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Fishing at Shaggers

This week’s blog was written by Kierra O., a Gobblers alumni. Kierra hopes to pursue my career as a veterinarian. She attended the Wildlife Leadership Academy to see if she wanted specialize in wildlife veterinary care. Kierra has always been in the woods growing up and she knew that this camp was something that she was going to enjoy. Kierra takes interest in hunting, fishing, hiking, and multiple other outdoor activities.

On August 27, my family and I went to Shaggers. It’s lake near Parker Dam. Our morning started out a bit bumpy. We didn’t catch a whole lot of fish. Later throughout the day our luck turned for the better. But the sun was no part of that fun. We all had blazing red skin and my uncle had it the worst. My uncle was so sunburnt that looked like a full blown lobster.

This is my mom’s Snapping Turtle
This is a little glimpse of what Shaggers looks like

In the mid half of our day we could look out by the swallow area of the water and see little turtles basking in the sun. Then my mom caught a good sized snapping turtle. We usually catch one every time we go to Shaggers. Also, there’s an Osprey nest that’s been there for years. I absolutely love going there. It’s a great place to spend some quality time with my family.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

What Bug Is Eating My State Tree?

This week’s blog was written by Paloma M., a Brookies alumni. Paloma is a reporter who specializes in environmental and climate studies. She loves informing those around her about the latest news about our planet, with an emphasis on politics and media. She attended Wildlife Leadership Academy to get out into the world and learn more about the environment she was reporting on.

Paloma collaborated with Leo U., a Brookies alumni to provide the photos for her blog. Leo is an aspiring artist and photographer with a passion for evolutionary biology and herpetology. They love informing those around them about the natural world, especially topics that are obscure or overlooked. Leo attended the Wildlife Leadership academy to learn more about native species and conservation.

The Eastern Hemlock is the designated state tree for Pennsylvania. Passed down from Canada around the 1900s, it quickly gained traction all throughout the state. However, recent years have presented a new and dangerous threat to the beloved tree: insect invasion.

Initially introduced unintentionally from Japan to Canada in the early 1920s and later moving south, the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, otherwise known as HWA, quickly spread like wildfire among all Hemlock trees. They bore holes into the trunks of trees, eating away at their starches and severely damaging the internal structure of the hemlock. Both the state of New York (another large location of the Hemlock) and the state of Pennsylvania have instilled measures to help keep our state trees safe. Most of these measures are offensive, targeting already present insects via chemical pesticides. Some of these measures include Biological Prevention, introducing natural predators to kill the unwanted species; Chemical Control, which uses insecticides; and Integrated Pest Management, a combination of the previous two.

Invasive HWA actively attacking hemlock tree. This infection in particular is not very advanced yet.

As homeowners, there are many things you can do to help your local trees. The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources states that there are 3 main things to do: Use systemic insecticides, Harvest and replant and Wait and see. The main method used is systemic insecticides which uses the chemicals Imidacloprid and Dinotefuran, both of which can be found at your local gardening store. For some trees, it may be better to harvest and replace, planting a new, healthy tree in the place of the infected stump if the homeowner sees that the infection has progressed too far. The final suggestion of wait and see is mainly for if only one tree is infected. The best thing to do is see if only the isolated tree remains infected and whether investing in something like insecticides is worth it.

A small localized infection on a local Eastern Hemlock tree.
A small localized infection on a local Eastern Hemlock tree.

In the end, all homeowners need to contribute to save this beloved tree. Its survival depends on everyone pitching in and following the guidelines found on the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources. You can also find additional guidelines with the New York State Department of Conservation. For more information, the New York State Hemlock Initiative is a great place to find accurate and useful information. And, most importantly, let’s save our state tree.

The photos used in this blog were captured and belong to Leo U., a Brookies alumni.

