I grew up in a small town in southwestern Ohio. I lived on 6 acres of land that backed up into our local metro park filled with deer, coyotes, rabbits, birds, wildflowers and trees. My parents live on a small farm so I grew up surrounded by chickens, turkeys, rabbits and other various animals. This green environment filled with life was all I really knew until I left for college at The Ohio State University. Ohio State is located in Columbus, Ohio—the 14th largest city in the US. I have always loved the idea of living in city where there are things to do and places to go but it was a difficult adjustment from the lush nature that I was surrounded by at home. Everything felt man-made and artificial, even the sad little trees that lived in between the slabs of concrete. There was a point where I literally downloaded a nature sounds app to listen to sometimes when I felt like I was suffocating in big buildings and streetlights. For me, a girl who has always loved the idea of city living, it took losing trees, nature and wildlife to realize how much I loved them. And as I learned more about life outside my small hometown, I understood just how endangered those precious resources are today.
Wildlife is not just about cute fuzzy baby animals that look cute on Facebook. Wildlife is a representation of a healthy ecosystem and a healthy planet. We can see direct impacts of our actions as a society laid out in endangered species and threatened habitats and our deer, possums, raccoons, coyotes, rabbits are crucial to the balance of our home. One of my favorite aspects of Ohio Wildlife Center is the educational component. I can distinctly remember my mom taking me to nature centers and sanctuaries for educational programs when I was young to learn about the life cycle of a monarch butterfly, calls of songbirds and species of local wildflowers—the miracles of the world, especially in the eyes of a five year old. I would sit like a pretzel in a semi-circle, enraptured by the box turtle in the hands of a park ranger or making fallen leaf tracings in the fall. I believe these small experiences shaped the way that I value nature today and the way I hope to protect nature in the future. In our wildlife hospital, we care for orphaned wood ducks in the hopes that they will mature and repopulate the next spring. In our summer camps and educational programs, we care for children in the hopes that they will appreciate and protect our environment many springs from now.