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Natural resources students dominate outdoor writing and photo contest

May 12, 2016

A rocky mountaintop at twilight, with a glowing green tent on the rocks and city lights in the background

McAfee Knob
Niall Goard of Chesapeake, Virginia, a freshman forestry major, took home the top photo prize in the 2015-16 Virginia Outdoor Writers Association/Dominion Resources Collegiate Undergraduate Writing and Photo Contest for his image of McAfee Knob at twilight. Overnight camping is prohibited at McAfee Knob and is subject to a $100 fine. Niall Goard set up the tent simply for the purpose of taking this photo; he did not camp there overnight.

Virginia Tech students continue to uphold the university’s tradition of success in the annual VOWA (Virginia Outdoor Writers Association)/Dominion Resources annual Collegiate Undergraduate Writing and Photo Contest, taking home eight of 12 awards in the 2015-16 competition.

The theme of this year’s contest was a memorable outdoor experience. The top winners read their essays and presented their photographs to 65 members and guests at the Virginia Outdoor Writers Association’s annual meeting in Staunton, Virginia.

Deirdre Conroy of Falls Church, Virginia, a freshman double majoring in wildlife conservation in the College of Natural Resources and Environment and literature and language in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, won the VOWA/Cooperative Living Magazine Collegiate Award for the best entry relating specifically to Virginia. Her descriptive essay, “That Old Mountain,” recounts hiking Old Rag Mountain and the vistas of the Shenandoah Valley. She earned a $100 cash prize, and her essay will be featured in Cooperative Living Magazine.

“I participated because I wanted my first writing contest to be related to something I’m interested in, as I love outdoor recreation, as well as my field of study, wildlife conservation,” Conroy said. “I figured the VOWA’s outdoor writers contest would be the perfect opportunity.”

Niall Goard of Chesapeake, Virginia, a freshman forestry major in the College of Natural Resources and Environment, won the VOWA/Hunt’s Best Collegiate Outdoor Photo Award. Goard received a $50 gift certificate from Hunt’s Photo and Video and a $50 cash prize from VOWA. His image, “McAfee Knob at Sunset,” captured the knob, the stars above, and the distant lights of Roanoke, Virignia, highlighted with a green tent lit from within by flashlight.

“The College of Natural Resources and Environment has definitely opened my eyes to many conservation issues, which really fueled my passion for photography. I’ve found a new drive to capture the great outdoors to inspire others so that we can all respectfully enjoy nature without destroying it,” Goard said. “The contest pushed me in the right direction. It gave me confidence that my photography is a powerful tool that can spread a message while capturing viewers’ imaginations.”

Other winners include the following students from the College of Natural Resources and Environment:

  • Lynn Wormeli of Herndon, Virginia, a senior majoring in geography with a minor in religion in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, was runner up in the VOWA/Dominion Resources Collegiate Undergraduate Award for Best Overall Essay for “Countering Insanity,” inspired by her experiences as a camp counselor.
  • Lauren Bowman of Dublin, Virginia, a senior majoring in wildlife conservation, earned honorable mention in the VOWA/Dominion Resources Collegiate Undergraduate Award for Best Outdoor Essay for “The Kayak,” describing a visit to a chain of barrier islands off the Florida coast.
  • Jessica York of Hampton, Virginia, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation, earned first honorable mention in the VOWA/Cooperative Living Magazine Collegiate Award for her essay, “Alone in Nature,” in which she writes about hiking to the Cascades waterfall near the Blacksburg campus.
  • Melissa Skirkanich of Leesburg, Virginia, a junior majoring in wildlife conservation with a double major in multimedia journalism in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, took second honorable mention in the VOWA/Cooperative Living Magazine Collegiate Award for her essay, “The Mountain Man,” recounting a sunrise climb to McAfee Knob.
  • Christopher “C.A.M.” Gerlach of Alexandria, Virginia, a junior double majoring in meteorology and geography, earned honorable mention in VOWA/Hunt’s Best Collegiate Outdoor Photo category for his image of a hawk at sunset in his backyard.
  • Christina Nelson of Purcellville, Virginia, a sophomore majoring in wildlife conservation, also earned honorable mention in the photo category for her image of a falconer and his eagle. Nelson was last year’s VOWA/Dominion Resources Collegiate Undergraduate Best Overall Entry winner in the essay category.

Written by Ashley Anderson of Virginia Beach, Virginia, a senior majoring in public relations in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.

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