Leave a comment

Playing With Predators- Khiara Reed

In July of 2013, I was able to experience something that few people rarely get the chance to do. I traveled to Chipley, Florida to visit a place called Seacrest Wolf Preserve where I got to meet and play with wolves.enhance

Seacrest Wolf Preserve is a non-profit organization that works to help educate the public about the importance of wolves in ecosystems. They organize group and private hands on experiences with the canids as a way to foster a respect and understanding of just how these animals help the natural world. The Preserve houses several ambassador wolves that serve as educators for their species. Seacrest is also giving many of their animals a second chance, as most of the wolves were mistreated in captivity or injured and cannot be released into the wild. As most people never come into contact with a wolf in their lifetime, these ambassador wolves help to dispel some of the common misconceptions about the rest of their species.

I had the amazing opportunity to meet these animals up-close and personal during a private tour. Being ambassadors, the wolves were used to human presence and were quite excited to have new company. I spent a few hours getting to know the different wolves and learning all about how they affect the natural environment. This experience was not only my first encounter with real wolves, but was also special for a completely different reason.download

Around the time of visiting Seacrest Wolf Preserve, I was wrestling with the decision of whether I wanted to become a Warnell major or not. It was the beginning of my sophomore year and I had just learned about the wildlife program here at Warnell. Everything about the major seemed to match up with my interests, but I was yet not sure if it was the right career path for me. However, after visiting Seacrest, I knew exactly what my decision would be. After seeing the wolves in person and watching how Seacrest ran their educational tours, I knew that I wanted to do something similar in the future.

If not for these ambassador wolves at Seacrest Wolf Preserve, I might still be searching for what I want to do with my career. Now that I’m in Warnell, I can’t imagine being in any other school. I will always look back at this experience and think of it fondly, as it has had a huge influence on my life. It just goes to show that inspiration can truly come from anywhere.

Leave a comment

The 3 P’s of Nature Photography- Sarah Yeakle

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir

Sarah blog

As an ex art major, I struggled to find a way to incorporate my love for aesthetics and design into my new-found natural resources degree. While I may not have the time to sit down and draw between my various field labs and recreation workshops, I have found time to invest in photography.

It all started when my friends and I would go on fun adventures at local parks and nature centers. There is always that one person belabored with the task of taking photos so we can recollect later on, and I ended up that person. I was afraid of becoming the person stuck behind the camera, never really being a part of the experience. Thankfully, I did not become that person. I actually was able to find a deep love and balance in nature photography.

sarahblog2My time outdoors has lent nature as a teacher about many things and my camera has been my textbook. The skills I learn behind the lens are carried back to the classroom when I am no longer surrounded by a peer of trees, but rather my partners in academic crime. These skills provide deeper insight about myself that I would have struggled to discover otherwise.

  • Perspective – When you take pictures regularly, you learn your approach to situations, and when you look at photos that others in your community take, you see how much your approach varies. People can be given the setting, but come out with completely different shots. This applies to a variety of situations. If I’m working in a group, my teammates might have thought out the project from a different angle than I ever would have even considered. Understanding my perspective builds my communication skills to better present my ideas.


  • Passion – The subject of your photos reveal what draws your eye. Going back over these photos and building portfolios provides insight as to what drives you and what your passions are. This awareness opens windows of opportunities, especially ones that branch out beyond your area of study. It also tells you where you lack and need to spend more time with. There are plenty of awesome things that Warnellians are involved in that I have great interest in, but have not spent time with simply because it is not a part of my major. Your passion and drive allows you to relate to others and build relationships. This is crucial in networking.


  • Patience – Nature photography pushes your buttons. You cannot force a successful photo when in you’re in the field. You cannot force the sun to come back through the leaves to get the natural warmth and exposure you just had thirty seconds ago when you picked you shot. The wind does not die down just because you are fighting to a good macro/close-up and the animals do not understand vanity enough to stay immobile for you all day. Just like you cannot control what your peers’ goal and interests are or the speed in which results come. This practice of patience helps strengthen my respect for the diversity within the natural resources community.

Sarah blog1These 3 P’s translate into my everyday life at Warnell and help make me a better student, but it is because of my home at Warnell that I started taking nature photography more seriously. This aspect of my life is just one of the many ways Warnell subtly brings someone to be more than their major.

Leave a comment

Go Out and Explore- Sidney Woodruff

“Don’t limit yourself one bit. You’re young. Go out and explore the world.”Sidney_Blog

That’s what an alumnus told me recently on the phone. From the Class of 1960, he had spent time in El Salvador planting Monterey pine to prevent the encroachment of sand dunes. He told me to be mobile while I can and explore the world, and I plan to continue doing just that.

This past summer, I was fortunate to be a herpetological conservation intern at Yosemite National Park for the Aquatic Restoration Crew for the National Park Service. This internship was housed under the non-profit The Greening Youth Foundation. I had never been to Yosemite before, and had never even considered actively pursuing work with the National Park Service. When I saw the posting, I know I had to jump on it.

