This blog post is written by Marjie Cone, who will be back for her third year as a camps staff member this summer.
My name is Marjie cone, and I just became a WFR! Now, when I say that people hear “woofer” and ask me if I train dogs or something like that. No, no dogs here. I took a Wilderness First Responder course (hence WFR), and I now have basic medical training for remote outdoor settings. This is definitely not how I expected to spend my last 10 days of winter break, but boy am I glad I did. I guess most people like to take this course in amazing places like Colorado or Australia, but being from Illinois I had to settle for the upper midwest, which is fine because I couldn’t imagine learning about real “wilderness” anywhere other than good ol’ Hudson Wisconsin. I showed up at YMCA Camp St. Croix in what seemed like the middle of nowhere.
The first day they warned us that this class would speed up and take us for a ride. After an entire day of doing just basic first aid it was hard to believe it would get much harder, but oh did they deliver! It started gradual and got faster and faster as we had to splint broken clavicles, tibias, and arms. Then it moved to recognizing the signs of collapsing lungs (a pneumothorax). After that there was heat related illness, cardiac emergencies, and altitude sickness. And in between all of those frightening things, trauma in the wilderness.
We began by practicing full body assessments and diagnosing the flu and broken bones, to handling multiple and extensive injuries in a mass casualty setting. I got to be a patient in one of the first “mass casualty scenarios”. You may have seen a picture of my leg on the Camps’ Instagram (@SternbergCamps) with some pretty convincing bloody makeup and then a massive splint in the form of a sleeping pad, some random clothes, and finally topped off with a lovely ace bandage. Teacher Dan (a nickname we gave our teacher because there were far too many “Dan’s” in this course) told me and 4 other patients that we had been attending a big concert and the risers we were standing on had collapsed. To simulate this we were placed in a tight staircase, some of us strung over stacks of chairs, arms tangled in the railings, and laying on top of each other. This made it quite difficult and chaotic for the rescue team to beam us out of the stairs, especially those of us with possible spinal injuries. We all had different injuries, one with a brain injury- she had blood coming out of her ears and nose, came in and out of consciousness, and was combative, another had internal bleeding of her abdomen- she was in immense pain. Two others had more minor injuries, and I the broken leg- but I was also a psychological patient. I was experiencing some shock, causing me to be very loud, anxious, scared, and I would not shut up for the life of me. I had to constantly ask where my friends were being taken, I would call out to them, I would yell at other rescuers for being mean to my friends, I expressed my concern for them not answering questions about what happened to my friends, and I could not focus well enough to answer the questions my rescuers needed me to answer about my own injuries. Being a patient in this scenario allowed me to see how terrified a real patient like the character I played might react to a traumatic event like this. From an outside perspective I could still learn how important it would have been as a rescuer to have effective communication with each other as well as team work and the necessary skills to be calm and transparent with a patient like me. So not only did I get to employ my spectacular acting skills, but I got to learn in a very real situation how people act when a real emergency happens. I also learned that I pull off a very convincing psychotic patient…
Not all of my time was spent in class or practicing medical skills, however. There was plenty of free time in which I got the chance to explore the camp and get to know some phenomenal people whom I would not have met otherwise. By the end of the course we had all exchanged numbers, made plans to go on an adventure together, and were joking around like we had all been friends for years. Nobody had come from an exotic place, but they had come from all over the U.S and all had a different story as to why they wanted to become a WFR. I was in awe hearing the stories that everyone had to tell about the places they had visited and the wonders they’d seen; my wanderlust has easily increased tenfold as a result.
My 19th birthday fell during the class, and I spent it wonderfully. A few of my fellow woofers knew it was my birthday and that day for lunch we had burgers or sloppy joes or something and they talked to the kitchen staff, unbeknownst to me. I was chatting with someone across the table, when all of a sudden everyone was singing and then there was a burger bun with birthday candles in it in front of me. I could not have asked for a better birthday cake. Once class was over for the day a few of us ventured to the Twin Cities and went to the Minneapolis Bouldering Project bouldering gym. For those of you who don’t know (and I didn’t know either until that day) bouldering is rock climbing, but without all of the ropes and pulleys. So it was absolutely perfect for people like me who are generally scared of heights. It was an amazing experience to have with these new people in my life, and opened my eyes to so many outdoor recreational activities. While we were there, unfortunately, one of my fellow classmates took a nasty fall down an overhanging wall and twisted his ankle pretty badly. Luckily for him he was surrounded by at least 4 half- WFR’s and we taped up his ankle. It seems so simple, and it wasn’t a terrible injury, but I can honestly say that before this class I would not have known how to properly splint an ankle. By the end of the 10 days I practically felt like a different person!
Hello everyone, my name is Maggie Wolf, and I am a freshman at the University of Evansville majoring in Biology. I attended the Sternberg Paleontology, Southwest Biology and Expedition Ecuador camps, all of which provided me with amazing experiences and helped me learn more about the things I love. At the end of last summer, I was provided with a new opportunity: to work on data curation for the high school camps, which involved organizing the photos and notes taken at each camp into a coherent set of data. It has provided me with new challenges that, when overcome, have been very rewarding.
