Appalachian Ecology Course 2022

Service Learning is alive and well at Hawk Mountain

Posted on in A Year in Stewardship by Todd Bauman

This June, Hawk Mountain hosted a brand new and intensive field course designed to provide a hands-on, well rounded experience to teens considering a conservation career. 

Service-learning has been a part of the Sanctuary dating back to its early years. The late Fred Wetzel and two of his friends frequented the home of the Broun's during the late 40's to the point of Irma affectionately referring to them as "her boys." They along with many other teens conducted various odd jobs around the Sanctuary during the Broun's watch up through their retirement in the late 1960's.

The Sanctuary staff has always been in the role of mentoring young people, with a specialty for passionate teenagers. Through this desire to guide the next generation of conservation ambassadors, various field opportunities have been created over the past several years. This year the Stewardship Department established our new Appalachian Ecology Course (AEC). It was born from combining the numerous curriculums and experiences that are a part of Hawk Mountain's backbone in conservation science, education, and stewardship. With their combined expertise, all departments along with the expertise of several HMS collaborators acted as instructors for this intensive multi-day residential field course. So this introduces the course instructors; but who are the students?

The key ingredient for success at this level of intensity is a student with a passion and desire to be immersed into central Appalachian mountain ecology. As previously mentioned, it is a multi-day (8 full days) residential (in tents) field course. To be considered as a student for AEC, the potential participants were required to submit a 700 word essay describing their passion for conservation and how this course could aid them going into their futures. After the submitted essays were reviewed, if essays were favorable, an interview was scheduled with the potential AEC student. All applicants were asked the same set of questions, which were designed to highlight the applicants qualifications but also to evoke discussion regarding their career goals. Only after our panel discussed applicants' essays and interview performance was a decision made on acceptance. When the accepted students found out, it was only the beginning.

A great amount of gratitude needs to go out to the course sponsors, Sandra & Brian Moroney and Sarah Mann. With creating a "packed" full residential course with over 250 years of combined professional conservation experience to share in this course, the cost is not inexpensive. However, due to the support and generosity of the above sponsors, a scholarship fund was formed to make this program available to anyone demonstrating the willingness to learn and endure. THANK YOU Sandra, Brian, and Sarah!

When I say a "packed" full course, it still may not adequately describe this itinerary. While there was an obviously focus on ornithology, with particular emphasis on raptors, participants were exposed to diverse conservation disciplines as a part of this experience. Stewardship of wildlands, botany, entomology, and limnology name several of the formal curriculums. One item that can never be overlooked is teamwork—how to work together to achieve a goal. Some may say it's the most valuable lesson. Below are links to short films that summarize each full day. This way you can be the judge if "packed" full seems to sum it up? 

 

 

To bring this type of program together, it takes a village. A tremendous amount of conservation collaboration was required. Great gratitude goes out to all the course instructor/mentors in order of instruction: Noah Rauch, Steve Wade, David Barber, Bracken Brown, Dr. Chris Sacchi, Tara Muenz, Steve Mohapp, Dr. JF Therrien, Mercy Melo, Chrissy Lambert, Aaron Prince, Jamie Dawson, Jordon Skoff, Dr. Laurie Goodrich, Dr. Rebecca McCabe, and Mike Slater.

More gratitude to direct course supporter/mentors: President Sean Grace, Patricia Barber, Will (Parkour) and Rachel (Jetpacks) Edge, Riley Davenport, MT Grob, and Meghan Steffey.

A special shout out needs to be extended to my wife, Traci, who welcomed this group into our own everyday Appalachian Ecology life.

The Sanctuary will soon be discussing if this will be included as part of its yearly programs, and several staff already expressed their desire to be on board again for next year. If you know a teenager between the ages of 15 and 17 years old by June of 2023, please share this blog post with them and let them evaluate for themselves if they're up for the challenges of Appalachian Ecology Immersion. If you would want to offer financial support for this type of intensive programming, please reach out to Director of Development Mary Linkevich at [email protected].

 

Happy Trails,

Todd Bauman, Director of Stewardship