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Students take flight in study of pine beetle

Photo courtesy EcoFlight/Bruce Gordon
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GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – More than three dozen high school students will take to the air this morning as part of a day-long study of the mountain pine beetle infestation that has ravaged pine forests in the Rocky Mountains.

Glenwood Springs High School will be hosting and participating in the annual Flight Across America event, which is part of Aspen-based EcoFlight’s Kestrel educational program.

“Using flight and ground-based education, the program is designed to involve and inform high school age students about issues regarding biodiversity conservation,” said Jane Pargiter, program coordinator for EcoFlight.



Students from Glenwood Springs, Bridges and Basalt high schools, as well as Colorado Rocky Mountain School, will be taking part in the flights and follow-up seminar. About 40 students will be doing the flights, and the seminar is expected to draw more than 100 students, Pargiter said.

“The idea is to introduce them to a broad range of perspectives and show them via flight, how such issues personally impact their lives and the world around them,” Pargiter said.



Starting at 8 a.m. Monday at Glenwood Springs airstrip, multiple flights will take local high school students and educators, together with a videographer, to observe the pine beetle kill in the Aspen and Vail areas from the air.

“Students will observe the issue from the air, where they will examine and photograph the impacts and present their findings,” Pargiter said. “Through the experience, students will be introduced to scientific data related to climate change and information on the issue in terms of its effect on communities.”

The seminar will follow at 11 a.m. in the Jeannie Miller Theatre at Glenwood Springs High School. The public is also welcome to attend.

Presenters will include John Katzenberger with the Aspen Global Change Institute, John Bennett of For the Forest, Sloan Shoemaker with the Wilderness Workshop, Cal G. Wettstein, IC for the USFS Bark Beetle Project in Colorado, and filmmaker Greg Poschman.

“It will be a great thing for the public, because it is a very current issue happening around Colorado and right here in our valley,” Pargiter said. “There’s a wide array of presenters, which should lead to some lively discussion because they don’t all agree what should be done, how to control potential fires, and whether it’s related to global warming.”

In addition, on Tuesday a selected group of local high school students will accompany EcoFlight in its “Flight Across America” to Jackson, Wyo., and the Teton Science School to study the white bark pine beetle infestation occurring in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem.

“It’s a different kind of beetle, and has some different implications than what we’re seeing here with the mountain pine beetle,” Pargiter said.

Rachel Sobke and Ivan Montes from GSHS, and Luke Falcone and Lea Linse from CRMS, will be part of the Wyoming tour.

EcoFlight presents its Kestrel student program locally twice a year and the Flight Across America traveling program once a year.

Past studies have covered mining, oil and gas and national parks issues.

“We want to empower the students to make a conscious decision about these kinds of issues, which is why we try to get presenters who represent as many different perspectives as possible,” Pargiter said.

jstroud@postindependent.com


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