Meet the Biodiversity Youth Ambassadors
Mikaila Ulmer, 12, is the National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador representing the Pollinator Conservation Initiative. Born and raised in Austin, Texas, Mikaila is also the founder and Chief Executive Officer of Me & the Bees Lemonade, creator of award-winning natural lemonade made with flaxseed and sweetened with natural honey. She got the idea for the lemonade after she was stung by a bee at age 4. At first she was afraid of bees after the event until she started doing research and found that they play such an important role in ecosystems and her own life. Around that same time Mikaila also received an old family recipe for Flaxseed Lemonade and the rest is history. Mikaila entered her lemonade in the Acton Children’s Business Fair and Austin Lemonade Day and it quickly became clear that this little idea was going to be a huge success. Me & the Bees Lemonade is now sold at Whole Foods Market stores in the United States Southwest region and Mikaila’s story has been featured on Shark Tank, CBS News, NBC News and countless print sources. As a Youth Ambassador, Mikaila hopes to further promote pollinator conservation and spread the sweet message of her lemonade far and wide!
Ben Clark, 16, is the National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador for the Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate (NRSS). He lives in Bridgeport, Connecticut. His favorite subject is science because he loves to learn about the way the natural world works. His inspiration is Dr. Edward O. Wilson. Ben believes biodiversity affects the world we live in because “it literally is the world we live in.” Ben wants to protect the Earth’s natural resources and inspire other youth to do the same. He believes that if children today care about biodiversity, then future generations will work to preserve it. When Ben is not outside in nature, he enjoys creating art, running competitively and studying cultural diversity, global geography and anthropology. Ben has worked with students, teachers and administrators to start Biodiversity Friends Clubs at three elementary schools in his community. He has organized school bioblitzes at a nearby wetland three years in a row, and also organized the preparation and planting of a pollinator garden at his school last spring. In 2014, Ben was selected as an “Everyday Young Hero” by Youth Service America for his work as a Biodiversity Youth Ambassador raising biodiversity stewardship and awareness among his peers. In October of 2014, Ben presented at the National Park Service Biodiversity Summit on his work as a Biodiversity Youth Ambassador to notable attendees including the Science Advisor to the NPS Director, Associate Director of the NPS Natural Resource Stewardship and Science Directorate, President of NatureServe, President and CEO of E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Foundation, and his lifelong hero, Dr. E.O. Wilson.
Lurleen Frazier, 19, is the Biodiversity Youth Ambassador from the 2014 BioBlitz at Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Lurleen got involved with the National Park Service through an internship with the Inspiring Young Emerging Leaders Program (I-YEL) at the Crissy Field Center. Through her work with I-YEL and as a NPS Biodiversity Youth Ambassador, she has been able to appreciate the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, contribute ideas to park programming and take an active role in her community through advocacy and leadership. She loves helping people and teaching people how they can make a difference. Currently, she studying at California State University in Los Angeles, majoring in anthropology.
In 2015, Lurleen organized an activity promoting biodiversity and pollinator awareness and conservation at Backyard Bound, an annual youth-led summit for over 100 bay-area youth.
In 2015 helped coordinate volunteer restoration efforts to re-vegetate riparian areas with native willow species following a devastating flood in the Big Thompson Canyon.
In 2016 Parker initiated a project to help conserve wild pollinators (including bees and/or butterflies) in and around Boulder’s urban environment. Parker engaged his residence hall, Baker Hall, which is part of an interdisciplinary curriculum emphasizing environmental science and sustainability, entomology professors from CU and a small group of students to help coordinate the event which is took place in April 2016. Student volunteers and CU faculty helped to plan native pollinator friendly plants in garden boxes and planters and distributed them around the CU campus after learning about the role of pollinators, their current state in North America, and contributing factors of pollinator decline from CU entomology professors.
Dara Reyes, 17, was the first National Park Service Biodiversity Youth Ambassador, nominated at the 2010 BioBlitz at Biscayne National Park in Florida. Dara is currently studying at Clark University in Massachusetts. Dara presented at the 2011 Discover Life in America conference, where she had the honor of meeting Dr. Edward O. Wilson. Her curiosity in nature drives her to learn about the environment, and she inspires others to do the same. For her efforts and contributions to youth, Dara was been honored as a Hero for Change at the 2012 Radio Disney Music Awards.
After attending the 2010 BioBlitz, Dara returned to her middle school and promoted biodiversity awareness and conservation to her peers. With the support of her teachers and school administrators, this enthusiasm ignited the entire school and led to the development of a Biodiversity Friends Club.
Dara interned at Canaveral National Seashore from 2014-2015 where she worked in the visitor center and assisted resource management staff with sea turtle monitoring and conservation efforts. Dara worked with park staff and local partners to promote monarch conservation through an ‘Adopt a (native) Milkweed’ program.
Caleb Ezelle, 18, lives in the backyard of the Barataria section of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve in southeast Louisiana, site of the 2013 BioBlitz. As a lifelong resident of the area, he has had the opportunity to experience the park as it has changed over the years. Caleb interned at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserved for two summers where he worked alongside interpreters, law enforcement and resource and biological management. Caleb organized 8 park clean up days to allow students from surrounding schools to achieve required service hours. He aided resource management division with salvinia research and developed an interpretive program for visitors about the biodiversity of the Barataria Preserve. He also lead visitors on bird walks, worked in the Visitor Center, and gave presentations on Birds’ of Prey for Cub Scouts.
Beyond his internships, Caleb has been an ongoing volunteer at the park since 2013. In May 2016 Caleb was awarded the Hartzog Regional Youth Volunteer Award in recognition of his volunteer service. Among the highlights of Caleb’s volunteering include serving as an inventory lead at the March 2016 Jean Lafitte Bug Blitz, accompanying NPS Director Jarvis to commemorate events for Black History Month in February 2016, the 200th anniversary of the Battle of New Orleans in January 2015 and assisting with annual events such as the Better Health Bayou Festival, National Public Lands Cleanup Day, and the Spring in the Swamp festival.
Katherine Hagan, 21, is the Biodiversity Youth Ambassador for National Capital Parks East and Kenilworth Park and Aquatic Gardens. Growing up on a farm in Western Kentucky inspired a deep appreciation of the natural world and encouraged her responsibility in conservation. During the summer of 2015, Katherine was a camp counselor at Nature Camp in Vesuvius, Virginia teaching principles of wildlife conservation to children ages nine to sixteen. This experience introduced Katherine to the importance of conservation education and environmental stewardship. An environmental science major at Centre College in Danville, Kentucky, combines Katherine’s interest in conservation education and entomology, particularly the study of bees and the relationship that humans play in their decline. Katherine spent the month of January, 2016 interning at the Entomology Department at the University of Kentucky identifying bee genus from the Ohio Valley Region and measuring species richness in the area. The following spring semester was spent in Mérida, Mexico, working with a stingless tropical bee of cultural and ecological importance to the Maya. As a current senior, Katherine hopes to promote conservation through education programs while furthering her degree in graduate school.