The Mosaic in Science internship program provides college students and young adults that are under-represented in the natural resource career field to work on science-based projects within the National Park Service. My specific program was with the Aquatic Restoration Crew at Yosemite National Park. Some of the projects they work on are the restoration of the endangered Sierra Nevada Yellow-legged frog to high elevation lakes, control of invasive bullfrog populations, and the reintroduction of the Western pond Sidney_Blog1turtle to Yosemite Valley. I mostly worked on the latter project. During the summer, I was often using telemetry to track translocated turtles with radio transmitters, turtle trapping to assess potential donor populations, and conducting surveys for sensitive amphibian populations. I was able to apply so many skills and concepts that I had learned from Warnell to this Western project and learn a whole heap of new information! At the conclusion of the internship in August, the program is accompanied by a career workshop to learn about how to get a federal job with NPS. At this workshop, I finally meet up with all of the other interns from the 23 other parks within the program and developed deep and meaningful relationships after reading about their adventures online!

To this day, it’s hard for me to grasp that I was able to work at one of our country’s favorite parks. I would have never imagined I would be doing such meaningful work. I definitely took that alumni’s words to heart and was proud to tell him how I’ve already started to follow that mission. I plan to continue exploring this world, and I’m incredibly happy to be in a career field that allows me to do that. Warnell has opened so many doors for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful.

Leave a comment

Botswana & South Africa Study Abroad: Summer 2016- Madeline Siegel

I thank myself for enrolling in the International Wildlife Conservation study abroad course every day since that amazing summer in 2016. I got to share a three-week long adventure through the Botswanan and South African bush with just 11 other students, one professor, and a handful of experienced guides. In the weeks leading up to our departure, we met as a group for lectures focused on the identification of wildlife we would encounter, the habitats and adaptations of those animals, and a brief cultural history of Botswana and South Africa. Having just entered Warnell’s Professional Program, I remember being slightly nervous about not being as knowledgeable as some of the upperclassmen on the trip. But, by the end of the classes, I knew that we all had a great appreciation for the natural world and had bonded over the growing excitement for our departure.

MS_Blog post2

After a grueling fifteen-hour flight across the Atlantic, we headed to our first camp, Mashatu, in the Tuli Game Reserve in the eastern tip of Botswana. There, we stayed in ground tents, vulnerable to any animal that could have ventured into our camp (including elephants on several occasions and roaring lions close by). Our typical morning was an early wake up and breakfast followed by a hike or game drive –  stopping for tea, coffee, and biscuits along the way. After returning from our morning activity, we had some down time before lunch and sometimes a lecture. We often took a small break after lunch to venture down to the river, shower, or nap before gearing up for another hike or drive. In the afternoon, we typically ended up finding a beautiful spot to enjoy the sunset with a beer or soda. Upon returning to camp, dinner was served and the exhausting day came to an end around a campfire with the guides. Sometimes we ventured out on a night drive following dinner, searching for animals with a spotlight. We were lucky enough to be taken out to stargaze one night and heard traditional South African stories from our guide about the stars and night sky.

After an amazing 10 days at Mashatu, we headed to our second camp, Makuleke, in the very northern section of Kruger National Park. Here, we had a similar daily routine but experienced a slightly different, more densely vegetated habitat for wildlife. We encountered several new animals (hippos, cape buffalo, crocodiles) and participated in a competitive USA vs. South Africa volleyball match with our guides in the Limpopo riverbed where South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique meet. As the trip came to an end, I wasn’t ready to leave!MS_Blog post

My study abroad experience was so much greater than I could have even imagined. I gained friendships, experienced Botswanan and South African culture by visiting local towns, and enhanced my passion for African wildlife and conservation that I will carry me throughout my career. Going on this trip was simply life-changing, and I strongly encourage any student with an appreciation for the natural world to apply!












Leave a comment

Hospitality and Tourism-Emily P. Ayscue


Nature of Outreach: Presenting to 3rd graders about careers in tourism and hospitality

 Where: Atha Road Elementary School in Monroe, GA

The state of Georgia requires in their state curriculum for an educational unit on hospitality and tourism. To adhere to these requirements, Atha Road Elementary School hosts a hospitality and tourism career day. I presented to 6 different classrooms for 20 minutes each.

In each classroom, here was the setup of the lesson:

  1. A short presentation about what a passport is and then my passport was handed around the class.
  2. While the passport was passed around, I showed pictures from my travels to Australia and New Zealand this past summer.
  3. “Hospitality” and “Tourism” were written on the board and the students helped me define the two words.
  4. Four categories of jobs were written on the board including: “Events”, “Hotels”, “Restaurants”, and “Travel Services” while the students were put into four groups with a piece of paper each.
  5. Students were given 2 minutes to brainstorm about jobs they might have in tourism.
  6. A spokesperson from each group presented the jobs they came up with.


