AMES, Iowa - The Franklin Foxes took first place in the State Wildlife Habitat Education Program senior team division and will represent Iowa 4-H in the National WHEP Competition July 30 - Aug. 2. Team members are Eva Dohlman, Natalie Dohlman and Parker Haller from Franklin County.
The Franklin County senior youth were among 17 youth from six teams who participated in the State WHEP Competition on May 20 at the Jester Park Nature Center in Polk County. 4-H members tested their wildlife knowledge in a friendly competition, working in teams of three to four. This year’s competition focused on tallgrass prairie and urban and wetland ecoregions.
The main WHEP competition events were in the morning. In the afternoon, the youth learned about water quality and aquatic ecosystems through a pond study at Jester Park. The youth used nets to see what types of animals they could find in and around the pond. On the hike to the pond, the group had a rare look at a cluster of showy orchids, a scarlet tanager and a variety of other wildlife species.
Wildlife extension specialist Adam Janke said, “It was so fun to see all these talented and curious 4-H kids from across the state run off into the prairie to write a wildlife habitat management plan. We’re really excited about the momentum we’re building in the state with this program. Later this summer, Iowa will host kids from as far away as South Carolina and Utah at the National WHEP Competition. We’re proud to showcase Iowa’s unique natural resources and get more kids into Iowa’s prairies.”
WHEP coach Amy Andrews works as a Poweshiek County conservation naturalist. Andrews said, “The WHEP content is very similar to a conservation biology class I took in college, so even though we spend a lot of time having fun and playing games, we are setting the bar high for these kids - and they are meeting and surpassing our expectations.”
After a year on the WHEP team youth are familiar with ecosystems, native wildlife species, wildlife management practices (such as prescribed fire or grazing management) and working with landowners, Andrews noted.
”That’s the sort of thing I did on a regular basis when I worked as a private lands wildlife specialist. In other words, our WHEP kids have picked up the skills I was learning early in my career by the time they finish middle school. I always recommend this program to any middle school or high school students considering a career in conservation. And it’s more than just career prep. It’s a group of kids with similar interests who get out and have a lot of fun together outdoors,” Andrews said
In the WHEP Junior Team Division, the Franklin Foxes Blue Team, with Henry Crawford, Morgan Stock and Emma Zoller of Franklin County, took first place. The Poweshiek Prowlers East Team, with Jude Grismer, Marie Grismer and Carleigh Klein from Poweshiek County, placed second. The Poweshiek Prowlers West Team placed third, with Tanner Huls, Frances Pedersen and Ivy Kellogg from Poweshiek County. For the individual Wildlife Challenge Junior Division, Barrett Bretz from Franklin County placed first, Frances Pedersen from Poweshiek County placed second and Jude Grismer from Poweshiek County placed third.
The 2023 National WHEP Competition will be held July 30 - Aug. 2 at the Iowa Lakeside Lab on Lake Okoboji in Iowa. The three youth senior team members from Franklin County shared their thoughts about participating in the upcoming National WHEP Competition.
“Until I joined WHEP, I had no idea there are so many kinds of sparrows and finches. I am looking forward to meeting youth from the other states at the National WHEP Competition,” said Eva Dohlman.
“I enjoyed learning how unique each of the species is that we have studied,” said Natalie Dohlman. “I am looking forward to the National WHEP Competition. I’m feeling pretty confident because the event is here in Iowa.”
Parker Haller said, “I’ve enjoyed learning about all the animals that I never heard of before WHEP.”
Iowa 4-H Youth Development and Jester Park Nature Center sponsored the event.
For more information on the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program or WHEP, please visit https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/whep or contact your Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county office.
Shareable photo: The Franklin Foxes took first place in the WHEP Senior Team Competition and will go on to compete in the National WHEP Competition July 30-Aug. 2.