Jon Nelson, wildlife curator at the High Desert Museum, will be speaking next week in Sisters. He is seen here with a golden eagle. wphoto provided
Jon Nelson, wildlife curator at the High Desert Museum, will be speaking next week in Sisters. He is seen here with a golden eagle. wphoto provided
Jon Nelson, from the High Desert Museum, will be the speaker at a presentation next week sponsored by the Sisters Trails Alliance (STA). Nelson is the Curator of Wildlife at the iconic Central Oregon museum. As such, he will be talking about the animal residents of the museum. The talk is the latest in the Bjarne Holm Speaker Series sponsored by STA. The STA series focuses on local outdoor recreation and natural resource issues.

Nelson is looking forward to his upcoming date with the STA.

“I’d say that my goal in the work I do is to connect all kinds of people to the wildlife in our region so that they will continue to be aware of our native animals and want to conserve them,” he said. “Presenting to the trail alliance seems like a natural extension of that work, as they also seek to connect communities to their natural surroundings. I imagine that valuing the wildlife in our area is an important component of their work as well.

“For this presentation,” Nelson said, “I am happy to talk about the wildlife collection at the museum, particularly how we work with and train the animals using integrated techniques based on operant conditioning. Training is used to encourage animals to participate in their own care, empowering them to make choices about participation which maximizes their welfare in captivity and allows us to also enhance the educational experience for our visitors.”

The High Desert Museum is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a zoo. In fact, Nelson explained, “Most of the wildlife at the museum is not viewable to the public on exhibit, but rather is trained to participate in programs which engage and inspire people to care about wild animals and conservation of the landscapes they depend on. I oversee the daily care, training, and public presentation of a diverse collection of animals that cannot survive in the wild and are utilized for public education.”

Most of the museum’s animal residents have been rescued after debilitating injuries or never had the opportunity to learn necessary survival skills for life in the wild. Nelson hopes that it may be possible for one of the museum’s animal ambassadors to make a “guest appearance” at next week’s talk in Sisters.

Nelson grew up in Sandy, Oregon, and moved to Bend 10 years ago. He has a B.S. in natural resources from OSU Cascades. He began work with the museum in 2009 and has been wildlife curator since 2015. In addition to his work at the museum, he has conducted field biology work throughout the high desert, including projects with the USGS studying the impacts of lead poisoning on raptors; and he has published research on behavioral relationships between golden eagles and common ravens.

In making the announcement of Nelson’s appearance, Greg Vandehey, an STA board member and member of the Bjarne Holm Speaker Series Committee, said, “STA is very excited to welcome Jon Nelson of the High Desert Museum to our speakers series to hear his thoughts on wildlife and conservation in our local natural surroundings.”

The High Desert Museum has numerous opportunities for the public to become involved, whether through membership, volunteering, donations, or community outreach. Further information can be found at

Through sponsorship of public presentations such as this one, STA is working to promote outdoor public recreation and education in Sisters Country. This next event will be held on Thursday, September 19, in the Sisters Camp Sherman Fire Station Community Hall in downtown Sisters at 301 S. Elm St. Doors will open at 6 p.m., and the formal program will begin at 7 p.m. The program is free and open to the public, but donations would be appreciated; a $5 amount has been suggested. Light refreshments will be


STA will also be selling raffle tickets for hiking, bicycling, and equestrian gift baskets to be awarded at their upcoming Peterson Ridge Trail celebration being held on September 21 at the Village Green Park (see related story, page 3).

Five years ago, STA’s speaker series was launched by the late Bjarne Holm, for whom STA posthumously named the series in 2016. Since its inception, the purpose of STA’s speaker series has been to enhance outdoor public recreation opportunities in the Sisters area and to educate the public about outdoor recreation and the natural world.

For further information about STA, contact the organization at 541-719-8822. Additional information can also be found on their website at or follow STA on Facebook at Sisters Trails Alliance.