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Learning in Your Own Backyard

~By Madison Chrisol a PTRM major~

While I had planned to travel all around Georgia visiting state parks for my PRTM Maymester this summer, it turned out that the one in my backyard still had a lot to teach me. James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park is located down a small backroad in Summerville, GA. It is known for its beautiful Marble Mine waterfall, 2 large recreation lakes, and good-old-fashioned Southern hospitality. I have lived ~15 minutes from this park for my entire life and thought that I knew just about everything about it. However, spending 2 months volunteering opened my eyes to exactly what goes on behind the scenes- and behind the front desk- of park management.

James H. “Sloppy” Floyd State Park is home to many exciting programs. During the summer I was able to help with two. The Friends of the Park are the caretakers of a native garden right outside the park office. This summer they worked on creating a drainage area that diverted extra water out of the garden. Additionally, the Chattooga County Library has partnered with the park in the form of a storybook hike. People of all ages are encouraged to hike a non-strenuous trail and enjoy a different story each month. I helped change the story and spread the word about this awesome program.

During my time there I was able to learn a multitude of different tasks that will help me in my future career. I helped clean cabins and wash linens. I filed papers and took phone calls. I went on trash runs and hikes to gather litter. However, my favorite part was definitely interacting with people, whether that be park staff or guests. I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and hike with a couple who were first time visitors and had traveled all over the country! They spoke about their favorite hikes and gave me travel tips. I also enjoyed giving people trail recommendations and using my knowledge of the area to suggest additional recreation opportunities both in and out of the park. Furthermore, I was able to pick up so much by watching the park staff interact with visitors and go about their day-to-day tasks.

I learned a lot about what it takes to be a Georgia State Park employee this summer. You must be resourceful. You never know when a truck tire may go flat or a cabin fridge may break. You must be knowledgeable. We were asked around 50 times a day where the Marble Mine Trail began, but we were also asked to identify snakes based on cell phone pictures, the history of the area, what fish were present (and biting), and so much more. You must be excited to be there. We had so many kids (and adults) come through who thought that a lizard they had seen was the coolest thing ever! By matching their enthusiasm, we are able to grow their interest in wildlife and hopefully encourage them to continue exploring. Overall, you must have a passion for both people and the outdoors.

I am grateful for this summer experience because it reassured me that this is the correct career path for me and made me even more excited to get back to classes. Thank you to all the Georgia State Park and Historic Sites employees who work hard to give everyone a wonderful outdoor experience while also protecting these special places.

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Great Smoky Mountain National Park Study Away

~Written by Travan Neal a PTRM student~

Over the summer of 2019 I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Great Smoky Mountain National Park study away trip with Warnell discover abroad. Will in the park we stayed at the Great Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont. Staying here in the park created a unique experience as there was no cell reception so using cellphones and the internet was virtually impossible. This allowed to really immerse ourselves in the beauty of the place and in the lessons, we were learning. While we were there the staff at Tremont had prepared interactive lessons and hikes for us to do.

My favorite hike was a water fall hike. It was about a 2-mile hike up and down on the mountain. Along the way we learned about the different plant species that we encountered. We also learned about the rock structures and rock types that make up the mountains and how the mountains were formed. The trail ended at a beautiful water fall that had a nice pool below it to relax in before heading back on the trail.

My favorite lesson while we were there started in classroom. They taught us about the different animal species in the park and specifically about the different salamanders that live in the park. Also, about the important role they play in the ecosystem as an indicator species. Salamanders require specific conditions to live in a stream such as clean water with proper chemical balances. So, if there are salamanders living there then you know that the water is good and that other animals are likely living there as well. After our in-class lesson we took a short hike into the woods where we came across a stream. At the stream, our instructor gave us clear instructions on how to safely find and catch a salamander. Then we went off to find our own salamander, after catching one we gently up it into a zip lock bag to observe. First, we used a dichotomous key to identify the type of salamander that we had. Then we returned them back to the rocks we got them from in the streams. Then we regrouped to discuss the type of salamander we all found, what part of the stream they were found in, were they hard to catch, etc.

One of my favorite animals in the world is a bear, so I was very hopeful about getting to see a bear while in the mountains. I was overly joyed at the end of the trip with the fact that I got to see 4 bears while we were there. The first sighting happened on one of our first group hikes we were at the start of the trail when we came across a large group of people stopped on the trail. After a while of curiosity and wondering what was going on a little mama bear ran across the trail up the mountain. Not too far behind her were to tiny cubs. Then a couple of days later we were driving back from a hike through Gatlinburg when we saw a rather large bear sitting in a fountain outside of a hotel.

