U.S. Forest Service & the University of Texas at San Antonio

Longtime partners establish new program

One of the new EYES programs will study milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food source. Photo by the National Park Service.
One of the new EYES programs will study milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food source. Photo by the National Park Service.

A recent agreement between the U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station (SRS) and the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) will provide funding to support the newly established Educating Youth in Environmental Science Program (EYES). SRS is contributing $24,000 towards the program, which will provide environmental learning opportunities for children in San Antonio, Texas.

Ultimately, the EYES program will help students develop an understanding of the natural world and expand their knowledge of environmental concepts and issues. Children will also learn about the role of the Forest Service in caring for the land and serving people, the ecological regions of Texas, how to identify trees from the area and measure their age, and how to identify wood products in their classroom.

Twenty UTSA students will teach the material to students in local elementary schools, and four graduate and undergraduate UTSA students will work with faculty to develop the curriculum. The EYES program will also teach young people about monarch butterflies. Children will visit a monarch butterfly house, learn about the butterfly life cycle, and plant milkweed – the only food source for monarch caterpillars. UTSA, the Forest Service, and other partners are beginning a milkweed survey that will evaluate the abundance, species type, and distribution of milkweed. Scientists hope to use the results to develop voluntary best management practices for conserving monarch butterflies, whose populations have declined significantly in recent years.

Reaching ethnically diverse candidates is a priority for the Forest Service, and the program will engage minority students and under-represented groups. UTSA is a logical partner for this endeavor, as the institution is a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. UTSA was also the first public, four-year university in San Antonio, where over half of the residents are Hispanic.

The goals of the Forest Service and UTSA overlap, as investing in the next generation of scientists and decision makers are priorities to both. The new agreement enhances and builds upon the longstanding partnership between the two institutions.

For more information, contact Cheryl Jefferson at cjefferson@fs.fed.us.

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