Conservation Ambassador

Riley Brennan, center, participates in a plant quiz as part of a learning exercise on turkey habitat at the recent Wildlife Leadership Academy. This was just one of several hands-on programs over the five-day camp that educated campers on history and conservation, turkey anatomy, calling, tracking, trapping, and the issues that impact turkey populations.

DuBOIS — Riley Brennan, 16, of DuBois, was selected to participate in this year’s Wildlife Leadership Academy, held at Krislund Camp in Madisonburg, Centre County. Brennan participated in the week-long “PA Gobblers” program from July 26-30.

Students selected for the program from throughout Pennsylvania become certified Conservation Ambassadors by attending the summer field schools which focus on a particular wildlife species, including white-tailed deer, bass, brook trout, bear and turkey. Students in each field school gain extensive knowledge about natural resource conservation, leadership experience and communication skills, as well as, intensive hands-on, cross-curricular learning, focusing on field techniques such as dissections, aging wildlife and networking with professionals.

“I was so excited to be accepted into this year’s Gobblers camp,” said Brennan, a junior at DuBois Area High School. “I have a love for wildlife and conservation, and it was such a great experience working with all of the other students, group leaders, adult mentors and conservation professionals.”

Students in the program have an excitement for natural resources and the school takes their interests to another level by providing them with skills to become leaders and knowledgeable communicators. After the program, students receive a certificate designating them as Conservation Ambassadors and participate in a variety of alumni activities.

As part of her duties as a new Conservation Ambassador, Brennan is available to speak about her academy experiences to local youth groups and other civic organizations. She is preparing a program that will include information about the Pennsylvania wild turkey and groups interested in learning more are encouraged to contact her through her father’s email: jpbrennan@zitomedia.net.

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“My goal is to work with groups like the Girl Scouts to share the knowledge that I gained at the camp,” Brennan said. “I also hope to get donations from local organizations who can help Wildlife Leadership Academy continue its mission of investing in the next generation of conservation leaders.”

Celebrating its 16th class of Conservation Ambassadors in 2022, the academy has enrolled more than 900 youth from 64 counties across the state. These Conservation Ambassadors have conducted more than 7,000 outreach projects, engaging in over 28,000 hours in these projects and with the public, reaching an audience of over 130,000 people across the state.

Academy Director Michele Kittell Connolly said the participants are “the next generation to speak for wildlife conservation.”

“We hope the leadership of academy youth in their home communities will inspire others to care more and therefore act more on behalf of the environment,” she said.

The mission of the Wildlife Leadership Academy is to engage and empower high school age youth to become Conservation Ambassadors to ensure a sustained wildlife, fisheries and natural resource legacy for future generations. The academy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a cooperative initiate involving state agencies and conservation organizations. Expert instructors at the field school include representatives from Clinton County Conservation District, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Kutztown University, National Wild Turkey Federation, Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Pennsylvania Game Commission, National Deer Association, Trout Unlimited, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many more. For more information visit www.wildlifeleadershipacademy.org or contact Wildlife Leadership Academy Youth/Alumni Outreach Manager, Katie Cassidy, at kcassidy@wildlifeleadershipacademy.org or 570-939-5109.

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