Overall, this trip has got to be one of my favorite things I have done in Warnell. It provided me with so many great memories and introduced me to so many wonderful people.

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Very Deer to My Heart

~By Miranda Hopper a wildlife major c/o 2021~

If you’ve ever stepped outside or even just stared out a window, you’ve probably seen a white-tailed deer. They’re everywhere – running across the road, eating the plants in your garden, bedded down in the woods behind your house. Depending where you grew up, seeing a deer walk across your yard might be as common as seeing a squirrel. As a kid, I never thought twice about it. Deer were about as mundane to me as a house cat. However, since coming to Warnell, I’ve developed a new appreciation for the animal many of my classmates and professors have lovingly called the “pine goat”.

Miranda and Sasha

Last fall, I started a volunteer position with the UGA Deer Research Facility. Every Saturday and Sunday, I would go to the deer barn and spend a few hours feeding the deer, refilling their hay, and cleaning up around the facility. I also had opportunities to help out with research, including a graduate student’s project studying the effectiveness of different brands of fawn radio collars and a feed study funded by Purina. The deer barn became a happy place for me. It was my chance to enjoy the outdoors, away from any stresses of everyday life, and get to play with the deer in the meantime. Some of the deer were bottle fed as fawns, and now are tame enough to let you get up close and even pet them. One of my favorite parts was getting to know all the deer and their individual personalities. Sasha is the boss. Ollie is sweet, and Betsy is a bit sassy. All the deer at the barn though are very dear to my heart. No pun intended.

Betsy

Because of my experience working at the deer barn, I was able to get an internship the following summer as a fawn capture technician. I worked on a project investigating the cause of deer population declines in North Georgia. We captured fawns and fit them with radio collars, so we could monitor their movements and survival throughout the summer. This internship gave me valuable skills with radio telemetry and mortality investigations. It also let me live in the mountains for three months, spending every day catching adorable fawns, no more than a few hours to a few days old. I have to admit, it was hard not to get attached.

One of my favorite things about Warnell is that it has taught me to appreciate things I always took for granted before. A doe and fawn walking through my yard. A chipmunk running across the sidewalk on campus. The way the leaves change colors in the fall. These are all things I noticed before, but now they truly bring me joy. I don’t have to go to some far-off place. I get that in my everyday life. And the best part? I get to spend the rest of my life working to understand and protect these things, so people can enjoy them long after I’m gone. Warnell has helped me find my passion and given me a way to make it my career.

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Sometimes the Destination is Better Than the Journey

~Ben Mathis a Fisheries and Wildlife major c/o 2022~

It’s not about the destination, but the journey. At least, that’s what the old adage says. In many ways, this is true. In some cases though, the destination is so much better than the journey. Such was the case in my path to Warnell.

Coming to UGA, I was super excited about all of the opportunities I had to meet new people and experience new things. Unfortunately, it did not take long for this excitement to diminish and to be replaced by disappointment. How could I have misjudged my college decision so badly? I spent much of my freshman year struggling to find a sense of importance in what I was doing. I was stuck in an undecided major with an undecided plan on what I needed to do to change things. I attended meetings and clubs across all majors, yet still failed to really feel like I was in the right place for me.

Towards the end of my first year, I knew I needed to make a change. I began to look at other schools to move towards. It was during this process of looking for a different school that I was told about Warnell. My dad told me that before I started looking at other schools, I should look into Warnell because of how much I enjoy working outdoors and with nature. I had heard about Warnell a couple times in passing before this, but I had never really considered it before. I decided to take my dad’s advice and check out Warnell before I made any other decisions. I scheduled an appointment to meet with Warnell’s recruiting director and waited to see if I had finally found a place where I fit.

Me, Tyler Kaszas, and Matthew Minnick, all who I met through Warnell courses

I remember walking into the forestry building for my meeting and something felt a little different. I couldn’t really place it at the time but it was definitely different than any other place I had been on campus before. The meeting I had that day was the turning point in my college career. I knew I had finally found the place that I needed to be. My time in Warnell since that day has only reinforced the feelings I had that day. For the first time, I had teachers who didn’t just know my name, but they knew who I was. They were genuinely interested in how I was doing and in making sure that I was learning what they were teaching. I was surrounded by like minded students who I made connections with and have really been able to bond over our common interests.

