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Embracing the inner “Bat Girl”- Julia Yearout

batsI never thought that joining the project S.A.F.E BB gun team for the Walker county 4-H program would lead me to pursue a career as a wildlife biologist, passionate about environmental education. Growing up in the country, I wanted to join 4-H, so I could show cows like my neighbor down the road; and when that didn’t work out, being on the BB gun team with my school friends became my next best option. Through the next 7 years, I became heavily involved in developing leadership skills through serving on district boards, winning state contests, and attending national competitions/conferences. I learned how to harness the immense amount of energy I had from my extremely extroverted personality to establish my confidence in public speaking and interview skills. 4-H not only helped to develop my interpersonal skills, but it opened doors that lead me to find my passion for environmental education.DPA

In the 6th grade, I decided to compete in my first public speaking competition, known as District Project Achievement (DPA). In this event, I was required to give a speech about a topic of my choice for 6 minutes in front of a panel of judges: I chose White Nose Syndrome (WNS) in bats. This topic choice came from the hobby of caving my family and I started when I was only about 9 years old. I ended up winning first place and was over the moon. I was so excited that I told everyone I knew, each time having them ask me what I spoke about, giving me the opportunity to tell them about the importance of bats and how WNS affects them. The responses I would get about bats were mixed but were skewed heavily toward, “Ew, bats are gross;” however, through my conversations with them, I would see their attitudes change towards bats. At only 12 years old, I started to realize that I enjoyed helping people see through their misconceptions about nature’s stereotypes. This was the start of my passion for environmental education.

G31From then on I wanted to embrace the fact that I was called the “bat girl”. This helped me to realize how much I truly loved wildlife and teaching others about it. I prayed one day I could have a job where I could teach others about how much I love the outdoors and nature, and that’s when God opened the door of being a wild cave tour guide for a company called G3 Adventures. I was a cave guide until they closed their doors in March of 2019, and I loved every minute of it. Not only was I able to get paid to do something I loved, but I was able to change lives and help people conquer fears of things that are scary and sometimes really hard to do. Through leading cave tours, I saw how fears and misconceptions can be transformed by education and experiences and decided that I wanted this to be apart of my future career one day.

I am now perusing my degree in Fisheries and Wildlife with an emphasis in wildlifednr science so that I can be apart of something bigger and to do my part in helping research issues that are affecting the wildlife that was a large part of my childhood. Even though I am interested in being a wildlife biologist, environmental education is still extremely important to me. Even today, I see how impactful environmental education is and how much we need it strongly implemented into the world. Humans have a detrimental impact on the environment, and those impacts are only going to continue to become more intense. Most of the time, people litter, kill venomous snakes and do not conserve energy, simply because they are not educated about the topics. Environmental education is the first line of defense in stopping people from doing things they think are okay so that a new course of positive actions can take place. My dream is to be able to take whatever research that I do, or help with, and turn it into information that can be shared on a public level to help change minds and actions.

The Saturday morning at Rock Eagle 4-H Center where I presented my speech about bats has changed my life forever, and I owe everything I have now to my involvement in G34Georgia 4-H. If you are unfamiliar with 4-H I strongly suggest reaching out to find out more. Whenever I have kids one day, I will strongly encourage them to participate in their local 4-H programs because I know how much it did for me. So, this is my official thank you to Georgia 4-H, for forming me into the person I am today and putting me on the path where I know I will make a difference in the world.

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Finding Your Place – Erika Noriega

Going to a college four hours away from home was a rough transition for me. I had a hard time adjusting to this new environment and finding a place where I felt like I belonged, and partially being undecided on my major made this process even more difficult. However, my first semester I was lucky enough to take a First-Year Odyssey Seminar that peaked my interest. This class discussed Wildlife Diseases and was taught by Dr. Michael Yabsley. From here, I learned that he was a part of both the College of Veterinary Medicine and the Warnell School of Forestry & Natural Resources. Up until this point, I had never heard of Warnell, but I became interested and stayed after class one day to learn more. He told me to reach out to the person in charge of undergraduate student affairs at the time, which I did that same afternoon, and soon enough, I changed my major and had found my new home.

With that being said, my transition into Warnell was not a walk in the park either. Everyone seemed as if they had more experience with the outdoors than I did. Which was true. Growing up, I never spent much time outdoors, I had never even gone camping at that point, but I joined Warnell because I was passionate about wildlife conservation and didn’t want to let my inexperience deter me from achieving my goals. Because of this, I kept questioning if this is where I belonged as well and felt as if my passions may not be enough to make up for my lack of experience.

