Since graduating from Clayton State University in May 2012 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology focusing on Ecology, I have developed a new-found passion for environmental education. The UrbanWatch internship at Fernbank Museum has helped feed that passion and given me many opportunities to practice what I’ve learned and to educate guests about their surroundings.
Throughout the summer, I’ve spent a lot of time in the successional forest behind Fernbank Museum, working with the F.U.N. teen volunteers to remove invasive plants such as English ivy and wisteria. Most importantly, I’ve been familiarizing myself with the forest species to lead guided Nature Walks and to develop ideas for ecology activities. I’ve had many opportunities to find and identify a ton of awesome plants and animals in the woods. On my first morning pulling English ivy, I actually came across a copperhead, one of Georgia’s native venomous snakes. Luckily, we left it alone and it left us alone. We have also observed tons of fish (minnows mostly), frogs (probably some species of tree frogs), lots of little crayfish and even a couple eastern box turtles near and around the creek.
After learning about Fernbank Museum’s programs, I have also had opportunities to develop my own ideas for programming and activities. I worked with Marissa (another UrbanWatch intern) to develop Nature Walk themes for the weekly walks we’ve been leading behind the museum. We’ve also been able to build on the work that had previously been developed for the UrbanWatch programs, like working on the Fernbank Museum plant herbarium and creating activities that can be use to educate guests. An herbarium is a collection of plant samples that have been identified, press, preserved and mounted for viewing. When the herbarium is finally completed, it’ll be a great tool to help identify plants around Fernbank Museum, as well as Fernbank Forest!
I have really enjoyed the opportunities the UrbanWatch internship has presented because I have been able to practice my botanical research while interacting with guests in educational programs. I hope we’ll see you all at one of our future Nature Walks or forest programs!
—Michael Hanft, Summer 2012 UrbanWatch Intern