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Published: Tuesday, 6/13/2006

'Envirothon' tests Ohio students on natural resources

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bluffton High School students Elizabeth McCall, Chris Schwager, Jessica Gossard, and Michael Schwager, from left, collaborate during the statewide Envirothon competition held yesterday at the University of Findlay's Rieck Center. Bluffton High School students Elizabeth McCall, Chris Schwager, Jessica Gossard, and Michael Schwager, from left, collaborate during the statewide Envirothon competition held yesterday at the University of Findlay's Rieck Center.
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FINDLAY - Dragonflies danced in the prairie grass as high school students from across the state fielded questions on Ohio's environment at the University of Findlay's Rieck Center yesterday.

The top four teams from each of the state's five regional Envirothon competitions answered questions at field test sites on soil and land use, forestry, wildlife, and aquatic ecology.

Teams from northwest Ohio included high school students from Bluffton, Holgate, Fort Jennings, and Clay in Oregon.

The center, running alongside the Blanchard River and home to prairies, wetlands, woodlands, wildlife, and a pond made it an idyllic spot for the afternoon testing.

"[Envirothon] helps the state keep itself cleaner and gives people the knowledge to take care of it," said Syb Oenema, 18, a recent graduate of Holgate High School. "Hopefully, everyone will then bring this knowledge into whatever they do in the future."

In the evening, students prepared a brief oral presentation on an environmental issue they will present this morning to a panel of judges.

Students explore a pond at the Rieck Center, which boasts prairies, woodlands, wetlands, and diverse wildlife. Students explore a pond at the Rieck Center, which boasts prairies, woodlands, wetlands, and diverse wildlife.
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Canada's University of Manitoba, which will host the weeklong national Envirothon competition July 23-29, chose this year's topic of global warming.

Nelson Strong, an administrator with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Soil and Water Conservation, who organized the competition, said global warming is worrisome to Canadians because roughly half of the nation's land mass is covered by permafrost and could suffer dramatic changes because of melting.

In Ohio, global warming is making winters milder, said Jeanne Russell, educational coordinator with the state DNR.

The winning team of the statewide competition will be announced today, after the scores from the field tests and oral presentations are tallied.

"We hope these students will be taking our jobs in a few years," said Mr. Strong. "And we hope, more generally, that they will see that they can in fact effect change through their actions."

Mr. Strong said he sees a need for more young people to enter environmental fields, especially after the current round of retirements of the 1970's generation.

"In the '70s, environmental issues were more visible than they are today," said Mr. Strong. "There were a lot of young people interested in helping to make something better for future generations."

Cody Hacker was a member of the Logan High School FFA team that went to the Ohio Envirothon in 2001 and 2002. Mr. Hacker graduated from Hocking College in Forestry Management and now works for Vinton County's Soil and Water Conservation District.

"This program helps students see different jobs within the field that they can go into," said Mr. Hacker. "It helped me get a job because the [Division of Soil and Water Conservation] knows a lot about this contest and respects the kids that take part in it."

The Soil and Water Conservation divisions in Ohio examine soil erosion, flooding, and drainage issues, usually on farms or stemming from industrial development. These divisions generally encourage no-tillage agriculture, which helps keep farms more productive and prevents soil runoff from polluting Ohio's lakes and rivers.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch

at babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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