Learning by doing | VailDaily.com

Learning by doing

GYPSUM —A group of Eagle Valley High School students are learning the intricacies involved in wildlife research by actually collecting data about local animals.

This fall, teacher Cindy Ticer developed a school program in coordination with Colorado Parks and Wildlife to collect data about wildlife use of local trails. Last August students in her dual enrollment science class, offered at the school through Colorado Mountain College, set up five trail cameras along Eagle Open Space and one at the Gypsum Ponds.

"My students are using the program to learn first hand, by doing, how to conduct a real world scientific experiment" said Ticer. "They love working with the equipment and seeing all the cool wildlife pictures."

The kids have recorded the presence of deer, elk, mountain lions, bobcats, foxes and coyotes.

"There were some really funny pictures of magpie jays looking with intense curiosity into the cameras," Ticer said.

Out in the field

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During the school day, the Gypsum Ponds camera is the most accessible for students doing lab work. Ticer checks the Eagle area trail cams and brings in the data for the class.

"I think mostly the students just enjoy getting out of the classroom and doing science, rather than just being lectured to."

Ticer described the class trail cams as a win-win project for both EVHS and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. Craig Wescoatt, wildlife manager for Colorado Parks and Wildlife agreed. He noted the project gives students a research opportunity that is right in their own neighborhoods.

Wescoatt stressed the purpose of the study was not to catch people violating Eagle's seasonal trail closures or to prove that human presence in areas affects wildlife.

"There are some 300 to 400 studies that show that, but I think the students will see those results duplicated on a local level," said Wescoatt.

As a retired wildlife biologist herself, Ticer said she has enjoyed the opportunity to monitor local wildlife. Next she hopes to develop a class program where students can work on restoration and water monitoring projects at Gypsum Ponds.