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Area Students Get Valuable Lessons in Conservation

An Audubon Society program has given area high school students an immersion into conservation. KSMU’s Michele Skalicky reports…

It was an unusually hot day for this time of year, but despite the heat, 16 area high school students donned heavy gloves and got to work planting giant cane in a field along Bee Creek in Taney County.The students were taking part in GLADE, The Green Leadership Academy for Diverse Ecosystems, at the Bull Shoals Field Station. Getting dirty was all part of the experience—they explored a cave, tested water quality in lakes and streams, studied the effects of controlled burning on glades and banded birds to learn about their migration habits.Janice Greene, a biology professor at Missouri State University, which helped with GLADE, hopes what the students learned during their time at GLADE will always stay with them…

"I hope they'll develop an appreciation and awareness that we need to restore native habitat and that all these things tie together, that native habitats, species and that they're all tied together--water quality's tied to it as well and so that no one thing exists by itself, that it all works together."

Before the kids headed out to plant giant cane, they got a motivational speech from Greene…

"You're leaving a mark that you're going to be able to come back and see in the future and that you are going to be positively affecting the world today by the work you're doing. This is your mark that you're leaving today, so that's a really important thought as you're working."

The planting was part of the academy’s focus on learning about habitat restoration and promoting habitat for endangered species. It’s hoped that the endangered Swainson’s warbler will one day return to SW MO thru the planting of giant cane, which is perfect habitat for the bird…

"The hope is that it will bring that species back eventually--not immediately but as we get more cane planted in the area. But the cane is a benefit in a variety of ways. It provides habitat for a whole variety of mammals and birds and insects and a whole variety of things, but it also promotes bank stabilization for aquatic areas, it cleans the water and it's just in general very good for the environment."

Sarah Backer of Springfield participated in GLADE...

"It feels great knowing that I could possibly make a difference in whether or not this area becomes what it once was or not, and, yeah, it's pretty great."

Taylor Smith of Ozark plans to focus on environmental studies in college. He felt good about the impact he was able to make...

"It feels great, and, you know, ten years from now I'll come back and be, like, 'I planted that little thing over there.'"

But their impact doesn’t stop at GLADE…students who participated in the academy were required to design an environmental project to carry out in their communities, and they each received a $100 stipend to do so.Greg Swick is director of GLADE…

"And we're challenging them to make it as big as they possibly could and as large of an environmental impact in their own home community, whether it be through green technology or habitat restoration or trail construction, whatever's in their own minds that they think would improve their own communities."

GLADE was made possible thru an innovation grant the Greater Ozarks Audubon Society received from the National chapter as part of Together Green, funded by Toyota.Swick explained what he hoped the students who participated in the academy would take away with them…

"A sense of empowerment that they really can shape the future and make this place we live in more green and clean and sustainable."

For KSMU News, I’m Michele Skalicky.