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Flashback Blog: Leave No Trace

This week’s Flashback Blog was written in 2017 by Julia B., a Bass and Bucktails alumni. Julia graduated in 2021 from Lehigh University with a BS in Earth & Environmental Sciences as well as a BS in Biological Sciences. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Calgary. Throughout this throwback blog, Julia also highlights the steps that one must take if you are to follow the guidelines for Leave No Trace.

There are few things as wonderful as enjoying the outdoors, but in order to maintain our planet’s natural wonders for future outdoors men and women need to practice sustainable outdoor recreation.  The seven principles of Leave No Trace can help to preserve the wildlife that we enjoy.  It might seem difficult to completely eliminate human-made impacts on the environment, but by leaving wild places in as similar of a condition to when we found them as possible, we can protect the outdoors for generations to come.

The first step is simple: planning ahead.  By carrying a detailed map and being prepared, you can reduce the chance that you will need to go off the trail.  It is also important to be prepared to carry any trash out with you by perhaps bringing a bag to hold your trash in your pack.  You can also reduce your impact by traveling in small groups and planning trips for when the area you plan to visit is not busy.

The second rule requires that adventurers only travel and camp on durable surfaces.  By keeping your physical footprint to a minimum, healthy wildlife is preserved in all its beauty.  Avoid camping within 200 feet of lakes and streams to protect riparian areas.  Try to walk single file in the center of trails, even if it’s muddy.  In general, don’t make your own trails or campsites if you can avoid it, and try to walk and camp on gravel, rock, dry grass, or snow.

Next, the principles require that people dispose of their waste properly.  The phrase, “pack it in, pack it out,” explains that no food or trash should be left behind when you leave an area.  When washing dishes or bathing, move more than 200 feet from lakes or streams and use very small quantities of biodegradable soap.  Moreover, strain and scatter dishwater to prevent the introduction of foods to the area that may not be good for native animals.

The rule, “Leave What You Find,” explains that neither organic materials, like plants and animals nor inorganic materials, like rocks or water, should be taken from wild areas.  One reason for this rule is to avoid introducing or transporting non-native and potentially invasive species, but additionally, people who come after you should be able to see everything that you enjoyed when you visited the natural area. Photography can be a great alternative to taking souvenirs!

The following rule asks visitors to minimize the impacts of their campfires by following any rules for fires in the area and respecting burn bans.  If you don’t need to light a fire, don’t light a fire.  If you must, you should use existing fire rings and keep fires small.  A good way to keep your fire the correct, safe size is to use only sticks from the ground that are small enough to be broken by hand.  Campfires can be extremely destructive, so be careful to put out fires completely and scatter the cool ashes when you’re done.

The last two rules ask that visitors respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors.  Do not approach, feed, or follow wildlife.  Store your food and trash carefully to prevent animals from finding and eating it.  Control any pets you bring with you and avoid making loud noises that affect both wildlife and other visitors negatively.  To the best of your ability, allow your fellow visitors to appreciate the natural sights and sounds.

Many of the rules are simply common sense to a conscientious outdoors man or woman.  Wildlife should be left just as you found it.  The phrase, “Leave only footprints; take only pictures,” nicely sums up the rules of Leave No Trace, as long as your footprints stay on the trails!

Earth Through My Eyes

This week’s blog was written by Jacob K., a Gobblers alumni. Jacob is a rising junior at West Virginia University. He is currently pursuing a degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Resources with a focus on wildlife. Jacob plans on becoming a wildlife biologist and hopefully study owls in the near future. He wanted to attend the academy because he had always wanted to take a deeper dive into wildlife biology in high school and WLA seemed like a great place to start.

Earth. To some, this means the planet where we live and to others, it can mean so much more than that. Throughout my life, I have been able to experience the different things this earth has to offer, and I must say it is truly spectacular. The natural world offers so many different biomes each having its own unique features and qualities that make it truly a one-of-a-kind environment. So, join me through this blog post as I will share a few different ways I have been able to experience Earth’s true adventure.

The sun peeking through trees on the Appalachian Trail

The woods. Probably the most familiar and diverse ecosystem that most of us get to experience. For the most part, when people talk about, “the woods”, they typically mean a deciduous forest. Personally, I have spent most of my time exploring nature in the woods. Growing up in southeastern Pennsylvania, you didn’t have to go far to find yourself immersed in the maple and oak trees standing tall above your head. Now I could write a 7-page paper about all the adventures I’ve had in the woods, and I’m sure some of you could too. Except for that statement right there is what makes this part of Earth’s wild abundance so fascinating in my opinion. You can talk to almost anyone about the woods and they will have some sort of story about them enjoying the world in the forest. For instance, most of the experiences that really sold me were things like backpacking, kayaking, hunting, fishing, and my newest hobby birding. Birding has taken my view of the woods and turned it up about 10 notches. There is just something about testing your knowledge while in the woods that adds a whole new level of enjoyment. So, if you’re reading this and you haven’t ever stepped foot in the woods or you haven’t been able to experience that smell of pine in one-to-many years, take a walk in the woods and you truly won’t regret it.