Flashback Blog: Autumn’s Gift

This week’s Flashback Blog was written in 2021 by Micaela J., a Bucktails alumni. Micaela is currently a student at Indiana University of Pennsylvania where she is studying Mathematics/Actuarial Science. Micaela credits WLA for making her aware of her impact on the environment, although she has always been conscious of her ecological footprint. The Wildlife Leadership Academy has also encouraged Michaela to advocate to others the importance of program and it’s impact.

Reds, oranges, rusts, yellows, golds, browns; both vibrant and muted colors fill the Fall landscape. As the air becomes crisp and the leaves fall like snowflakes, I become lost in the beauty around me. I make the time to slow down and breathe in nature’s gifts.

A Fall bloom
A rain-kissed rose

Some people see Fall as a time of death and decay, as the trees lose their leaves and we brace ourselves for the barren solitude of ice and snow that is to follow. That is not what I see when the leaves start to change colors, preparing to fall. I am filled with excitement as the new season approaches. I find the variety of colors in the trees to be stunning, as the colors can have such variety, yet continue to complement one another so well. The summer flowers are fading, but surprise me with a random fall blown. Mums and asters now replace their summer cousins, their flower’s hues mimic those of the fall leaves. During the Fall season, decor changes as well from the lighter, sunny colors of Summer to the darker, warmer tones of Autumn.

A surprise after the storm

For me, the fall season is full of joy and excitement. The carefree and creepy activities of Halloween: carving spooky pumpkins; bouncing along on a hayride; picking apples for sauces, ciders, and treats; wandering through corn mazes or haunted houses, and decorating our house and yard, are ones that I always looked forward to. Even the fall chores of raking leaves and gathering sticks for cool weather fires bring about a feeling of warmth and comfort inside of me. We are preparing to hunker down for the hurricanes and storms of the Fall as well as the snow and ice storms of Winter. Some dread these storms, I don’t. As my family is prepared for outages and homebound squalls, having wood cut and stacked for fires and flashlights/candles for lights. Although these are not ideal weather situations, they provide a feeling of togetherness for my family, slowing down the business of everyday life to step back and take the time to focus on family. And after the storms are over, we are sometimes left with a beautiful picture in the sky.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

Flashback Blog: Caverns of the Mid-Atlantic

This week’s Flashback Blog was written in 2021 by Kendal M., a Brookies, Bass, and Gobblers alumni. Kendal is currently a student at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry where they are studying Forest Ecology. Kendal returned to the academy this summer where they aided in supporting the field school as an apprentice.

After the aquatic intensive weekend, my mom surprised me with a trip to Penn’s Cave. Penn’s Cave is an all-water cavern that was officially discovered in 1795 by a pastor named James Martin. Before he discovered the cave, it was used by Native Americans as shelter from freezing temperatures. It was able to be used as a shelter from cold because it stays at 52 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The cave water has some trout because it stays at 38 degrees Fahrenheit. However, there are not many due to the high turbidity of the water within the cave.

The exit of Penn’s Cave

Penn’s Cave is a notable cave system in Pennsylvania, but there are many in the region, one example is Luray Caverns. Luray Caverns is a large cave system that was discovered in 1878. The cave is a very popular attraction located in Northern Virginia. The cave has an impressive amount of stalagmites (rock formations that rise from the ground) and stalactites (rock formations that hang from ceilings of caves). The most famous of these stalagmites and stalactites is named Pluto’s Ghost. Pluto’s Ghost is located in Pluto’s Chasm, a ravine that is more than 500 feet long, and 90 feet deep. The white pillar was formed when a stalagmite and stalactite grew together.

Pluto’s Ghost in Luray Caverns

The cave system also has a lithophone, an instrument that strikes rocks to make notes. The lithopone is known as the Great Stalacpipe Organ. The Great Stalacpipe Organ was designed by Leland W. Sprinkle in 1965, the lithophone is still in operation today, but is mechanized to play for tours. Luray Caverns has a wide variety of mineral formations, such as flowstone draperies and bodies of water. Flowstone draperies are made of calcium deposits, this calcium is deposited through running water. The deposits look sheet-like. Luray Caverns has one of the most formed flowstone draperies in the world, this flowstone drapery is named Saracen’s Tent. Luray Caverns has a few bodies of water within it, but the largest is called Dream Lake. Dream Lake is 20 inches deep, but it looks like there is no water at all. The water has a mirror-like appearance, so the stalactites above it look like they are stalagmites. Instead of looking like a body of water, it looks like a large chasm. The water in Dream Lake is rather shallow, but the water in the Wishing Well is much deeper. The Wishing Well also has a mirror effect, but instead of making the 7-foot water look deeper, it makes it look more like 3 or 4 feet deep.

