Interactive Environmental Programs
"All Native All The Time!"
with April Claus
April's clients have included many local schools and organizations in western Pennsylvania. She has worked with a wide variety of organizations to provide environmental education to young and old throughout western PA few of significant note include:
Pennsylvania State Parks
April began working in “citizen science” during graduate school by serving as the field director for the Pennsylvania Herpetological Atlas Project (1996-1998). This first state-wide endeavor to inventory the distribution of reptiles and amphibians was led by herpetologist, Dr. Arthur Hulse at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), and was funded by the Wild Resource Conservation Fund.
This was a massive effort to collect valuable current spatial information on native herps using a network of trained volunteers.
April’s role as field director was to travel throughout the state and recruit volunteers (over 500+ contributed) and hold identification workshops to train participants to find and correctly identify all herp species they encountered. The volunteers recorded location/identity and then sent the data back to the headquarters at IUP.
The project allowed April to meet amateur naturalists, museum curators, school teachers, environmental professionals and lots of ordinary people who just had a passion for all things slimy & scaly! The PA Herp Atlas Project (now continued through the work of PARS) led to numerous county records and range extensions for multiple herp species.
Results from the project were included in the book, Amphibians and Reptiles of Pennsylvania and the Northeast (Hulse, McCoy and Censky, 2001). Many of these workshops were held at PA state parks which provided classroom space for the trainings and plenty of wild habitats for awesome field excursions.
Today, April continues to provide herp education programs to visitors at numerous PA state parks. You can find her at evening campground programs, youth day camps, teacher workshops and visitor center events.
"In 14 years of holding our Creek Camp, we learned we had to have April Claus as our last guest presenter. She is such a dynamic presenter, so passionate about nature and wildlife that all others pale in comparison. Her engaging and interactive programs with Pennsylvania herps pulls in even the most uninterested student. No one can leave one of her programs without brimming with information and experiences they can't wait to share with others."
- WENDY KEDZIERSKI (PROJECT DIRECTOR)
Allegheny College Creek Connections (Meadville, Pennsylvania)
Ask April about her college experience and she will keep you listening for a while…..…
“The research projects and upper level classes I took at Allegheny College, as well as the close relationships I formed with the faculty members, awakened a real passion for my love of the world around me. This is where I feel my career in the natural sciences really began.”
As an upperclassman, April was approached by her professors (Dr. Jim Palmer and Dr. Mark Lord) to assist in the creation of the pilot program for the successful and long-standing Creek Connections program. April continues her long relationship with the current Creek Connections staff, Wendy Kedzierski (Project Director) and Laura Branby (Pittsburgh Area Coordinator) to provide exciting field experiences and expertise for Creek Connections.
She can be seen presenting at their annual Freshwater Academy for high school students at Allegheny College, and you will often see her hosting a breakout session during their annual student symposia held each spring.
Freshwater Academy includes week-long endeavors held during the summer months, where participating high school students study freshwater ecology in the beautiful streams of northwestern, PA. They spend an entire week living on-campus, rubbing elbows with researchers, scientists and those focused on watershed education, just like April.
“It brings me great joy to see this program that I got to be part of in its infancy going strong some 20+ years later!” GO GATORS!
Little Sewickley Creek Watershed Association (Allegheny County Pennsylvania)
April has had a long-standing relationship with the Little Sewickley Creek Watershed Association (LSCWA) and served on their board of directors for over 10 years. The Little Sewickley Creek is a high-quality watershed in Allegheny county, just west of downtown Pittsburgh, PA. At only 9.5 square miles, the LSC watershed is small in size, but its impact has been huge in terms of regional environmental education.
In addition to serving on the board of directors, April founded the QV Creekers high school internship program in 2009. This unique after school internship allows students from Quaker Valley High School to work alongside environmental professionals from Fern Hollow Nature Center and Creek Connections of Allegheny College to biologically and chemically monitor the health of the Little Sewickley Creek.
QV Creekers then collaborate with other community groups to do projects that protect and benefit the watershed. QV Creekers have been actively involved in projects like: dam removals, stream assessments, native herpetology surveys, wetland restorations, education events, trash clean-ups, fish diversity inventories and trout stocking.
April’s past interns have gone on to become fisheries biologists, teachers, medical doctors and veterinarians.
April moved on from the LSCWA board and the QV Creekers in 2020, but her contributions to the watershed will be felt for years to come!
Fern Hollow Nature Center
In her position as naturalist for Sewickley Heights Borough, April worked closely with Fern Hollow Nature Center to develop environmental education courses for the community and local schools. Programs ranged from birds and habitats, to understanding the food web of a watershed to geology. The courses became part of the science curriculum for Quaker Valley school district and other local schools. It would be difficult to count the number of students who were introduced by April to the wonders, beauty and biodiversity of their home watershed. April was the person community members turned to when they noticed something wrong in the creek or found an injured or displaced animal, particularly an amphibian or reptile, her specialty!
"April is the rare person that can channel her contagious enthusiasm, broad scientific knowledge and great organizational skills to put together effective educational programs. She always gives 100% effort, pays attention to the details and isn't afraid to make adjustments so that programs stay current and work for the students."
Past President, Fern Hollow Nature Center