NATURE NOTES - Number 14 February 12, 2021
We have covered a variety of subjects during the last 6 months in NATURE NOTES, and hopefully some scouts have become aware of, and more interested in nature. Some of your older scouts might be thinking ahead, so this time let’s explore:
Our current topic: Careers in Natural Resources
Most of the nature merit badges require the scout to explore the career possibilities in Forestry, Geology, Fish and Wildlife Management, or whatever the MB is. Part of scouting’s role is to prepare scouts for the future, and their future probably includes a career or job in some field. Unfortunately scout leaders, parents, teachers, and guidance counselors are not usually very well versed in careers in natural resources. Today there is the big focus on STEM. Wait…what does that “S” stand for? SCIENCE! Do you think soil scientists or forest geneticists or wildlife pathologists or forest entomologists or wildfire-suppression meteorologists or ichthyologists might have careers in science AND natural resources?
Over the years I have met many, many natural resource professionals who have told me “Yeah, I was a Scout. That’s where I got interested in forestry” (or wildlife or geology or some other natural resource profession.) Somewhere along the way each of these folks caught the “nature bug” and went with it into a career. A detailed study a few years ago for the Virginia Forestry Educational Foundation found that high school “…guidance counselors need to be educated on the variety of forest resource-related careers so they can promote and advise those profession”, and …“students are not aware of these careers…”. I think the same could be applied to other natural resource areas as well. The Director of Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation recently said “We need to get people at a much younger age interested in this line of work and let them know there are opportunities out there.” Most of these career positions require a BS degree and some an advanced degree. We have premier programs right in our council area: The College of Natural Resources and Environment at Virginia Tech offers a wide range of specialties (including one of the best forestry programs in the U.S.); Radford University has a great Geology program; Ferrum College offers a great Environment Science degree. NC State, Tennessee, Penn State, and West Virginia and many other universities offer degrees in the natural resources area. Virginia community colleges offer courses that will transfer into a 4–year natural resource program, and Dabney S. Lancaster Community College in Clifton Forge offers a 2-year program in forest technology. The folks at Virginia Tech tell me that many of their students transfer into the CNRE from some other college of Virginia Tech because they didn’t know upon initial application that such a program existed. They learned about it AFTER enrolling in something else. And who teaches these programs at the universities? It’s not electrical engineers, history or philosophy majors. It’s those scientists with advance degrees in “nature subjects”. Who does the research on the destructive Emerald Ash Beetle or restoration of the American chestnut or the impact of climate change on bird migration? It ain’t the English professors!
Dear Scout Leader: Help open some young eyes. You are in a great position to spot that kid who seems to always be looking for bugs, or turning over rocks in the creek, or asking about a tree or plant. You can play a major role in helping guide those interests into the future. You don’t have to know a lot. Just know opportunities are out there and help encourage that scout to continue to explore. Connect their interest with the importance of good grades in school. Make the scout aware of the merit badges available. Maybe they want to teach nature at summer scout camp. Talk to their parents. If you need contacts in a natural resources area, let me know and I’ll do my best to find someone for you.