Secretary Regan Recognizes Fort Caswell Educator Tara Whicker

Wednesday, December 19, 2018 - 1:59pm

DEQ Secretary Regan was at Fort Caswell on Wednesday to congratulate Tara Whicker for completing the department’s Environmental Education Certification Program and to learn more about Caswell’s educational programming.

Whicker is the coastal education assistant coordinator with the Environmental Stewardship Program at Fort Caswell. She helps facilitate field trips and teach K-12 students about coastal ecology and marine biology in a non-formal, outdoor setting.

Fort Caswell is surrounded by a salt marsh, the Cape Fear River, and the Atlantic Ocean which creates a unique outdoor classroom for students. Caswell’s Environmental Stewardship Program provides students with the opportunity to explore the shore and the fort, seine in the marsh, catch fish and blue crabs, view plankton under a microscope, and even kayak through a tidal creek.

Secretary Regan congratulated Whicker for completing the program. “North Carolina is fortunate to have educators like Tara providing outdoor experiences and programs for K-12 students that teach them about North Carolina’s rich coastal ecology.”

For her community partnership project, Tara organized an International Coastal Cleanup Event at Caswell Beach. Participants at the event collected and sorted marine debris and data on the marine debris was submitted to the Ocean Conservancy’s online database. Tara planned, advertised, and hosted the event in partnership with the Town of Caswell Beach and the Caswell Beach Turtle Watch program. As part of the event, Tara developed and delivered educational lessons on marine debris. Tara worked with Brunswick Electric to obtain a grant to fund the project.

The marine habitat around Fort Caswell had an obvious impact on Tara’s motivation to pursue the beach cleanup. “With the beach in my backyard, I feel a strong need to do my part in protecting this wonderful ecosystem and the coastal wildlife that depends upon healthy waterways. Just like lots of tiny pieces of plastic are causing a global marine debris crisis, so too can tiny bits of positive change turn the tides for caring for our earth. As an educator in my small community, I know firsthand that many who have lived in Brunswick County their whole lives know very little about some of the wonders they have in their own backyard. I believe that small events like the International Beach Cleanup do make a difference and that the lesson plans that coincide with the event also can have beneficial impacts to my community.”

Lisa Tolley