Barefoot, Yelverton receive expedition scholarship

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Two Wayne Community College students have been awarded the opportunity to work with environmental scientists on a research expedition.

Luke Barefoot of Pikeville and Jacob Yelverton of Princeton were presented Loomer Earthwatch Expedition Scholarships by the Foundation of Wayne Community College.

Earthwatch engages volunteer citizen scientists in environmental research to assist conservation efforts around the world. The scholarship covers the cost of participating in one of the organization's field research expeditions.

The intent was for the students to take their trips this summer but that was sidetracked by the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be able to use their awards when it is safe to do so.

Both Barefoot and Yelverton have chosen missions that work with birds.

Barefoot wants to take part in the "Following Forest Owls in the Western U.S." expedition in Snow Basin, Utah.

Volunteers spend a week measuring, photographing, and banding forest owls and gauging their nest box usage as they study how climate change threatens the birds' breeding and nesting routines.

Yelverton hopes to engage in the "Bird Songs of the Olympic Peninsula" project.

During the eight-day venture in Washington state, volunteers record bird calls and collect habitat data in the woodlands. The purpose is to help forest managers determine how wildlife responds to different management approaches and explore the balance between community well-being and the conservation of wildlife habitat.

When not in the field, they will have opportunities to interact informally with researchers and visit cultural sites and museums.

Barefoot is a 2019 graduate of Charles B. Aycock High School. He will earn his Associate in Engineering degree in spring 2021 then plans to attend North Carolina State University to major in Mechanical Engineering. He worked as a WCC Ambassador this past academic year and has been elected the college's 2020-2021 Student Government Association president.

A 2011 graduate of Princeton High School, Yelverton is a former Marine who served in Afghanistan and Yemen, and has worked as a police officer. He is majoring in Forest Management at WCC and wants to go into the public sector as a forest or park ranger after he graduates in December.

The scholarship was first offered two years ago.

In 2018 it was awarded to LaKimberly Swinson and Marleigh Read who studied the pathology of trees in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest in Washington state. Last summer, Matthew Herring helped document the ecological impact of sea otters on their environment in Alaska.

Maureen Loomer, a retired WCC biology instructor, established the scholarship in memory of her husband, Dr. Lance Loomer. She used the prize from her 2014 WCC Distinguished Chair Award to participate in an Earthwatch expedition in Acadia National Park in Maine. She said she wanted students to have the same "exhilarating, transformative experience."

Earthwatch is an international nonprofit organization that connects citizens with scientists to improve the health and sustainability of the planet. For the last 46 years, Earthwatch has empowered nearly 100,000 volunteers to join leading scientists on field research expeditions that tackle critical environmental challenges around the globe, from climate change to ocean health, human-wildlife conflict, and more.

More information can be found at www.earthwatch.org.

The Foundation of Wayne Community College provided more than 500 scholarships worth nearly $395,500 in the past academic year to students enrolled in WCC college credit, Workforce Continuing Education, and Transitional Programs courses. In addition to raising and dispersing funds for scholarships, it provides funding for innovative campus projects and employee recognition and offers cultural programs for the community.

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