NPS Biodiversity Youth Ambassador Blog: May 19, 2016
On their second day in Washington D.C., NPS Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors were treated to a panel of influential speakers at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) building. The speakers, with diverse backgrounds ranging from work in the White House to the "father of biodiversity", Dr. E.O. Wilson, left the Ambassadors feeling inspired for National Parks BioBlitz.
Today was one of the most exciting BioBlitz days I've ever had. I was able to ask questions to thought leaders and theorists about biodiversity conservation.
Among the questions I had, I asked a question about the speaker's thoughts on biodiversity conservation. I was most excited to hear from great minds like E.O. Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt IV. I asked them about what outdoor education in the 21st century felt like to each of them, and I thought that Roosevelt's answer was very interesting. He focused on how impactful experiences during childhood affected him so well and that his love for the outdoors is driven by his early experiences with his family members in the outdoors.
I think that his words can resonate with a lot of people that attend BioBlitzes. Many people who come to BioBlitz must have had a very positive experience in childhood that led to a desire to be outdoors with their peers. I think that some people can even come to BioBlitz to have those experiences, and I hope that as an ambassador I can help others learn to love nature as much as I do. If there has to be caretakers of the outdoors, the passion to be outdoors must be nurtured through positive experiences.
Today I went to American Association for the Advancement of Science building to listen to a discussion about what a panel of speakers hope for the next 100 years of the National Park Service.
Theodore Roosevelt IV's talk about the impact of climate change on ecosystems and the need for racial diversity in the parks captured my attention. Those are two issues that I also want to help improve.
I also enjoyed listening to Kent Redford, formerly with the Wildlife Conservation Society, speak about the effects synthetic biology will have on our future.
Today, at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Speark Series Panel, I had the amazing opportunity to speak with the "father of biodiversity", Dr. E.O. Wilson. He is my inspiration. He and I talked about youth involvement in biodiversity and the development of National Parks on the East Coast over the next 100 years. He explained to me why people tend to look over establishing them along the East Coast. The reason is that there are not many significant natural landmarks, even though it is an important part of the ecosystem.
After hearing the speaker series at the AAAS building, what really resonated with me is something that speaker Ted Roosevelt IV had mentioned, regarding why it is important to engage youth in events like BioBlitz.
He listed some statistics about the rate of depression and obesity in children in urban places and connected that with the importance of promoting families to get involved with citizen science and supporting the national parks. Where I come from, the district of Ka’u a large percentage of this district (which is the largest district in the State of Hawai’i) is land owned by the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Several years ago Ka’u was infamously known as the district with the highest teenage pregnancy rate, substance abuse rate and unemployment rate in the state. I wonder a lot of the time… how can I encourage people to be excited and care about the environment more when they are worried about trying to survive? How can we get the communities (who really know the most about these places) into the National Park when simple things like park entrance fees and transportation are issues?
It’s important to engage our youth in activities like the BioBlitzes because education and inspiration, I think, is generational. And to the people who may believe the national parks are are just for tourists and visitors and not for them, we need to show them that the culture and communities and people surrounding the parks are significantly valuable as well!
Today was low key. We started off with breakfast at the hotel after we got to sleep in! After that we went to Constitution Gardens to set up for BioBlitz.
Unfortunately the truck was late so while we were waiting we did some observations on iNaturalist. Once it was here we spent about one hour setting up the booth for the Biodiversity Festival. By now my stomach was growling and so were all the others’ so we stopped at the food court and I ordered a Korean rice and salad plate. It was deeelicious!
After lunch all of the kids were to go to the Speaker Series Panel with very well-known scientists and we handed out programs. We listened to amazing speeches and the panelists answered various questions, and after I even got to meet the scientists!
In the late afternoon, we got the chance to hear a variety of speakers on a panel discuss biodiversity. The most impactful to me were the answers to the first question: what gives you hope?
Ted Roosevelt IV commented on people coming together to discuss climate change. Jen Guestetic of NASA discussed using tools in the right way to conserve resources. Dr. Kent Redford discussed the positive impact of dam removal both culturally and ecologically. Dr. John Francis, founder of the National Geographic Society, described watching people enjoy and experience nature.
When turning the question on myself, my answer would include positively impacting people through hands on interaction and realizing that you are not alone in conserving and protecting the environment.
It is important for the NPS to reach out to youth because the next generation needs to have knowledge of the existence of national parks. If one knows about the park system then one can connect and perhaps grow a passion for America's natural treasures.
My hope is that this passion will come to take root in the life of young men and women. After this key engagement, hopefully people will want to protect parks that are already in existence.
Today's highlight was that we visited my favorite president's, Abraham Lincoln, memorial. Of course we did a lot of fun and unforgettable activities to get us ready for the BioBlitz, but that was my favorite moment simply because I got to see my favorite historical monument.
After sightseeing and seeing what space we would be working with for the Biodiversity Festival. We set up our booth for the event and then attended a panel with E.O Wilson and a bunch of other impressive scientists that gave us advice on their career paths and how to get others inspired to help the national parks and environment.
A piece of advice that stuck with me is that I shouldn't sell myself or anyone short. Bruce Rodan, Diretor of Environmental Health with the Office of Science and Technologu Policy of the White House, said that if a "guy with a funny accent can work in the White House so can you".
All the advice that was given to us was so beneficial and even a couple of youth amabassors got to ask the panel questions after they presented about their work with biodiversity.
I learned that to help our community we have to get everyone involved, especially young children, so they can begin their journey with science at a young age.
In summary, today I learned that we can help contribute to the future by feeding the younger generation knowledge on how to be passionate citizens and science so they help create a sustainable earth.