Stokes

Employees with the Norwegian-based company Kongsberg Satellite Services visit with children at the Stokes Nature Center up Logan Canyon in Aug. 2019.

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Even during a viral pandemic, an international relationship between a local nature nonprofit and a Norwegian technology company goes on.

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, Kongsberg Satellite Services, also known as KSAT, is doing some online promotion of educational activities provided by the Stokes Nature Center. KSAT typically attends the Small Satellite Conference at Utah State University and would prefer to work with Stokes in-person, but the event is all-online this year.

KSAT posted on the conference’s website links to activities related to birds, a portion of Stokes’ “Staying at Home” program.

Kelly said KSAT has donated money to Stokes and lent their scientists and technicians to speak to groups at the nature center during the time SmallSat is held in Cache Valley.

Speaking about KSAT’s visits to Stokes, Kelly said “It’s great to hear from a diverse array of professionals who help us and our supporters expand our view of nature and science.”

Kelly said such a partnership between Stokes and an international company is “very unique.”

“It’s also great to see that even half a world and continent away, we are united by common values in teaching people about how to recreate outdoors responsibly, and why caring for our natural world is important, no matter where you live or what language you speak,” he wrote in an email.

KSAT officials acknowledged that this year’s online-only promotion of Stokes largely had to do with the fact that the conference, held Aug. 1-6, was conducted entirely online. USU officials decided in May there would not be an on-site event this year — the first time in SmallSat’s 33-year history.

“As we are all joining the conference virtually this year — we wanted to share our mission with all of you and your families at home by providing this activity created by the Education Staff at Stokes,” KSAT wrote in a statement on smallsat.org.

“We hope that you can enjoy exploring one of the most prolific classes of creatures — birds! We hope you get outside and remember what a wonderful world we are lucky to inhabit.”

The link includes an online game designed to test your skills at identifying camouflaged nest eggs, a link to a killdeer protecting its nest and even a chance for children to show off their creativity by illustrating their own bird adaptations.

Patrick Kelly, director of education at the Stokes Nature Center, told The Herald Journal the “Staying Home with Stokes” programs were designed to help parents and children at the onset of Gov. Gary Herbert’s “Stay Home, Stay Safe” initiative.

“The goal is to keep providing inspiring educational lessons to folks, no matter where they live, that they can do in their own backyard, front sidewalk, or elsewhere,” Kelly wrote. “Even though the world seems upside down or unfamiliar of late, it’s good to be perceptive of the many anchors in the present which remind us that the world is still fascinating and good to be a part of. These activities further promote healthy outdoor experiences that remind us that nature is healing and keep kids learning and engaged even during uncertainty.”

In a phone interview from Norway on Thursday, Nina Soleng, director of communications for KSAT, spoke about the “challenging” situation of many people staying at home due to COVID-19 and encouraged everyone to take advantage of Stokes’ educational programming.

“It’s really worth a visit to go into the Stokes Nature Center website to look at the amazing work that they do and they have a lot of very nice activities that you can do as a family,” Soleng said.

She said KSAT’s relationship with Stokes began several years ago as part of her company’s “corporate social responsibility program.”

“We do support local nonprofit organizations every year as we want to give something back to the communities we operate in, supporting children and young people in sports, culture, education and outdoor activities,” Soleng said.

With social responsibility in mind, KSAT took a particular interest in Stokes upon learning it fit the company’s bill as far as community outreach, she said.

“They have these educational programs year-round for kids, focusing on understanding nature, sustainability, and an appreciation for nature,” Soleng said. “That resonated very well with us. We’re operating in some of the world’s most environmentally sensitive areas and know the importance of good stewardship.”

KSAT was founded in 1967 and provides public and commercial customers access to satellites through its network of ground stations operating on 23 sites around the world, according to the company’s website. KSAT presence includes an office in Colorado.

Close to the north pole, KSAT has the only ground station in the world that can see all the orbits from a polar-orbiting satellite, Soleng said. On the other side of the world, in Antartica, KSAT operates a ground station, too.

“Together they form a unique pole-to-pole connection, ensuring global coverage i.e. for meteorological satellites, making data available to the end-users all over the world,” Soleng wrote in an email. “The Svalbard North Pole station is recognized as the best-located ground station in the world for satellite control and has become the world’s largest with 100 antenna systems. Both the Arctic and Antarctic stations are located in fragile environments. KSAT and our employees are committed to ensure sustainable operations with minimal impact on nature and wildlife.”

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