Lake Wallenpaupack PA in late winter

Now let’s travel across the spectrum a little bit. The ocean. A vast landscape with its own unique ecosystem. Personally, I have never had too much interest in the ocean. I always thought, why travel hours to go look at some water when I have a whole ecosystem in the woods that I still am learning tons about. Well, all of that changed just a few weeks ago. I am currently typing this blog in a refuge house on an island in the middle of the Long Island Sound. Yep. Bet you didn’t expect me to say that. The ocean has truly taken me by storm. The main reason I’m out here is that I am working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doing research on common and roseate tern populations on Falkner Island.

A common tern on Falkner Island CT

Now some of you may be thinking, how do this bird and the ocean relate? Well, the ocean is truly its own world. New birds, new fish, new insects, and new mammals. Every day I watch different seabirds and wading birds such as Glossy Ibis, Great Black-Backed Gull, Ruddy Turnstone, and many others venture through the island. Just the other day I had a harbor seal come up next to me and watch me as I watched terns through my scope. I would never be able to experience any of this back in Pennsylvania. These are simply two examples of how Earth is different across the globe and even across the country.

Green Heron at Greenlane Reservoir PA

If anyone is still having trouble understanding what I am getting at, think of it like this. Earth is like ice cream. There are a bunch of different flavors that all have their own unique ingredients that make them special. What I encourage everyone to do is to try a new flavor of Earth! Living in the saltwater of the Atlantic has taught me that if you think the flavor you’ve always had is good, wait until you try another because it could become your new favorite!

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

Flashback Blog: Cooking Up Aliens

This week’s Flashback Blog was written in 2016 by Eli D., a Brookies and Ursids alumni. Eli recently graduated from Penn State with a degree in Wildlife Technology and Forestry. Eli works as a Forest Resources Supervisor where he runs an invasive plant management program. He is actively engaged with multiple conservation organizations including the Appalachian Audubon and the Central PA Conservancy. Throughout this throwback blog, Eli shares his thoughts on the prevalence of invasive species…as well as a practical application of the adage “If you can’t beat ’em…eat ’em!”

Of all the issues that face our natural resources today, none can claim to have done more damage than invasive species. Invasives come in many forms and are all nonnative with destructive tendencies.  From the feral swine of the South to the garlic mustard-infested woodlots of suburbia, we are surrounded by alien flora and fauna. Sadly, there isn’t a lot that we can do to stop the invasion, but we can make the most of it. My favorite way of dealing with invasive only takes a bit of culinary creativity and an open mind.

Since many invasive species were introduced by people for consumption, a surprising number of invasive are not only edible but also delectable. Invasive species introduced for food include garlic mustard, wineberry, and feral swine. All of these species are very tasty. I have personally tasted them all in various forms. Garlic mustard makes for a wonderful salad and is easily harvested in the springtime. Wineberry is common in many woodlands and ripens in mid-summer making for a sweet summertime treat. And, feral swine is very amazing in a stew.

Some of my other “favorite” invaders include Brown Trout and Rusty Crayfish. Here are my favorite recipes for each of them:

Pan-Fried “Brownies”

(fisherman approved, healthy meal)

Ingredients: two boneless brown trout fillets, one egg, bread crumbs, Old Bay ©, and olive oil.

Procedure: Egg wash the fillets, then coat with bread crumbs. Then fry trout in a pan of olive oil until flakey. The outside of the trout should get a golden semi-crisp coating. Serve up on a plate with fried potatoes and stewed tomatoes. Sweet tea or root beer compliments this meal nicely.

Crawfish and Corn Soup 

(approved by the Camp Hill cooking elite)

Ingredients:  ½ cup butter, 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1 medium chopped onion, ¼ cup of chopped green onion, 4 cups of milk, 2-15 oz. cans cream-style corn, 1-15 oz. can whole kernel corn, 10.75 oz. can of condensed cream of potato soup, ¼ teaspoon of creole seasoning, ½ teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, 1 dash of hot sauce, salt, and 1 pound of crawfish meat.

Procedure:  Mix butter and flour into a light roux in a big pot over low heat. Stir continuously for 5 minutes. Next, add the onions and cook till wilted. Then add everything except the crawfish. Cook for 20 minutes, add crawfish and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

While you certainly don’t have to make a hobby out of cooking up aliens as I have, I would encourage you to think outside the box when it comes to your palate. Invasive species are abundant, delicious, and a wonderful way to bring adventure into your kitchen.

