Dan Kunkle, director of the Lehigh Gap Nature Center, said on March 13 that this year's recipients of the Ecology awards went to a "homegrown" group. They have all put in a lot of time volunteering at the center.
Recipients are solicited from teachers and nature centers - including Lehigh Gap. Most years there are four to six nominees.
It is special because it is not an award that people work to get because most do not know it exists, but it is a pat on the back for someone who has done something good for the environment.
Each person receives a "fantastic homemade certificate" and a $50 gift certificate for Amazon books. KNBT bank donated the certificates.
Blake Campbell, a Palmerton High School senior, was nominated by his Environmental Club advisor David Kellerman. Campbell became familiar with the center by attending the Young Ecologists summer camp.
He was already enthusiastic about nature and knew a lot about birds. The Naturalists' Club beckoned and he became a charter member. His main projects were the monarch butterfly tagging working with the University of Kansas and the native bee project with Dr. Anita Collins and the US Geological Survey.
In addition to the center, Campbell attended many programs at Beltzville State Park.
He has medals in herpetology and entomology in the Science Olympiad and placed fourth in wildlife habitat evaluation.
Last summer he worked on the "living wall". He thanked his parents, Christine and Blake Campbell, for the help and support they provided.
Brandon Everett, a sophomore at Lehighton High School was nominated by LGNC. A friend of Kunkle's, Linda Fisher, frequently said he should get Brandon involved at the center. His family farms and he has 68 pets from chickens and chinchillas to turtles and birds.
He soon became familiar with plants also, and began a native plant garden at home.
At school he participates in the Business and the Environment Club and the Environmental Club and is on the Envirothon team. Everett attended the Young Ecologists summer camp and became a member of the Naturalists' Club. He has volunteered at the center for the last four years.
He received a fellowship grant and has used it to care for the land under the power lines. It is successional habitat and required approval from PPL. Trees are cut and habitat has been planted to native plants with the fellowship money.
Everett has attended more workdays than anyone else.
"This place is really important to me. It's like a second home and I expect to keep coming for the rest of my life," said Everett. His parents are Shawn and Jeremy Everett.
Clare Kubik, a Palisades Area High School sophomore, was unable to attend. She has been coming to the center since she was 6. As soon as she heard about the land purchase she brought her piggy bank and donated every cent toward that purchase.
She helped her mother, Linda Frederick, who planned the Habitat Garden.
Caring for amphibians and reptiles is a hobby she shares with her father, Michal. They demonstrate the animals at center events. Some people who are terrified of snakes found they could touch them when they saw a little kid handling them.
She is working on a project with spiders. Kunkle was mentoring her until they found a professor emeritus from Harvard who told her if she could not identify a spider she should send it to him.
Corey Husic, son of Diane and Dave Husic of Kunkletown, began working at the center at age 10. He studies bird life and compares before and after to see what affect manmade interventions such as the new building and D&L trail have had and to lists from 1903 and 1980.
He spent more than 65 hours helping author the Lehigh Gap Wildlife Refuge Ecological Assessment. He was one of four people in the U.S. chosen to attend the American Birding Association's youth team in the World Series of Birding.
Both the Entomological Society of Pennsylvania and The Pa. Society of Ornithology have given him state awards. Husic is a youth board member of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society. He was selected to attend Al Gore's Inconvenient Youth training program through which he works to educate others about climate change.
He leads the monarch butterfly migration hike each year.
Husic visits schools with Kunkle to teach teachers. They prefer him to Kunkle who is looked upon as only the driver.
He is a Moravian Academy sophomore. He thanked Kunkle and his parents for their wonderful help.
"Good kids aren't accidents. They are the product of families that support them," said Kunkel.