Special Events

Coming up with North Cascades Institute....

Nature of Writing Fall Speaker Series at Village Books in Bellingham
Oct 26: "Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls" with Paul Bannick
Jan 6-10, 2017: Residential Environmental Learning Center Conference

Nature of Writing Fall Speaker Series at Village Books in Bellingham

Village BooksAs the days grow shorter and nights longer, head into autumn with new books that explore and celebrate the natural wonders of the world! Join Village Books and North Cascades Institute in welcoming writers to Bellingham to share their latest works. From intrepid explorers to mountaineers, cairns to the interconnectedness of nature, you'll learn more about our wondrous planet through the voices of our country's most gifted nature interpreters. 

All readings are free and take place at the Readings Gallery at Village Books, 1200 11th Street, Bellingham.

September 22, 7:30 pm
Leigh Calvez's The Hidden Lives of Owls

Join a naturalist on adventures into the world of owls, owl-watching, avian science, and the deep forest—often in the dead of night. Whether you’re tracking Snowy or Great Gray Owls, these birds are mysterious, and that’s what makes them so fascinating. Owls are iconic, and there are lots of them in the Western states, even though we hardly ever see them. Calvez makes the science entertaining and accessible while exploring the questions about the human-animal connection, owl obsession, habitat, owl calls, social behavior, and mythology.

Leigh Calvez is a scientist and nature writer whose work has been published in American Nature Writing 2003, Between Species: Celebrating the Dolphin-Human Bond, Ocean Realm, the Ecologist, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Seattle Times. In 2013 she published her first book entitled Whale Watching Adventures on the Pacific Coast. She has been involved in whale research and observation projects in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Zealand, and the Azores. 

November 4, 7 pm
O. Alan Weltzien's Exceptional Mountains: A Cultural History of the Pacific Northwest Volcanoes

Over the past 150 years, people have flocked to the Pacific Northwest in increasing numbers, in part due to the region’s beauty and one of its most exceptional features: volcanoes. This segment of the Pacific Ring of Fire has shaped not only the physical landscape of the region but also the psychological landscape, and with it the narratives we compose about ourselves. Exceptional Mountains is a cultural history of the Northwest volcanoes and the environmental impact of outdoor recreation in this region. It probes the relationship between these volcanoes and regional identity, particularly in the era of mass mountaineering and population growth in the Northwest. Each chapter probes the mountain-based regional ethos and the concomitant sense of privilege and entitlement from different vantages to illuminate the consumerist mind-set as a problematic version of experience and identity in and around some of the nation’s most striking mountains.

Raised in Bellevue, WA, O. Alan Weltzien is now a professor of English at the University of Montana. He has published many books, including a memoir and three books of poetry, and is the editor of The Norman Maclean Reader.

November 13, 4 pm
Robert Michael Pyle's Chinook & Chanterelle (poetry) and Through a Green Lens: Fifty Years of Writing for Nature

Chinook & Chanterelle is Robert Michael Pyle’s second full-length book of poetry. Rich in natural images, stories, and indelible episodes from the whole world around us, Pyle’s poems also track the territory of loss and grief as it rises onto the higher ground of rediscovery, redemption, and re-enchantment. They exalt the ordinary even as they find the extraordinary in physical details that we too often look right through.

Arranged by decade, Through a Green Lens presents a sampling of Pyle’s work over fifty years, from that first heartfelt essay, written on mountain motel stationery in 1965, to a book foreword written in 2015. Culled from notable magazines and contributions to edited collections, these essays range across broad topical, geographic, and textual territory. They grow out of near-lethal English brambles, vacant lots and ditches in suburban Denver, and railroad yards of the industrial Northeast.

From commentary to criticism, polemic to profile—from the lyrical to the elegiac—Through a Green Lens demonstrates the qualities for which Pyle’s work is well-known: clarity, readability, sharp wit, undiluted conviction, and good-natured tolerance. Pyle’s half-century-long view, acute and uncommonly attuned to the physical world, gives readers a remarkable window on the natural setting of our life and times.