Man, did this school prove me wrong.83E2FC4F-

One of the first classes everyone has to take when they join Warnell is field measurements, and within my first week of being in this class, we were having lab outside in Whitehall, Warnell’s research forest. Soon enough, I was spending almost every day outside. Through the classes taught at Warnell, I was able to gain confidence in myself and my abilities in the outdoors. I picked up skills that I never thought I would, and along the way, I made some really neat friends, as cheesy as it sounds. These friends furthered my confidence in myself and encouraged me every step of the way. They were there when I needed it most, whether it involved personal issues or simply studying for a lab practical. The best part is, they never judged me for my lack of outdoor experience. In fact, they all wanted to help teach me more! They further helped me feel like Warnell was truly the place I was meant to be in all along, like I had finally found the place where I belonged. Where else are you going to find people whose idea of a good time involves getting covered in mud and catching frogs? (Which is now one of my favorite things to do, by the way).

Despite my hesitation, Warnell and all the people in it welcomed me with open arms, and I could never be more thankful for that. Unfortunately, my time here is quickly coming to an end, but I will never forget everything I learned at Warnell and the amazing people I met while doing it.IMG_7361

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Why Warnell – Emma Kate Beckwith

When people ask the question “Why Warnell?” I could never quite articulate all that encompasses what fuels my passion for this school and the outdoors. Sure, I could have majored in environmental sciences or agriculture, but it is the atmosphere within Warnell that drives me. Second semester of my freshman year I took my second Warnell class: Professional Communications Development. I have always dreaded public speaking and I was terrified of this class, but Dr. Green and Dr. Cleveland really put forth the time and effort to prepare me for the professional world and make me a more confident speaker. It was through them that I found out about Warnell’s ambassador program. When I applied, I really wanted to be in the program, but it didn’t even occur to me that it could be a possibility. I knew I was going to be one of the youngest people applying and I thought that I would have to wait until I was actually accepted into my major area of study to get in. So, when I found out I got in, I was excited yet nervous. emma2Honestly, I thought my acceptance was a fluke. I was only a freshman at the time, and I thought that somehow there was a miscommunication and they weren’t supposed to accept anyone my age. At this point I had only taken two classes in Warnell and I really couldn’t tell you the difference between buildings 1 and 2. Heading into our first meeting before the retreat, I was sure that everyone would think that I wasn’t supposed to be there, but within minutes of our meeting, I immediately felt at ease. Every ambassador made an effort to make me feel welcome and include me even as they knew most of the other ambassadors already. Some even told me about professors to meet and job opportunities in the Athens area that would look good to future employers. Throughout this semester my fellow ambassadors have never failed to make Warnell feel like a home for me. The ambassadors are people you can actively count on to ask you about your day and not just to make small talk, but because they genuinely care. Just as Mrs. Carol says, “being an ambassador is a privilege,” and it has been one of the greatest opportunities brought to me by the fine faculty and staff of Warnell and I am honored to be a part of it.emma1

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Fort Yargo State Park Internship – Jamie Madsen

This summer, I was given the opportunity to be a Georgia Department of Natural
Resources (GA DNR) regional intern at Fort Yargo State Park. GA DNR has several different branches, but I was selected for Parks and Historic Sites. With this internship, I would have the opportunity of experiencing all of the different departments within one particular park—Fort Yargo. The departments I worked in were customer service, sales, administration, interpretation, maintenance, housekeeping, and night ranger duty. Although I enjoyed all of my time at Fort Yargo, I wanted to share some of my favorite moments there!jamie2.5

Interpretation was one of my favorite departments to work in. I spent a week working
with our naturalist and leading the Junior Ranger camp. I worked with children from the ages of 6 to 13, and there were about twenty of them. My favorite part was teaching them how to fish. Fishing was a big part of my life growing up, and I still love to fish today, so I was excited to have the opportunity to share that with these children. There were several kids who would not bait their own hook at first because worms were “gross,” but by the end of it, they would at least hold the worm while they waited for me to bait the hook. Some of the kids even got up enough courage to bait their own hook! I also had to humble a few arrogant boys by showing them how to hold the fish once they caught it. When we had finished, there was one girl who came up to me and thanked me for teaching her how to fish. She said that even though she didn’t catch anything, she had fun, and it was something she’d always wanted to do but never had anyone to teach her. Between her gratitude, and the respect I had earned from the group of rowdy boys, it
really set a great precedent for the week ahead.

