shared some of the letters they received from students in the post, “Dear Mountain School,” affirming our hopes.
  • In October, we were all excited to see Mountain School in the cover story of National Geographic. The article highlighted the importance of getting young people and people of color into our National Parks.


Naturalist Notes

Photo courtesy of Ben Kusserow, from his natural history project on bats in the North Cascades National Park.

2016 was full of educational opportunities here on Chattermarks. If you feel like your naturalist skills could use a brush up or you just want to learn something new, look no further. This year seemed to have a little bit of everything, from fungi to fire lookouts.

Creative Residents

Creative Resident, Evan Holmstrom, reading poems from his completed book, Outline of a Hollow Bird.

The Creative Residency program brings individuals from a wide variety of backgrounds – naturalists, writers, artists, photographers, poets and more – to the ELC to pursue their arts and share with our community. Revisit their work and experience here:


M.Ed Graduate Residency Program

Cohort 15 and 16 getting to know one another this summer at the ELC.

We graduate students are frequent contributors here on Chattermarks. Beyond the natural history projects, Chattermarks is a place to share the unique opportunities and experiences we have while living in the North Cascades.

  • Every quarter we participate in a Natural History Intensive, a week long trip of experiential and place-based learning. We meet with wildlife biologists, naturalists, park and forest service rangers, NCI staff and more, to build and gain a deeper understanding of this natural landscape. Check out our winter, spring, summer and fall retreats and relive our adventures.
  • We celebrated the achievements and said goodbye to Cohort 14, given gracious advice from C15 and met the newest cohort, C16.  
  • We got an inside look at the annual graduate exchange with Islandwood and Wilderness Awareness School students and followed along on the conference adventures down valley.

But wait, there’s more!

Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, meeting with Northwest Leadership Youth Conference participants.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this look back at 2016. To see everything that was accomplished this year gives me hope and excitement for 2017. I look forward to sharing those moments with you here on Chattermarks. Happy New Year!


Angela Burlile is a graduate student of North Cascades Institute and Western Washington University’s M.Ed. program and the current web resource editor graduate assistant. Growing up in Alaska, Angela feels most at home surrounded by mountains, glaciers, and turquoise rivers, making the North Cascades Institute a perfect fit. In her free time, Angela enjoys exploring the world, meeting its many inhabitants, sharing cups of coffee, climbing mountains and catching the sunrise.


  1. Saul

    Angela – Great retrospective highlights of our 30th year. I’m ready for what lies ahead, especially hearing of all of C16’s winter break adventures when class resumes in a couple of days. best regards, — Saul

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