            Since starting Warnell, I have been able to take classes where I can be outside and using skills I learn in class to translate over to labs. I have made connections to heads of departments in natural resource fields. I have been connected with leaders in the industry and have enjoyed doing all of this during the process. Above all, I have made bonds with people that I never imaging I would and I have found a place where I truly have a purpose. My only regret about Warnell was not going there earlier. 

Another opportunity to build these bonds, a Warnell Ambassador training session
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A Summer of Chasin’ Cougars

By Calvin Ellis a Fourth-year Wildlife Science Major

In late February and March of 2020, I began to apply for some field technician positions for the upcoming Summer. After a couple of applications and interviews, I began to wonder if one would work out for me.

            On a trip to the Southeast Deer Study Group conference, I was with my advisor Dr. Michel Kohl eating lunch at a restaurant when an ad for a position at Utah State University popped up on his phone. “Now THAT would be an awesome summer” he said. I asked what he had seen, and he flipped his phone around to show me the ad.

            Tracking mountain lions through the backcountry of Utah is essentially what it boiled down to. Are you kidding me?! Who would not want to be able to say they did that? I immediately began working on my application the moment we got back from the conference.

            A few days later, I applied. Now came the waiting. I couldn’t believe I had just applied for a position that insane! A week or so went by and I got a phone call. I was going to get an interview! I was ecstatic. I had my interview with Kristin Engebretsen, the PhD student who’s project it was with. A couple days later and I had the position! I ran around the house telling everyone I could. I seriously couldn’t believe I was going to spend my summer following mountain lions around Utah. Once the Spring semester finished up, I packed my stuff and was on a plane first thing after final exams!

 Richard training Derek and I on how to approach kill sites.

First few weeks in Utah, I was going through training on how to approach mountain lion kill sites. Kill sites? Who in their right mind would investigate a cougar kill site? Crazy wildlife students, that’s who! We were investigating the impacts of black bears scavenging on cougar kills and man, did we see some cool stuff.

Speaking of cool stuff, not only did I see an insane diversity of wildlife, I got to see some of the most beautiful scenery I could imagine. I was having mountain sunsets way out in the bush, sunrises in states parks over lakes, and two National Park visits throughout my short time in Utah. During my trip to Zion National Park with the crew, we had a kit fox come up to our camp in the middle of the night! I never thought I would have seen one of those but another awesome surprise from Utah.

Just one of the many breathtaking views Utah has to provide!

Not only did I gain tons of field experience with this position, I gained some close friends as well. Kristin, my boss for the summer, along with the other technicians, Richard, Derek, and Leah, were some of the funniest people I could’ve met. Throughout the three months we spent together, we shared many nights camping in the back country, sleeping in our vehicles, or bush whacking through the middle of nowhere to see what our cats were eating.

Kristin, Leah, Derek (taking the photo), and I on the Zion Trip.

Perhaps one of my favorite memories with this group was when we were having training week and we came back to the cabin after a very long day. We were all starving and were tired of eating instant food all week, but none of us really had the energy to cook. We all had some random ingredients and decided to make a hodge podge pasta. We combined two types of noodles with some peas and pasta sauce, random seasonings, and threw it on the stove for a few minutes to heat up. Perhaps the most chaotic meal I have ever eaten, but it was filling and a memory I will never forget.

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Adapting Among the Butterflies

By Delaney Caslow a Fourth-year Wildlife Student

This past summer I had the opportunity to work at the Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC) for the second year in a row. The nature center is a 127-acre property on the Chattahoochee River in Roswell, Georgia. On their grounds they house many non-releasable native wildlife species, trails, ponds, a discovery center, butterfly tent, and much more. My position at CNC was a Butterfly Encounter Attendant (BEA) as well as a Visitor Services Associate. As a BEA I was responsible for educating the public about butterflies as well as ecology relating to pollinators, taking care of the butterflies, and ensuring that the public had a safe and informative visit. This year I was also given some additional tasks such as creating fact sheets and educational games. This past summer looked a lot different from the previous one because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but luckily (since we were mostly outside) we were able to safely open up the center to visitors.

Being able to (safely) interact with the public during the pandemic was quite interesting because I got to see firsthand the ways that workplaces/organizations were having to adapt. As the summer went on, there were many changes and alterations to make certain that both the staff and visitors felt comfortable. From the beginning, all staff were required to wear masks and they became a requirement for visitors as well about halfway through the summer. Time slots were created in which people had to sign up in advance and only a certain amount of people were allowed in every hour. The year prior we had about 1,500 people visit in one day for a festival, so changing to only 20 people entering per half-hour was quite a difference. Although we missed out on some aspects, this actually allowed for a much more personal and intimate experience that visitors really appreciated.

