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Donation helps bio station expand reach

August 3, 2018

Flathead Lake Biological Station is ramping up its K-12 education program thanks to a $500,000 donation.

Located on the east shore of Flathead Lake, the bio station is a center for scientific research, monitoring and education on lake and river ecology.

Roughly 1,400 students have participated in the bio station’s Flathead Lake Aquatic Research and Education program during the past school year, whether on field trips, or through classroom presentations by station staff, according to Monica Elser, education liaison at the bio station.

“Our goal is to share the exciting science we do here at the station with kids around the valley,” Elser said.

The donation, made by Gretchen and Edward Heffernan, means the station will be able to purchase new equipment; organize more field trips; expand outreach efforts in regional schools and provide additional workshops for teachers to develop curriculum.

The additional field trips and educational outreach will be possible by making the bio station’s education coordinator position full-time. The donation also allows purchasing equipment and supplies dedicated to student use such as water sampling tools and microscopes. Elser said the exciting part is that students are using equipment that professional scientists use to conduct research at the bio station.

Whether measuring lake temperatures, or viewing plankton and microbes, the goal is to develop hands-on projects that get students involved in the science of lakes and streams. While the bio station serves all grade levels, plans are to develop more projects geared to the middle and high school levels, such as studying DNA.

Elser said the Herffernans’ support is a big boost to the K-12 education program.

“We’re very grateful for the financial support,” Elser said.

Supporting education and children’s understanding of the environment around them was something that the Heffernans place high value on, having come from families with many teachers.

The Texas couple have a home on Flathead Lake and Gretchen said she initially became fascinated with the research taking place at the bio station during an open house tour. After learning more about the bio station’s mission and needs in the area of K-12 education, the excitement to support those efforts grew.

“I hope they’re able to reach out to as many kids as possible in the area and get them interested in science, ecology and hands-on learning,” Gretchen said - the type of learning that engages children’s natural curiosity about the world, and through it, helps them to “become aware of what an amazing place the world is and how fascinating it can be.”

The public is invited to learn more about the bio station at an open house scheduled today from 1 to 5 p.m. There will be tours, research exhibits, presentations and guest speakers. The station is located at located at 32125 Bio Station Lane.

For more information, or to donate, call 406-982-3301, visit https://flbs.umt.edu/ or email monica.elser@umontana.edu or holly.church@umonatan.edu.

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or hmatheson@dailyinterlake.com.

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