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The Student News Site of Coronado High School

The Cougar Daily

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The Cougar Daily


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Tree Huggers: The Outdoor Class Is at It Again

Mr. Steve Ottmer
The outdoor science class enjoying lunch at their campsite

It’s called Citizen Science, a method of research in which everyday people partner with professional scientists to collect data. Mr. Steve Ottmer’s outdoor science students have become Citizen Scientists themselves, exploring the natural world in the name of scientific discovery.

Just two weeks ago, the class ventured to the Fossil Ridge Wilderness Area near Gunnison, CO, collecting data on Pikas, a high-altitude dwelling rodent. “Pikas are what we call an indicator species,” Mr. Ottmer said, explaining that the number of Pikas in a given area demonstrates the health of an ecosystem.

Unfortunately, Pikas are dying due to habitat loss, mainly due to global warming. “Anything above 70 degrees is too warm for them,” said Solomon Hanna, Class of 2024, and student in Mr. Ottmer’s course. As such, Pikas are forced to live at higher elevations than they previously inhabited. Luckily, the class was able to spot eight Pikas, an impressive number for such a limited area.

“Climate change is really changing the lives of everything around us, not just us,” Solomon added, with concerns mounting for the state of the natural world in the coming years. While global warming remains a complicated issue, the outdoor class’s data collection can catalyze science-based solutions.

During the last leg of the trip, the class descended to Black Canyon, an elevation of only 7000 feet, while Fossil Ridge sits comfortably at 1200 feet. According to Mr. Ottmer, “It’s a great place to go explore lots of different things we’re learning about right now,” referring to the diverse area surrounding Gunnison.

Not only does the class study the natural world, but they also work to better it. Mr. Ottmer’s classroom is a state approved water testing site, where the class tests water samples from Monument Creek, to ensure it is up to the standards set by the Clean Water Act.

For those of us who are not in the outdoor science class, exploring nature often remains an afterthought in our busy lives, but there are many reasons to get involved. “Being outside is super healthy for all people, especially teenagers,” Mr. Ottmer said.

Perhaps all cannot participate in Citizen Science, but simply caring for the natural world — however one is able — can help ensure its wellbeing. To quote Dr. Suess’s The Lorax, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing’s going to get better. It’s not.”

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About the Contributor
Phoenix Apedaile is a senior.  She is angry about many things and enjoys writing about said things that anger her.  She is currently attempting to read the novel Infinite Jest, though the attempt has proven rather fruitless.  After quoting Kenny Powers a couple of times she often spends time worrying (just because) or staring blankly at a wall.

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  • R

    RichardSep 21, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    How indeed fortunate we all are to have people like this in our world. Telling us all the shortcomings of the fossil fuels world that their parents, grandparents, great grandparents et cetera. I’m just thrilled we haven’t destroyed the world as we know it yet, Giving them the time to make all things right. Where would we be without their contributions? Wow… Feeling tingly all over. No doubt the pikas are especially appreciative!

    • T

      Tyler PhilipsenSep 24, 2023 at 6:28 pm

      Sarcasm on a high school journalism website is a pitiful look, especially when it seems that the adult reader misread sections of the article or misinterpreted them.