Brian Ahshapanek first enrolled at the School of Environmental Sciences in 1988. More than three decades later, he will graduate with a degree in Environmental Science and Resource Management (ESRM).

In the time between he started and finished his degree, Ahshapanek, a member of the Mukleshoot Tribe, worked for and retired from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS). He served as a smokejumper, which is a specially trained wildland fighter who provides initial response on wildfires by parachuting into remote and rugged terrain.

On Thursday, he was far from the fire line when he presented his poster at the 2019 ESRM Capstone event. The annual event allows ESRM seniors to share their work and research. At the event, Ahshapanek presented his poster, “Tomanamus (Mountain Spirit): The Working Forest of the Muckleshoot Tribe,” which explained the management and purpose of the Tomanamus Forest.

Now that he’s retired, Ahshapanek leads the Mukleshoot Youth Crew, a stewardship group that spends the summer learning about forest engineering, forestry and wildlife by working in the field.

“I figured if I’m encouraging these youth to go to college, I should finish my degree,” he said.

Ahshapanek will graduate on June 14 with other SEFS students.