Friday, March 2, 2018

The Masters are in the house!

Original Post from 12/20/2016

You can now refer to us as Master Gwen and Master Sara, just kidding!! On December 16th Gwen and I both received our Master’s Degrees from Miami University. WE DID IT!!! Gwen received a Master of Arts in Teaching and I a Master of Arts, both in Biological Sciences. I think that it is safe to say that we are both enjoying our free time. It actually feels a bit strange to be able to read a book for enjoyment.  For the time being I think we are both going to take a break from school, but who knows what may come our way in the future.

- Sara

Meet the newest addition to our soil and water family!

Original Post form 11/4/2016

On September 2nd at 3:28 pm a new addition was added to our soil and water family. My husband and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world. Maci was 20 inches long and weight 8 pounds 12 ounces. Mommy and Daddy are both enjoying parenthood and can't get enough of her. I have added a few pictures below for your viewing pleasure!

Heading home from hospital. 

Newborn Pictures

Newborn Pictures
Family trip to pumpkin patch.

Maci loves her mommy!


She has quite the wardrobe!

Her smile is contagious!

Guyana...It's not in Africa

Original Post from 10/3/2016

I can't believe it's October already. As we settle in to fall, I wanted to share with you some of my summer travels. I had an amazing opportunity to visit Guyana this past summer. As many of you know, I am getting my Master's Degree from Miami University through Project Dragonfly (if all goes well, I will graduate in December) and as part of the program I went on an Earth Expedition class to Guyana.

Where, you might ask (as almost everyone I told did) is Guyana? Well a little geography lesson, Guyana is on the northern coast of South America. Colombia and Venezuela are to the west, Suriname and French Guiana to the east and Brazil to the south. It is a country with a interesting past, having been a Dutch, French and British colony and finally gained its independence in 1966, just 50 years ago. 

My fellow students and I (17 total) met up in the capital city of Georgetown and quickly departed by 2 small planes to the interior of the country. Most of the people in Guyana live along the coast as the interior of the country is very remote and includes amazingly large areas of intact rainforest that are difficult to travel to. As a class we spent several days at the Iwokrama River Lodge and then moved on to the Surama Eco Lodge. Both places were within the boundaries of the Iwokrama Reserve, sometimes called the Green Heart of Guyana. Iwokrama was established 20 years ago with the lofty goals of conserving the forests while also promoting their sustainable and equitable use among all the citizens of Guyana.

When I look back and reflect on my time in this amazing, beautiful and very hot country, my mind wanders to the forests. I loved the experiences we had meeting the local Makushi tribe members (making cassava bread with the women and carving hunting arrows with the men), investigating and trading cultural experiences with the local wildlife club students and even going on nature hikes with park rangers to learn more about the local flora and fauna (there were so many beautiful things to see everywhere you looked), but I just can't get the image of the vastness of the rainforest out of my head.

In America, we are often bombarded with images and statistics about the constant destruction of the rainforest and prior to going to Guyana, I believed that all rainforests in the world were under constant attack and that if we as global citizens didn't act now, we would all perish. I know I am not the only one to have felt this way, but I am here to tell you that it is not always true. While there are many areas of rainforest in the world that are being destroyed, there are also many areas that are being protected. Iwokrama is one of those protected areas and the most amazing part is that all of the stakeholders (timber companies, local people, indigenous tribes, government agencies, environmental groups and others) are working together to find a way to have the forest benefit everyone. Iwokrama is focused on research and discovering best management practices so that people can use the forest while still maintaining it for future generations. Some areas of the forest are set aside to never be logged, while others will be selectively logged now and then not again for decades. This allows the forest to regenerate naturally and gives local animals places to migrate to if needed. It truly is a wonderful experiment that I hope can benefit conservation efforts all over the world. 

I truly loved Guyana and would never have even considered traveling there had it not been for this program. If you are interested earning your Master's degree from Miami University through the GFP (Global Field Program) or AIP (Advanced Inquiry Program) or if you are just interested in going on and Earth Expedition check out there website.  Applications are currently being accepted for the 2017 program. 

