Northwest Passages Fall 2020



Greetings. Pacific NW Regional Members of NAI!

The re-scheduled 2020 Regional Workshop is finally happening – although only in “Virtual” format. We have a window in the calendar for next week, direct from our computers, to the streaming device of your choosing – via ZOOM.

See the linked flier for more information.

Your regional leaders have put together a meeting agenda which should serve as a pleasant way to mark the end of a truly unusual season. We’re asking those who plan to attend to sign up using this registration link – set up through the generous assistance of the national office. Although there are no fees required to participate, donations are welcomed to help support our region’s scholarship programs.


Registrants will also receive an email reminder prior to the meeting – but in case you miss it, here’s the zoom link for the workshop:

Thanks for your interest and support for the NW Region – we look forward to seeing many of you on-line, next week!

John Morris and the whole Regional team
NAI, Pacific NW Region Deputy Director
National Park Service, Alaska (retired)
Eagle River, AK

Payette National Forest Agents of Discovery app

by Julia Welch, 2020 internship scholarship recipient

This past year, I have been working with the Payette National Forest (PNF) on the Agents of Discovery app. While funding to support positions to maintain this app have run out or been reallocated due to COVID-19, after recently being awarded the NAI scholarship, I was able to continue my work with the Payette National Forest as a volunteer to maintain the app.

This is an important opportunity, allowing me as an interpreter, to virtually reach many families using the app to explore and educate about natural features around the forest and to present teachable moments in places like city and state parks, and even downtown McCall! In an effort to continue delivering effective, enjoyable, and educational content to the app’s users, I will be able to continue to expand our “mission library” to include topics from avalanches and soundscapes to cultural heritage and nocturnal wildlife, all while encouraging the use of the diverse public land of the PNF.

Now, more than ever, implementing technology with education is becoming both commonplace and provides an excellent platform for innovation! With students able to learn remotely, and many people teleworking as a result of COVID-19, more and more families are in need of a fun and creative way to interact with their landscape, while encouraging standard social distancing strategies, paramount to a safe and healthy season.


Uncle Rhynchus has a passport book!

This  summer an official Northwest Region Traveling Mascot Passport Book was created for Uncle Rhynchus the Oncorhynchus. The book includes a Host Manuel outlining the guidelines for use as well as dozens of pages to document his exciting travels. We are eager to see the adventures our mascot makes around Northwest Region, and plan to share his progress at our next regional and National workshop. This book accompanies the Online Map to track Uncle Rhynchus’s whereabouts- so they go hand in hand. We are hopeful that members will have fun adding stamps, stickers, photos or drawings to his book; spreading their enthusiasm and passion for Interpretation. We’ll work hard to send Uncle Rhynchus to as many Interpretive Sites as possible, so he can migrate farther than any Pacific Salmon on record- woooooo! The passport book was placed in the mail this week, making its way to the “Wild Pacific Trail” out in Vancouver Island, Canada. From this point forward mascot and book will be traveling companions. If you want a visit from Uncle Rhynchus be sure to post a shoutout on our Facebook page or email our Communications Chair directly.






A Coyote is so Much More Than a Cat-Eating Canidae
Interpreting the Misinterpreted

By Aleta Walther, CIG, ATG, CTA

Coyotes adapt easily to living near people. In fact, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s (ADF&G) coyote profile states, “In the wake of man’s relentless expansion into wildlife’s domain, few species have been able to coexist and even expand their range as well as the coyote.”

© Wally Nussbaumer for

Resembling a scruffy underfed German shepherd, coyotes are generally nocturnal and secretive creatures that avoid human contact. This is why even though coyotes roam throughout our forests, parks, and neighborhoods we rarely see one. Therefore, for me, it is thrilling to catch a glimpse of one darting across a trail or bounding through a meadow. When I do see one, I think, “how cool.”

On the other hand, if such an encounter takes place during an interpretive program, a guest may spew vitriol about a coyote eating his or her cat. Having lost a cat to a coyote, I empathize while thinking, “how cool, a teachable moment.”

My reaction to a coyote sighting often sets the tone for how my guests perceive an encounter. Therefore, when I see a coyote, I exclaim, “A coyote, how cool is that?” I then listen to a guest’s story about a coyote snatching a pet. Often guests just want to be heard, and once heard, are more receptive to learning how humans need coyotes more than they need us.

 Ecological Role

 “Coyotes play an important ecological role by keeping other wildlife in check,” I explain to guests. “If we eliminate coyotes, our yards and gardens may be damaged by rodents, rabbits or raccoons. They also eat squirrels, skunks, raccoons, snakes and feral cats that eat eggs and baby birds, thereby negatively affecting songbird populations. As scavengers, coyotes are housekeepers of their range, cleaning up animals hit by cars, die naturally or left behind by other predators. In short, coyotes are our friends if we manage our coyote interactions.” offers a variety of educational resources to download and distribute to your visitors.

“It appears that this newcomer to the Alaskan scene…
has found a niche in our state
.— ADF&G Coyote Profile

© Wally Nussbaumer for

Howls, Yips and Yaps

The ADF&G species profile also states that humans’ fear of coyotes is rooted in the history and folklore of the American West and magnified by:

My guests often find it surprising to learn coyote attacks on people are rare. According to the Humane Society of the United States “more people are killed by errant golf balls and flying champagne corks each year than are bitten by coyotes.” The thought of airborne corks and wayward golf balls usually elicits laughs from my guests and lightens their moods as we continue down the trail♦

Aleta Walther © 2020
Naturalist & Outdoor Adventure Tour Guide
Gastineau Guiding Company, Juneau, Alaska
Alaska-focused blog:

Our Fall Iconic Salmon

Crescent City, California