Teen wins scholarship from Master Naturalist Group

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LAKE OF THE OZARKS, Mo -- An ongoing interest in conservation has landed a 17-year-old Camdenton High School graduate a $1,500 scholarship from the Lake of the Ozarks Master Naturalist Chapter. Scholarship winner Caitlin Shoults will be a freshman at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville this fall and will have dual majors in Agricultural Sciences and in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. She also plans to minor in Spanish.

This is the first year the chapter has awarded the scholarship, which was made possible through donations from some of the group’s members.

Shoults’ conservation-oriented collegiate focus is the latest example of her long-time interest in the outdoors. Originally from Birmingham, Ala., she moved to the Camdenton area in 2001 and became involved in outdoors and conservation programs. In middle school, she attended day camps at Ha Ha Tonka State Park and joined the Missouri Department of Conservation’s (MDC) Conservation Frontiers Program. She became the youngest leader in the Frontiers Program and later, as a high school student, joined the MDC Conservation Leadership Corps.

“I think it was the Leadership Corps that confirmed my interest in ecology and pointed me toward Maryville and my course of study,” Shoults said. “I like being outside and learning new things. I have a goal of learning something new every day.”

Shoults’ scholarship is an example of the diverse conservation outreach efforts of the Lake of the Ozarks Master Naturalist Chapter – and, on a broader scale – the statewide Master Naturalist Program. Missouri’s Master Naturalist Program is a community based natural resource education and volunteer program of the MDC and University of Missouri Extension. The program’s purpose is to develop a corps of well-informed volunteers to provide natural resource management services to surrounding communities. These services include education, habitat enhancement, citizen science and other types of outreach services that are beneficial to managing the natural resources in their area.

For more information about the Lake of the Ozarks chapter, visit lakeozarkmasternaturalist.com. For more information on the Master Naturalist program, visit monaturalist.org.