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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Pullman, WA; Moscow, ID; Bozeman, MT USA

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Pullman, WA; Moscow, ID; Bozeman, MT USA
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Registered: December 2016
City/Town/Province: Moscow
Posts: 1
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Since I was a young boy, I have been deeply inspired by the late Steve Irwin (best known as The Crocodile Hunter) and his message of conservation through education. I am committing myself to a similar mission - to protect the natural world and biodiversity through outreach and education; an effort to share my passion and enthusiasm for life to the coming generations, and instilling in them a sense of pride and responsibility for our planet. Submitting a sample of my work to the Nicodemus Wilderness Project's Apprentice Ecologist Contest seemed a natural exhibition of what my organization has been working on.
I have been fascinated with ants - yes, I mean those tiny little social insects - for many years. Ants quietly keep our terrestrial ecosystems healthy by cycling soil, processing dead organisms and decaying matter, and are a food source themselves. They were the world's first farmers, architects, herders, and complex societies. I have been keeping ants as pets for some time, and in my early years of high school the possibility of sharing them with elementary school students was suggested to me. After my first presentation I was hooked - I loved the process and the kids were enthralled by the ants and their natural history.
I have since founded The Ant Network, an organization for ant enthusiasts and researchers that focuses on four overarching categories: Research, Resources, Education & Outreach, and Community. Over the past year we have been occupied with the development of our organization, both privately (our website, YouTube channel, and social media) and publicly (in classrooms). We are excited to fully launch our services publicly this coming April, including an informative and resource-rich website, community center, and training programs for enthusiasts and educators to spread the use of ants in education.
Starting in the spring of 2016, we have visited seven classrooms, science camp, and given two auditorium presentations. This year we have spent approximately 80 hours preparing for and conducting outreach programs with youth in the Palouse region of Idaho and Washington. Our project picture for this contest was taken (with permission for distribution) at Franklin Elementary School in Pullman, Washington. Our presentations cover not only ant biology, but go into expanded issues such as climate change, biodiversity loss, and invasive species. The ways that we approach these issues differ with grade level and teacher preference. In addition, we collaborate with teachers prior to our visit so that we can tie our presentation into the curriculum students are familiar with. We believe that engaging youth in these important topics can help foster a fact-oriented and scientific society in the future, and help to secure protections for endangered species and encourage sustainable behavior in the present.
I am absolutely taken by how passionate and attentive the students we have presented to and worked with are, and I'm glad to have been a small part of their education experience. In some instances I have been able to visit with students repeatedly over a long time span, and their absorption and application of their knowledge is outstanding.
In addition to our direct outreach programs, our team has spent approximately 800 hours in 2016 conducting research, developing resources, creating a website, community forum, videos, and other projects.
This past summer was mostly spent filming a series of episodes we are calling The Ant Explorer, set in the Pacific Northwestern United States. In each episode, we explore different ant species in unique environments, mixing in information about ants and the greater ecosystem, including the threats posed to them. Our goal is to not only engage ant enthusiasts, but to create content that can be used by teachers in classrooms and for viewing by anyone interested in nature in the comfort of their homes. In addition to expanding on our coverage of the Pacific Northwest in the coming season, we are looking to travel in the Southwestern United States - a hot-pocket of ant diversity and unique ecosystems.
The Ant Network is about more than just one person's passion. While I am the founder and Director, I recognize we could not have accomplished so much without the help of teachers, researchers, and volunteers. I am proud to have worked with a team that has included over a dozen people, some nearly full-time volunteers who helped with videography, graphic design, and other needs.
I am now a freshman at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana, where I am majoring in Environmental Science and minoring in Entomology. I am currently the Co-Chair of Outreach for the Land Resources & Environmental Sciences Undergraduate Club, and an Honors College Mentor for gifted students who works with area high school youth to develop their passion and interests. I am proud to have been recognized by the Primeland CHS and McGregor agriculture companies for my work in science outreach and community leadership. Next semester I will be running as a student body Senator representing the College of Agriculture, with hopes to expand MSU's Extension services and integrate them with undergraduate students. In addition, I will continue to operate and expand The Ant Network in the coming years and I look forward to working with entities on campus and off campus, hopefully including Yellowstone National Park and the State of Montana. The support of the Nicodemus Wilderness Project would be instrumental to my work and ability to further the cause of science outreach in the northwestern US and throughout the country. My career goals are to conduct research and become a prominent science educator in the likes of Bill Nye, Sir David Attenborough or even Steve Irwin. Someday I hope to venture into public service, bringing a unique perspective of informed policy for environmental and sociopolitical issues.
Date: December 30, 2016 Views: 298 File size: 14.9kb, 1567.2kb Dimensions: 4512 x 2542
Hours Volunteered: 800
Volunteers: 13
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 19 & 17 to 60
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