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The Wildlife Society

This week’s blog was written by Devin G., a Bucktails alumni. He writes about The Wildlife Society and the opportunities it has brought him.

The Wildlife Society is a group dedicated to improving wildlife conservation in North America. It was created in 1937 to promote the sustainable management of wildlife and in the past 82 years, membership has risen to 7,500. This organization uses many methods to support its goals such as advancing the science of wildlife management, promoting the continuing education of wildlife professionals, and advocating for sound, science-based wildlife policy. They also release a number of publications including three academic journals and a popular magazine. I am lucky to have joined this society and I owe it to the Wildlife Leadership Academy.

Our student chapter participates in an otter population survey.

I first learned of The Wildlife Society when I went to the Pennsylvania chapter conference in early 2019. Here, I went with the other WLA early birds. We presented tri-fold displays and attended fascinating presentations on wildlife research and ongoing projects. After attending this conference, I continued to remain involved in The Wildlife Society, joining my college’s student chapter. This provided me with great opportunities to participate in interesting activities and meet new people who are also interested in wildlife.

Through this organization, I have been able to help with otter population research in Rocky Mountain National Park as well as attend even more conferences. In September, I went to the National Wildlife Society conference in Reno, Nevada. There I was able to network with a variety of professionals who contained vast amounts of knowledge and experience. I was also able to go to the Wyoming Wildlife Society conference in Sheridan this past November. My experiences with The Wildlife Society have helped me learn more about becoming a wildlife biologist and introduced me to many new friends. I recommend that anyone interested in a career with wildlife consider joining their local chapter of The Wildlife Society.

The photo used in this blog belongs to the author.

Winter

This week’s blog was written by Sinclaire O., a Bucktails alumni. She shares a poem that she wrote about the changes that show us that winter has arrived.

There is something around us that has changed.

I can feel it inside of me.

There is a little nip in the air and some frost on the ground.

Nature’s sounds have changed;

It is as if the world around us has gotten quieter.

Every step I take follows through with a crunch.

There is a white powdery covering on all of the trees and hills,

As if they were coated in sugar.

This is winter and it has made its presence known.

Snow-covered trees in my yard

The photo used in this blog belongs to the author.

A Fisherman’s Form of Art

This week’s blog was written by Jacob D., a Brookies alumni. He writes about how he started to make his own fishing lures.

As a fisherman, I used to dread the cold winter months. It seemed as if all there was to do was wait for spring. But now I keep busy on dark winter nights making my own fishing lures.

A variety of handmade lures

I started by just painting jigs. Then I moved on to more complex lures. I’ve learned to make many lures from small jigs for panfish to large inline spinners for pike. I enjoy experimenting with different sizes and colors. Sometimes I even invent a new lure. I’m always curious about what (if anything) my lures will catch.

My messy work area

It can be overwhelming to look at the wide variety of lure types, colors, and sizes available. Unfortunately, the only way to know exactly what to get is to experiment and go off your personal experience and knowledge. This can get expensive so to save money I try to only buy what I can’t make myself. I buy a bottle of fur dye and color hairs and furs for my lures. This also allows me to make use of another part of the animals I harvest.

A jig dressed with deer tail hairs

There are few things more rewarding than catching a fish with your own lure. It’s challenging to make your own fish catching lure. It’s the careful attention to detail and all the time and effort that makes a handmade lure a fisherman’s form of art.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

Our Delicate Ecosystem

This week’s blog was written by Laura M., a Bass alumni. She writes about what she learned during an experiment in her environmental science class.

Recently in my environmental science class, we did what is known as the bio-bottle lab. In this lab, we had to successfully create an ecosystem in a bottle with two different ecosystems being represented. We needed to have this ecosystem live for two weeks with it completely sealed up. We could not open the bottle if we noticed the organisms dying or for any other reason. We could only observe and watch the events as they played out. What we learned during this experiment was unexpected, and the end results were much different than we expected.

Here is our design for the Bio-Bottle.