I have included a few photos with this post (all pictures were taken by Samantha James or myself) would love to talk and share more experiences and pictures with you next time I see you. Just ask!

Google map image of Guyana
Kaieteur falls. One of the largest single drop waterfalls in the world. 

As we near the end of our journey, we took time to relax by Kaieteur falls.

plane to Surama Village

peanut head lanternfly

making a hunting arrow with leader Dan Allicock

Getting ready to throw the cassava bread on the roof to 'cook'

Throwing the cassava bread on the roof
Cassava bread 'cooking' on the roof

planting cassava at the Allicock farm

Surama Village homes

Wildlife watching with classmates

capuchin monkey

Help Save the Monarch Butterfly! Collect Milkweed Seed Pods


The Monarch Butterfly (Danaus plexippus) has to be one of the most amazing insects on the entire planet. Scientists know of no other insect that tackles a migration as long as that of the Monarch Butterfly and the most remarkable aspect of the migration is that it is not learned from a previous generation: adults do not teach it to their offspring within the same species. The Monarch Butterfly life cycle is very unique in that, the first, second and third generation typically lives for only four to six weeks. It is the fourth generation that makes the Monarch Butterfly life cycle unique. The fourth generation, often called the super generation, flies over 2,500 miles from southern Canada to the mountains of central Mexico. It spends the winter in Mexico and once spring has arrived these same Monarchs begin their migration back north towards the United States where they will mate, lay eggs on milkweed plants and die, after living about 8 months!

For decades, scientists have been fascinated with the extent and range of the Monarch Butterfly migration. But now, researchers are running out of time. Since the late 1990s, the population numbers and the overall winter acreage that Monarch Butterflies have inhabited in central Mexico have been in decline. During the winter of 2013-2014 scientists found the smallest number of overwintering monarchs. Researchers have determined many reasons for this population loss, including the decline of the common milkweed plant (Asclepias syriaca L.). Milkweed is essential to the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly because adult females exclusively lay their eggs on the underside of milkweed leaves. The young caterpillars eat the leaves, ingesting cardenolides (toxic juices within the milkweed) without harming themselves, but making the Monarch distasteful to potential predators.

So what can we do to save the decline of the Monarch Butterfly population? Join forces with the Ohio Pollinator Habitat Initiative (OPHI). The OPHI is a partnership between ODNR, ODA, Div of Wildlife, Monarch Joint Venture, OSU, Pheasants Forever and many others to educate citizens and create beneficial pollinator habitat. We are asking citizens to help us collect milkweed pods which will be sent to the state nursery where they will be separated, dried and used for future planting to help increase pollinator plantings around the state.

​Tips for seed pod collection:
  • It is best to collect the pods when the seeds inside are brown. Do not collect pods when seeds are cream or white.
  • If the center seam of the pod pops with gentle pressure, it is ready to be picked.
  • Collect pods in a paper bag, plastic may cause the pods to rot. Store pods in a cool, dry area until you drop them off.
  • Drop the seeds pods off at the district office (M-F 8:00a - 4:30p) between September 1 and October 31. We will make sure they get to the State nursey where they can be planted in future pollinator plantings.
Other things you can do to help the Monarch Butterfly (and all our pollinators):
  • Use pesticides sparingly, if at all, in your garden.
  • Plant milkweed in your own yard.
  • Plant other nectar sources that help adult monarch and other pollinators.
  • Encourage your friends and neighbors to plant milkweed and butterfly gardens.

It's almost time to register!

Original Post from 7/22/2016

We are now in the final countdown, only 10 days away from opening registration for 2016-2017 school year.  On Monday, August 1, 2016 we will open registration for those educators who are ready to schedule.

Please remember that we are only able to come to your building 3 times per year.  It is often the case that we can work with multiple teachers/grades in one day. Please coordinate with other interested teachers before scheduling.

For those of you that may be unfamiliar with our program offerings we highly suggest that you look through the list of offerings that we have on our website. We have programs available for students from pre-school up to high school.

