Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My interview with Shippensburg University's campus newspaper, The Slate

What was the project exactly?
The Alternative Fall Break trip to Wallops Island, Virginia was a trip sponsored by the Women's Center which included many majors. For me it fulfilled a service learning project for my Women's Studies Seminar course, but for other students it was a required field trip. The trip linked to women's studies through the focus of Rachel Carson who was a writer and biologist who focused on appreciating and preserving nature. It was the centennial year of her birth so my service learning project will deal with her book "The Sea Around Us", and will focus on her life achievements and how we, as students, got to help her conservation efforts throughout the Chesapeake Bay watershed.

How did you get involved?
I got involved through Nicolette Yevich who works at the Women's Center on campus. She came to speak at my women's studies seminar class. I thought it sounded interesting to be able to get out in nature and explore different animals and regions all while learning to conserve the area around us, and since it fulfilled my service learning project I was getting the best of both worlds, among two different majors (Biology/Earth Science and Women's Studies).

Where did you go?
Friday Oct. 5th, we stopped in Baltimore to visit the aquarium and explore Inner Harbor, then we stayed the rest of the trip in Wallops Island, Virginia at the Marine Science Consortium. On our day trips we visited Assateague Island, Deal Island, MD, as well as spending time on the Chesapeake Bay and Tom's Cove.

How long were you there?
The trip was Friday October 5th to Tuesday October 9th.

What were the tasks you did while there?
On Saturday, the group took kayaks out from Chincoteague Memorial Park to learn about coastal exploration and environments. Once there, we explored different species of crabs, fish, and even got the chance to see a bald eagle. In the afternoon we returned as a group to be part of the Chincoteague Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center's exhibit on Rachel Carson as we told visitors why we were there as well as helped staff different stations and booths of activities.
On Sunday we did marsh reconstruction around Tom’s Cove and were overwhelmed by the garbage and litter the group compiled. In the beginning we were skeptical of what we would actually recover, a few soda bottles, a plastic bag, but it soon turned into hundreds of feet of netting, used by locals to keep their clam harvests under control. We also found many old shoes, paper items, and used fireworks. We even rescued a baby terrapin turtle under the netting that was tangled among vegetation. Among all the students we accumulated over 40+ bags of garbage in just a few hours.
On Monday we spent time on Deal Island and got the chance to talk to different men who all contribute to the oyster population. There was an oyster surveying boat that took students out on the bay to look at the oxidation states of the water as well as a firsthand look at how they fish for the oysters and what a "sick" oyster looks like among the rest. We learned the importance of the oysters in the Chesapeake and how fast they are declining. Oysters are filter feeders so they help in a sense to clean up the bay, with their population declining and more and more pollution and farm run off from our area going into the bay, the life of the bay is becoming overly populated with nutrients and it has become a huge problem. The problem also affects the local fisherman who make their living harvesting oysters. We got the chance to go onto their boat as well as we chatted about the harsh effects and how it is damaging their career. (Aboard these boats, we got the chance to eat raw oysters!!)...some say it was sick, but you just have to swallow it!
On Tuesday before returning back to SHIP we stopped at the Myers Brothers Dairy Farm in Franklin County. It was awarded Best Management Practices for farm runoff. We got to see how they milk the cows and how all the manure and run off from the cows is controlled and does not damage the water that eventually runs into the Chesapeake Bay. It was shocking to see the potential damage just one farm could cause, luckily we saw the good way to control runoff, however many farms throughout Pennsylvania and other states are not awarded with BMP.

I know it was community service, but for whom?
It was supposed to be community service for a business or company dealing with women or a women's issue, but for me and my roommate who partnered on this project, Dr. Horner said we did our community service through actual conservation efforts as well as learning about the groundwork that was set by writer and biologist Rachel Carson.

Are you planning on going back?
Since I am a senior, I will probably not be around for the next trip, however, the teachers and faculty were talking about another trip back to Wallops Island Virginia next year. Hopefully, I will be able to come along, it was a once in a lifetime experience to do and see all the things we got to do first hand. Not many students can say they kayaked to and from an island or went with local fisherman to eat raw oysters, or even climbed the Assateague Lighthouse (142 feet high, with even more steps!)

Or are you planning on getting involved in community service projects in the future?
Yes. I've always been interested in volunteering even throughout high school through food banks, animal shelters, rescue missions and assisted living homes. Although it is not paid work, you always get to do and see things other people are missing out on. I hope to have many more volunteering opportunities in the future, including eventually completely a 2 year term with the Peace Corps.

Had you ever done anything like this before?
Not to the extent to which we accomplished what we did. The marsh clean up as well as the combination of exploring new places, learning and finding different marine species as well as meeting some fascinating people, was definitely an experience to remember.

Thanks for reading!! Hopefully I will get the chance to scan in the actual article when it gets published in The Slate, until then I hope this either brought back some great memories for those who went on the trip, or inspired the rest of the readers to actually take time and get involved in conservation and/or volunteer opportunities.

-Holly Reynolds
Shippensburg University

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