EFLAND, N.C. – Would you like to meet turtle-tracking dogs and join them while they work? Do you know someone who wants to hold a turtle, a salamander, or a snake? How about a hayride to an amphibian pool, a bonfire with hot chocolate and s’mores, face painting, or a puppet show? The Efland Herpetology Celebration “Animals That Slither, Slide, Run, & Hide” offers these activities and more, free to the public on Sunday, Feb. 24.
The Herpetology Education in Rural Places (HERP) Project will host the event at the Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center as part of a mission to increase public interest in herpetology (the study of reptiles and amphibians), local environments, conservation, and science. Community members of all ages will interact with and learn about the diverse ‘herps’ that thrive in the world around us, often unnoticed in our own backyards. Participants can step into the shoes of professional scientists and learn how to identify local creatures and use specialized equipment to assess them. Meanwhile, arts activities will highlight the organic path between creativity and the natural world. Attendees will hear from a Lumbee Indian story teller and record their own nature stories, memories, and conversations in the HERP Project’s collection of Nature Chronicles.
“When we invite people to tell stories about their nature experiences, we encourage them to feel they have a stake in the health of the environment,” explains HERPS Project member and UNCG history professor Benjamin Filene. “It makes scientific and policy issues more personal and, as well, it acknowledges that scientists can learn a lot by listening to the people they are trying to serve. Sharing experiences is an exciting way to inspire personal connections with nature and with each other.”
“Animals That Slither, Slide, Run, & Hide” also serves as a follow-up event for the HERP Project’s Herpetological Research Experience (HRE). HREs are residential summer programs that offer field research experiences to rising 9th through 12th graders and their teachers. These experiences, which involve collecting data on specific reptiles, amphibians, and their habitats, transform students’ understanding of the natural sciences and help students see themselves as potential scientists. Participants engage completely in the scientific process: from generating questions to grappling with equipment and data collection, interpreting data, and, finally, presenting their findings to others. After the summer, students engage in follow-up experiences throughout the academic year. As a culmination of their experience, HRE students will help with the Efland Herpetology Celebration, where they will share their newfound knowledge about scientific techniques with their community.
The Celebration takes place between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. Located at 4300 Camp Chestnut Ridge Road, Efland, NC, 27243, the Chestnut Ridge Camp and Retreat Center is a 20 minute drive from Chapel Hill and Durham and 45 minutes from Greensboro. The event includes interpreters for Spanish-speaking and hearing-impaired attendees.
Funding for the event and the HERP Project as a whole comes from a National Science Foundation grant. In addition to improving public science education, the project seeks to collect herp data and add to the scientific record with the aid of community participants. Learn more about the HERP Project and how you can get involved at http://theherpproject.uncg.edu/.
Photos from the 2012 Camp Rockfish HRE
Contact: Dr. Catherine Matthews, The HERP Project