TOMAHAWK - This week, a group of UW-Whitewater students is at Treehaven learning to track wolves and other rare animals.
They’re giving up part of their winter break to help the DNR with a wolf survey.
Many seem enthusiastic and dedicated to the course, but none more so than Meg Lynch, who’s keeping up with her classmates in a wheelchair.
“I call myself Megatron when I’m in the chair,” says Lynch.
It’s no ordinary chair – the four-wheel-drive, all-terrain wheelchair powers through brush and snow so Lynch can keep up with UW Whitewater’s biology curriculum.
“I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I like to try new things,” Lynch says.
UW-Whitewater prides itself on being accessible to all students.
The chair, made possible by a grant, brings that accessibility beyond campus and classroom.
After three years in wheelchairs and walkers that can’t get through this kind of terrain, Lynch says it’s a good buy.
“I’m grateful to have this chair, because I wouldn’t be here without this chair,” she says.
Lynch’s professor, Dr. George Clokey, agrees. He believes the chair will build her confidence and help her realize what he calls great potential.
This week’s hands-on course will do the same for everyone here, giving every participants a chance to get out and put their classroom knowledge to use.
They’re learning from Dr. Clokey and wolf expert Dr. Jim Halfpenny, who came from Yellowstone to teach and help the Wisconsin DNR.
“Here at Treehaven, we have a nice selection of animals to work with – grey fox, otter, fisher, deer. That allows the students to gain a lot of practice,” says Halfpenny.
Today, students learned how to identify and preserve animal tracks. They started by analyzing a dog’s different gaits.
After classroom and field training here, the class will head farther north to Cable, where they’ll help the DNR estimate how many wolves are in Wisconsin.
“It’s certainly nice to have a young bunch of students from the University working on these. As we do go forward to delisting wolves, we know we’ll have a cadre of trained people out there,” says Halfpenny.
Although Lynch isn’t sure if she’ll pursue field work after college, she’s grateful for this opportunity.
“I’m just trying everything I possibly can. I’m thankful for being here,” she says.
This summer, Lynch hopes to be Megatron once again, heading to Yellowstone for a similar field ecology course.
LAC DU FLAMBEAU - Ruby's pantry opened their doors Tuesday in Lac du Flambeau. This is the first time the Ruby's pantry has set up shop there. They decided to come to Lac du Flambeau because of the good turnout in Rhinelander. The food pantry asks that people give a $20 donation.
“It's not your typical food pantry,” says Gloria Cobb, Ruby's Pantry Lac du Flambeau Lead Coordinator. “This is an opportunity to give people dignity, to serve with dignity, and it's a donation base.”
“I mean look at the hustle and bustle going on we've got the community coming together not only Lac du Flambeau but the surrounding community coming together to meet a very basic need and that's to help with hunger,” says Cobb.
The pantry offered items like strawberries, cake mix, and toilet paper. More than 400 people were expected to show up.
“A participant will go through the line with a laundry basket and or box and they will be offered items,” says Cobb. “They can refuse them however we will encourage them to take the item because somebody else that they may know may have a need.”
“They get a certain amount of each item and they go through the line like an assembly line,” says Cobb.
The pantry had more than 21,000 pounds of food to give away.
WAUSAU - Students at Northcentral Technical College in Wausau got to see Tibetan monks create a work of art steeped in Buddhist history.
The Mandala Sand Art is an ancient Tantric Buddhist tradition dating back thousands of years.
The Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery are on an international tour called Mystical Arts of Tibet where they create mandalas in front of an audience.
"The colored patterns we are using, we are following the scriptures, the Buddhist scriptures. It's a very old tradition, more than 2,500 years ago," says Geshe Loden, head of the Mystical Arts of Tibet.
The monks' last visit to Northcentral Technical College in 2011 was so popular, they were invited back.
"At NTC we feel like it's important to offer our students a variety of different programming, and one of the things we feel our responsibility to do is expose our students to other cultures, other religions, other ideas," says Director of Student Development Shawn Sullivan.
The monks work hours at a time placing sand delicately in the lines of the intricate pattern.
The mandala will take them four days to complete, but the beautiful creation won't last long.
"After finishing this, making the mandala, we consecrate this completed mandala, and we dismantle it to symbolize the impermanence of all the conditioned things, all the phenomena," says Loden.
The monks' tour raises money for more than 3,000 monasteries in India. They also do it to raise awareness about the plight of Tibetans.
"Lord Buddha had started this, and that tradition keeps going on."
RHINELANDER - The Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce group held a seminar at Nicolet College in Rhinelander Tuesday, to plan how to make Wisconsin more attractive to skilled workers and manufacturing businesses.
WMC's president believes the shortage in younger people in the industry has to do with two big misconceptions about manufacturing.
"The younger kids, as do their parents, have a perception on what manufacturing looks like and it's about 40 years out of date. If you're in an advanced manufacturing facility now, it's clean, it's high-tech, the engineers and technicians are working together," said Jim Morgan."We have a perception problem. I think we still have a definition of success that's says unless you have a four-year degree, you're not successful."
Morgan says groups like WMC work to change that perception. He believes workers with a two-year degree are just as successful in the industry.
So far, WMC held seminars at nine other technical colleges. For Rhinelander, more manufacturers could mean more economic independence.
"The Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce is looking to see how it can help and partner with local manufacturers to make the Rhinelander area a more favorable place for them to locate their businesses, as well as to attract and retain skilled workers to make those businesses successful," said Dana DeMet, Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce director.
Over the next six months, WMC will continue to look for ways to attract more workers and businesses to the state.
In December, it hopes to have 1000 representatives for a meeting in Milwaukee focusing on how manufacturing will benefit the state.
WMC also works with the University of Wisconsin system and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges.
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