Scheduling a program is now easier than ever! All you have to do is visit our website, and on the right side of the page you will have the option to book with Gwen or Sara. Click on either ‘Book Sara’ or ‘Book Gwen’ and you will be forwarded to the registration page. All you have to do after that is, pick a date, time and program. Once you have completed the form you can consider yourself scheduled.  Once scheduled a reminder email will be sent a few days prior to the program.  

If you still have questions about our programs or how to schedule via our website please don’t hesitate to call, 772-7645 and ask for Sara or Gwen or email Sara or Gwen with your questions. 
We look forward to working with you and your students this school year. 

Summer Library Programs

Original Post from 6/22/2016

Woohoo it’s finally summer break. Time to sit back and relax, just kidding! Here in the education department we are moving into summer library programs full force. You can find me or Gwen at many of The Public Libraries of Cincinnati and Hamilton County throughout the summer. To read a full description of the program being offered please visit our website,
Be sure to check with the library to see if they require registration. We hope to see you at a few of the libraries this summer! 



Original Post from 5/31/2016

Don't forget there are only 10 days lefts to register for the Passport to Fishing Event on June 18th at Miami Whitewater Forest.

This year we have some great things to give away! 

Thanks to an amazing donation by Cabela's, every participant will leave with a brand new fishing pole.

Bass Pro donated five tackle boxes stuffed with goodies that will be given away as door prizes. 

The Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden donated two admission tickets to be given away as a door prize.

Don't forget to register before it is too late! 

If you have any questions please feel free to call or email Sara Fehring at 513-772-7645.

Passport to Fishing

Original Post from 4/18/2016

   The Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District and the Great Parks of Hamilton County are partnering to host a Passport to Fishing Event on June 18th from 8 – 10 am at Miami Whitewater Forest. This is a free event that is open to kids between the age of 5 and 17 years old.                             The goal of this program is to provide skills, knowledge and information to participants so that they are able to start fishing in their own community. The Passport to Fishing program will last two hours and consists of a total of four different stations.  Participants will rotate as a group around to each station every thirty minutes. Participants will visit four stations covering the following topics...
  • Casting          
  • Local Information
  • Fish Habitat and Fish Handling
  • Rigging and Knot Tying
      Registration and a Great Parks motor vehicle permit are required to participate the day of the event. A motor vehicle event can be purchased the day of the event or online by visiting the following line,
For more information about this event or to register please visit,
If you have any additional questions or are interested in volunteering please contact Sara Fehring at 513-772-7645 or

That Darn Plastic!

Original Post from 3/29/2016

A few weeks ago while leaving a local school after giving a series of educational programs, I noticed a bird in the parking lot that seemed to be having some difficulties getting off of the ground. Being the curious person that I am, I put my stuff down and headed over to see what the birds’ problem was. At first glance the bird, I believe to be a type of sparrow, looked to have a plastic mesh tangled amongst its legs and feet. As I tried to untangle the bird I quickly realized that the mesh was also wrapped around the birds’ neck. I set the bird back down and headed into the school to get a pair of scissor. With scissors in hand the bird let me hold it as I attempted to cut off the plastic mesh. I was able to remove the mesh from around the birds’ neck and one of its legs before it flew off.  As the bird flew away it seemed to be flying struggle free.
The plastic green mesh that the bird was entangled in looked to be a soft landscaping mesh. After doing some research I came to the conclusion that the bird was tangled in what is called plastic bird netting.  According to JinKe Plastic Netting Factory ( this type of netting is used to keep small mammals, birds and butterflies away from crops.
With spring quickly approaching I wanted to take this time to remind us that we all need to think about the things that we are putting on/in our yards. Plastic such as the plastic mesh that the bird was entangled in could have great negative impacts on the environment.  Animals can ingest plastics which could then lead to digestive issues or the animal could become trapped or entangled in the plastic. Fertilizers and pesticides can also have great negative impacts on the environment. If you plan on applying pesticides or fertilizers to your yard please read and follow the directions on the label. Pesticides and fertilizers applied incorrectly to yards or fields can possess negative impacts to our environment and local watershed.

