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Student plans 'Operation Kick Me Out of My Bedroom'
Kids can be creative, especially when it comes to excuses for not cleaning their room. But, if you think you've heard everything, read on.
Colby Weishaar is 12; he's in the seventh grade, and active in school and community activities, including Kansas 4-H.
He lives in Nortonville, in northeast Kansas, and proposed a local, canned food drive to gather enough non-perishable foods to cover the floor of his bedroom as his 4-H community service project for the year.
Weishaar chose a name--"Operation Kick Me Out of My Bedroom"--that provided a vision for his goal, and composed an appeal letter that he sent to 100 area businesses, Jefferson County 4-H clubs, and extended family and friends.
The response to date, more than 2,100 non-perishable food items and $1,000 in donations to buy additional food, has covered the bedroom floor, filled the room, and is now filling up the family's basement.
The project has exceeded his and his family's expectations.
Weishaar said he choose a food drive because new food pantries have opened in the county.
"Giving back to the community is an important part of being a good citizen, and an important part of what I have learned--and practiced--as a 4-H member," said Weishaar, who dedicated the food drive to Dee Rule, former Jefferson County 4-H Citizenship Project leader who passed away from cancer.
The seventh grader has participated in a variety of 4-H projects and also is at ease working in the garden, taking photos, showing cattle--and giving a speech.
He'll continue the food drive until June, when non-perishable foods and cash donations will be distributed to three Jefferson County, Kan., food pantries: God's Storehouse in Meriden; Valley Falls Food Pantry in Valley Falls, and Pantry of Hope in Nortonville.
Weishaar is a member of the Lucky 4 4-H Club, and the son of Rob and Bridget Weishaar.
Watch a nest to help the birds
Over the past 30 years, tree swallows, barn swallows, violet-green swallows, purple martins, and eastern phoebes have dropped in number. The cause remains unknown, though scientists believe it may be linked in part to declines in the insects that birds eat.
Anyone who loves watching birds can help scientists study and understand their plight by participating in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's NestWatch citizen-science project (NestWatch.org).
"Every year, thousands of volunteers from across the United States monitor bird nests to help researchers track changes in bird populations," says Jason Martin, NestWatch project coordinator. "By keeping track of how many eggs birds lay and how many young they raise, anyone can contribute valuable data that may help lead to the conservation of these species."
The nests of many birds are easy to find and observe. Tree swallows readily use nest boxes. Barn swallows and violet-green swallows often plaster their nests onto beams inside barns and under bridges. Purple martins use large communal nesting houses, and eastern phoebes frequently nest under porch eaves and in garages.
Participating in NestWatch is free and easy. Information on where and when to look for nests and how to properly monitor them is available at NestWatch.org, so ask your mom or dad if your family can help. NestWatch accepts observations for all nesting birds, so information about any species is welcome.
Bugs get a bad rap, but many help humans
To many people, the only good bug is a dead bug. What I am trying to say is that most insects get a bad rap.
Humans need to broaden our understanding when separating the bad insects from those that are good or just a little ugly. A first step is realizing just how many insects and other many-legged creatures actually live on this little planet of ours.
Most animals are insects, and most insects live in the tropics. But it is pretty tough to figure out just how many insects that live in tropical forests. Sampling of insect communities is really challenging--almost every square inch of the forest can harbor entirely new species, and many are easily overlooked.
A few months ago, a group of scientists made an effort to put a number on the elusive: More than 100 scientists from around the world devoted time to counting the number of insects in a Panamanian forest.
In these little patches of forest, they collected more than 129,000 insects, representing more than 6,100 species. Most of them (60 to 70 percent) were new to science. That's a lot.
From this data, and with a wave of their statistical magic wand, they were able to confirm a prior estimate that there are around 6.1 million insect (and spider) species on Earth!
Entomologists estimate that worldwide, between 1,000 and 3,500 insect species can be considered pests. These pests inflict billions of dollars in damage to crops and human health every year, and we need to manage these pests to protect our interests.
But for every pest insect, there are between 1,700 to 6,000 insect species that are either helping humans or are contributing to ecosystem health, often in ways we don't understand yet. One estimate is that these non-pests contribute approximately $57 billion in services every year in just the United States.
Another important point is that insect diversity isn't just important in the tropics; biodiversity in prairie and grasslands of the Great Plains are equally important.
Recently, a graduate student at South Dakota State University, Ryan Schmid, conducted a fairly intensive survey of the insects in prairies, pastures, and cornfields of eastern South Dakota. On two dates at three locations (for each habitat), he found around 347 insect species (not counting spiders, which probably would have added dozens more species). That is a tremendous diversity given the sampling effort; nearly all could be considered as beneficial or harmless to humans. Pest management decisions in our region have real implications for this diversity.
I think it is time to put our aversion to the few problematic insects in perspective. Pest management shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater; controlling a few pests should not come at the expense of the beneficial species, simply because we don't understand the benefits they are providing us.