The goal of the data curation position is to establish a data set for the high school biology camps. At each camp, students and instructors take field notes and record when and where they observe different organisms. Students also take photos of the organisms seen, which, when coupled with the field notes, means that an enormous amount of data is collected at each camp. As birds are a particular interest of mine, I started there, sorting the photos by date and then species. Each set of observations was entered into eBird, an online database of bird sightings that spans the globe. In the end, 48 separate lists of birds were entered that included a total of 201 different bird species. Each sighting was then entered into iNaturalist, a similar website that allows you to enter observations or help others identify what they have seen. This site allows for entry of any living organism, vastly expanding the number of entries possible. In the end, 673 observations were entered, 259 of which have been deemed research grade. Incredibly, 496 different species were documented at the high school camps last summer!
However, it was not without complications. For each observation, I had to determine where an organism was seen primarily based on when it was observed. This was complicated by the many time changes we experienced, meaning the time recorded in the field notes was not always the time the camera recorded for each photo. This meant I had to double and triple check that the correct time and place was associated with each photograph. Having time stamped photos was helpful several times though. In most cases, it is easier to identify an organism in real life because you can gather information from its appearance as well as its behavior. Several organisms that were harder to identify in photos lined up with observations in my field notes, letting me make more accurate identifications. One of the hardest tasks was identifying unknown organisms that were photographed. Without the context I would normally get (like their habitat, behaviors and any noises), it was much more difficult to figure out what animals I was looking at. Several were particularly confusing because they were species I recognized but they looked different because they were from a different region. After seeing reddish purple House Finches my entire life, it threw me for a loop when I saw a group of orange ones.
This experience was thoroughly eye-opening because I realized how little I know. I have seen a small piece of the spectacular diversity of life on the planet, and even here it has been overwhelming. I thought I had a fair amount of knowledge about plants and insects, but when it came down to identifying a small brown spider or a red fern, I was totally at a loss.
I gradually developed the skills and vocabulary I needed to identify organisms more accurately though. Being able to identify an organism’s family became much easier and the few that I narrowed to the level of genus or species constituted major victories. One of the most incredible changes that I have noticed is that I have become much more observant. You never know how much you are missing until you can tell the difference between organisms. Sure, a field is full of plants and animals. It becomes rewarding, though, when you understand what organisms are there and how they interact. I became much more dedicated to the project as I put in more time and effort. While it was often difficult or frustrating, I kept working and became more determined. This project is important because the data can be used by researchers to advance scientific knowledge, and I am really glad to be a part of that quest.
This guest post is by Margaret (Maggie) Wolf, a camps participant from 2015-2017 from Kansas City, KS. Last summer, Maggie participated in the Expedition Ecuador wildlife biology camp. Following this program, Maggie was selected for the 2017 Sternberg Camps data curation paid internship. With guidance, Maggie organized and entered wildlife documentation data from the Expedition Ecuador and Southwest Biology Camps into online databases iNaturalist and eBird. Maggie will be returning to the camps this coming summer as a teaching assistant.
To get a glimpse of Maggie’s work during her internship, please check out the Sternberg Science Camps pages on iNaturalist, and eBird.
Welcome to the Sternberg Science Camps Blog! My name is David. I’m the Director and lead instructor for the Sternberg Science Camps.
Let me tell you, in abbreviated fashion, how a pop-up book brought me to Kansas.
When I was three years old, living in California, my uncle got me a pop-up book of dinosaurs. Now I work at a museum in Kansas.
Oh… Too brief…
So this pop-up book of dinosaurs also featured pop-up paleontologists! Little paper people digging up little paper dinosaurs. Apparently, digging up dinosaurs and showing them off to everyone was an actual job grownups do! At age 3, that sounded like the raddest way I could possibly spend my time. I quickly set to work practicing by digging up a small stick in the backyard, which I proudly proclaimed was a mammoth tusk. I carried the “tusk” around for quite some time, telling everyone I could about it. From kindergarten onward, I was *that kid* in all my classes. If I had my way, everything I did would somehow incorporate fossils and prehistoric creatures. EVERYTHING.
Along the way, I dabbled a bit in Boy Scouts and did a lot of camping with my family. Scouts was fine, but I was far more interested in looking for cool rocks and flipping logs for critters than building towers with poles and twine. (I definitely picked up a ton of useful skills in the Scouts, but the culture of it never really jived with me.) Then, one summer in high school, my parents got me signed up for a paleontology camp in Alberta, Canada. BOOM. BEST TWO WEEKS EVER. While on that camp, I got recruited as a counselor for a science camp program in Oregon. Three summers later (by then I was a junior in college at Oregon), I was leading that same paleontology camp with my own group of high school students. This was, next to that pop-up book, one of the most impactful experiences of my life. I loved teaching the students new skills. I loved talking to them about their interests and goals, and how they could work to achieve them. I loved helping them explore and learn and grow. This is what I needed to be doing, somehow.
While I still had my sights set on being a professor or some such occupation eventually, these camp experiences – as a student, and as an instructor – stuck in my brain. An overall successful misadventure in graduate school later, and I landed here at the Sternberg, intent on establishing my own outdoor science education programs.
Four years later, and the Sternberg Camps are flourishing. I could not be more thrilled to be working with such bright, driven, inquisitive students each summer. I can’t wait to see what paths they take, and what discoveries and contributions they make along the way.
Thanks for reading! I’ll have a few new posts up soon. One, about the use of music as a sneaky team-building tool in outdoor education, and a guest post from camps intern and alumna Maggie Wolf, about her work this past fall curating field data from the high school biology camps.