Faculty Profile profile for ecath2

Erin Cathcart
I was five years old when I was invited to go on my first backpacking trip with my dad, a lifelong naturalist and forester by trade. We bought a child-size external-frame, loaded it up with packs of chicken-flavored ramen and some trail mix (a delicacy I knew only as “gorp” for an impressively large portion of my life), and set out on a grueling 1.5 mile trek to a lake in the Cascade Mountain Range. While these memories have faded into a series of poignant snapshots, they continue to serve as a reminder of how my experiences have subtly yet irreversibly shaped how I interact with the world around me. For me, exploring landscapes with my dad was not only an exercise in ecological appreciation, but in personal development. As I have continued my career as a leader in environmental education, I work to create a similar holistic experience for the communities I serve on a daily basis, with values rooted in the understanding that success is not contained to a classroom, discovery is not isolated to a laboratory, and that learning is a mutual, cyclical relationship that thrives when all parties are equally invested in the endeavor. I have been learning, growing, and teaching across Oregon since my youth. Inspired and empowered by meaningful outdoor experiences with friends and family, I began my professional career in the Fisheries and Wildlife Department at Oregon State University. In all my classes and experiences, I found myself drawn time and time again to exploring the human relationship with the natural world, a theme which led me to pursue a career as an educator. Throughout my work with the Multnomah Education Service District Outdoor School program, Portland Public Schools, the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, and others I strive to weave the stories of complex natural resources into the human experience of my students. In 2017 I completed my Masters of Science in Environmental Education and Interpretation through the University of Wisconsin while working as the Field Trip Program Coordinator for Friends of Tryon Creek State Natural Area. In my time in that position I was able to work on incorporating an ever-evolving racial equity lens to all aspects of program management, and have been able to deeply explore how elevating Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion principles will move conservation efforts forward as we look to the future of our wildlife and wild places. I believe that visionary leadership recognizes what it means to hold a position of power in the context of these principles, and understands how they intersect with complex ecological and social issues. I am thrilled to be a part of the Portland State University Capstone program and look forward to incorporating these themes and values into the Summer Cultural Ecology Courses offered at the amazing urban forest that is Tryon Creek State Natural Area.