My time in maintenance was my other favorite part of working at the park. This was
partly because of the people I was working with, but also because it is where I felt the most useful. There were a lot of projects to be done in the maintenance department. Renovating yurts, fixing the water main, cutting down trees, and other little odds and ends around the park took up most of our time. I have always been skilled when it comesjamie2.1 to manual labor, so I caught on very quickly. I learned skills in electrical and plumbing mainly, but I also did a lot of forest and waste management. Every morning in maintenance, we spent two hours collecting all of the trash throughout the park and cleaning public facilities. Then we moved onto our projects involving cabin and yurt renovation and repairs. These often involved rewiring electrical boxes or fixing plumbing problems. I was also tasked with landscaping and groundskeeping such as running the trails in the gator and collecting trash, and mowing the roadsides within the park. The biggest task however was managing community service (CS) workers. The rule for the park is that males must manage male CS workers and females must manage females. Since I was the only full-time female employee, I dealt with all of the female CS workers. This could be challenging at times because they would bribe me to give them hours, which is illegal so I did not partake in that. Many of them had poor attitudes too, so that was a challenge, especially since most of them were older than me. I also was challenged with trying to find tasks that they could do that wouldn’t be too expensive to fix in the case that they messed it up. Sometimes there were also restrictions on what I was allowed to let them do which also made it difficult. I felt the most useful in maintenance, and I also learned the most in this department.

Night ranger duty was exhausting, although I ended up really enjoying it. I worked from
early afternoon until midnight most of those nights. We mainly patrolled the park and closed the gates for the day-use areas once it got dark. Patrolling the park meant driving the truck around the park loop over and over again. The manager placed a large emphasis on making sure that people in uniform could be seen and easily accessible jamie2.3everywhere in the park during daylight hours. During night duty, I learned that state parks are where a lot of people go to break laws, and I took a strong stance against the separation of law enforcement and park managers too.

Overall, my experience at Fort Yargo really shaped my views on how DNR chooses to
protect public lands. Although I don’t think I’ll want to be a park manager in the future, my time at Fort Yargo helped me to recognize that I do want a career in environmental interpretation! I am now looking at careers as a County 4H Extension Agent!

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Australia, New Zealand, and Fiji Study Abroad – Maddie Curlew

This summer I had the opportunity to go on Warnell’s Discover Abroad program and visit Australia, New Zealand and Fiji! As a Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management major, having the chance to learn about the tourism industry in these places was a dream come true. I remember learning about Australia and the Great Barrier Reef in second grade. My teacher made a coral reef out of butcher paper on the bulletin board and I remember thinking, “there’s no way that actually exists in real life.” Little did I know I would someday be scuba diving in the Great Barrier Reef, swimming alongside loggerhead turtles and reef sharks!MC1

Over the span of 31 days, I got to see some of the most beautiful and mind boggling landscapes, unique creatures and a wide array of ecosystems! In Australia I had the opportunity to stay on a small cay amidst the Great Barrier Reef, explore a rainforest on the worlds largest sand island, learn to surf in one of the country’s top surfing destinations and wander around Sydney. Australia’s history and culture are still so clearly celebrated throughout the country and learning about both was fascinating.

MC4Having a special love for the mountains, I was especially excited to explore New Zealand and I was not disappointed! Even the relentless freezing rain couldn’t take away from the beauty at every corner! In Doubtful Sound in Fiordland National Park our field guide asked us to all stand still, be perfectly quiet, and just embrace the beauty we were surrounded by. These moments are some of my most fond memories from the trip! In Queenstown I worked up the nerve to jump from 400ft high into a canyon. I still get chill bumps thinking about standing on the platform before I jumped!

The most eye-opening experience during the trip was staying in a village in Fiji. Fijians are incredibly hospitable people and did everything they could to make us feel welcomed and teach us about their culture. Often when we think of Fiji we imagine a fancy resort on the beach with palm trees and tiki huts. While such places do exist, its not how most Fijians live their daily lives. Having the opportunity to see what life is really like for the people of Fiji was fascinating and, despite their lack of some resources and disconnect with the developed world, I found myself envious of their relaxed routines.MC6

While the chance to go on a Discover Abroad trip was a once in a lifetime experience, what made it so special wasn’t the places we traveled to but the people we got to go with. On May 9th, 31 strangers got on a plane together and by June 10th those strangers were crying in the airport as most of us went separate ways. Discover Abroad brought me some of my most treasured friendships and that is something that certainly cannot be replaced.

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Boredom: The Predator of Wilderness – Jamie Madsen

The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away, but He is no longer the only one to do so” – Leopold 1949

As a Warnell student, I have been asked to read Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac
several times. Each time I’ve read it, I’ve gained a new perspective on nature, and what it
means to be in the natural resources field. In the quote above, he is referring to man’s ingenuity and the inventions of the shovel and the axe. The shovel to plant a tree- the giver- and the axe to fell it- the taker. The caveat is that you must own land in order to obtain these “divine functions.”

