Nicodemus Wilderness Project
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Nicodemus Wilderness Project


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.


Post-project Interview with NWP:

What are your educational, career, and life goals?

I learned about the incredible power of passion at an early age. I am passionate about protecting the natural world and about helping as many people as possible lead meaningful lives.

I am currently a student at Montana State University in Bozeman, where I study Environmental Science and Entomology in the Department of Land Resources & Environmental Sciences. At MSU, I have been given incredible opportunities and trust, which has allowed me to further my commitment to public service and science outreach. Over the past two semesters I have served as a Residence Hall Association Senator and as the Co-Chair for the LRES Undergraduate Student Organization. I also ran an unsuccessful but worthwhile campaign for the student senate, allowing me to get to know students, their concerns, and the broader MSU community.

Over the next year I will serve as an Ambassador for the College of Agriculture, Ambassador for the Honors College, and as a student government advisor. As a student leader, I will continue to make campus sustainability and extension services a priority. We have the tools and passion necessary to inspire change on campus, in our state, and around the world. All we have to do is harness that passion and organize.

After earning my Bachelor of Science, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in the life sciences. Throughout this process, I will continue to develop my skills as a science communicator and create valuable documentaries to reach as many people as possible.

Although there is no way to know what is in store for me, I know that no matter what, my life will continue to be dedicated to public service in both the scientific and political sectors, because I believe that fighting for what is right is worth it.

What are the benefits of your Apprentice Ecologist project and how has it enriched your life?

Developing The Ant Network has been an incredible experience. It has been an exercise in commitment, vision, communication, failure, and success. Our organization has been built by volunteers across the globe, and as we continue to launch exciting and revolutionary services, I am reminded of the reasons we began this work many years ago. We all share a passionate commitment to the study of ants and, like the Nicodemus Wilderness Project, the preservation of the natural world. Moving forward, I am excited to be working with schools and institutions throughout the United States. I recently interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s Department of Entomology. While there, I made valuable connections and was inspired to further develop our education services to include exhibit production and design. Additionally, our project has earned further support and recognition at Montana State University, where we won a community choice entrepreneurship contest from the Blackstone Launchpad, earning us $1,000 in funding for our organization. We are putting that money towards equipment, materials, and software/website costs.

We are set to embark on a filming expedition in late May of 2017, filming a handful of episodes of “The Ant Explorer,” a hands-on nature action series. Each episode will run approximately 20 minutes long and be jam-packed with wilderness exploration, wildlife encounters, and scientific research, all under the umbrella of entomology. The Apprentice Ecologist program allowed me to highlight our progress with The Ant Network and focus our attention to far-reaching education programs.

Why do you feel it is important to be an active steward of the environment now and in the future?

Humanity’s treasured responsibility as the caretakers of our homelands has been entrusted to us by generations past, and our future depends on our management now. I believe that we have an imperative to not only preserve the natural world, but to leave it healthier than when we inherited it.

My project - and everything I do - is dedicated to the late Steve Irwin, best known as The Crocodile Hunter. His passion inspired and informed me, drawing my aspirations to new heights and setting a standard for conservationists worldwide. We share the same belief that to protect wildlife is to also protect the future of humanity.

Our survival and quality of life has a direct relationship with the health of the environment, and it is in our best interest to ensure that the natural world is as healthy and as intact as possible. Much of my motivation for pursuing conservation is out of the selfish desire to leave Earth a stable and prosperous planet for my younger siblings, children, grandchildren, and so on. The continuation of our nation and our species will be dependent on our ability to produce food, harness energy, and lead rich, engaging lives. Eliminating biodiversity by habitat destruction and climate change puts not only millions of species at risk of extinction, but our own, too. Conservation will be key to the survival of humanity itself.

Reaching this goal of preserving biodiversity and passing on a stable environment will not be accomplished overnight. We have seen, time and time again, a policy failure to recognize and care about pressing environmental situations. Instead of trying to change minds now, my focus is to engage young adults and children about the issues that we face. If we can create a society that thinks critically and scientifically, values facts, and understands the challenges we face, we can stabilize our economies, sustain our growth, and move forward.
Date: December 30, 2016 Views: 9531 File size: 14.9kb, 1567.2kb : 4512 x 2542
Hours Volunteered: 800
Volunteers: 13
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 19 & 17 to 60
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