With the last blog of 2017, its time to look back and reflect on some of the progress we have made in the Education Department here at MUCC. This was the first year in a long time where the Education Department had more than one employee. With the addition of Camp Director and Lead Educator Tyler Butler we were really able to make some great things happen. Tyler has been on staff for a little over a year now and he has had an instant impact on TRACKS Magazine and Camp.
Down at Cedar Lake Tyler and our dedicated volunteers of the facility committee made some great improvements to the programming and the facility.
Improvements to the facility in 2017:
- Renovated and restored the main latrine in the B section of the camp.
- Added a porch and new stairs to the Art Building.
- Updated the electrical inside the lodge.
- Installed new ovens and stoves in the kitchen.
- Repaired our 60-year-old walk-in cooler.
- Built a kayak storage rack.
- Redesigned the interior camp store area of the lodge into a more hands-on learning center.
- Rented the facility to more than a dozen outside rental groups and conducted two weddings on the property.
With the facility turning out to be one of the premier camp facilities in the state through the hard work of Tyler and the volunteers, it is no wonder our program continues to grow as well. In his first year, Tyler made some major changes to the curriculum, while holding steady to our core of teaching hunting, fishing, trapping and wilderness survival.
- Increased camp attendance to 378 campers.
- Passed 162 campers through hunter safety.
- Certified 20 campers in trapper education.
- Added a Michigan forestry program as a camp option.
- Created a curriculum that highlighted invasive species and had campers removing unwanted invasives from the camp property.
- Updated the camp employee handbook.
- Introduced conservation science curriculums, including eDNA testing, the use of telemetry in wildlife management, citizen science data collection including herpetology surveys, and even had the kids learning about insects like moths and butterflies.
While Tyler was busy down at camp, I was able to find enough things to do to keep myself busy also. This year TRACKS turned 40! With a redesigned layout and an updated logo, we have expanded our reach to over 21,000 subscribers. Continuing our focus on the wildlife of the Great Lakes region TRACKS has a lot of momentum behind it and we have plans to continue its expansion as the New Year comes around.
In addition to the traditional Camp, and TRACKS portions of our department we also do a fair amount of youth and adult outreach. Teaching people around the state about the importance of conservation and the skills of hunting and fishing. Our outreach numbers are below:
- Attended 35 standalone outreach events around that state talking about conservation in Michigan
- Gave 15 presentations on invasive species or Michigan wildlife to K-12 schools.
- Worked with five groups of undergraduate students at MSU on projects to benefit MUCC programs
- Gave presentations to three classes of Lake Superior State University students on conservation and why it matters for outdoor recreation.
- Interacted with roughly 2,500 students in schools
- Engaged nearly 10,000 adults and youth through sports shows, fairs, festivals, and outdoor days.
- Certified 25 new adult hunters in hunter safety.
- Assisted in 10 learn to hunt events around the state, for youth and adults.
Finally, the program that we created this year and I have been lucky enough to work with our Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Topp on, OTG Jr! OTG Jr. launched during the spring of 2017 and it became a massive success right away. The idea of using field trips to get students out on public land to improve habitat and teach them an activity like fishing or archery has really caught on. Here are the numbers for the first year of OTG Jr.
- Seven OTG Jr events.
- Six different public land areas over five counties (State Game Area/State Forest/State Recreation Area/State Wildlife Area).
- 237.5 acres of wildlife habitat improved.
- 224 students/teachers and chaperones engaged in wildlife habitat improvement and outdoor recreation activities.
- 31 hours dedicated to wildlife habitat improvements and outdoor recreation activities.
Overall 2017 was a great year for the Education Department. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to make this type of impact for conservation in Michigan. I am also very thankful to my coworkers here at MUCC who put up with my shenanigans and are always willing to lend a hand to help get the work done. Creating, retaining and reactivating conservationists is something I take very seriously on both a professional and personal level. I am happy to have the opportunity to work on great programs and with great people.
See you all in 2018! Enjoy the holidays!