JSU celebrates Earth Day
by Laura Johnson
Go-Go the gopher turtle, Lazarus the milk snake and a few frogs, toads and tadpoles were fixtures at Jacksonville State University’s Earth Day celebration Thursday.

The day-long event, scheduled to be held outside on a university lawn, was forced indoors at Martin Hall by rain. The location change kept some human attendees at bay, but the critters that were scheduled to attend took part in the event as planned.

“It’s important to recognize Earth Day locally,” said JSU biology professor James Rayburn, the faculty sponsor for JSU’s Earth Club. “We can hopefully help people make environmentally conscious decisions.”

Earth Day, a global event usually recognized on April 22, was observed early at the university to accommodate students. By April 22, Rayburn said, many students will have already left campus for their summer break.

Kristen Carlisle, president of JSU’s Earth Club and a biology major, said she hoped the event would raise awareness about environmental issues that relate to Calhoun County. A JSU Earth Day organizer, she has participated in public discussions about land leases in the Talladega National Forest and said she’d like to see people become more aware of everyday environmental issues, such as littering.

“Our goal here at JSU is to raise awareness about environmental issues,” Rayburn said. “We have to make more conscious decisions to make things better.”

Carlisle said she plans to educate the public about environmental issues through similar events in the future. While an Earth Day celebration won’t be possible for another year, she said the Earth Club may host another similar event as early as next fall.

Groups like JSU Field Schools, the university’s Circle K Club and the emerging Quidditch Club used the event to increase awareness about the goals of their organizations.

Renee Morrison, assistant director of the Field Schools said events like JSU’s Earth Day help her reach the community with the environmental education programs she helps provide. JSU’s Field Schools exist to educate the public about Alabama’s natural resources and cultural significance.

She brought a large, stuffed coral snake, frogs and tadpoles cast in resin, books and Lazarus the milk snake to present the field schools’ “Hiss and slither program.” Morrison was with Mandy Pearson, a JSU student planning to graduate in the spring. Pearson recently secured an internship with AmeriCorps’ student conservation association.

“It was because of her time working for the field schools that she gained the experience to obtain that internship,” Morrison said.

Staff Writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_Star.
© 2013