Monarch butterfly populations are plummeting nationwide, and a federal petition was filed yesterday by environmental groups, urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect them under the Endangered Species Act. Good Zoo director Penny Miller said zoo staff and zoo Master Naturalists are part of a project to study the decline, and to create more milkweed habitat to support the butterflies. Good Zoo Master Naturalists study, rear, tag and release monarchs prior to their migration to Mexico for the winter; they also raise and plant several species of milkweed in home gardens, local farms, and in locations throughout Oglebay Resort including golf courses, the Good Zoo, resort gardens and at the Schrader Center.
Any area residents interested in learning more about the monarch project and many other citizen scientist projects can attend Master Naturalist classes that begin September 6, 2014. Classes cost just $6 per hour of instruction and under $400 for the entire certification program; students participate at their own pace and take up to three years to complete the program, or finish in one year. The fall classes are held at the Good Zoo or West Liberty University on Saturdays and Sundays. Fall classes include Terrestrial and Aquatic Habitats; Screech Owls; Insects; Dressing for the Outdoors in Winter, and more.
Classes can be taken in any order, and students can join the program by enrolling in any class.
Students are all nature lovers and represent a wide range of ages and backgrounds from college students, teachers, scout leaders, farmers, fisherman, to retired folks and nature photographers. “Anyone of any age or background fits into the group, you just have to be a nature lover,” said Vickie Markey-Tekely, the zoo’s curator of education.
Spring 2015 classes will include core classes by area naturalist Dr Scott Shalaway teaching WV Birds; Bill Beatty teaching Trees; Wildflowers; and Medicinal Plants. Electives taught by Good Zoo staff include WV otters; Box Turtles; Monarch Butterfly Conservation; and many more.
Master Naturalist Daniel Caron said, “The program is a fun and interesting way to learn about nature. I enjoy the program’s interactive, hands-on format. The classes teach me to see something different every time I step outside.”
Students conduct 16 hours of volunteer work on nature projects of their own choosing in order to become certified. “Our students participate in backyard bird projects, put up bluebird boxes, survey and report frog calls, raise and tag monarch butterflies, and improve their garden and property to attract wildlife,” said Penny Miller, zoo director. “Others like to help out at state or zoo wildlife events, or pass on their knowledge to children,” she said. “I enjoy teaching my grandkids and neighbors about the monarch butterflies I rear and tag,” said certified Master Naturalist Carol Saseen.
The curriculum was developed by the West Virginia Division of Wildlife to develop citizen scientists and naturalists across the state. Students from Ohio and Pennsylvania are welcome to participate also.
Those interested in learning more can visit the www.oglebay-resort.com/goodzoo or by calling Vickie Markey-Tekely at 304-243-4033 or Penny Miller at 304-243-4027.