Science meets art at Wallowology

By Katy Nesbitt, The Observer July 02, 2014 10:27 am

Dan Price hangs a sign in front of the Wallowology interpretive center in Joseph with help from Ellen Bishop, Maddie Griswold and Joan Madsen. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
Dan Price hangs a sign in front of the Wallowology interpretive center in Joseph with help from Ellen Bishop, Maddie Griswold and Joan Madsen. (KATY NESBITT/The Observer)
 

When like-minded people get together, magic happens. This week, a natural resource interpretive center opens in the heart of Joseph, the gateway to Wallowa Lake, the Eagle Cap Wilderness and Hells Canyon.

A long-empty log building had new life breathed into it by a group that wants to get the message out about Northeast Oregon’s natural history and its ecosystems.

In 2011, Ellen Bishop, a Whitman College professor of geology and environmental science, published a book about the Wallowa Lake moraines with the help of graphic artists, photographers, scientists and local organizations. From there, the idea to further educate about Northeast Oregon’s ecology burgeoned into an interpretive center complete with interactive exhibits, maps and photography by some of Wallowa County’s best-known artists.

James Montieth, former president of the Wallowa Land Trust, said he envisions the center as an experiment. Dubbed “Wallowology: Wild Science of Wallowa County,” the exhibit opens Friday. 

“We’re trying to connect land with people and see if there is enough interest to make something more permanent,” Montieth said.

More than a half million people visit Wallowa County every
year. 

“People come here to see this place, but most get no exposure to what people are doing to make it so nice,” Montieth said. 

The people who make it so nice are the farmers, ranchers and land steward organizations that care for the land, he said. Exhibit panels with interpretive text will tell the story of the working lands and the effort to protect them, Bishop
said.

“We are using science to excite people about the place and to have respect for the land,” Montieth said. 

Bishop said more and more people are removed from the natural environment and what the world is made of. The artists and scientists behind Wallowology hope to bridge that gap.

 With private funding, the log building is being transformed this week with photographs, maps and displays of canyons, prairies, forests and the region’s geology and history. A special exhibit on herons is complete with photographs and a nest made of twigs.

Tree bark and cone displays teach the local forest species. Children can experience nature with puzzles, games and videos.

“Through the center, we are fostering good land stewardship,” Bishop said.

For the full story, see Wednesday's issue of The Observer