High Desert Speaker Series 2018

Eastern Oregon is an incredible place to live, work and explore, with thousands of stories just waiting to be revealed.

ONDA’s popular High Desert Speaker Series features knowledgeable and inspiring storytellers who bring the intriguing aspects of this vast region to light.

So far in 2018, we’ve dived into the region’s geologic history, the intersection of recreation and advocacy, the history of the Warm Springs Tribe, and desert restoration through talks hosted in Portland and Bend.

New this year, the High Desert Speaker Series will continue eastward and into summer, with a series of talks in Eastern Oregon communities running from July to September. These upcoming events will cover wildfire, the public lands economy and riparian restoration.

Read on for a recap of the events held so far in Portland and Bend, and watch our events calendar for the next dates in the series.


Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

Elisa Cheng, member since 2013

“ONDA stewardship trips inspire me. I get to learn new things and see new places, and in the process perform important work that improves the wildlife habitat.”


Mary McCord, ONDA Volunteer

Mary McCord, ONDA Volunteer

“I find enjoyment in the peaceful wide open spaces, geology, and rich history of Oregon’s high desert,” says Mary. Reflecting on volunteering, she continues, “If you have the ability and desire, it’s important to do something to contribute. It doesn’t have to be big, because every little bit helps.”


Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

Sarah Graham, Sage Sustainers Member

“I contribute to ONDA monthly because it adds up to a larger annual gift than what I’d be able to comfortably afford if I were to do a simple one-time donation annually. I’m able to give more to ONDA this way and have greater impact which is important to me, and my dog Polly.”

The Dynamic Geologic Wonders of Eastern Oregon

Our series started out deep in the past when Scott Burns, Professor of Geology at Portland State University, described the fascinating geologic events and forces that gave shape to the landscapes we see today.

FUN FACT: Steens Mountain basalt is actually one of the oldest layers of Columbia River basalt eruptions and has shared geology with the Columbia Basin.

Notes from the Field: Campfire Edition

Gathered in front of an improvised on-screen "campfire," ONDA's stewardship staff shared tales and recent highlights from ONDA's restoration program.

TAKEAWAY: ONDA volunteers are making a difference in the high desert, and having fun while they're at it.

The Birds and the Bees: Sex Lives of High Desert Plants and Animals

LeeAnn Kriegh, author of The Nature of Bend, shared secrets and intriguing facts about the plants and animals of Central Oregon. For this talk on the eve of Valentine’s Day, she focused on the mating rituals and reproductive strategies of local flora and fauna.

FUN FACT: Male barnacles have the largest penises relative to their body size.

A Conversation with Warm Springs Tribal Elder Bruce Jim

In both Portland and Bend, Warm Springs Tribal Elder Bruce Jim delighted attendees with dozens of family stories that together offered a deeply personal history of the Warm Springs tribe. A discussion ceded lands and treaty rights rounded out his talk and gave everyone much to reflect upon.

TAKEAWAY: Warm Springs tribal members are strong stewards of the land, fish, and wildlife across Oregon’s high desert and ONDA is proud to collaborate with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs on restoration work.

Celebrating 50 Years of Wild & Scenic Rivers

Rafter Zach Collier shared his unique approach to traveling all of the Wild & Scenic Rivers in Oregon. For him, just boating a river didn't "count" for this project. Before boating each river, Zach researched and read management plans, then advocated for their continued protection.

TAKEAWAY: Outdoor enthusiasts have a special connection to wild waters and lands, and a responsibility to care for those places in whatever way they can.

Conservation Advocacy from the Beltway to Business

Erin Gaines of Keen Footwear shared stories from her days working as an environmental advisor to Senator Ron Wyden and from her current efforts to amplify the business case for conservation. She discussed today’s ever-changing political reality and why she was inspired to bring her Washington D.C. experience back to advocate for stronger landscape protection in Oregon.

FUN FACT: When advocating for public lands conservation, phone calls are more effective than emails because you reach elected officials' offices right away, and they tally calls each day.

Notes from the Field

For our final Portland event, ONDA stewardship staff Ben Gordon and Michael O’Casey and photographer Sage Brown took the audience on visual road trip through this vast landscape. Sage's images capture not only beauty of the landscape, but also the community that is built through these trips to Oregon’s most stunning wild lands.

TAKEAWAY: Working together with shovels and shears in hand is a great way to get to know the high desert and forge lifelong friendships.

Upcoming Presentations