Thursday, September 27, 2012

Envirothon: Everyone's Doing It

Does your community participate in the North American Envirothon? 

Photo by Erica Szlosek / USFWS

It's an environmental education competition for middle and high school students. My husband coached a team in Mountain View, Arkansas for a couple of years, and they had a great time (they even placed in the Forestry division).

If your kid (or class) is interested in learning more about the upcoming competition which takes place next summer, you still have time to get involved. 

Check out my Envirothon fact sheet here.

Souvenir Savvy

Years ago, when I set off on a boat to explore 300 miles of the Amazon River, I was eager to preserve every moment of my great adventure. I wanted to take a million pictures and bring back as much Amazon stuff as possible. Not only did I want to give friends and family a tangible connection to my journey, I also wanted to hold on to things that would remind me ... as if I could forget.

The boat that carried me from Iquitos, Peru to Tabatinga, Brazil and back. Photo courtesy of EcoAdventures, Inc.

I bought and bartered for carvings, masks, jewelry, and other native pretties. I even bought a framed butterfly from a boy in Iquitos that has been with me all these years, traveling from wall to wall as I moved back and forth across the country. In retrospect, I have some remorse about buying the butterfly. At the time, I thought I was conscientiously collecting my souvenirs - no feathers, bones, claws, or other endangered animal parts that might contribute to the destruction of the region's incredible biodiversity. Buying the butterfly was legal, but maybe it would've been best left behind.

All these years later, the souvenirs that have meant the most are my photos (almost a million) and the memories that remain fresh in my mind. I can still picture my first view of the river as I flew over it, coiling like a glossy constrictor through dark miles of jungle on a moonlit night.

You can't buy that.

In a roundabout way, I'm suggesting that we make wise decisions while wandering those intoxicating marketplaces which beckon when we're abroad. Every penny we spend can help support a local economy, but it can also have far-reaching effects on fragile ecosystems

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Bird Poop and Beach Trash

Ah, those were the days ...

Back before I discovered the need for a real job, I spent a year working my tail off (for free) as the resident caretaker of Protection Island National Wildlife Refuge, three miles off the northern coast of Washington in the Strait of Juan de Fuca. 

My husband and I were the island's only human residents, and we worked as a volunteer team to protect the island's sensitive wildlife species from disturbance, including 70 percent of the Puget Sound's seabird population, rare raptors, and a family of northern elephant seals. 


Photo of a Glaucous-winged gull by DickDaniels [CC-BY-SA-3.0 or GFDL] / Wikimedia Commons

Um ... I think not. 

A large part of our time was spent hosing seagull poop off of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service boats and docks, and during the winter we picked up a lot of water-logged trash that washed ashore. 

Even so, that year was one of the best of my life, and I didn't pocket a dime.

Volunteering can be incredibly rewarding hands-on work that is instrumental in protecting wildlife and habitat (plus, it can offer opportunities to get up close and personal with fascinating creatures). 

If you have the time - and don't need a paycheck - you can find information about volunteering in my new article:

Volunteer to Help Endangered Species