Students Get Hands-On With Leeches, Dragonflies At Wildlife Camp
By EMILY GUEVARA
Andie Ladigo crouched down and picked up a leech letting it crawl on her hand as
she looked at it.
Nearby, Tyler Monroe held a small fish in one hand feeling its fin with his other. While the students explored the animal life found in the shallow waters of Lake Tyler, Michelle Wood-Ramirez shared a lesson about one of those animals.
Holding up a dragonfly, she told the students about how the insect catches its prey.
"He's got hooks in his leg," she said. "His bottom jaw opens, juts out, grabs it and pulls it back."
And with that, she gently pulled out his jaw with her hand for the small group of students to see.
The lesson in the predatory practices of the dragonfly came during a day of activities at the weeklong Wildlife Conservation Camp.
The camp, put on by the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society, is geared toward Texas high school students. This week 18 students from across the state, including 15 campers and three returning campers are participating.
Started in 1993, the camp is in its 18th year. It's held at a different location annually and this is the first time it's been at the Camp Tyler Outdoor School in Whitehouse.
"This camp is focused on bringing up the next generation and getting them outdoors," Mrs. Wood-Ramirez, the director, said.
Camp activities address wildlife and habitat management techniques; wildlife and plant identification; wetland ecology; wildlife capture, tracking and survey techniques; and shooting sports, among other areas.
Wildlife professionals from across the state led the different breakout sessions.
Campers learned about the prairie, forest, and wetlands and visited the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center near Athens.
On Friday, they planned to mist net birds, which is a technique used to catch the animals for banding or other research.
"My goal primarily for this camp is to bring a lot of urban and rural kids together, bring them outside," Mrs. Wood-Ramirez said.
She said she wants the campers to develop an appreciation for and knowledge about the environment and animals so that they can contribute to discussions and decisions affecting wildlife.
"We just want to make sure that these resources are here for our kids," she said.
Michelle Paschall, 17, of Spring, said she's trying to find out what she wants to do in college, so when her college and career counselor suggested this camp, she decided to come.
Miss Paschall, a soon-to-be high school senior, said her favorite part of the week as of Thursday was visiting the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center near Athens, where she got to look at different animals under the microscope and be in the lab.
"It's been a great experience for sure, definitely one of the best learning experiences," she said.
Ms. Ladigo, 20, is studying wildlife ecology and conservation at Texas A&M University. As a college student participant, she served as a camp mentor.
"I've loved this from the very start," she said. "I'm enjoying all the activities and the people. I've learned a lot. I didn't expect to learn this much even on the first day."
Monroe, 16, of Snook, and Andy Hatcher, 17, of Forney, came with a desire to learn more.
Monroe will be a high school sophomore this school year and plans to study ranch or wildlife management in college. He said he enjoyed the camaraderie this past week with fellow campers.
Hatcher will be a freshman at Tarleton State University, where he plans to study wildlife management.
Although he has been around wildlife most of his life, he said he wanted to learn more as he prepares to go to college.
"I've just enjoyed getting to learn, getting to get out here and learn new things," Hatcher said.
Monroe and Hatcher came to the camp with financial support from their local farm bureaus.