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Nature spots educate radio listeners about local wildlife

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EMORY, Va. — The screeching sounds of an owl at night, the rattling sounds of a belted kingfisher and the shrill shrieks of a red fox.

Even on a college campus, you can find examples of the natural world.

Emory & Henry College is no exception, where an abundance of wildlife makes guest appearances just about every day.

All you have to do is look for them, according to Monica Hoel, alumni director at the college and longtime member of the Holston Rivers Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist, a corps of volunteers who are dedicated to the management of natural resources in their communities.

Just in the last month, the Holston Rivers Chapter of the service-based organization has teamed up with WEHC 90.7 FM at the college to present 60-second spots about the wildlife and nature that can be found on the Emory, Virginia, campus.

The informative posts also can be seen on the Facebook page, “E&H Wild Campus,” offering photos and links to enhance what you hear on the radio.

Hoel said she jumped at the opportunity to create the recordings when station manager Ivy Sheppard suggested sharing the educational information with the community.

“Plus, it’s a great way to get the word out about Virginia Master Naturalist. As a member, I learn something new every day. It’s given me nice people to volunteer with. It’s just a wonderful organization.”

To get started, Hoel recorded 10 one-minute spots about some of the nature likely to be encountered on the campus, including belted kingfishers, woodpeckers and owls.

Now, other members of the chapter are starting to contribute to the program.

Melanie Smith just did one on spring peepers. Leah Prater, director of marketing at the college, as well as a member of the Holston Rivers Chapter, will create a spot on wasps.

Tanya Hall, chief park ranger at Hungry Mother State Park and sponsor of the Holston Rivers Chapter, will present a one-minute spot on foxes.

The volunteers help write the scripts, and Hoel assists by adding music and sound for the final product.

“Right here under our noses on campus are a lot of natural and sometimes wild experiences we can have. You don’t have to go to the woods to find nature. It’s all around us all of the time,” said Hoel.

“Because we live in a biodiversity hot spot in the Appalachian Mountains, it’s important for people to understand that the variety of plants and animals in the area are important for the health of humans, as well as the well-being of the environment.”

One of her concerns is many people either don’t understand the natural world or they are fearful of it.

“I would love for students on campus to understand that if they hear an owl at night, they don’t need to be afraid. They should be excited that they are encountering it,” Hoel said.

“We are part of nature, and if we don’t take time to understand it and protect it, we all stand to lose. It’s not just about some fuzzy little critter or a bird; it’s about us.”

Tune to WEHC 90.7 FM to hear nature spots, or visit the Facebook page “E&H Wild Campus” to learn about nature around you.

To learn more about Holston Rivers Chapter of the Virginia Master Naturalist, send an email to Monica Hoel at, or visit the website at

Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at


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