A Green New Future

This week’s blog is a guest post by Sinclaire O., a Bucktails alumni and a former NextGen Blog correspondent. Sinclaire is attending college at the Rochester Institute of Technology studying Public Policy with a focus in Environmental Studies and International Relations.

How we proceed forward with climate change will impact the way we live. Even the places we call home will start to change, especially if we do not do anything about it. Many times when we think of a place that will be climate-resilient, we think of rural areas that might have little impact on climate change due to low density, less emission output, and more greenery. But what if we changed our mindset? What if the future of our living environment will actually come from the dense urban landscapes of cities?

Western Harbour, one of Malmö’s eco-districts

Recently I had the honor of being able to travel to Sweden to study and analyze the city of Malmö. Here in this busy city, it has changed the way I and many of my fellow peers view cities. In Malmö, there is a big emphasis on public transportation, ride-sharing, biking and scootering, and walking. The city itself has also made the initiative to create “eco-districts” that serve as climate-resilient towns that work with nature instead of against it. While there, the amount of greenery I encountered in one city alone (from roof-tops to parks, and even street medians) was more than any city in the US in my experience. I can walk outside and not smell the city. It seemed like a dream and made it hard to believe that this was reality. However, the longer I was there, the more I envied them. Why can’t the US have this? Why do I have to travel halfway across the globe to see opportunities for a climate-resilient future?

Rooftop of apartment building in Augustenborg, another eco-district in Malmö, that contains gardens, trees, and community areas for residents

So why talk about Malmö? Well, as Earth’s population continues to grow, there will be more need for urbanization as well as densification. They have been a leader in managing both a growing need for housing (while this is still a concern and priority) as well as becoming a sustainable city. But how can we do this without overwhelming Earth and stepping back from any progress that has been made through climate action? Simple. Create a living environment that is aware and conscious of climate change. Instead of fighting with nature, listen to it and allow it to coincide with humans. When people can see the work of what one tree does or how an improved public transportation system connects us further, people can feel closer to home with climate resiliency. The closer we are connected to our actions, the more progress that can be made. Malmö does not have to be alone. Many more cities can replicate this going forward. Once we change our viewpoint, a world of possibilities opens up for us.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

My Journey in Becoming a Conservation Ambassador

This week’s blog was written by Vanessa V., a Bucktails alumni. Vanessa shares her virtual field school experience.

I was introduced to the Wildlife Leadership Academy by my eighth-grade science teacher, Barbara Sharpe. I’ve had many experiences in my life, but having the opportunity to be in WLA was the best one and I owe it all to the staff of WLA. In June, I attended the Bucktails field school in hopes of expanding my knowledge of wildlife and I received exactly that. The WLA staff and alumni made sure that we had an amazing virtual experience and I loved every second of it.

One of my favorite activities that we did during field school was nature journaling. I enjoyed this because I was able to show everyone my poetic and literary skills. Another activity that I enjoyed and learned was how to identify plants from Cat Pugh and Dr. Chris Sacchi. I enjoyed learning this because I am able to apply my knowledge of different plant species to the world and I am able to identify plants that I did not know how to identify before. I didn’t think that I would have so much passion for nature journaling and identifying plants. I am so grateful that I am able to have these skills and that I am able to teach them to my family and friends.

Being a part of the Wildlife Leadership Academy and being virtual definitely had an impact on me. The part of the virtual school that influenced me the most was presenting. It had the most impact on me because even if we were virtual and didn’t get to see one another face to face, it really helped me boost my confidence and it taught me that I shouldn’t hold back on what I have to say.

A program like WLA matters to me because they show that they are dedicated to teaching us about wildlife and they show patience toward our struggles. It also matters because before I joined WLA, I was clueless about wildlife and how overbrowsing affects deer habitat. Conservation is important to me because I want to protect wildlife and prevent their ecosystems from being harmed in the future. It is also important because I think taking the steps to fix or take care of something shows amazing leadership skills. Learning how to become a Conservation Ambassador was the most challenging but amazing opportunity I’ve had. It was challenging because I didn’t know most of the information that other people knew and I was very shy at the beginning. I witnessed myself grow into a confident young girl who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and who isn’t afraid to present in front of people.

Since I gained confidence I decided to push myself to gain bonus outreach points. To give other students the opportunity to become a conservation ambassador and have the experience of a lifetime, I want to Pay it Forward. The goal of paying it forward is to raise $500 to cover another student’s tuition cost for the program. I am beyond excited to participate in Pay it Forward and to change another student’s life for the better.

In conclusion, I think everyone should look into applying for the Wildlife Leadership Academy because it is an amazing opportunity to learn about wildlife even if you do not see yourself pursuing this type of career. I have had many experiences in my life, but having the opportunity to be a part of the Wildlife Leadership Academy was and is one of the best experiences I have ever had.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.