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S.C. Environmental Awareness Award Goes to Educator

Nov 27, 2018 | News

Sean Poppy, an outreach educator at the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL), is the latest winner of the S.C. Environmental Awareness Award.

In his nearly 20 years with the U.S. Department of Energy facility, Poppy has presented live animal shows that introduced hundreds of thousands of children to the ecological diversity found on the 200,000-acre Savannah River Site. The hands-on presentations have become so popular that schools and youth groups have to book them months in advance. In addition to the animal shows, Poppy conducts wildlife safety talks and manages the SREL Conference and Education Center and its animal care complex.

Sean Poppy, the 2016 S.C. Environmental Awareness Award winner, uses native animals to introduce school children to the wonders of nature. Scooter the coyote was malnourished and dehydrated when found near a school in Jackson, South Carolina. He recovered and now serves as an education animal. Photo of Sean Poppy by Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

The Savannah River Site is home to dozens of species of reptiles and amphibians. One of the stars of Poppy’s shows is Scooter, a wild coyote Poppy rescued. Scooter helps educate the public about the impacts of invasive species.

“When you think about snakes, alligators, toads, frogs, turtles, and even coyotes, they are not always considered the animal candidates that the public eagerly embraces,” wrote one of Poppy’s co-workers in nominating him for the award. “However, when you see children and adults open their eyes, hearts, minds, and arms to these creatures, you really understand how special an environmental educator Sean Poppy is.”

The annual award, established in 1992 by the S.C. General Assembly, recognizes outstanding contributions toward protection, conservation, and improvement of South Carolina’s natural resources. Poppy was presented with the award at an event at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) headquarters in Columbia on November 27, 2018.

Members of a committee made up of representatives from SCDHEC, S.C. Forestry Commission, S.C. Department of Natural Resources, and S.C. Sea Grant Consortium select the award winner from nominations submitted by the public.