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Ohio University students and staff discuss wildlife conservation, sustainability efforts

Wildlife at Ohio University comes in all shapes and sizes—towering trees on College Green, grazing deer at Emeriti Park or even buzzing bees outside Baker University Center. Despite their diverse appearances, all organisms play an equal role in fostering a thriving natural world. Preservation and protection of campus wildlife are essential to ensure a flourishing ecosystem in a place so many call home.

Kyle Butler, an associate professor in the Ohio Program of Intensive English and the coordinator of the Sustainable Living Hub said that protecting and preserving campus wildlife starts with global sustainability efforts. 

“The campus itself is not separate or distinct from the surrounding ecosystems,” said Butler. “That's both local and global as well. So any actions we take to fight climate change, to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans–all of that stuff also affects us directly here on campus.”

Butler noted there are steps that can be taken on a personal level to promote sustainability. He explained some of the most impactful things an individual can do are to reduce meat consumption, utilize low-carbon forms of transportation and consider solar energy. 

But when it comes to taking individual action on climate issues, many people find themselves battling eco-anxiety.

According to a recent global survey by the University of Bath, 75% of young people said that they think the future is frightening, and 83% report that they think people have failed to take care of the planet.

“It can be almost paralyzing because you can just look around and there's so much that I could do or I should do or needs to be done,” Butler said.

In order to overcome this fear, Butler recommends students take action in numbers.

“You acting alone, it's going to be nearly impossible,” Butler said. “Getting together with other students in organizations is a way to actually get involved.”

The Ohio University Wildlife Club is a student organization dedicated to knowledge and understanding of nature, wildlife and conservation. The club partakes in wild-life-based activities such as hiking, birding and herping as well as public education about conservation and research. 

Sophie Countryman, a junior studying special education and the club president noted the importance of habitat conservation. Countryman said when she is on a hike or enjoying nature, she ensures she leaves everything as it was found, reinforcing the concept, “leave nothing but footprints.”

Clare Mattingly, a junior studying wildlife and conservation biology and the secretary of the club explained that it is important to be kind to all wildlife, even when it is not necessarily visible. 

“Even animals that are too small for you to see, like a little microorganism, the germs and the bugs and stuff, they all matter,” said Mattingly. “There's not one organism that is so much more important than the others.”

Part of this kindness relies on how humans interact with animals. For example, not getting too close to or touching deer. Or, as Butler explained, reducing food waste.

By throwing excess food away in college campus trash cans, it becomes more accessible to animals, disrupting natural processes. The example Butler provided is a squirrel he saw on College Green, sitting on top of a trash can, eating a hamburger bun.

“The idea is that if the squirrels have this easy depository of food right here, and if they can just run and grab a hamburger bun whenever they need it, are they going to continue to collect the acorns and store them?” Butler asked. 

When student organizations like the Wildlife Club show an appreciation for wildlife and staff like Butler provide education, OU comes one step closer to conserving the beauty that is wildlife, both locally and globally.

“Anything we do that has a negative impact on the planet and on sustainability is not something we're doing to the planet,” Butler said. “It's something we're doing to ourselves directly.” 


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