Program areas at Tahoe Institute for Natural Science
EDUCATION:In 2016, we served 6549 students from over 20 different schools. We currently have eight in-school programs available that cover topic from insects, bats, birds, frogs, and mammals. We presented field trips on our Bird Banding Research, Winter Wildlife Survival, and our newly developed Geology of the Sierra Nevada. We continued our phenology program, the Sierra Seasons Project, at a few schools, the general public, and a few groups like Patagonia employees in Reno. Along with refinement and ongoing expansion of our programs to reach more students, we have maintained our high quality for program expectations. Our 2016 average program score for school programs and field trips was 4.81, up slightly from 2015 and putting us between Great and Outstanding for evaluations from teachers. We offered eleven summer camps in 2016 along with two days of camp programing at Northstar. We continue to refine and fine-tune our camp offerings for maximum enrollment and impact. We again had two day camps with the KidZone Museum in Truckee, CA, partnered with the Tahoe Rim Trail Association to help with Youth Back Country Camp for junior high and high school students on an overnight backpacking camp, and led a free camp for the Lake Tahoe Boys and Girls Club in South Lake Tahoe, CA. In total, we had 95 campers go through our nature-based summer camps.
RESEARCH: We continued with our fifth year of coordinating the annual mid-winter Bald Eagle survey, and Tahoe's eagle population appears to be continuing to trend upwards. TINS also continued our monthly mid-winter raptor surveys in the Sierra Valley and added a new transect in Carson Valley starting with the winter of 2016-17. We continued coordination of the NABA butterfly count and U.S. Nightjar Surveys, but skipped our annual Odonates Weekend in 2016 due to our very full summer Outreach schedule. We continued bird banding at our three principal fall banding sites, with a total 6081 birds processed over the past seven seasons. On Donner Summit, TINS helped setup voluntary climbing route closures and monitoring for a Peregrine Falcon nest at Black Wall, in association with the Access Fund and the Truckee Donner Land Trust. Our montane rabbit and hare research continues, with fieldwork on our original White-tailed Jackrabbit distribution project wrapping in 2016. We presented those results at the Western Section of the Wildlife Society meetings in February 2017 (where we also have been nominated for Conservationist of the Year), and our Swainson's Thrush research has expanded. Over 2014-2015, in partnership with the Point Reyes Bird Observatory, we deployed 50 spatial data-logger units (including 15 GPS units) on Swainson's Thrush breeding at locations between Tahoe and Plumas County. To date we have retrieved seven of those units. Additionally, feathers were collected from 35 individuals for conservation genetic work in partnership with Dr. Kristen Ruegg at UC Santa Cruz.
OUTREACH: Not counting the thousands we contact via festivals (e.g. our Lake Tahoe Bird Festival), our outreach programs reached 1650 participants in 2016. We guided 42 nature walks and 17 natural history presentations over the course of the year. Our May/June Village Green Morning Bird Walks had continued participant growth this year, up from 44 in 2015 to 64 in 2016. Building on the success of the 2015 Tahoe Big Year, which focused on birds, for 2016 we developed the Tahoe Wildflower Big Year. This year, participants searched the Tahoe Basin and Truckee for as many plant species as they can find during the year while learning more about our local wildflowers and connecting with other botany enthusiasts. We had 183 active participants that registered 5059 observations of 932 species to a database on iNaturalist, providing extremely valuable distributional data for science.