Robert Michael Pyle writes essay, poetry, and fiction from an old Swedish farmstead along a tributary of the Lower Columbia River in southwestern Washington. His sixteen books include Chasing MonarchsMariposa Road and The Tangled Bank. A Guggenheim Fellow, he has received the John Burroughs Medal and several other writing awards. Pyle’s poems have appeared in magazines including the North American Review, and in a chapbook, Letting the Flies Out.

More information at

"Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls" with Paul Bannick

October 26, 7 PM, Town Hall Seattle

Join conservation photographer and Institute instructor Paul Bannick for an intimate look into a year in the lives of owls.  

For owls, every day brings a new challenge to survive. Bannick will share images and insights that show how owls use the resources available to them in their habitat to survive and thrive. Follow along as each stage in an owl’s life is chronicled: courtship, mating, and nesting in spring; fledging and feeding of young in summer; learning independence in fall; and, finally, winter’s migration.

Local conservation and birding experts will be on hand before the talk to share tips on where to see owls, how to protect owl habitat and more. Bannick will be signing copies of his new book, Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls (Braided River, 2016) following his presentation. If you love birds, you don’t want to miss this night of owl celebration.

Tickets are available at

North Cascades Institute supporters can get $5 off the Admission+Book ticket package by entering this promo code at checkout: NCI-PB-Owl.

"The Wild Nearby" Exhibit at the Burke Museum

June 18, 2016 – Feb 5, 2017

The Wild Nearby at the Burke Museum tells stories of the North Cascades that only the Burke can tell using concepts and images from the book The North Cascades: Finding Beauty and Renewal in the Wild Nearby. In The Wild Nearby, visitors explore change in the North Cascades through geologic material and research projects focused on archaeology, plants and animals. Visitors step into the role of Burke scientist/researcher as they have an exploratory, multi-sensory experience of Burke collections and the North Cascades. This exhibit transports visitors from Seattle to the North Cascades ecosystem, where they experience the region as a scientist through natural history and cultural objects and see the region’s intense beauty and vastness through large photography pulled from The North Cascades. The Wild Nearby imbues visitors with a sense of connectivity to and behind-the-scenes knowledge of the North Cascades, which can be independent of or complimentary to an outdoor experience in the region.

More info at

Residential Environmental Learning Center Conference at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center

January 6-10, 2017

North Cascades Institute is honored to host the Association of Nature Center Administrators’ biannual gathering of administrators (directors and coordinators) and those with an interest in residential environmental education programs at the North Cascades Environmental Learning Center in Washington State. This gathering of professionals in the heart of North Cascades National Park seeks to advance the residential environmental education movement through the sharing of current ideas, concerns, solutions and insights.

About the location for the 2017 gathering:

The North Cascades Environmental Learning Center is a LEED Silver-Certified facility completed in July 2005 located three hours from Seattle. Operated in partnership with the National Park Service and City of Seattle, the Environmental Learning Center is a hub of discovery in one of the wildest, most biologically diverse landscapes in North America. People of all ages come to explore, learn and participate in innovative programs that inspire and enrich their lives. More information at

The North Cascades Institute is an award-winning conservation education nonprofit organization with the mission to conserve and restore Northwest environments through education. Since 1986 the Institute has helped connect people, nature and community through science, art, literature and the hands-on study of natural and cultural history. As operator of the Environmental Learning Center, the Institute works with community partners throughout the region to design, fund and implement programs that help people experience and enjoy the mountains, rivers, forests, people and wildlife of the Pacific Northwest – so all will care for and protect this special place we call home.

Guests to the Learning Center will stay in dorm-style bunkhouses, with common living rooms and bathrooms. All meals are included and served in our dining hall, which uses over 70% local and organic food. Our kitchen staff is responsive to diet restrictions and preferences. The campus offers groups wireless internet, a range of meeting spaces and resources and nearby recreation opportunities.

Registration Cost: $325 per person, includes 5 days/ 4 night accommodations and 12 meals (dinner Friday through lunch Tuesday).

Online registration at

Questions? Feel free to contact us at  or (206) 526-2565.