Twenty teams comprised of 80 students display naturalist skills and knowledge

The Clay Center High School team took top honors at the state finals of the 2007 Kansas ECO-Meet competition sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks (KDWP). The competition was held on Oct. 31 at Rock Springs 4-H Center, south of Junction City. This is the 9th year for this state-wide event, with teams and individuals qualifying from seven regional locations across Kansas.

Regional competitions were hosted at Milford Nature Center near Junction City, Lakewood Discovery Center in Salina, Great Plains Nature Center in Wichita, Dillon Nature Center in Hutchinson, Southeast Kansas Education Service Center in Greenbush, Wilson Reservoir, and Webster Reservoir. Forty-six schools participated in competitions this fall, sending 106 teams comprised of almost 400 students.

ECO-Meet competitions include of four events. The Interpretive Event gives students the opportunity to learn about a specific wildlife species. The teams are required to put together a skit or scenario where the animal species interact with each other and provide details about what each species depicted needs to survive.

The Scavenger Hunt Event requires teams to find items included on a list of 30-40 plants and other natural items in a 30-minute period, then prove their knowledge to a judge.

The remaining two events are lab-style tests, one dealing with various Kansas ecosystems and the other focused on a specific group of Kansas wildlife. The Ecosystem Test for this year was on wetlands and aquatic environments, while the Focus Test concentrated on invertebrates (i.e. insects, arthropods, mussels, spiders, etc.). Students take these two tests as individuals, with the top three scores from the team counting towards their team total for the day. Each event counts for 100 points, with a total of 400 points possible in the competition.

Twenty teams competed for the overall team championship. Approximately 80 students were involved in the competition at this level, coming from 14 schools. Scholarships were awarded to the top three teams.

Another six schools sent individual students to compete in two test events. These students, plus several from teams already competing, vied for individual honors in the Ecosystem and Invertebrate tests. Scholarships were awarded for first and second place in these two events. Scholarship money is held in an account with the Kansas Wildscape Foundation until the students graduate from high school and enroll in some institute of higher learning. The money then can be credited to the post-secondary school in that student's name to assist with tuition or book costs.

Second place went to Kapaun/Mt. Carmel High School of Wichita, and third place went to Maize High School. Teams from Sylvan Grove, Wakefield, Pratt, Goddard, Tescott, and Hill City rounded out the top ten. The individual winner of the Wetlands/Aquatic Event was Curt Mohler of Wakefield, with Matthew Linnabary of Kapaun finishing second. The first-place winner of the Invertebrate Event was Alex Crownover of Kapaun and second place awarded to Niklas Hinson of Maize.

The mission of Kansas ECO-Meet is to challenge and inspire an interest, appreciation, and understanding of the natural sciences and the Kansas environment through interscholastic competition.

Anyone interested in learning more about Kansas ECO-Meet competitions should phone Mike Rader at 620-672-0708 or email New teams, potential coaches, and new sponsors are encouraged.