Since some of the winners of the Student Ecologist awards, which were presented at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center on March 9, belong to the new E-7 environmental club, that may need some explanation before the winners are announced.

The E-7 - name chosen because the first meeting was held when the G-8 meeting was going on - club was begun last year and is now taking off. It has 35 members from seven area schools, hence the E-7.

The group has been doing service projects, research on phenology (plant and animal life cycles), conservation and how to start a habitat garden like those at the Nature Center. It also provides outdoor recreation.

All of the schools are participating in the rare plant project.

The club meets at the Center and also does fun things, said Director Dan Kunkle. He listed hikes and an upcoming trip to the New York American Museum of Natural History. A grant will pay for the trip bus.

Kunkle is also trying to revive the Naturalist's Club that was down to two members as members aged out of the program.

The Student Ecologists are chosen from names submitted by teachers or mentors after work has been done. The Nature Center does not want students who choose a project in hopes of winning an award.

"Way to go. Thanks. Keep up the good work," Kunkle told three of the four winners who came to the Center to accept their awards. The fourth winner was at work.

National Penn Bank sponsors the awards and each student receives a $50 book gift certificate for Amazon. A certificate is also presented.

Emerald Snyder, a student at Northern Lehigh High School, began an interest in ecology through attendance after sixth grade at the Young Ecologists Summer Camp sponsored by the Center. She is a charter member of the E-7.

In school she competes in both the Envirothon and Biology Olympics.

Emerald will attend Kutztown University to study Environmental Science.

Her parents are Floyd and Jennifer Snyder

Kunkle was laughing at himself as he presented her with "Your really fancy homemade certificate," and the Amazon certificate.

Megan Muller of Freedom High School was nominated by Eric Baltz, a former student of Kunkle's when he taught at Freedom. Baltz is adviser to the Freedom Environmental Awareness Team, which operates a successful recycling program.

She participates in E-7 and in volunteer activities at LGNC. One of them was the violet dividing and transplanting project to help create habitat for the Regal Fritillary, a butterfly. Its only home is at Indiantown Gap and the Center would like to provide a second suitable habitat. Kunkle recalls Muller had her arms in a wheelbarrow of potting soil kneading it with water. He took a picture of her pink fingernails showing through the dirt.

Muller plans to attend Moravian College.

Megan's parents are Kevin and Penny Muller of Bethlehem.

Samantha Le, a senior at Freedom High School, was also nominated by Baltz. He nominated his entire Freedom Environmental Awareness Team but since Le and Muller participate in activities and E-7 at LGNC, they were chosen as representatives to receive the awards.

Samantha is involved in the recycling program. She helped divide and plant 1,600 violets for the Regal Fritillary project. The violets provide food for the caterpillar stage of the butterflies' development.

She intends to study biology in college but has not decided on a school.

Her parents are My Le and Trang Bui of Bethlehem.

Samuel Kean, who attends Allentown Central Catholic High School and lives in Macungie, was not able to be present. He was nominated by Environmental Club adviser Thomas Shrive. As a member of the Ecology Club, Kean spearheaded the Jordan Meadows project near the school. The project included restoring the kiosk and student benches at the Meadows, planting a riparian border of plants and trees along Jordan Creek, construction of a community garden and building wren birdhouses.

Samuel's parents are Cynthia and Patrick Kean.

Christine Leslie, a biology teacher at Northern Lehigh, came to support Emerald because "I wanted her to know we care."

In addition to their certificates and Amazon certificates, each student received a one-year membership at Lehigh Gap Nature Center. They were encouraged to pursue careers in, and to continue volunteering for, conservation throughout their lives.