I learned so much during my two summers at CNC. The staff that I was so lucky to work with were not only extremely friendly and helpful people to engage with, but I was also able to take away many different skillsets and knowledge from them. I learned how to translate scientific concepts to different age groups, get people engaged with nature, and adapt to new and changing situations. Every day was unique and could turn into something different which made it really exciting. A few of the most noteworthy things that happened over my time at CNC were a summer tanager flying into the visitors center, a rat snake attempting to crawl into the butterfly encounter, and getting to watch a wild butterfly emerge from its chrysalis. I cannot thank the Chattahoochee Nature Center enough for giving me two amazing summers as well as teaching me so much about the environment and myself. If you are ever in the Roswell/Atlanta area go check them out!

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Life During a Pandemic

By: Isaac Beacorn – 4th year PRTM Major

A power outage at work one night from a heavy storm during quarantine

We can all agree that 2020 has not been the best year. It started off with the death of Kobe Bryant, then the wildfires in Australia, and then it was a continuous downward spiral of bad news after bad news. And where are we now? It is now October and we have now made it through 6 full months of a global pandemic. In that 6-month time-frame, people have had numerous challenges, both personal and professional. Maybe they were laid off. Maybe they had to learn new technology skills to adequately perform their work on a new program they were unfamiliar with, like Zoom. Mental illness could have taken its toll during quarantine, and made life even tougher. Not to mention the racial/social injustices, protests, and court decisions that circulated national news. These 6 months have not been easy, and the furthest thing from normal.

            To say anyone’s daily routine is the same as before the pandemic would not be accurate. Countries around the world have more stringent rules/laws regarding masks and public gatherings. Numerous cities in the U.S. have different rules. Even the size of the community plays a role, as more rural places are probably not far off from their typical “normal,” but that is not the case everywhere. Now more than ever people are realizing that things can change pretty dang fast, but that might be a good thing.

Tallulah Falls in Northern Georgia

            Personally, that change was focusing less on the monotony of the daily routine and cherishing the moments with people around me more. I’m from Oconee County, just outside of Athens, and we haven’t had a whole lot of change like most other places but we aren’t as populated as most other places either. I had a pretty steady routine, so it was a huge hit when classes went online, stores shut down (in the beginning of the pandemic), local parks blocked off fields and basketball courts, and it left me with not a whole lot to do. I was still working, but with only work and school things got pretty boring really fast. My escape began to take place, which ended up going for runs, bike rides, practicing my basketball skills, or working out at home. Essentially, my escape was being outside and active. Soon after, some restrictions began to be lifted and it was a little safer. So, my coworkers and I would play sports on Sundays or go for weekend day-hikes, really anything safe to spend time together (even if it was just for a short bit). Work even began to feel more special. The outside world was filled with fear and uncertainty, and this brought almost everyone I worked with together and we were able to become even closer than before.

            Then, at the beginning of August, me and a few friends were able to have an escape of our own. We all enjoy the outdoors, so we decided to go up to one of their grandparents’ cabin outside of Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Although it was only for a few days, it was a tremendous amount of fun (we stayed safe, and followed all suggested protocols for prevention of COVID-19). We hiked, saw waterfalls, and basically just enjoyed the outdoors. It was a blessing just being able to get away from the stress and uncertainty that awaited us back home. It was definitely my highlight for the year, let alone the COVID-19 pandemic.

A view while backpacking some of the Georgia AT portion over the summer

            As a student, it is very easy to get caught up in the weekly assignments, stress of school, and overall busy-ness of life (especially if you also work). This pandemic showed the negative side of life, with the natural disasters/deaths/riots, but with that it also gave people an opportunity to experience an extraordinary life and build stronger memories with those that we love. Now I don’t know how much longer this pandemic will go on for, but I do know that if we all want to get through it, we need to cherish the small moments and the people around us more. Yes, school is important, work is important, and making sure bills are paid on time is important. However, spending quality time with family and friends is also important. Without these people and the seemingly insignificant moments, our life would be as mundane as can be. Go have some fun in this sometimes-bleak world, and make those special memories.

