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Summertime Fun At 4-H Forestry Camp

By:
Ami Neiberger

Source(s):
Jerry Culen jrcu@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu, (352) 846-0996 ext. 250

NICEVILLE—What would make 35 talkative teens tiptoe down a country road late at night eyeballing the woods for any sign of noise?

It’s not an episode of the X-Files or a ghost story, it’s an owl prowl at 4-H’s new forestry camp at the 4-H Timpoochee Environmental Education Center in Niceville.

Armed with a tape recorder blaring screech owl calls, the teens were trying to spot some of the elusive birds at their nighttime feeding. “I like looking for animals,” said Jonathan Bridges, 13, of Orlando. “The owl prowl was fun, even if we only heard one owl and never could find him.”

Some nights and locations are better than others for looking for owls, said Jerry Culen, associate professor at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Culen organized the camp and says that activities like owl prowls are important for teaching youth how wildlife are part of the ecosystem.

The camp was designed to expose youth to forestry and to careers in natural resources. According to the Florida Forestry Association, forestry is an $8.5 billion dollar industry in the state. While sampling trees with a boring tool and taking tree measurements near the camp, Bridges said he might pursue a career related to the outdoors or veterinary science, but that he definitely learned a lot and made new friends.

“We found a tree that was really old–51 years!” said Chris Taylor, 14, of DeLand. One year is equivalent to one dark ring and one light ring in the core sample. It took a while to count the rings, said Taylor, who also added to his leaf collection during the trip.

Jobs in natural resources require not only people to hike the woods and measure the trees, but also people with science and computer skills, said UF assistant professor Deborah Miller, when the campers visited her office at the UF/Pensacola Junior College campus in Milton. They toured laboratories and gardens before a mud bog hike to see pitcher plants and more woods.

“I like the scenery at 4-H Camp Timpoochee,” said Lisa Banegas, 14, of Niceville. “I think it’s beautiful and I like being able to learn new things.” Banegas said she would be back for marine camp the following week.

Banegas said she liked the visit to the Hub City Forestry Museum and Environmental Center in Crestview. The center is home to more than 80 species of trees. The teens learned that more than 5,000 products come from trees and coaxed the museum’s residential manager, a gopher tortoise, out of his underground lair with fresh leaves.

Retired forester John McMahon answered questions and posed a few stumpers of his own. “How big is our environment?” he asked the campers. “Wherever you go, that’s your environment at the time. It’s a great plan that nature came up with, and we are all part of it.”

Actions have a lasting impact. “You can’t unfry an egg,” said Larry Williams, UF horticulture extension agent in Okaloosa County. Once a tree’s roots are damaged beyond repair, you can’t fix it, he told the young people. “Problems with trees can often be prevented but rarely cured.”

Funded with a grant from the Alfred I. Dupont Foundation, Culen said the forestry camp was designed to expose youth to careers and to caring for the ecosystem. The grant helped cover expenses, and youth only had to pay $20 to attend the four-day camp.

Organizers say the camp will leave a lasting impression on the teens. “No matter what career path they choose later in life, young people need to be exposed to nature and understand the relationships between the natural habitat and their own actions,” said Culen. “This camp set out to do just that–prepare them for a lifetime of living.”


PHOTOS AVAILABLE

Photo 1: Jonathan Bridges, 13, of Orlando examines “Florida snow” lichens found while on a nature hike at 4-H Forestry Camp near the 4-H Timpoochee Environmental Education Center. Organizers from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say that youth need to be exposed to nature and learn ecosystem relationships.

Photo 2: Chris Taylor, 14, of DeLand takes a core sample from a tree to find out how old it is during 4-H Forestry Camp near the 4-H Timpoochee Environmental Education Center. Pairs of dark and light rings are counted together to represent one year in the life of the tree. It was 51 years old. Organizers from the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences say that youth need to be exposed to nature and learn ecosystem relationships.

To obtain photos, please contact Ami Neiberger, state 4-H public relations coordinator, (352) 846-0996 ext. 237, adnei@gnv.ifas.ufl.edu Specify deadline and format needed. We can E-mail photos or send via standard mail. Visit our news Web site.

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