Summertime Standouts: Warner College of Natural Resources

three people sitting on dock near lake in Grand Teton National Park

Montana Sauve: Natural Resource Management

researcher administering survey in Grand Teton NP
Sauve administers a survey with park visitors at Grand Teton National Park.

Montana Sauve is spending her summer talking trash with park visitors at Grand Teton, Yosemite and Denali in an effort to help the National Park Service keep 100 million or so pounds of park waste out of landfills.

While the park service implements changes like establishing composting opportunities and phasing out plastic cups and bags, Sauve and her team, including fellow Ram Mary Grant with the Leave No Trace Center for Ethics, are surveying visitors about their attitudes and understanding of how the park handles trash. “I believe in sustainable waste practices in every field,” said Sauve. “There is no better place to start than our very own National Parks.”

The team observes park visitors using new recycling bins complete with educational signs, and then follows up with a survey to evaluate what the visitor thought of using the bins and the signs. “We’re helping them evaluate the effort so that they can refine their messaging and roll out the new equipment to other parks,” Sauve explained.

The park service is a natural place to emphasis sustainable behavior according to Suave. “So many people visit these places from across the United States and all around the world. Hopefully they can see a connection between how beautiful these places are and the need to keep them clean, and maybe take that attitude home with them.”

Sauve is working on the research project this summer before deciding what to do with her new Natural Resource Management degree. The summer assignment is driving home many recent lessons from the classroom. “We always emphasized the need to understand people before we can move on and solve environmental problems, and that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish with the surveys.”

person sitting on cliff at Yosemite National Park
Three beautiful national parks were summer worksites for Warner Rams Mary Grant and Montana Sauve.

Grace Ota: Ecosystem Science and Sustainability

Ota in Hawaii soaking in the natural inspiration of the forest.

Maui is the most miles Grace Ota’s ever been from Wheat Ridge, Colo. She visited the island this summer to take the road to Hana and to watch epic sunsets because the outdoors is what inspires her.

“Every summer as a kid my parents would take me and my sisters to Eleven Mile Reservoir, where we would camp and fish,” she says. “I loved being outside, and as I grew older I realized that the outdoors is what sparks my sense of wonder and exploration — and also is the place which keeps me grounded.”

Ota was the PALS Coordinator for the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center, a role that enabled her to build relationships with elementary school students while welcoming her into a diverse community that she calls home at Colorado State University. She remembers her own camping and fishing trips and wants everyone to know that feeling, so access to education and the outdoors is important to her.

In June, Ota was a student mentor for the Warner College Summer Alliance Institute, a partnership that gives high schoolers, many who will become first-generation college students, a chance to see what campus life and STEM education might be like for them. The role required immense responsibility, leadership, and teamwork to coordinate 16 students around personal needs and schedules, and Ota says she grew as much as the students she mentored by encouraging others and holding herself accountable to being in the moment, stepping outside of comfort zones, and learning and having fun outdoors.

This summer, she also attended the GlobalMindED Conference in Denver, which was a three-day conference around diversity in higher education linked with a corporate business perspective.

students looking at grass
Ota served as a mentor to high school students from Alliance Partnership schools helping them learn about northern Colorado’s ecosystems.

You might say Ota trained for her summer adventures in Spring with a SLiCE Alternative Spring Break trip to Portland, Oregon. Together with 14 others, she volunteered at urban farms, a food bank, and an environmental learning center all while learning about homelessness and food insecurity in Portland.

No matter where she travels, you’ll always find her creating new ways to share her love of the outdoors with students and children of all ages.

“I want to make sure everyone has access to beautiful open spaces for generations to come and that the education about sustainability and our earth thrives,” she says.