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By Bill Lawyer

Rye High School was among the 26 teams that participated in this spring’s Envirothon, sponsored by the Dutchess County Soil and Water Conservation District and held at the Sharpe Reservation in Fishkill.

Tenth grader Niki Francis was working on her high school science research project — monitoring the population of eels coming up Blind Brook from Milton Harbor and beyond — when she heard about the Envirothan program from Taro Ietaka, Director of Conservation and Land Stewardship at Rye Nature Center. With no time to lose, Niki quickly assembled her team: the Daniels triplets — Shoshi, Becca, and Reari, who are juniors.

With the help of Mr. Ietaka, Rye Nature staff member AJ Johnson, and RHS faculty member Amy Leahy, the team got down to work. Provided with a large number of materials to review in preparation for the daylong event, the four-member RHS team did their homework on the five required environmental topics: soils, aquatics, forestry, wildlife, and current issues.

One of the most difficult parts was learning to identify a wide range of plants and animals that are associated with forestry and wildlife. For example, they had to identify tree species without the help of leaves.

They learned how to measure the height and diameter of trees at breast height. For the wildlife component, the students were helped by the collection of taxidermy specimens.

On a practical level, each team was given the task of providing environmental guidance to a farmer who wanted to expand his agricultural output while making sure those changes would be sustainable.

The team also had to make up a Power Point series of posters to accompany their oral presentation.

When all the tests and activities were completed, the winning school was Mount Academy, with 549 points. Rye High ranked higher than 11 other teams, with 372 points. Fox Lane was the highest in Westchester, with 424 points.

In looking back over the event, the Rye High team said that while the preparation was hard work, they were pleased with how much knowledge and skill they acquired in a short period of time.

This was Rye High’s first time participating in the event, but Niki Francis said it’s definitely not their last. She is planning to field a team in 2018, perhaps two.

In the end, the hope of the Envirothon organizers is that participants will make wise choices protecting the environment in whatever field of work they pursue.


The Rye High team of Rebecca, Shoshi, and Ari Daniels, and Niki Francis

Niki Francis examining wildlife mounts for species recognition.

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