Engaging Youth in Natural Resources

Date & Time (Eastern): 
Mar 4 2021 - 1:00pm to 3:00pm

Webinar Summary:

To maintain attraction to and retainment of new and diverse talent in applied STEM careers, youth engagement in natural resources is critical. However, due to limited funding, widespread disconnect to natural systems, and a lack of effective science communication on behalf of the STEM community, youth engagement in natural resources is dwindling. Cooperative Extension is well positioned to address this challenge. This webinar will explore three very different ways that Extension personnel have engaged youth in natural resources and speakers will illustrate how to initiate and maintain new youth programming across states.


This webinar will highlight: 


Brian MacGowan
Certified Wildlife Biologist®, Extension Wildlife Specialist, FNR Extension Coordinator, Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources. macgowan@purdue.edu
Title: Expanding Extension Opportunities for Undergraduate and Graduate Students
Abstract: Many university curricula focus on the teaching and research mission areas with few offering opportunities in engagement. To help meet this challenge, the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources at Purdue University has developed a Natural Resources Extension Internship Program and Graduate Extension Program that provide impactful opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, while increasing the capacity of our Extension program. I will highlight the structure, operation and evaluation of each program.
Bio: Brian is an Extension Wildlife Specialist and Extension Coordinator in the Department of Forestry & Natural Resources at Purdue University. He has almost 20 years of experience in education and research about forest wildlife management, human-wildlife conflicts, and extension programming. 
John Taylor
PA 4-H Shooting Sports Coordinator, Penn State Extension – Franklin County. jdt5508@psu.edu
Title: Engaging 4-H Shooting Sports youth during a pandemic
Abstract:  Due to the COVID-19, 4-H Shooting Sports across the country had halted all face-to-face operation. County practices, state and national competitions were all been canceled. 4-H Educators, like most teachers, scrambled to find or develop virtual educational experiences for their members. 4-H shooting sports was no different. In accordance with National 4-H shooting sports best management practices, shooting sports cannot occur without the direct physical supervision of a certified instructor. Overnight, 4-H shooting sports in Pennsylvania, ceased to exist. That is until the state committee, co-chaired by Taylor, developed a virtual experience like no other. Just before archery season, the state committee developed and delivered the virtual camera hunt experience. Outdoor educators from across the nation took to zoom, eager to tell their story. Over 4 weeks, 47 members, 4 volunteers, and 2 Extension staff came together to learn hunting and photography skills. The goal, to take wildlife photos using the hunting skills they have learned. Members learned about the elements of photography, basic camouflage, scouting skills, how to plan for a hunt, turkey-calling skills, and what animals in Pennsylvania are considered game. There were 4 divisions per age class: small game, big game, furbearer, and migratory bird/waterfowl. Animal calls from various organizations were donated as prizes. The success of the camera hunt spread and is now on the radar to be offered as a national 4-H shooting sports virtual program in 2021.
Bio: John Taylor is the Pennsylvania State University 4-H shooting sports coordinator and the co-chair of the state 4-H environmental science, shooting sports and camping program committee. Furthermore, he serves as the northeast representative on the national 4-H shooting sports committee. As the state shooting sports coordinator, John works to develop non-formal educational opportunities for youth interested in shooting and outdoor recreational activities. In addition to his national and state responsibilities, John is also a county 4-H Educator responsible for the animal science and outdoor recreation programs in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Prior to this position, John was the county 4-H Agent and county director in Morgan County, Tennessee. John earned his master’s in biosystems engineering technology and bachelor’s degree in environmental and soil science, both from the University of Tennessee where his research included engaging citizen scientists in invasive species tracking and treatment for hemlock wooly adelgid. Prior to attending school, John was an operations specialist and wheeled vehicle mechanic in the US Army.
Elise Gornish
Cooperative Extension Specialist in Ecological Restoration
University of Arizona
Title: GALS (Girls on outdoor Adventure for Leadership and Science)
Abstract: GALS (Girls on outdoor Adventure for Leadership and Science) is a free science program for high school girls in AZ. The goal of GALS is to enhance attraction to and retainment of historically excluded groups in the STEM pipeline by increasing participants’ science-awareness, self-awareness, teamwork, and leadership skills. Ultimately, GALS aims to enhance entry and retention of GALS participants in college and prepare them for science related careers, particularly careers in Natural Resources. GALS integrates outdoor education with place-based learning and near peer-mentorship to increase participant confidence in STEM related activities. The program involves a week long camping trip in the Chiricahua Wilderness, independent research studies, science communication activities and a year long mentorship program. The program is 100% funded by donations and grants and has been wildly successful.
Bio: Dr. Elise Gornish is a Cooperative Extension Specialist in Ecological Restoration at the University of Arizona. Her research and outreach program largely focuses on identifying strategies for successful restoration in arid land systems and integration of restoration approaches into weed management. Originally from New York, Dr. Gornish received her MS and PhD from Florida State University in 2013. She then completed two years of a post doc at the University of California, Davis followed by three years as a Cooperative Extension Specialist in Ecological restoration at UC Davis. Dr. Gornish is an early career leader in the fields of arid land restoration and weed management and has published over 50 papers and has presented over 180 times at various venues. In addition to vegetation management, Dr. Gornish is passionate about STEM inclusion and in 2018 become the Director of UA GALS (Girls on outdoor Adventure for Leadership and Science). This new program focuses on providing science learning and leadership opportunities to traditionally underserved female high school students through backcountry programming.


Supported By

This work is supported by the Renewable Resources Extension Act Program [grant no. USDA-NIFA–EXCA-005457] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

United States Department of Agriculture
The project to update the 2012-2016 RREA Strategic Plan was awarded to The Rangelands Partnership in 2016.