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Siskiyou Science Festival

03/25/2020 05:00AM ● By Tim Holt

Exploring the Elements

April 2020
By Tim Holt
Photo courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey
Andy Calvert will take you on a trip through the last million years of geologic time. Alexander Pollak will tell you about his quest to find life in other solar systems. Ranger Steve Rooker will show off one of the popular rest stops for migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway.

It’s all part of the third annual Siskiyou Science Festival from May 2-17. The event features guided tours, interactive exhibits – and, since the theme is “Beyond 2020 Vision,” a panel discussion that will explore topics including the future of energy, fire and forest management in the Siskiyou region.

And it’s all free.

Calvert, a volcano expert with the U.S. Geological Survey, will lead a talk and tour May 15 on the slopes of Mt. Shasta, a sometimes-active volcano that last erupted 3,700 years ago and will do so again (although hopefully not during the tour; Calvert says it’s in one of its “quiet” periods right now).

If you visit his booth in downtown Mount Shasta during the all-day Sci-Fest May 16, you’ll learn more about how “volcanologists” study volcanoes, including how they collect hot lava samples from erupting volcanoes. Kids will get to try on one of their heat-resistant aluminum suits and get some hands-on experience with models of erupting volcanoes.

On May 6, Dr. Pollak, who has a degree in astrophysics, will show off the Hat Creek Observatory’s radio telescopes that scan the known universe for signs of intelligent life. He spends his days looking for  “techno-signatures,” narrowband radio waves similar to those associated with cell phones, that signal the presence of advanced technology in another solar system.

Last year’s Science Festival explored the “magic” of science with some practical applications: The “magic” of yeast in baked goods and the “magic” involved in distilling whiskey and other spirits. They even brought in a real magician, a Mister Fish (aka John Lepiarz) to demonstrate the science behind magic tricks.

This year, there’s an emphasis on the natural world, not only with Calvert’s geologic tour, but on tours of a Scott Valley watershed project and the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge.

Charnna Gilmore, who runs the Scott River Watershed Council, will give a May 9 talk and tour on the Council’s efforts to improve fish habitat and groundwater supplies in the valley. On the tour, you’ll see manmade, beaver-like dams that conserve winter and spring runoffs to improve summer flows for endangered Coho salmon. The dams, by backing up water and spreading it out over the flood plain, also help riparian vegetation and enhance groundwater supplies. 

Those who join Ranger Rooker’s May 2 tour at Tule Lake will see golden eagles and bald eagles on specially made perching poles, as well as an array of migratory birds that include pelicans, egrets, herons and ducks. In years of normal rainfall, the wetlands and lakes at the Klamath refuge attract 80 percent of all the migratory birds on the Pacific Flyway.

Among the numerous other highlights planned for the Science Festival: The county’s schools will host a mobile dome planetarium that will offer a 45-minute tour of the universe, complete with constellations, the moon, the sun and all the planets. Students will also watch a rocket launch as one of the demonstrations of Newton’s Three Laws of Motion. There’ll also be a showing of a Star Wars movie on May 4 and a futuristic panel on May 8.

Jean Nels, one of the organizers of the Science Festival, calls it “a real community event, designed to increase people’s curiosity about all the wonderful aspects of science.”  

(530) 926-5508 • www.siskiyouscifest.com 

This event has been canceled.