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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Conserving the Future through New Technologies

Dan Ashe (far left) as a young boy looking at a bird on a Florida beach. Courtesy of the Ashe family.

This Week Dan Ashe has been writing from the Conserving the Future Conference in Madison, Wisconsin. Today's theme: Youth and Technology.

Wednesday at the Conserving the Future conference for the National Wildlife Refuge System, was another inspiring and exciting day. 

In today’s update, I wanted to talk about two themes that resonated for me: the tremendous capacity of young people to carry America’s conservation legacy forward and the power of reaching out to those young people through new technologies. 

There were amazing moments from yesterday’s conference. 

A fifth grader from the Prairie Wetlands Learning Center (find them on Facebook here) shared her experiences in the outdoors and “getting in the moment.” Nature taught her to sit quietly and observe, to “look closer.”

In a world where television, video games, and online technology capture our children’s time and attention, hearing this bright young person talk about her observations and appreciation for the natural world was incredibly moving. 

There was another story.

While growing up as a teenager, Juan Martinez from the Children and Nature Network joined his high school’s eco-club.  The decision kept him out of an LA gang and gave him the opportunity to earn a scholarship to the Teton Science School.

Juan told the exhibit hall that seeing the Tetons and the star-studded sky – for the first time in his life – was a spiritual, life-changing experience. Now, he’s paying it forward, working with young people to help them find their conservation spirit, just like he did.

We need more young people like Juan to fall in love with our natural world. The “millennium generation” has grown up with the Internet and the communication technology available to them. They are demanding more access to online information about national wildlife refuges, wildlife resources and outdoor opportunities.  These young people tell us that we need to keep up with new technologies and find new ways to use technology to engage them in the natural world. 

New technologies like social media can help us connect with young people – our future leaders of conservation in America.  Communication moves so much faster today, we need to move at the same speed or we’ll be left behind.

Conservation will be left behind.

By connecting nature to the online communities young people care about, we can help.  All this week, I hope you’ve taken some time to check out the blogs, newsfeeds, tweets, videos and other virtual tools we’ve used throughout the week on Americaswildlife.org.  I hope you’ve also taken the time to look at all of the Service’s social media work.  In the last year, we’ve been able to build a network of over 70,000 fans and followers. 

These venues give us access to so many more participants than the more than 1,000 in Madison. These days, the online conversations are just as important as the ones happening in the hallways. 

I want to hear from you about how the Service can continue to use technology to get kids connected to nature. I also challenge you to share your naturalist stories – because as another fifth grader from the Prairie Wetland Learning Center said, “You can’t be a naturalist and keep it to yourself, you need to share it.”

Share your ideas about using technology to reach the next generation. Share your love for nature with others – and engage and inspire online.


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