Registered: December 2014
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As a future ecological farmer, I become fascinated with the natural world at a young age. However, I was unaware of the pre-colonization condition of my home state until I turned ten. After much reading and research, I learned that Texas was once and still is a very diverse ecoregion. My research gave me a deep desire to build a sustainably managed family/teaching farm based on the native ecosystems.
Before I can fully live out this enterprise, I realized I needed experience on working my family's acreage. Additionally, I saw my need to experience communicating with others about natural ecology, ecological restoration, and natural management if I ever hoped to teach and educate my family, local community, and beyond. My first experience came in 2013 in speech club competition. I presented a work on native edible plants and their benefits in the "Informative Speech" category. My scores told me that while my verbal delivery lacked appeal, my content was a hit. My second taste of ecological communication was at the 2014 Brazoria County Fair, where I presented a conservation education project titled,"Our Natural Coastal Environment" under the "Sea and Shore" category. The object of this essay focuses its attention on my county fair project.
Stimulating interest in the study of shells, marine life, and Brazoria's natural coastal environment was this year's goal of the "Sea and Shore" category. Brazoria contains over 200 square miles of inland water ways and about 30 miles of shoreline. More than 180,000 people attended the 2014 Fair. With this in mind, my project had the opportunity to make an enormous impact on an important coastal community while sharpening my essential communication and teaching skills.
In this project, I chose to expound on the county's natural coastal environment, presenting four underlaying topics: coastal habitats, environmental factors, current problems, and ecological solutions. Each of these in turn consisted of three separate subsections.
Under habitats, I talked about the modern prairies and marshes of the Gulf Coastal Plain, the ideal mangroves and seagrass beds of the Sabine River estuary, and the various reefs and open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. These sections not only explained the plants characterizing the ecosystem, but also the animal life found in modern reserves.
The three environmental factors included fires, tides, and hurricanes, fairly common natural factors along the coast. I showed the benefits of fires to the native grasses and wildflowers of the Gulf plains. I demonstrated the influence of tides on breeding and migratory patterns of sea turtles and blue land crabs. I also explained how hurricanes positively affect plant growth and the water table.
I listed three general problems familiar to the Brazoria audience: degradation, invasive species, and over harvesting. I grouped excessive urbanization, damaging agriculture, and chemical pollution under degradation. Organisms like Chinese tallow, common nutsedge, and feral hogs fell into invasive species. Overhunting and overfishing made up over harvesting. These problems cover almost ever major threat to the Texas Gulf Coast.
Most importantly, I laid out some ecological solutions to the problems. To check degradation I proposed revitalization, where ecological restoration is implemented and expirated species are reintroduced. I stressed the importance of natural predators and healthy habitats to combat invasive plants and animals. Finally, I proposed no-harvest zones in the biomes of both land and sea, facilitating the recovery of animal populations.
After compiling all this information, my dad and I arranged the text into the various card stock colors to focus appropriate attention to each category. I carefully selected pictures for each of the sections and had them developed. After arranging the visual aids and associated literature the story board "Our Natural Coastal Environment" was fit for presentation. A conclusion dominated the center of the presentation, highlighting that in view of all this information, we need to practice good stewardship with what God has given us.
At the fair the judges awarded my project with several titles: First Place, Best of Class, and Most Educational. The Fair President personally thanked me for participating in the program. The real prize, however, was receiving the People's Choice Award. This helped me see I had accomplished the goal; to educate my Brazoria County neighbors about our environment. Educating people about ecology and creation is far more important to me than any ribbons, awards, or money.
The benefit of this project was twofold. First, it helped me to select proper and not outlandish language and proposals. My dad was especially helpful with this. I learned how important it is to speak appropriately about opposing ideas and practices. Second, as I have already stated, this project gave me experience in presentation of ecological ideas. I had to arrange my presentation to make it eye catching but informative. Color schemes and geometrical format also influenced the project. The information needed to make sense with attainable goals, not sounding outrageous or seeming impractical. This science fair program taught me to use my words wisely and inform my audience accordingly.
In summary, the fair project developed my experience in presenting ideas to people. It allowed me to teach people with kindness and present ideas appropriately by slicing up solutions into more understandable ways. It grew my character. As a whole the project was a success in spreading the news of ecological restoration and management. I feel that this project positively presented ecological restoration and conservation biology to the residents of Brazoria County, preparing their hearts and minds for future harmony between Texans and our beautiful coastal environment.