For my group, we had a terrestrial ecosystem on top and a freshwater aquatic system on the bottom. We had intentionally put in soil, grass, worms, grasshoppers, slug eggs, and a cricket. At the end of the experiment, we found that we put a millipede in there too. For the aquatic system, we put in rocks with algae on them, wild celery, elodea, snails, and a stonecat (we named him Alexi). We later found a little fingernail clam. We got the grass, soil, grasshoppers, and millipede from my backyard, and we got the slug eggs from soil near a creek and the cricket from the pet store (we were originally going to put five crickets instead of three grasshoppers and one cricket in the bottle, but the crickets ate each other before being put into the bottle, so we added grasshoppers too). We got all of the aquatic elements from the Susquehanna River. Originally, we thought that our terrestrial system was going to survive better; however, our end results were drastically different than what we anticipated.

This is Alexi, our adorable stonecat catfish.

Throughout the two weeks, the cricket and three grasshoppers died in the terrestrial system. The grasshoppers ate a lot more grass than we anticipated. They decimated the grass within the first couple of days. As a result, the crickets died immediately, and the grasshoppers died just after a week. We never believed that the grasshoppers would eat that much grass, so in the future, if we were to repeat this experiment, we would probably only have one grasshopper or only have a cricket or two. We weren’t really sure about the exact cause of death for the grasshoppers and cricket. We suspected that it was because of a lack of oxygen or a lack of food. However, after the grasshoppers died, the grass started to regrow, so we could not test oxygen levels to see if that was the cause of death. In the aquatic system, two of the snails died. We didn’t have an idea about the cause of death because there was plenty of food and oxygen. However, they could have just got sick or died from other natural causes.

Throughout this experiment, we learned just how delicate ecosystems are. Our terrestrial ecosystem would probably have been fine if we had just had it balanced better. We needed to have fewer grasshoppers at the top so they wouldn’t eat everything. If this were to happen in a larger environment, the effects would be even greater. If there is too much of one thing in an ecosystem, the effects can be disastrous.

A similar experiment was done on a larger scale in the construction of Biosphere 2. This was a massive, artificial ecosystem that was done to see if an artificial ecosystem could be created to replace the one we already have (Earth) in case it was completely destroyed. However, this experiment was not a success. It showed that people could not replicate Earth’s natural processes on a large scale for us to survive in case of an emergency. Because of this, people should acknowledge that they need to protect the earth that they already have. If we don’t take care of what we have now, we won’t be able to be here in the future. We need to remember that resources are limited, and when they are gone, they are gone forever.

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.

February Student of the Month – Kaylyn W.

Our February student of the month is Kaylyn W., who has been hard at work representing Wildlife Leadership Academy and the outdoors as a Conservation Ambassador in her home community and around the state!

Kaylyn is an equal-opportunity ambassador: she has completed projects in many different categories of outreach so far: she has done education projects like interviewing with the Juniata Sentinel newspaper, who then published an article about her experience at WLA, to giving presentations with her trifold, and creating a quiz booklet where you can “Test Your Knowledge” about trees and leaves. Not to mention, Kaylyn represented Wildlife Leadership Academy admirably at a recent meeting of the Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission in Harrisburg, where she attended with Michele (our Executive Director), and talked about her field school experience at PA Bass.

Kaylyn has also worked on projects like getting friends outdoors for fun activities, teaching skills to younger kids, and exercising her handy abilities by building a wooden toolbox (which she submitted to the Juniata County Fair and won first place + Grand Champion!!) When she’s not acting as a mentor for community members, Kaylyn is also flexing her creative abilities – her Early Bird record book submission showed off an awesome wooly bugger fly she tied, as well as a lovely painting:

We are delighted with Kaylyn’s many accomplishments, and she is clearly multi-talented. We are looking forward to seeing the many and varied projects she is sure to work on in the future. Kaylyn is a hardworking, talented individual, and we are proud to have her in the WLA family!