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YA Eco Mysteries, Memoirs, Novels & Travel

Environmental Education Conference

Environmental Education Association of Alabama
Conference Dauphin Island, Alabama
Rivers to the Gulf, Flowing Home
February 22-24, 2018
EEAA Celebrates 30 Years!

Just as the cold and rainy spell transformed into sunny and pleasant spring weather, Boris and I left for the much anticipated 2018 EEAA Conference at Dauphin Island, Alabama. I’ve written this blog to share a taste of the varied, worthwhile, and fun experience.

Reddish Heron Dauphin Island
EEAA Birding Trip, Reddish Heron on Dauphin Island (photo Claire Datnow)

Birding Trip kicked off our first morning. On a balmy, early spring morning, we joined Roger Clay, state wildlife biologist, on a tour of the island in search of wintering coastal birds. Of course, we did not see anywhere near the one hundred and forty-nine documented bird species on the island during February. However, we were fortunate to see several interesting birds. Near the airport we observed Ospreys with chicks in the nest, and the rare Reddish Egret. On the Audubon Trail, we had the opportunity to photograph a Great Blue Heron. A Swallowed Tailed Kite, a Red-bellied Woodpecker. A Yellow-rumped Warbler obliged us by flitting by. At sunset we enjoyed watching and photographing Brown and White Pelicans gobbling fishing along the shore.

Bird Trip Dauphin Island
EEAA Birding Trip with Roger Clay (Boris Datnow)
Over lunch the next day, Dr. Bob Shipp enlightened us with a fascinating presentation on Eco System Transformation on the Gulf of Mexico—Implications for Fishery Management. This may seem a dry topic to the uninitiated. In fact, it turned out to be pertinent data to the wise conservation of the treasure trove of life in the Gulf—and, naturally, to those of us who love to eat seafood.

In the afternoon, we attended a session on
The Marvel Slab: How a Bridge Changed the Course of the Cahaba River. The story of this concrete bridge perfectly illustrates the dire impact manmade structures can have on the ecology of the river and the creatures living in it. Presented by Mallory Pendleton and Lauren Allred of the Cahaba Environmental Center.

Next, we attended a most entertaining and informative talk,
Alabama’s Whooping Cranes: A National Treasure, by Amber Wilson of the International Crane Foundation. The talk easily converted us all into “Craniacs” determined to help save this fascinating and highly endangered species for posterity.

On Saturday morning, I gave a presentation on
How to Become an Environmental Detective! The attendees enthusiastically played the role of sleuths investigating an environmental crime by gathering clues to solve the mystery. This simulation is a powerful way to engage students in scientific inquiry and to explore complex issues—and to seamlessly integrate the unit into the science curriculum. Participants also received a link to The Adventures of The Sizzling Six, Eco Mystery book series (upper elementary and middle grades), and a link to a free Teacher Handout, a curriculum guide that complements the topic.

Environmental Education Eco Mystery Workshop

Afterwards, we attended a fascinating discussion on
Pocketbooks, Snuffboxes and Pigtoes—Oh, My! This awesome presentation by Shelly Talliaferro, of Auburn University of Montgomery, showed attendees ways to introduce students to the science and the mystery of freshwater mussels. Participants received a curriculum guide that complement the outstanding book, Immersion—The Science and Mystery of Freshwater Mussels by Abbie Gascho Landis.

The silent auction raised funds for teachers to apply for scholarships to attend the many valuable Environmental Education learning opportunities around the state.
Watch for postings on the new EEAA website, and then be sure to apply!

Brown Pelican Dauphin Island pg
Brown Pelican Catching Fish (Boris Datnow)

Overall, the conference enlarged our perspective on complex environmental issues and the amazing biodiversity of our state. The conference also provided a great opportunity to network with dedicated environmentalists. It was especially heartening to see recent graduates working as determined environmentalist to conserve our natural heritage for generations to come. Heartfelt thanks to the staff at Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and the EEAA board for a stellar event!