Visitors learn about local blessings
Wrestling alligators, discovering animals and plants at Hobcaw Barony and learning about sea turtles were some of the highlights for special visitors of a local college this past week.
The Georgetown Campus of Horry-Georgetown Technical College hosted a group of 12 visiting professors from Tuesday to Saturday.
Members of the North American Wildlife Technology Association, the professors were from other two-year colleges in the U.S and Canada.
Wildlife Professor Jim Westerhold, who is the president of NAWTA, organized the event.
“This was a great opportunity to share ideas and develop partnerships with other technical colleges in North America,” Westerhold said.
“We are truly blessed in this area and it sometimes takes outsiders to come in for us to appreciate the natural resources here that we take for granted.”
Westerhold added that some good news came with the visit.
HGTC’s Forestry/Wildlife program received accreditation for the next five years.
The group is the accrediting body for two-year and one-year wildlife certification across North America and they voted while they were here, Westerhold said.
He added that although the completion of HGTC’s new Wildlife Pavilion just weeks before the visit was a coincidence, it was a fortunate coincidence.
Brian Clark, the academic chair for the Forestry/Wildlife Program at HGTC, said the visitors were impressed with the pavilion, an outdoor teaching facility on the Georgetown Campus.
“It is nice to see your contemporaries a little jealous,” Clark said.
He said the fact that HGTC has been accredited for five years “symbolizes that we meet an international standard for quality in wildlife technology.”
Highlights of visit
During their visit, the professors helped catch alligators at the Yawkey Wildlife Center and learned more about alligators from experts Thomas Rainwater and Phil Wilkinson at Portofino’s Restaurant in Georgetown.
Terri Rogers in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Department at Hawkeye College in Iowa was one of the visitors.
She said working with alligators stands out in her mind as a highlight from the trip.
“I will never forget the experience of sexing an alligator!” she said.
“The entire group each took their turn sitting on top of an alligator that had been restrained. You never saw a bunch of models that normally shy away from getting their photo taken in their home state.”
She said the variety of birds of this area was also impressive.
“The birders of our group could not go anywhere without finding a long list of new birds to add to their life list of birds; teaching the rest of us new birds as we went.”
She added that visiting beaches with no development as far as the eye could see stirred the conservationist in all of them.
“The entire visit was a learning experience for all of us!
They also heard from Sea Turtle Biologist Caity Brig with Clemson University, and toured Hobcaw Barony with Senior Interpreter Lee Brockington to find out about the plants and animals there.
“We learned not to take for granted the things we have like peel and eat shrimp, brown pelicans, live oaks and even cockroaches,” Westerhold said.
By Clayton Stairs
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