Stalagmites and stalactites in Luray Caverns

The topographic features of the Appalachian Mountains can be exciting to the point where we ignore the features that are underground, but the underground features can be just exciting if not more. Luray Caverns and Penn’s Cave are just two examples of the impressive geography of our region.

Two of the photos used in this blog were sourced from the internet. They can be found here and here. The remaining photo belongs to the author.

A group of students posing at the base of a waterfall

Flashback Blog: Hike With Care

This week’s Flashback Blog was written in 2019 by Laura M., a Bass alumni. Laura is currently a student at Penn State University studying Civil Engineering. This past spring, Laura took a study abroad trip to Peru to study sustainability and the Spanish language. Laura credits WLA for giving her a new perspective on conservation – specifically the mock town hall meeting where she learned that sustainability has to be looked at through many perspectives.

A little while ago, my youth group and I went on a hike in Ricketts Glen State Park. This park, located in Benton, PA, is extremely beautiful and has many wonderful opportunities in addition to hiking, including boating, swimming, fishing, and camping. All of the hikes at Ricketts Glen are beautiful, but one specific trail, called the Falls Trail, is especially beautiful because it goes along a stream with many waterfalls. However, this trail isn’t the safest – it goes along some sheer edges, is very steep and narrow in some sections, and is also very slippery when wet. Therefore, like all trails, it is important to wear proper clothing and bring appropriate gear.

A group of students in a forest trail with green trees all around. They're walking across a small bridge overlooking the water.
Crossing a bridge over a stream on the Rickett’s Glen Falls Trail.

A brief description of the trail, along with some things you should wear and take on the hike to make sure you stay safe to follow. To start this trail, go to the Lake Rose trailhead near the front of Ricketts Glen State Park. There are two other accesses to this trail, however, this is the easiest access and is also where my youth group started.

Follow the trail into the woods. At this point, you may start to wonder where the waterfalls are since there isn’t even a stream nearby when you start the hike. However, as you hike, you will come across the stream and then the first waterfall, which is called Mohawk falls. At this point, the trail starts to get a little tricky, especially if you are not wearing the proper footwear. The trail is mostly a steep downhill for the first half, followed by a relatively steep uphill for the second half. And a good bit of the trail is mostly made of rocks. These rocks are very smooth from wear and get very slippery when wet.

A group of students walking around a white waterfall in the forest. They're walking across stones to get a closer look.
Exploring at the base of the one waterfall.

As you continue to follow the stream, there are many more cool waterfalls. When you get to the lowest point in the trail, you turn left to make a loop up to the Highlands Trail and then back to the Lake Rose trailhead. For this trail, along with any trail, it is important to wear proper clothing and to bring proper supplies. You should make sure that you wear proper shoes, like sturdy sneakers or hiking boots. Never wear sandals or flip flops (I have seen many people wear them) since the trail is usually wet and slippery and it is necessary to have good footing.

For this trail, it is a good idea to wear long pants, a t-shirt, and a jacket, as it is chilly along the trail, sometimes even in summer. You should always take plenty of water and a few snacks since you never know how long you might be on the trail (it is always possible to get lost). Make sure to take a basic first aid kit just in case someone falls and gets hurt. Take a phone so you can contact someone if you need help. Always tell someone where you are going and when to expect you back. It is always possible to get lost. In this case, the waterfalls are the pièce de résistance! Take a camera and be prepared to take multiple pictures! Have fun and enjoy nature.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.