Cincinnati Home & Garden Show

Original Post from 2/29/2016

I would like to give a huge shout out to those that stopped by to visit us at the Cincinnati Home and Garden Show this past weekend at the Duke Energy Convention Center.  We hope you enjoyed the wide variety education and informational pamphlets and brochure we displayed, as well as the table top rain garden display. If you missed us don’t worry, we will be back at it again this coming weekend Friday March 4th to Sunday March 6th.
For those of you that are interested in purchasing a soil fertility test kit we will have them available for purchase at the show. Test kits are $5 for Hamilton County Residents and $12 for non-Hamilton County Residents. If you purchase your soil fertility test kit at the Cincinnati Home and Garden Show you will receive a free rain gauge. If you would like to find out more about the soil fertility test kits please visit our website,

Don’t forget to stop by and visit us this coming weekend. We are located at booth #212.

National Parks Adventure

Original Post from 1/20/2016

On Wednesday February 17th from 4 - 7 PM the Cincinnati Museum Center is hosting an Educator Preview night for their newest OMNIMAX film, National Parks Adventure.  Come visit us along with other local environmental educators to learn how you can bring environmental education into your classrooms, exhibitors will be set up in the rotunda. The event is $5 dollars per person and includes giveaways, parking, admission to all three museums and a showing of National Parks Adventure.

For more information or to make reservations please call the Museum Center at 513-287-7001.

National Parks Adventure Educational Trailer 

Info for Educator Preview Night 
Discover the wild places that belong to us all.

On Wednesday, Feb. 17, be among the first to see our new OMNIMAX® film, National Parks Adventurethe ultimate off-trail adventure into the nation's awe-inspiring great outdoors and untamed wilderness. Join three adventurers as they hike, climb and explore their way across America's National Parks - including Yellowstone, Glacier, Yosemite and Arches - in an action packed celebration that highlights how important it is that we protect these treasured landscapes.

Tickets are $5 per person. Call 513-287-7001 for reservations. Includes parking, showing of National Parks Adventure and admission to all three Museums. There will also be special discounts at our Starbucks cart and Pizza cafĂ© and raffles and door prizes for teachers. For an additional $5 per person, you can also see our special exhibition The Art of the Brick (last entry at 7 p.m.)

Back by popular demand! 
Giveaway of valuable teaching resources from our inventory. Bring bags to take home your goodies!

Go Environmentally Friendly into the New Year!

Original Post from 12/29/2015

With the New Year quickly approaching some of us may be pondering what our New Year’s resolution will be.  We could stick with the same ones that have been chosen and mostly broken over the years. For example we could go on a diet, eat healthier, break a bad habit, exercise, get out of debt, spend time with family or live a less stressful life, the list goes on and on.
     Instead of picking a resolution that will probably be broken within the first few weeks of the New Year why not pick one that is more sustainable and is beneficial to the environment. There are several New Year’s resolutions that can be beneficial to the environment and may even be more realistic to stick with. I have compiled a list of five potential New Year’s resolutions that I feel would be very easy to accomplish.
  1. Conserve Water
    1. For years my dad was always yelling at me to turn off the water. Unfortunately my dad was more worried about the water bill than conserving water.  Watching our water consumption can be a great New Year’s resolution. Not only does conserving water decrease our water bill but it also saves energy and helps protect out natural eco-systems. There are several ways to conserve water, visit to lean 100+ ways to conserve water.
  2. Create a compost pile
    1. Composting not only gives nutrient rich additive for our soil but it also reduces the amount of waste that we put in the landfill. A compost pile can be easily incorporated into your backyard. By adding food scraps and yard trimmings to your compost pile you can help reduce the amount of trash that goes into landfill. Start you compost pile now and be even closer to having nice nutrient rich compost to add to your vegetable or flower garden this summer. For more information on composting visit
  3. Recycle
    1. Most of us probably have access to recycling in our school, home, workplace or community, but unfortunately most of us still don’t recycle.   Recycling is beneficial for several reasons it conserves energy, reduces the need for landfills and creates jobs. To find out more about recycling and how in incorporated recycling into your New Year’s resolution visit,
  4. Buy Reusable
    1.  Instead of heading to the fridge every time you want a fresh bottle of water try heading to the sink. This New Year’s ditch the bottled water and buy a reusable water bottle. This will reduce the amount of waste you produce and will also prevent you from having to buy so many bottles of water.  You will be surprised at how much you save when you stop buying bottled water. To find out how much you spend on bottled water head over to Break the Bottled Water Habit, to find out how much you spend on bottled water. 
  5. Go meatless on Mondays
    1. Some of you may already be vegetarians but for those of you that are full on meatatarians try going meatless one day a week.  Join the movement by going meatless on Mondays.  By going meatless just one day a week you can increase your health, reduce your grocery bill and help combat the fight against climate change. For more information visit,
Leave us a comment below and let us know what your New Year’s Resolution is. 

