Weather Forecast


Bemidji teachers travel to Nova Scotia for expedition

Bemidji teachers Kris VanWilgen-Hammit and Kurt Long Voelkner traveled Saturday to Nova Scotia. They received Wells Fargo Earthwatch fellowships to participate in a two-week Earthwatch expedition called "Mammals of Nova Scotia." The teachers are pictured in VanWilgen-Hammit's classroom at Bemidji High School. Pioneer Photo/Monte Draper

Through the eyes of their teachers, students in Bemidji will soon experience Nova Scotia and its wildlife.

On Saturday, Bemidji teachers Kurt Long Voelkner and Kris VanWilgen-Hammit traveled to the South Shore region of the Canadian province for a two-week Earthwatch expedition called "Mammals of Nova Scotia."

Long Voelkner teaches eighth-grade earth science at Bemidji Middle School and VanWilgen-Hammit teaches environmental science and biology at Bemidji High School.

They are among 10 teachers selected from across the United States to receive a Wells Fargo Earthwatch fellowship to participate in the expedition.

The teachers will join scientists Christina Buesching and Chris Newman from Oxford University in Oxford, England, to study climate change, and report back to their students "live" using blog and conferencing technology, an Earthwatch press release states.

The team will conduct hands-on research to explore how the animals that live in the region's ecosystem - from deer to voles - cope with the impacts of climate change, according to the press release.

Six teams will work with the two scientists this year.

"We're the first team to go," VanWilgen-Hammit said.

Both she and Long Voelkner applied for the fellowship after receiving notification from the Bemidji School District about the opportunity. To have two teachers in the district selected for the fellowship speaks highly of the community and the district, Long Voelkner said.

Both teachers said they are excited to visit Nova Scotia.

"I love traveling and seeing new places," Long Voelkner said.

VanWilgen-Hammit also said she enjoys visiting new places.

Long Voelkner said the expedition is an opportunity to meet with other educators and make science "real" to students through their experiences in Nova Scotia.

"It can make a difference," he said.

Besides the expedition, the fellowships also provide $200 for each teacher to develop a community project to address a local environmental issue.

During the expedition, the teachers will blog about their experiences. To access the blogs, visit and click on "Meet the Team."