High School science teacher, Mike Sustin, highlights the biology and ecology of the black bear - once extirpated in Ohio – from life in the den to foraging behaviors to the management challenges facing Ohio’s population.
Description: The black bear was once extirpated in Ohio, but confirmed sightings of black bears have increased in the eastern half of the state. High School science teacher, Mike Sustin, reveals what is known about the occurrence and habits of black bears in his program, “Black Bears in Ohio: Past, Present and Future”. He will highlight the biology and ecology of these animals – from life in the den to foraging behaviors to the management challenges facing Ohio’s population.
ABOUT Mike Sustin grew up Russell Township in Geauga County, Ohio and currently teaches Chemistry and Environmental Science at his alma mater, West Geauga High School. He had taught science at Euclid High School for seven years before returning to West Geauga, where he has worked to provide deeply meaningful and enriching experiences to all students for the past eighteen years. Mike has conducted population studies of bobcats and black bears with his students, provided service learning opportunities for his high school seniors with partner second grade classes, and directed the creation of a rain garden and outdoor learning venue on the high school campus.
Although he is a high school teacher, Mike shares his enthusiasm for wildlife and conservation with students of all ages and at any venue. For the past four years he and his high school students have run an after school extracurricular Nature Club for fifth grade students at both of the district’s elementary schools. Mike has been the Science and Nature Director at Red Oak Camps in Kirtland since 2010. There he works with boys and girls ages 7-14, and leads them on nature hikes, canoe trips, and insect, leaf, and bird identification projects. He has currently begun volunteering with the Ohio Young Birders Club Northeast Chapter.
The work he is most proud of is the development of the Summer Ecology Expedition program. Through cross-curricular collaborations with other teachers, students travel near and far to experience the state of wild places and the conservation challenges they face. The SEE program has included trips around Ohio (2009, 2010, 2012), Wyoming (2011, 2013, 2014, 2016), and Alaska (2014). In June, 2015, he took 27 students to Costa Rica with the assistance of a Spanish teacher and a Human Geography teacher. In July, 2015, Mike and one of the district’s English teachers traveled to the Maine wilderness with sixteen students on a Thoreau themed exploration of the north woods and of the development of modern conservation philosophy.
Mike’s recent work earned him the honor of being named a 2015 National Project Learning Tree Outstanding Educator. Last summer, he was a recipient of a 2014 Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators. In July of 2012 he journeyed inside the Arctic Circle as a National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow. Using the National Geographic Explorer as a base of operations, he explored the Svalbard archipelago of Norway and studied every facet of Arctic ecology. In April of 2011, Mike and some of his students were honored with a National Conservation Achievement Award by the National Wildlife Federation for their work on wetlands education and conservation. Most recently, Mike was accepted to Miami University’s Earth Expeditions program and journeyed to the Great Barrier Reef as part of the marine ecology and reef conservation course. His continued pursuit of learning experiences keeps him in touch with his students, and makes him the outstanding educator he has become.
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