With 28% of the earth covered in an environment that experiences chronic aridity, it is evident that desert climates are amongst us. Because desert climates are abundant on earth, I decided to enroll in a class called Natural History of the Desert because I wanted to learn everything about the desert and how life can flourish in such a harsh place. Taught by the infamous John Saunders and Sam Rush, this is a two credit Biology class that offers a hands on look at the ecology, biology and history of the desert atmosphere. For five days, our class used the Colorado River to travel to some of the best classrooms in the world. After being subjected to the desert for over 100 hours for this class, this is my story.

We left Steamboat Springs early Thursday morning so we could arrive in Fruita Colorado and get on the river. Although we spent two days in an actual classroom getting the logistics figured out, the class didn’t officially start until we began floating down the Colorado River. Immediately after departing, our first lesson on desert ecology began. FYI, class on a river raft is quite the experience. Being able to listen to Saunders and Rush give a lesson and physically point to things that were actually there truly enhanced the learning experience for me.

Camping by the river

When we arrived at our first campsite, we set up our tents while kitchen crew prepared the dinner. Sheppard’s Pie was on the menu and it smelled fantastic. Once the sun went down, we ate dinner as a group next to the campfire while Saunders and Rush gave another lesson. Sitting under the magnificent view of our milky way galaxy, I used my headlamp for light to take notes on the things we would be studying the next day. I was extremely excited.

That following morning consisted of a hearty breakfast with a day hike up into rattlesnake canyon. We stopped somewhere in the shade to eat lunch and get a lesson on the importance of cryptobiotic soil and how it is the building block for all life in the desert. After the lesson/lunch break, we continued deeper into the canyon to a watering hole which flourished with life. In the midst of it all, a classmate caught a Tiger Salamander and right there on the spot we were given a lesson on the Tiger Salamander species. The class content we were learning was so dynamic and spur of the moment it turned learning into fun; something that I hardly occurs in a regular classroom.

Day 3 consisted of packing up camp and continuing down the river. We had 13 miles to go that day so we had a lot of time to review the adaptations we studied many organisms developed to survive in the desert. We studied the adaptations of Bull Frogs, Catisflies, Mayflies, Bighorn Sheep, Caterpillars, Ducks, Geese, Crickets to many more. We also studied plant adaptations of Yucca, Sagebrush, Skunk Brush, Prickly Pear, Thistle, Princess Plume, Juniper, Cottonwood, Coyote Willow, Fungi, Mormon Tea, Indian Rice Gras, and Mullen to the Buffalo Berry. It may seem like a lot to learn but when I was physically there at the site, learning about the biology of these organisms and their habitat was luxurious.

Day 4 consisted of rolling into Black Rock canyon. This place was home of the notorious black rocks which are the basement rock layer of our very continent. These rocks are older than any piece of geology in the canyon and it was eerie standing on their presence. We traveled in around the black rock area to learn more about these rocks and how they formed. We also dived into a secluded section of the canyon to learn about ancient cultures and tribes that lived in that area thousands of years ago.

On the 5th and final day of the trip, Saunders and Rush required everyone to take an hour of complete silence while floating down the river. As soon we shut our mouths, the magnificence of nature appeared in its purest form.  All of a sudden without our notebooks, the different fragments of information we were learning for the past five days all came together simultaneously in the most magnificent way. All of a sudden, we experienced the happenings of this place with all five senses firsthand. The things we were hearing, smelling, seeing, feeling and tasting couldn’t be replicated inside ANY classroom. Sitting there in complete silence from my classmates, the genuine purpose of this class came into clarity. That purpose cannot be expressed through words nor can it be replicated in a classroom. The only way to truly understand the purpose of Natural History of the Desert is to enroll in it yourself and experience one of the best kept secrets CMC has to offer.


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Our previous cool class of the week called Avalanche Awareness took us deep into nature teaching us about an environment prone to destruction with the slightest bit of disturbance. This week’s class is similar to last week’s however this class understands that the slightest human disturbances are prone to destruction of the environment. With that being said, the conservation of the biosphere is the creed of this class of the week. Introducing a brand new course, CMC proudly brings you this new and refreshing take on science through a class called Biodiversity and Conservation.

Taught by Professor Shawn Sigstedt, Biodiversity and Conservation is a course he designed and created himself while pursuing his Ph.D. in Ecology and Conservation Biology from Harvard University. Once he received his Ph.D., professor Sigstedt began teaching his Biodiversity and Conservation course at Harvard in 1989. Fast forward to 2011 and Professor Sigstedt is now teaching the same class he taught at Harvard right here at the Alpine Campus.

