WNC Nature Center Represented In Mexico

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WNC Nature Center Represented In Mexico

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Originally published in Friends of the WNC

The WNC Nature Center’s own Keith Mastin, Education Curator, was recently award a prestigious international fellowship in conservation. Out of hundreds of applications and a rigorous application process, Keith was selected by the non-profit organization Ecology Project International (EPI) to participate in an 8-day Educator Fellowship in Baja Mexico. EPI is a field science and conservation organization that partners scientists with local and international students and educators in ecologically critical environments in Costa Rica, Ecuador & the Galapagos, Belize, Baja Mexico, Yellowstone, and Hawaii. Since 2005, EPI has worked with more than 10,000 students in their Baja Mexico program, the majority of them local to the project site. During the Fellowship, Keith and a small group of carefully selected educators from across North America experienced the field course for themselves in order to  gain skills and resources they can bring back to the classroom or education center with them. Keith was able to participate in EPI’s Turtle Ecology Program. Read on for his first hand account of his time in Mexico earlier this month! We are proud of Keith for representing the Nature Center and helping our global mission of conservation!

WNC Nature Center Represented In Mexico

Ten science teachers from throughout the US and Canada, arrived to our deserted island on Magdalena Bay off the west coast of Baja California Sur expecting to see a barren landscape designated as our expedition campsite for the 8 days of wildlife discovery. But much to our surprise, what we saw from our transport fishing boats was a full complement of prepared tents, tarp-covered teaching spaces, and kayaks readied to use. This was going to be much more than any of us expected!

Ecology Project International (EPI) is an educational institution developed to enhance and engage youth in scientific research and cultural exchange within various regions in need of wildlife protection for one or more species of animals. EPI has several opportunities for science teachers and environmental instructors to apply for a Teacher Fellowship that empowers them to join in small teams at one of their many locations to discover some of the local riches, share in the research methodology, and participate in thought-provoking discussions and activities that they take back to their classroom, community, and students. I was fortunate enough to be one of instructors selected to participate in this experience in March.

Not only was our primary goal of studying Green sea turtles in the inland waters off the coast with a local researcher successful, we were invited to work with 2 other scientists on grey whale breeding populations and measuring young whale sharks during their casual feeding behavior near the city of La Paz. Intermingled with the animal research were opportunities to examine mangrove forests, scope wild shore birds and raptors, participate in a beach clean-up, visit a rolling sand dune that looked like the Sahara Desert, and experience the local flavors of Mexico and its marvelous people.

The purpose for the trip was more than just a time away from the office, but to see firsthand what we, the WNC Nature Center, can offer our community’s youth next year, in 2018! We will be planning a trip back to Baja California Sur in April 2018 during Spring Break to experience the sights, sounds, and research that continues to help wildlife exist. Our design for a 9-day expedition will surround sea turtles, beach and estuary ecology, and Whale sharks. Students between the ages of 16-18 are invited to participate in this life altering event accompanied by WNC Nature Center chaperones. This will be our second EPI Expedition with a trip made to Yellowstone National Park in 2015 to assist in bison and Pronghorn antelope research. For more information on Ecology Project International, visit their website at www.ecologyproject.org.

Please contact me at kmastin@ashevillenc.gov to be placed on an invitation list to come to an introductory meeting on May 31, 2017 at the WNC Nature Center from 6-7pm. Bring the family! The presentation will include information on EPI, the Magdalena Bay opportunity for 2018, and a meet and greet with the chaperones. There are no obligations for just attending the meeting! We are looking forward to meeting you and sharing about the opportunity for this life-changing experience.