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July 9, 2016

 

Campers become biologists for a day

Dogs

Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Wildlife biologists Mead McCoy, left, and Scott Schlueter explain to campers about a bullhead they caught in Baldwin Pond at Lime Hollow Nature center Friday.

By TYRONE L. HEPPARD
Staff Reporter
theppard@cortlandstandard.net

CORTLANDVILLE –– This week was fishing week for the kids participating in the Lime Hollow Nature Center’s Adventure Day Camp, but what was supposed to be a couple of days of fishing quickly turned into studying side by side with wildlife experts.
That’s because biologists Scott Schlueter and Mead McCoy from the local bureau of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Services came down to Baldwin Pond to teach the campers about the creatures in the lake while doing research of their own.
Peter Harritty, associate director and senior naturalistat Lime Hollow, said Thursday that while the nature centerhas long had a good workingrelationship with the Fish & Wildlife Service, providing a hands-on experience forcampers was a fortunatecoincidence.
“We have 10 weeks of summer camp,” Harrity said. “One week of summer we allow the kids to fish. We thought this would be a good place to learn about fish biology. That’s the educational component that we’d really need. It gets them more engaged.”
Schlueter and McCoy said Friday they came to trap and tag fish so they could get a better sense of their population and they invited the kids to watch them work.
“Mostly, it was to show the kids what fish biologists do for a living, get them tagging fish ... (and) collecting the biological data,” Schlueter said. “We caught just enough fish to keep their attention, but the turtles are enough to keep the kid sexcited.”
As it turns out, it seems the turtles are more curious about the traps than the fish are, providing an opportunity for Schlueter and McCoy to give the children a crash course on the reptiles, too.
The campers each took turns measuring bullheads and bluegills and passing around midland painted turtles that happened to find their way into the fish traps, where they were caught without harm.
It was clear the children were learning more outdoors than what they would from a book or a lecture.
“One thing I learned is that bullheads are bottom-feeders and they swim up towards the top (of the lake),” Aiden Mead, 11, said. “They eat things that stay close to the floor.”
A small group of campers even made friends with a turtle retrieved from a trap earlier that week and liked him so much, they gave him a name: Dabs. They were especially excited to see Dabs among the other turtles they caught that afternoon.
They could tell by the algae stuck to his shell and his wonky back legs and, of course, by the way he flailed his front legs to one side as if doing the dance move he was named after.
Twelve-year old Nick DeRado from Cortland was the camper responsible for giving Dabs his nickname and he wasn’tjust hanging out naming turtles. He, too, was definitely learning a lot.
“It’s actually been a really interesting experience seeing all the stuff they caught,” he said. “I’ve learned a lot of stuff.”
When DeRado was asked what the most fascinating thing was he witnessed while out by the lake, he simply turned around and pointed.
“Probably that over there,” DeRado said.
All eyes were locked on Schlueter, who was holding a massive snapping turtle that was thrusting out his head and chomping at the air like an angry sea monster.
Once the kids retreated back to the camp, both Schlueter and McCoy said it was a pleasant change having the campers around while they were conducting their research, said that kids seemed engaged.
But the goal was to get them interested in protecting and preserving the environment for the future. Given how excited the campers were to work with them, McCoy said he was optimistic that happened.
“You can see the enthusiasm that it creates when you actually get them out here,”McCoy said. “We need the young students to appreciate this like all us old guys do. We won’t have this without them, so this is really important work.”

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