Students studying this course will dive into topics including primary ecosystems, cultural survival, medical botany, sustainable agriculture, ecological triage, conservation philosophy, biomimicry and more. At the end of the semester, every student is required to create a digital storytelling movie that collaborates everything they have learned. According to Sigstedt, “These digital stories will be published to youtube and this will help our class communicate what we are learning and discovering to the rest of the world.” A class that impacts the world directly is a plus in my books!

With such relevant world issues and topics, this course is valuable for any student pursuing any degree.  This science course will be taught with active, interactive, collaborative, and inquiry based instructional approaches. Diverse teaching strategies make this course fun yet stimulating.  For someone seeking a class that challenges one to critically think about the world, this may be the golden key for you. I asked Sigstedt, “In one phrase, what is the purpose of this class?” He replied, “To make life wonderful for every living organism on the planet.” Now that’s thought-provoking topic that nobody can turn away from.

If you are hooked like me and want to learn more, sign up for this Biodiversity and Conservation for the fall semester ASAP. The spots won’t be open for long.


With every cloud there is a silver lining. The cloud in this story is a local Steamboat newspaper company called “The Local” went out of business a few weeks ago. A major bummer in the Steamboat community yes, but the silver lining is our newspaper “The Word” was able to  get 3 of “The Local’s” newspaper bins! When one newspaper company falls a different one rises. The people over at “The Local” were extremely awesome at helping our paper get on it’s feet and through their kindness we are now able to look like a legitimate publication. Thank you “The Local” SO MUCH! We love you 😀

We received their 3 most banged and beat up bins they had but we didn’t care because now we have bins! Early the other day we took these bins outside and began the painting process on these marvelous boxes of metal. We first painted each bin a royal blue color, which is the same color as our logo. While the paint was drying we created a stencil template for the text that would display our publication name in white. From computer to paper we made the phase 1 stencil. From paper to cardboard we had phase 2 and a final transfer gave us our awesome “The Word” template in an awesome font.

The text painting process wasn’t professional by any means but anyone who can read English can distinguish what these new and improved bins say and that’s all that matters. I will say these look pretty freakin’ good and they are going to aid in the spread of our population. For all people down in the Steamboat area, please cone to Alpine campus to check out one of these bins and grab your copy of our newspaper. It’s FREE!! These bins may look beat up and grungy, but in the end they symbolize the legitimate presence of our publication and I am proud to say that “The Word” is official and here to stay.

The title says it all.
Yesterday, Journalism Club from the Alpine Campus in Steamboat Springs released the first ever student newspaper! Prior to this momentum event,Only once has CMC had a student newspaper and that was over 30 years. Because of this, we students of the Journalism Club here at Alpine wanted to change that and bring it back. For two months straight, we worked diligently to get the money and permission for a  newspaper for the students created by students. Now that our dream has become a reality, the Journalism club at Alpine will now be releasing this official newspaper twice a month free of charge for all students to read. Talk about a major step forward for Alpine Campus!

The Word” is the newspaper’s name name and it has been the big talk on campus for the past two days. “The Word” shouldn’t be misunderstood for “the word of god” from the bible, “The Word” should be understood as the word of the student body at Alpine campus. Quite frankly I am absolutely thrilled that I am no longer the only voice from this campus. Now any Alpine student that has something to say is allowed to contribute to “The Word” and all they have to do is submit a piece to our email: theword.cmc@gmail.com. If anyone out there is reading and wants to contribute, please do! We would love to include you.

With 1,000 copies printed, this paper is all over campus making it’s revolutionary debut. Professors, faculty and students all have a copy and the buzz it’s generated is incredible. “A school newspaper is such an important asset to a college campus,” said a student I talked to in the Shafferick Lounge, “students’ voices must be heard and now that we have a newspaper, Alpine campus is one step ahead of the game.” I would have to agree with her big time. This paper is going to play a huge role in connecting students with the rest of the campus and the community. We now have a central place to refer to when it comes to campus news,  activities and upcoming events. This is so awesome!

“Understanding the creative and destructive power that comes with free speech, our publication pledges to use our first amendment rights for the betterment of the community. It is our goal to voice concerns, show recognition and keep informed the students of the Colorado Mountain College, Alpine Campus. Through our publication, the CMC Journalism club will add to the pride and identity of our campus community.” – CMC Journalism Club

Pick up your copy everywhere on Alpine Campus today!!!