Ecology Club brings awareness to prominent environmental issues

Co-Presidents Elizabeth Dyer (left) and Peyton Nguyen (right) assist with a controlled burn in order to remove invasive plant species at Hoover Forest Preserve in March. “I’ve learned a lot and it’s definitely taught me how to make an impact in the community. It’s also a really welcoming club, and everyone is really friendly,” Nguyen said. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Dyer.

The world and the immediate community has no shortage of environmental concerns at the moment. From deforestation to the weakening of the ozone to a seemingly new natural disaster each month — and all within a pandemic — the catastrophes can appear overwhelming.

But East’s Ecology Club, according to its members, is up to the task, with a catalog of projects under its belt and a current carbon emission off-set project at Hoover Forest Preserve.

The organization upholds a mission to understand and encourage the protection of the immediate natural resources in the area.

Senior and Co-President Peyton Nguyen discussed the overarching goal of the organization, which is essentially educating people within the community.

“It really helped me understand that environmental issues can impact a much wider area than what I had originally thought. But it also helped me realize that the actions we take to preserve the environment can make a much bigger, positive impact than what we thought,” Nguyen said.

Ecology Club, according to sponsor Scott Johnson, is an organization dedicated to educating students, staff, and the community on current environmental issues as well as creating projects to benefit the planet.

“I think the most important lesson that students should take away from being in the club is that we have a responsibility for environmental stewardship. It’s up to us to make a difference,” Johnson said. 

Member Isabella Weber also emphasized that spreading awareness about the environment is an important component of the club.

“There are a lot of issues that should be discussed more openly surrounding ecology: global warming, deforestation, animal extinction, and clean water problems,” Weber said. “Eco Club has given me better insight into more of these kinds of issues. I now know more ways that I can help and spread information. It has helped me realize that said issues affect more people than we realize.”

Some of Ecology Club’s projects over the years have included removing invasive species from the local area, maintaining rain gardens, and testing the quality of water in the area. 

For example, the club visited the Hoover Forest Preserve the past few years and participated in a controlled burn of invasive plant species that were starting to overtake the forest floor.

The project Ecology Club is participating in currently is providing work for the Kendall County Forest Preserve District.

Junior and Secretary Madeline Benzaquen, along with a few other Ecology Club members, gather the measurements of trees that are used to calculate their weight. Companies then purchase the trees in order to utilize a system called carbon credits, in which said company is allowed to emit a certain amount of carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases in exchange for their purchase.

“My data is going to be used to fund programs and the first preserve district for years to come and I was able to spend some time outside and bond with some of the directors at Hoover Forest Preserve, which was really important for me,” Benzaquen said. “This project taught me the importance of community and how you can get involved and make friends and make important connections just by volunteering some time.”

“I think the most important lesson that students should take away from being in [Ecology Club] is that we have a responsibility for environmental stewardship. It’s up to us to make a difference.”

— Ecology Club sponsor Scott Johnson

Benzaquen’s team has measured about 2,000 trees during their time volunteering at the Forest Preserve District, and met with scientists from across the country to discuss the importance of ecology.

“I would’ve never gotten an opportunity like this if it hadn’t been for Eco Club,” Benzaquen said.

Ecology Club’s primary goal is to bring awareness to environmental issues that impact individuals across all walks of life, but Nguyen emphasized the importance of this generation’s impact on the environment.

“Promoting environmental awareness is something that can help preserve our planet,” Nguyen said. “Our generation is facing a climate crisis that requires cooperation across the globe, and every action can help, no matter how small it is. Protecting native species and currently existing ecosystems is just one way that we can all help locally.”

Ecology Club can be found @OswegoEastEco on Instagram for specific meeting times and locations. The Google Classroom code can also be found there.

Lucy Weiher is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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