Family Friendly Winter Activities

Original Post from 11/23/2015

Soon our bellies will be stuffed with Thanksgiving dinner and it will be time to move forward with the holiday season.  As we push farther into December and January we find ourselves spending more and more time indoors and running out of things to keep us occupied.  The goal of this article is to inspire you to step out of your comfort zone and try something new this winter.  I have included a list of fun activities that can be done with friends and family of all ages.  I hope this article helps you think of new and exciting ways to fill your long winter days.

Go Volunteer! 
There are serval organizations around the tristate area that are looking for volunteers especially around the holiday season. Below are a few local organizations.
Great Parks of Hamilton County
The Freestore Foodbank
The United Way 

Take a Hike!
We could all use a little exercise and fresh air come midwinter. Winter hikes are the perfect way to get some fresh air and exercise; they are also perfect for viewing wildlife.  A fresh coat of snow on the ground makes winter a perfect time to look for animal tracks. Winter may not be the best time to observe plants and trees, but it is the perfect time to test your tree identification skills.  Without the leaves you must use the bark and other tree characteristics to help in your tree identification.  Check with your local city or county parks to see what fun winter hike activities they have to offer.
Great Parks of Hamilton County
Cincinnati Parks
Participant in Citizen Science!
Citizen science allows citizens of all ages to be able to participant in scientific research. There are hundreds of citizen science projects all over the world that cover a wide range of topics. Citizen science projects occur year round, but there are a few that are specifically designed for winter time. A few that come to mind are Project FeederWatch and the Christmas Bird Count.
Project FeederWatch is a survey that looks at which bird species visit feeders during the winter. Feeders can be located in your backyard, a nature center, a community area or any other location across the United States. Citizens that wish to participate in Project FeederWatch are asked to count and record the birds that they see at their feeder.  For more information on Project FeederWatch and to find out how you can participate visit their website
The Christmas Bird Count is the nation’s largest running citizen science project. The project takes place from December 14th to January 5th.  During the duration of the study participants are asked to observe birds for at least 15minute in a location of their choice. After observations are made and submitted the results are compiled by the Audubon Society and used to study the health and status of bird across the United States. To find out more details on the Christmas Bird Count visit
Make a Craft! 
Personally my favorite part of winter is when you can sit in front of a fire with a nice hot mug of hot chocolate and work on a craft project. Pinterest has tons of great ideas for using recycled materials to make bird feeders, decorations, DIY Christmas gifts and many many more fun craft ideas.
Bird feeders can be made from a variety of recyclable objects. The Garden Glove website,, has a ton of fun and interesting ways to make your very own bird feeder. They highlight feeders made from soup cans, pop bottles, wine bottles and even old dishes. Check out their website to find a new interesting way to feed the birds this winter.
There are lots of great ideas on Pinterest for making your own Christmas Presents or holiday decorations. Some ideas even use recycled material which makes it even better.  I can’t wait to make a few decorations with all the pine cones from my backyard. Craftaholics Anonymous has some great pine cone crafts on their website,, go check them out!
Prep for Spring! 
It may be too early to start planting your garden but it is never too soon to start planning! Now is the perfect time to decide what you want to plant during the upcoming gardening season.  This with also help you decide when you should get your plants and/or seeds in the ground.  Here at the Hamilton County SWCD we sell soil test kits. This kit will help you determine if your soil is healthy and ready for the spring. To purchase a soil test kit please stop by our office or visit this link,

For the love of bats

Original Post from 10/23/2015

​Halloween is soon approaching and before too long vampires, ghost, goblins, princesses and cowboys will be hitting the streets to do some trick or treating. Unfortunately for us that means we will soon be taking down our Halloween decorations. The ghost and bats will no longer hang from the trees and the jack-o-lanterns will no longer have a place on the porch.

