Owls, snakes, geckos, ferrets, turtles, and over 50 live, Kansas native, animal species reside at PSU alongside students, staff, and faculty year round. Pitt State’s natural history and environmental education program Nature Reach held a World Wildlife Day celebration Tuesday, Aug. 4, in the 328 Heckert-Wells wildlife conservatory.
At the World Wildlife Day celebration attendants got the chance to see an open-viewing of the campus wildlife. Speeches by Delia Lister, Nature Reach director, and PSU President Steve Scott followed.
“Students should be aware there is a lot of wildlife around and not be afraid of it,” Lister said. “It’s actually pretty interesting. … There’s a screech owl wondering around. Its’s one of our most popular program animals.”
Lister gave acknowledgements to past directors of Nature Reach and current staff members for their efforts in starting and maintaining the program. Nature Reach also offers volunteer work opportunities for students. Since paid positions are limited, student volunteers can receive course credit depending on their major. Mason Shafer, sophomore in ecology and organismic biology, volunteers with Nature Reach and his work requires cautiousness while feeding the animals.
“Normally I do food prep and handle the animals,” Shafer said. “They have very specific diets. … I can’t have different specifies that don’t get along out at the same time.”
A combination of children, community members, PSU students, staff, and faculty attended the celebration. For some of the children this was not their first time viewing the animals.
“They are the kids of people that work here or kids from the camp we had over the summer,” Lister said.
Nature reach offers a children’s camp in the summertime for children in first through third grade. It’s a hands-on camp where campers explore and learn about different wildlife animals daily.
“My grandson attended the summer camp and loved the experience,” Scott said.
During the wildlife celebration attendees had the opportunity to touch snakes, owls, and turtles handled by Nature Reach staff. Many also took this opportunity to snap a picture with the wildlife.
“It is important for the Pittsburg community and the PSU community to realize the university has one of the most outstanding natural history programs in the state,” said Steven Ford, retired PSU biology professor. “The natural history of wildlife is an important part of Pittsburg. … The Boa constrictor was the most interesting to me.”
The main goal of the Nature Reach program is get students interested in nature, provide environmental education, give hands-on experiences with wildlife, and encourage engagement outdoors. Though for many at PSU the Nature Reach is a hidden gem, as it was for Abbey Mendenhall, PSU biology graduate.
“When I went here, I didn’t know about this place,” Mendenhall said.
Mendenhall encourages students to follow the Nature Reach program on social media to keep up-to-date with future events and opportunities.
“The goal is to get students to foster appreciation and respect instead of fear or at the very least become comfortable,” Shafer said.
The Nature Reach is funded by the university and private support, accepting donations. Applications are available on the PSU website for those interested in volunteering for the Nature Reach. Students may also contact Delia Lister for a Nature Reach tour on the PSU website.