Some of the public art Rachel sees while collaborating with Montana's Northern Cheyenne Reservation on black-footed ferret conservation.
Today was our first day with the Upward Bound program, which helps high school students prep for college. The Northern Cheyenne chapter has around 20 students from high schools in and around the reservation. It brings in locals and non-locals (like us) to talk to the students about their specialty.
Students from the Upward Bound program learn about wildlife conservation, part of the effort to partner with the community.
Most of the programs highlight math, science and English. Of course, we were here to talk about wildlife conservation! We introduced them to the black-footed ferret story and discussed ethology with them.
We had lunch with them at the Boy’s and Girl’s Club. The Salvation Army had also set up there to help those affected by the wildfires; we got to see firsthand how generous people are. (You can go to www.cheyennenation.com to find their Facebook page, where you can donate to help families that lost their homes to the wildfires.)
Rachel and a student set up a sample "camera trap" in a tree, highlighting how researchers use the laser-triggered cameras to monitor everything from rhinos to black-footed ferrets.
Back in the classroom, we showed the students a camera trap and then walked around Chief Dull Knife Community College’s campus to find where we could put it. We ended with how I use camera traps to capture information on the black rhinoceroses in Addo Elephant National Park. This kept their interest for the most part, particularly when I told them I was “Dr. Poop.”
We asked them what their favorite animal is, and the answers ranged from penguin to hippo to wolf…no black-footed ferrets or prairie dogs. That’s ok—wait until we take them to the prairie dog colony tomorrow!
Rachel Santymire, Ph.D., is director of the Davee Center for Epidemiology and Endocrinology. She's in Montana's Northern Cheyenne Reservation as part of the zoo's partnership with the community to conserve endangered black-footed ferrets.