Speaking of bats and vampires, did you know that not all bats are the blood sucking type that we see in scary Halloween movies?  Actually there is only one bat that feeds on blood, that is the vampire bat. Vampire bats are found in Central and South America.  Most of the bats that live in our area are insectivores, insect eaters, and make great pollinators as well. Bats are known to consume up to 600 mosquitoes in just one hour. Think how many more bug bites we would get if we didn’t have any bats. Bats are known to pollinate bananas, peaches and cashews as well as many other types of fruits.  There are actually over 300 types of fruit that rely on bats to pollinate them.  Bats are very interesting little mammals if you give them a chance.

To learn more about our local bats you can visit the Cincinnati Museum Center this Saturday, 10/24/2015 from 10 am-3 pm for a special event called Batfest.  Batfest will feature several organizations from around the Tri-state that are dedicated to teaching you about bats. Please visit this link for more information about the event,  We hope to see you there! 

For those that are unable to attend this Saturdays festivities at the Cincinnati Museum Center please check out the Ohio Division of Wildlife Field Guide on Mammals that is posted below. There is a little something about each of the 11 bats that can be found in Ohio. 

Amberley Creek Walk in French Park

Original Post from 9/30/2015

Come join me and lots of local experts to learn all about Amberley Creek in French Park. The We Thrive! Amberley Village committee is sponsoring a creek walk on Sunday, October 25 from 1:00 - 3:00 for the public to learn about the natural and not so natural elements of the creek. Join employees from the Cincinnati Parks, Hamilton County Public Health, Mill Creek Council of Communities and me (Gwen Roth, Education Specialist for the District) to learn all about the watershed, geology, storm water & erosion issues and the local habitat & wildlife. Meet at the shelter house at the top of French Park. Contact me with any questions. Hope to see you on the 25th. 


There is a new face in the office! Hi my name is Sara Fehring and I am the new Education Assistant for the Hamilton County Soil and Water Conservation District. I received a B.A. in Zoology from Miami University in 2013. For the past year I have been working on my M.A. in Biology through Project Dragonfly and Miami University. I would highly recommend Project Dragonfly to any formal or informal educator that is interested in obtaining their master's degree,

For the past two years I worked as a Naturalist for the City of Fairfield. I highly enjoyed working for the City of Fairfield but was ready to move on to a full time position. As a Naturalist I created and ran programs out of Huffman Park. I am extremely excited to share my past experiences, knowledge and ideas with my new co-workers and members of the community. With the start of the school year quickly approaching I look forward to meeting you and your group/class. Don't forget that our calendar fills up quickly. If you have a date, time and program in mind please head over and send us a request,

When I am not working there are a number of things that I enjoy doing. My hobbies include horseback riding, crafting, camping and baking. I highly enjoy being outdoors and I find myself working outdoors whenever I have the opportunity. I have a true passion for animals and traveling. I have two dogs, a horse and a miniature donkey at home. I am hoping to add some chickens to the mix in the near future. I recently went to Bahia de los Angeles with Project Dragonfly. I have created a slide show with a few pictures from my trip.  I definitely recommend adding Baja California to your bucket list.

I look forward to meeting all of you in person!
Snorkeling with Whale Sharks



Classmates and instructors
Sleeping arrangements

Common Dolphins
Common Dolphins

Where the desert meets the sea.


Swimming with sea lions 

Best tacos ever!

Whale Shark

4:30 am hike

Whale Shark

Where has Sara been?

Over the past couple months you may have noticed it was a little hard to schedule a program with me between October and January. That is bec...