Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office
Bringing the “Big Muddy” to Rural Students
BY SARAH ETTINGER-DIETZEL, COLUMBIA FWCO
within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the overarching mission of the
agency. Credit: Elizabeth Siepker
On May 8th, 2015, Columbia Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office (FWCO) had the opportunity to make a special trip to southern Missouri to speak with biology students at Dora High School. At the request of Elizabeth Siepker, Natural Sciences teacher, and Principle, Rick Luna, Sarah Ettinger-Dietzel eagerly accepted the invitation to interact with the students. Many students were on overload from final exams and the anticipation of summer vacation and the opportunity to learn about the Service’s mission, Columbia FWCO projects and career opportunities was a welcome break for the students (and teachers) at Dora High School.
Sarah began with an introduction to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and the overarching mission of the agency; specifically addressing Strategic Habitat Conservation and the partnerships needed to implement conservation efforts on the ground (and in the water). The Missouri River, a.k.a, the “Big Muddy,” was introduced to the students with a brief historical overview and discussion of challenges influencing the river today. Pictures of past and present Service employees hanging out with the most commonly found species in the Missouri River while a brief overview was given on the each of the projects. One particular favorite for the students was a short video clip of invasive carp, specifically Silver Carp and the major challenges and issues associated with the species. This included the damage these fast growing animals can inflict on the environment as well as individual people. The video inspired discussion about invasive species and the damage that non-native animals can inflict on the environment (not to mention people). Students were amazed and even slightly horrified.
The presentation wrapped up with a section on careers with the Service. The take-away message was that even if the students were not overly passionate about the great outdoors, there were many different supporting roles within the Service that provide a critical foundation for on-the-ground (and in-the-water) conservation work. After the presentation, I broke out preserved specimens for the students to become acquainted with. The sturgeon species were a big hit with their dinosaur like appearance and so were infamous Northern Snake Head, getting props for its unusual ability to breathe out of water for hours.
With each class the students had multiple questions after each presentation and of course the “one that got away” fish stories. The students of Dora High School were attentive and exhibited a wonderful curiosity about our jobs with the Service, especially at Columbia FWCO. The students also showed a great deal of enthusiasm at the prospect of volunteering and working with conservation organizations in the future. It was a pleasure to provide an outreach opportunity with the students and teachers at Dora High School and it is the Columbia FWCO’s hope there will be many more chances to continue providing educational opportunities in the form of these amazing outreach events.