JM2

For those that haven’t read A Sand County Almanac, here’s the highlights. The first part of the book is Leopold’s nature journal. He focuses heavily on the relationships that exist not only within an ecosystem, but how even ecosystems have relationships with each other. He calls this the “land organism”. He writes beautifully and explains in lush detail the landscape around him- simply writing what he observes. In later parts of the book, Leopold talks about his travel experiences in the wilderness and humanity’s interaction with nature. He explains how wilderness is becoming endangered due to development. He fears that one day it will be extinct, and that future generations will do nothing to preserve the foundations of this country.

Leopold’s writing is nothing less than thought provoking. And that’s really saying something coming from me, as I am not someone who reads often, and I’ve certainly never read the same book three times. But A Sand County Almanac has stimulated my own mind so much that I actually decided to write my own book! For the last three to four months, I have reinvented my thoughts in writing The Sunflower.

JM1The Sunflower is an analogy for how I want to live my life, and also for the spiritual connection between humans and nature. I guess you could say I’m a transcendentalist.
But I am also a creature of control. My book is greatly inspired by Aldo Leopold and the idea of the diminishing wilderness in America today.

However, last weekend I was able to experience some of the remaining wilderness that Georgia has to offer. I would be remiss to divulge the location of my solidarity in nature. But I will say there is nothing like sitting up against an oak tree, miles from civilization, taking in the sounds of nature, and talking to the trees!

Waking up with the sun and the birds to the sound of dew on my tarp shelter made me wish I could stay forever. But I wondered if we went back to this way of living- as a society- would we still end up making wilderness go extinct?JM3

I think boredom is the biggest predator of wilderness. The human mind doesn’t like to sit still, and when it does, it quickly tries to find some way to be more productive. Boredom sparks ingenuity. After just 3 days in the wilderness, my mind was tired of doing nothing. I started to think of ways to make my shelter more effective, or more efficient for set up. I tried to think of what I could make by means of tools in order to carry more water from the stream back to camp. I started inventing things that this world has already invented. But there’s always something “better”. I think the only weapon against the predator of boredom is learning to sit still and simply enjoy the beauty of the prey: the wilderness. But then lies the question: is boredom a natural predator that needs regular population management, or more of an invasive species we want to eliminate completely?

 

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Unforeseen Opportunities – Calvin Ellis

Since I have been at Warnell I have had many, many opportunities. Some of these I expected, as I was told about them by previous undergrads, and some I never would’ve imagined. By far the most unexpected to me, would be the current internship I hold, University of Georgia’s R3 Coordinator.IMG_5812

The R3 Coordinator is a position offered through the Georgia Wildlife Federation and my duty is to recruit new outdoorsmen and women and introduce them to hunting. Growing up as an outdoorsman and hunting for as long as I can remember, an opportunity like this was something truly out of my dreams. We offer multiple learn-to-hunt programs throughout the year. Each program consists of a biology class about the species, a firearms training, the hunt itself, and then a dinner to allow the participants a chance to learn how to cook the game.

In just this first semester as the coordinator, I have already hosted two programs, a dove hunt and a squirrel hunt. Just these two programs have given me opportunities to impact multiple people. In fact, other ambassadors have participated in the program.

On the first program, the dove hunt, I had the chance to take out 13 hunters, including Kentrell Richardson, a fellow ambassador. Throughout the program he was constantly coming to me and expressing his excitement. After the hunt, he came up and was asking what items he would need to purchase to be able to do this on his own, or with his father. Moments like that, watching him have a new hobby to bond with his family, is exactly why I signed up for this job.IMG_4964

Miranda Hopper was another student I had the chance to take out on the dove hunt. She sat with me during the hunt and we had a chance to talk about her background. Coming into the hunt, she had never shot a shotgun and ended up getting a dove! She was ecstatic, and so was I.  Throughout the hunt she kept talking about how much fun she was having, and how now she would be able to hunt with her brother. Another one! I was able to provide another person with family bonding opportunities. Providing someone a chance to make memories that last a lifetime is truly an irreplaceable feeling.

IMG_5618On my second program, the squirrel hunt, Erika Noriega was one of my participants. Again, a person who had never shot a gun was participating in my program. She came up nervous as all get out during the shotgun training. After walking her through the basics of operating the firearm, I set up some targets for her. 3 shots and 3 busted targets later, she was giggling like a fool. I couldn’t believe the happiness she was radiating. Even after an unsuccessful squirrel hunt a few days later, she still was as happy as could be. This made the unsuccessful hunt a successful one in my opinion!

Coming to Warnell, I would’ve never guessed I would be doing this for a job. I truly couldn’t be more thankful for this opportunity.