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School in the time of COVID-Robert Seibold

It was the Friday of Spring Break, and I had just woken up to get an email stating that we were to resume school as regular that upcoming Monday, despite the concern with the Coronavirus which had begun to be the full-blown pandemic that we are all familiar with by now.  My friend Crispy and I had been contemplating on this dreaded email the night before whilst sitting around the campfire just outside Grand Canyon National Park.  “Bummer gotta start driving back tonight”, we said and hit the Bright Angel Trail.  It was only but a mile and a half down when I got another email stating that we’d have an extra two weeks of Spring Break, tight!  It was a nice relief to be able to know I could stay adventuring out West for a longer time, but little did I know it was really the start of a global pandemic that would change everyone’s livelihood.  It’s bittersweet, but the pandemic allowed my friend and I to go see Death Valley and its otherworldly scenery, stay with some friends in Fresno, and make our way all the way to Big Sur and take a dip in the Pacific Ocean.

Grateful for our extended time but now fully concerned about the pandemic, we decided to make our way back to Athens with a week to get back to the reality of things before we resumed online classes.  Most folks I’ve talked to that are within Warnell or not haven’t been the greatest fan of online classes, probably because we love to be engaged and out in the field learning, not from a computer screen.  I can admit its been a struggle for me to stay engaged with online learning, I know I definitely gain a lot more from being in class than watching a lecture or PowerPoint online, but its what we’ve got to do to stay healthy and safe.  We recently got an email saying that we’d be going to back to school in the Fall; however, it is met with a measure of skepticism as everything still seems to be unsure and unlikely at the moment.  Thankfully for Warnell, it won’t be a huge transition to smaller class sizes because we are already accustomed to that luxury, however as the Dean has said we must take everything in stride and do our best for our Warnell family.  In the meantime, as the semester winds down and has some free time I think I’ll go canoeing with my friends and get up into the mountains to enjoy the beauty of the natural world.

Robert is a senior Forestry major here at Warnell

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My Texas Summer – Scarlet Barber

IMG_1497In the Fall of 2018, I accepted an internship with Georgia Pacific as a Wood and Fiber Supply Intern. Upon accepting this position, I had no clue where I would be located but I was excited and anxious to dive deeper into an internship similar to the career that I wanted to pursue. Fast forward to January of 2019, I learned that I would be located in the small town of Diboll, Texas for the summer. Learning that I was going to be twelve hours away from my friends and family made me nervous, but I was more than ready to take the leap and get out of my comfort zone.

After Forestry Field Camp in May, I packed up my Jeep and my dog and I headed halfway across the country. On my first day, I automatically felt more comfortable and wasn’t as nervous anymore. I spent my days at work learning about the day to day tasks of a procurement forester. I was able to shadow each of the six foresters and learn different tips, tricks, and experiences that they had to offer while traveling to logging sites. I also spent time at each mill in the scale house to learn about the different products that came in on the log trucks and how to associate the work done in the woods to assure quality finished products. During my internship, I traveled to several mills throughout East Texas as well as Louisiana and Arkansas. I used the information that I was learning to complete an assigned project to showcase my new skills and understanding.

I am very glad that I took the opportunity to venture out of what I was used to and learn something new. I met some wonderful people along the way and got to travel to some amazing places. If you are reading this now, I would like to encourage you to try something new even if you’re hesitant. You might just have one of the best experiences of your life!

Scarlet is a senior forestry student here at Warnell

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A Week at the Sunny Georgia Coast- Hannah Lou Young

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Hi! My name is Hannah Lou Young and I am a Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management senior at UGA. I am also a park ranger at Fort Yargo State Park in Winder, Georgia. My time at the Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources has been incredibly well spent. I transferred to Warnell from the University of North Georgia in spring of 2019. I really enjoyed my first semester at Warnell, spending time measuring trees and walking chains in Whitehall forest. My lab partner, Keri, from that first semester, is still my best friend!picture2blog

The Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management Maymester that is offered through Warnell is the best experience I have had in college. The Maymester is led by Kyle Woosnam and Kris Irwin, two of my favorite professors at the school. The Maymester takes PRTM students all over the state of Georgia, showcasing different career opportunities for our field. Students are encouraged to make meaningful connections with businesses and agencies they are interested in working for in the future. We spent a week at the sunny Georgia coast and another week in the beautiful North Georgia mountains. This Maymester experience helped me solidify the passion I had already developed for park management through my job at Fort Yargo. My favorite part about the PRTM Maymester is how many close friends you will make along the way. During this trip, you are able to form a bond with your PRTM cohort that picture1blogwill last long after graduation. I think that these bonds will be important because you will be working with these people professionally in the future.

I am so thankful for the friendships I have made, the knowledge I have learned, and the connections I have created during my time as a Warnell dawg.

Hannah is a senior Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management major