Heather Whidden

by | Board Member

Both my husband and I strive to live in Environments that create a small carbon footprint. We aren’t perfect, but we try our best. I am interested in preserving our local ecosystems and enjoying the natural beauty of the Northwest. You could also say that both of us are tree huggers, as we have planted over 300 trees on our property over the past 29 years. It has always been my wish to energize our home with solar, and finally, we were able to fulfill this dream four years ago. 

Environmental Education has always been a passion for me, starting with an Internship in the Nature Center at Fox State Forest during my Senior year of college in New Hampshire in 1978. Another passion is alternative energy, stemming back to college, where I focused studies on alternative energy. My first successful project was the creation of a convex air current window solar system to help heat a 200-year-old farmhouse where I was living in New Hampshire. This passion continued while teaching Environmental Education, building solar ovens and small solar hot water systems with our students as projects to demonstrate how renewable energy works.

Another Natural History opportunity during a winter interim from Otter Lake Conservation School. I was hired by a former college professor to help teach a four-week January Term class on the culture and Natural History of the Island of Montserrat in the Caribbean, where we spent much time creating terraced agricultural gardens with the locals. This was a situation where we lived by natural light and fire in an old stone Sugar Mill while studying, living, and helping the locals with sustainable farming techniques. 

Before moving to Maui in January 1982, I worked as an Interpretive Naturalist for the State Department of Parks and Recreation. My responsibilities varied from Environmental education programs to Nature in Winter Snowshoeing expeditions to writing their quarterly newsletter.  1981 took me to Stone Environmental School, where I worked as a Curriculum Coordinator at Stone Environmental School in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. A winter break and traveling opportunity took me to Maui. 

Maui offered many interesting and relevant job opportunities. One was selling Solar Hot Water Heating systems through Associated Solar, a lucrative and rewarding job. With the goal of working agricultural research in mind, I eventually landed a position with the University of Hawaii as a research assistant for a Plant Pathologist. After our research project was complete, I chose to take a job with HC&S, the sugarcane company in Maui. My job was Chief Plant Tissue Analyst, where I analyzed for levels of major and minor elements to determine what kind of fertilizer to place on the plants for maximum production. I was also in charge of breeding a variety of wasps to release as a biological control in the fields to rid the plants of LCBs (Lesser Cornstalk Borers). I took care of 3500 acres of fields. As a side job, for several years, I crewed on a sailing charter boat in search of wind, whales, and incredible diving spots. 

Over the past 30 years, I have raised two beautiful children while teaching upper elementary and middle school-aged children in the White Salmon Valley School District. Reading and Science have been the areas in which I have excelled the most as an educator. During my last few years of teaching, I was appointed the State Science Fellow for our school district to help in transitioning to Next Generation Science Standards. 

My volunteer work has been extensive over the years here in the Gorge, in the area of conservation, serving on the Board of Directors for the Underwood Conservation District, working for UCD, and being part of the team that created the Jewett Creek Adopt-A-Stream Program. Teaching Sunday School, several years of volunteering with our district PTO, wearing many hats, and fundraising for our High School Soccer Team were other areas of volunteer work for me.

During my retirement years, I have been volunteering as a Research Associate for Twende Solar, a Non-Profit NGO. As well, I’ve been tutoring Math to a handful of Middle School students.

My husband and I are avid sailors and hikers. Since 2018, we have sailed from the central Atlantic Coast of France, down the Portugal Coast, through the Strait of Gibraltar, and through the Mediterranean. Most of our sailing is during the late spring months and early fall. At this time, our plan is to sail across the Atlantic Ocean in December 2024 from the Canary Islands to St. Lucia. 

Our two children have been very fortunate to grow up here in the Columbia River Gorge and share with us hiking, biking, skiing, kayaking, sailing, and exploring this incredible place we call home. Our son was even fortunate enough to view the removal of the Pacific Power Dam. 

Educating our youth and adults, as well as providing enriching opportunities that support our local ecosystems, are crucial in this day and age. I have the opportunity to offer my time in a field that I have been passionate about for a long time. I look forward to sharing, connecting, and collaborating with community members to help expand Mount Adams Institute. As well, I am excited to be a part of an organization that will help humanity in a clean and healthful way.