Speaking with these young students was an amazing experience. The students were so intelligent and very well-behaved. Overall, I must say that I probably benefited from this opportunity more than the students. Talking with a younger audience challenges you to condense your message into something that represents only the most important aspects and also requires you to make the delivery fun and interesting. Another refreshing aspect of such a young audience is their continuous efforts to relate to what you are talking about. For instance, if I am showing pictures of spiders, they are talking to me about a spider they saw in their bedroom. The point is not that they seemed to be off topic, rather I wish that more people would be that engaged with your message. This greatly altered my goal in presenting research and teaching which is to craft my delivery in a way that could create interest and excitement that is at least somewhat like that felt in the classrooms.

Leave a comment

Keep an Open Mind- Ryan Templeton

Before I started college, I had my heart set on becoming a fisheries biologist. I wanted to work with fish and have an office on the water. But on the advice of my parents, I kept exploring other options and discovered forestry. A family friend owns a timberland consulting business and I asked if I could talk to his forester to get an idea of what forestry was all about. After a short phone conversation, his forester decided the best way for me to get an understanding of the industry was to tag along with him for a day. I was skeptical at first but decided to go with him. As we rode to check on a logging crew he explained the basics of what he does and why he does it. I was given aDSC_0115 crash course in land management and the tools and methods he uses on a day-to-day basis. He explained how forests were planted, thinned, and harvested in addition to how he collects the data needed to make informed decisions. We arrived at the property where the loggers were working and checked to make sure they were thinning the stand correctly. After we spoke with them, we checked on several other properties for a variety of reasons. At the end of the day he asked what I thought and I told him I had definitely enjoyed my day. He then asked if I wanted to come back the next day. I jumped at the opportunity and we spent the next day cruising timber. The following day he asked if I wanted to help their forest technician mark a thinning, and I again immediately said yes. I was very quickly falling in love with forestry. The idea of working outside was already appealing to me, but being able to work in the woods and help facilitate the growth of new forests was something I couldn’t resist. I was very surprised when I was asked if would want to work part time for them. I could not pass up the opportunity and have been working part time for them for the past couple of years. It was an easy decision to change me career path forestry and one that I have not regretted at all. I am now a senior at Warnell and I am going to graduate in the fall with a degree in Forestry. I am looking to pursue a career in land management and could not be more excited about it. It’s hard to believe that my career path completely changed all because I tagged along one day, but I couldn’t be any more grateful that it did.

Leave a comment

“My Spring Break was Lit”-Justin Rectenwald

It was sunny and 75 degrees in the second week of March and we needed IMG_7676to get away. It has already been a long semester and we could not have taken one more day sitting in a classroom so we packed our trucks and headed towards the coast for spring break. However, we ended up about 140 miles short of Panama City and arrived at the Joseph W. Jones Ecological Center­­, a 29,000 acre longleaf-wiregrass paradise in beautiful South Georgia and it didn’t happen by accident. While most other students spent their spring break on a beach, we came to study fire under the instruction of the best burners in the world.

Throughout the week, we obtained invaluable knowledge from fire ecology experts from the Jones Center, the Georgia Forestry Commission, the US Forest Service, the Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge, and from professors at Warnell. We spent the first two days of the course learning about the longleaf ecosystem, fire behavior, smoke management, the effects of weather on fire, and how to plan out prescribed burns. This laid the groundwork for fueling up our drip torches and striking a match. On Wednesday morning we checked the weather, our fuel moisture, plotted our smoke and made the most important decision you can make when prescribed burning… it was the day we were going to strike a match. We loaded up into the vans, put on our Nomex suits, and grabbed the torches.

After arriving at the stand and checking the breaks one more time, we dropped a match to burn a test fire in a small patch to observe how the weather, fuel, and fire were going to interact. The wind was perfect as it was coming out of the north, which set up for a perfect backing fire. We commenced lighting flanks around the perimeter and stayed in communication with our teammates on the other side of the fire. After working the flanks up the breaks for about 100 yards, we made the trek across the stand to light strips heads and really got it rolling. We kept this ignition pattern going until there was enough fire to burn out the remainder of the stand. After the flames were out, we went back around the line to ensure no burning snags had fallen over the break and extinguished logs that were still burning on the edge of the stand. We had completed our first prescribed fire and put another notch on our belts.

Sure, I could have spent the week hanging out with friends on the lake or at the beach but I would have missed out on thIMG_7707e best class that I have ever taken at Warnell. We obtained the kind of knowledge you can only learn in the field and from the best burners to step foot in our southern forests. If I can give one piece of advice as a senior, it would be to expand your horizons and put that next notch in your belt with actual field experience because you can’t learn everything from a textbook. In the words of the famous D.W. Brooks, it’s too late for “talk-teaching. Do-teaching will be a lot faster”. Learn from by doing any chance you get and never take a field experience for granted.