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High School “Conservation Honors Program” Visits Columbia FWCO
Midwest Region, July 14, 2010
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Andy Starotka (right) and Andy Plauck explain the difference between longnose and shortnose gar. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Andy Starotka (right) and Andy Plauck explain the difference between longnose and shortnose gar. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a
Andy Plauck displays a shovelnose sturgeon to a high school group from the conservation summer school. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo)
Andy Plauck displays a shovelnose sturgeon to a high school group from the conservation summer school. (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service photo) - Photo Credit: n/a

During the month of July, the Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) had a group of high school students stop by for a visit. Typically, summer school has a negative connotation associated with it, but this group of students voluntarily signed up for the “Conservation Honors Program” (sponsored by the University of Missouri at Columbia).

 

Amanda Noel, a STEP student (Student Temporary Employment Program) from Big Muddy National Fish and Wildlife Refuge (NFWR) and an instructor for the program, contacted the Columbia FWCO in search of some career guidance for the eager teenagers. Having been flooded off of the Missouri River for over two months, Columbia FWCO staff were happy to oblige.

 

Fish Biologists Andy Starostka and Andy Plauck talked with the twenty five students for about an hour focusing on the details of a career in the natural resources field. They explained that going to college and getting good grades were critical for getting into get into this profession. The biologists also explained the importance of field experience, whether it be volunteering or a summer internship. Starostka and Plauck explained the different classes needed to qualify for certain positions in the natural resources field, as well as the various types of work available.

 

After the dreaded lecture about college courses, the presentation was lightened up with an explanation of the Service’s role pertaining to pallid sturgeon. Several types of fish sampling gear were displayed as well as some live Missouri River fish. The group got a kick out of watching the two biologists wrestle with longnose and shortnose gar in an attempt to explain the difference in the two species.

 

Of course, no one in the group volunteered to hold the splashing, sharp-toothed fish. As always, the shovelnose sturgeon was everyone’s favorite fish. Not too many people have seen one of these fish up close, and even fewer have had the chance to touch or hold one. A small flathead catfish was the final show-and-tell subject. Many questions arose from the fish presentation. After winding the formal presentation down, several members of the group shared their own fishing stories about catfish and those “jumpin’ carp” on the river.

 

Opportunities such as this are great for the future generation of biologists. Not only do they get to see what we do, but interns also get a behind the scenes look at setting up for a group such as this. These high school students took time out of their busy summer schedules to participate in this week-long program, indicating their interest in the field of natural resources at a young age. Partnering with the Big Muddy NFWR, University of Missouri and local high schools allowed us to reach teenagers from around the state of Missouri.


Contact Info: Andrew Plauck, 573-234-2132 ext 175, Andrew_Plauck@fws.gov



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