The Importance of Field Work in Conservation

This week’s blog was written by Emma O., a Drummers alumni. She shares the wonderful opportunities that working with the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth has brought her.

One of my favorite aspects of the Wildlife Leadership Academy–besides attending field school and completing Outreach–is taking advantage of the many opportunities that the organization provides for alumni. Last summer, for example, I applied to the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation. I had first heard mention of the organization in one of the Wildlife Leadership Academy’s monthly Outreach Observer emails; upon researching it further, I knew I wanted to become a member. By the end of the summer, this dream came true!

The Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation’s goals include developing strategies to engage and educate youth across the Commonwealth in the conservation of Pennsylvania’s natural resources, as well as to convey related recommendations to the Governor and the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ secretary.

Here is a “family photo” of the Youth Council!

One of the main reasons why I wanted to be appointed to the Youth Council was because I am highly interested in environmental policy and legislation, and I wanted to gain more experience in this field through working with various governmental departments. Although I have certainly attained experience in this area throughout the several months that I have been an appointee, I have learned more about another area of conservation that I did not expect to–fieldwork.

I was so excited that we were able to handle the snakes that Dr. Delis caught!

At our most recent meeting in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, the Youth Council completed about the same amount of fieldwork as we did environmental policy work. After meeting with both the Adult and Youth Councils to discuss our goals for the year, we ventured outdoors to go on a “herpetology walk” with an experienced Shippensburg University professor named Dr. Pablo Delis. Throughout the afternoon and evening, we trekked around Letterkenny Army Depot’s grassy fields to see if Dr. Delis had caught any snakes with his traps. We were able to catch and observe both ring-necked snakes and black rat snakes! Additionally, Dr. Delis allowed us to take an active role in his research, as several Youth Council members actually recorded his observations for him. It was simply amazing to glean information from such an experienced herpetologist, and to actually be out in the field with him was “icing on the cake!”

One of our Youth Council members caught a five-pound bass! Fun, fun!

The next day, the Youth Council took a morning fishing and kayaking trip to a local lake. We had an excellent time paddling in the water, catching huge bass, and exchanging fishing tips. Later that afternoon, we had the experience of walking around the base with a Pennsylvania Game Commission officer to discuss habitat management for bobwhite quail. It was certainly an interesting experience for a Drummers Field School Alum like myself, as I was able to find marked similarities between the two species’ habitat needs!

Finally, we learned about bobwhite quail habitat management from a PA Game Commission representative.

Experiencing fieldwork through the Pennsylvania Governor’s Youth Council for Hunting, Fishing, and Conservation has allowed me to learn a very important lesson as a naturalist–that any role in conservation, whether it is an environmental policy or not, must be tied in with healthy knowledge of fieldwork. In order to make educated decisions on behalf of the environment, one must be able to back it up with a certain respect and understanding that only fieldwork can provide!

The photos used in this blog belong to the author.