OGDEN -- Weber State University is inviting everyone to expand their minds and their lungs, and to do it all by taking a science hike.
Weber State Outdoor Outings, in cooperation with Weber Pathways, is hosting Yikes! Science Hikes!, a Saturday series of free local hikes suitable for new hikers, veteran hikers, science enthusiasts, families with children, and anyone who aspires to hike and learn more about Ogden's mountainous ecosystem.
Tours are guided by a Weber State professors or science major. Sara Yearsley founded and co-directs Yikes! Science Hikes! with Amanda Gentry. The series began three years ago as a less formal program of hikes.
"We want people to understand and become aware of the environment," said Yearsley, a recent WSU geosciences graduate. "Awareness leads to appreciation, and appreciation leads to respect and preservation. If we want to pass this on to future generations, we need to understand the value of what we have here."
Today's hike, to start at the 36th Street trailhead, will feature information on "Plant Sex." Julia Hull, a WSU senior botany major, will lead the tour along with a WSU student who will talk about insects.
"Plants' mode of reproduction is very different from the way we reproduce," Hull said. "We'll talk about flower structure and pollination methods, and the different mechanisms plants use to attract pollinators. Plants are tricky little buggers, and use color and scent to attract bees, birds or bats.
"There was one plant (historic naturalist Charles) Darwin found in the tropics that had a foot-long tube. He hypothesized there would be a moth with a foot-long tongue, and everybody laughed at him. A hundred years later, they found that moth with the foot-long tongue."
Hull suggests hikers come with an open mind, and bring a magnifying glass.
"Be ready to learn and look at really tiny stuff," she said.
Dave Matty, WSU dean of Ssciences, said he has been impressed with Yikes! Science Hikes!
"It's really been a student initiative, and advanced students have reached out to other advanced students, and to faculty and staff," Matty said. "It's a great way to encourage people to get out and enjoy nature, and to learn more about the science that goes on around us every day. It's part of Weber State's mission to share our expertise, and to reach out to the community and to people who want to learn."
Here's the schedule of upcoming Yikes! Science Hikes!:
* Today: "Plant Sex," 10 a.m., 36th Street trailhead. A botany leader will explore the evolution of flowers along the trail, and what plant sex really is.
* June 15: Plants for survival, 9 a.m. at the Beus Trail, 4600 Street trailhead. From tools to food, plants have a variety of survival uses. Botany leaders will address what native plants have to offer.
* June 22: "Look Up Not Down," 7 p.m. at Taylor Canyon/Bonneville Shoreline trail, 29th Street trailhead. An astronomy leader will discuss the universe, and our neighboring sun and stars.
* June 29: "Detecting Climate Change on Earth," 9 a.m. at the 22nd Street trailhead. A geology leader will talk about current and past climate changes, human impact and the evidence.
* July 2: "Which Came First, the Canyon or the River?" 9 a.m. at the Indian Trail, meet at mile marker 10 (near the Smoky the Bear sign) up Ogden Canyon. The geology leader will reconstruct the history of Ogden Canyon.
* July 9: "Math in Nature," 7 p.m. at Waterfall Canyon, off the 29th Street trailhead. A math expert will help participants see patterns, distances and spatial relations in nature.
* Aug. 31: "Big and Small in Our Mountains," 9 a.m. at Taylor Canyon, 29th street trailhead. Botany and microbiology leaders will examine nature, from giant trees to microscopic life.
* Sept. 7: "The Power of Water," 9 a.m. at Burch Creek Trail, at 4600 Ridgedale Drive. Water carves through solid rock, twisting and turning past nature's obstacles. A veteran geology expert will lead the hike.
* Sept. 14: For bug- lovers, meet at 10 a.m. at Beus Trail. An entomologist will talk about the world of invertebrates, and the delicately balanced relationships between insects and humans.
* Sept. 21: "Science Exploration for Kids," 10 a.m. at 36th Street trailhead. Education experts will help children explore nature.
* Date and time to be announced: "Biology of Hiking," Indian Trail, starting at 22nd Street trailhead. Physiology experts will guide you on an adventure as you explore the "Biology of Hiking" and learn about the changes that take place inside your body while you are exerting energy.
The hikes last one to two hours, and children are welcome. No registration is required, but those who register can get updates.
To register, email email@example.com or call Yearsley at 801-682-5545. For an online schedule of the science hike schedule, which may be updated as the summer progresses, visit http://webercsme.org/scienceoutside.
Yearsley also recommends Wednesday night non-guided local hikes hosted by Meetup, www.meetup.com/webercountyoutdoors.