Pettit Environmental Preserve presents Amphibians in Winter Saturday

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Amphibians will leap into the limelight during The Pettit Environmental Preserve's Saturday program.

Ongoing from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the Amphibians in Winter offering will feature presentations by the venue's educator, Erin Zaballa; crafts for children 3 to 11; and self-guided hikes.

"We like to do programming related to the seasons, connecting people to what is going on in nature," said Marina Robertson, executive director for the preserve. "Over the last year, we’ve had programming on various types of animals in winter, including mammals and reptiles, so it was natural to look at amphibians also."

Through the program, Robertson hopes attendees of all ages will gain more comprehensive understanding of how amphibians utilize numerous methods to sustain themselves during wintry conditions.

"Amphibians include animals, like frogs — that live in water — and toads that live on land, so they are going to have different strategies for surviving the cold," she said. "Frogs will seek out the lower levels of a lake or pond, slow their metabolism and take in oxygen through their skin. If the water totally freezes, some frogs will partially freeze also, but stored glycogen — sugar — in the blood keeps it from freezing. When the weather warms, the frog thaws and goes about his business.

"Toads burrow into leaf litter or below the frost line and wait out the cold weather, becoming active during 'warm snaps' and then returning to inactive state if it gets cold again. Torpor is a state of reduced metabolic activity, but unlike hibernation, animals who use torpor readily go in and out of this state depending on the weather. Other amphibians have different strategies for surviving the cold." 

Situated off Highway 61 on the Bartow/Paulding county line, the preserve was formed as a private, nonprofit corporation — The Margaret and Luke Pettit Environmental Preserve Inc. — in 1999 when the late Gay Pettit Dellinger and her children initially donated 60 acres of property.

 "Our mission is to provide environmental education to children and the public in general to help them understand the importance of what they see and experience in nature," Robertson said. "So many times we see children — or [even] adults — coming to the preserve afraid of being outdoors because they don’t know anything about the natural world. Knowledge about how nature works — what animals are native to our area, how we should interact with them, etc. — not only puts fears to rest, but it allows us to enjoy the outdoors and encourage our curiosity about how things work in nature."

According to pettitpreserve.org, the venue strives to provide a nature preserve for environmental studies; an opportunity for children to experience the joy of nature; a safe haven for native species; a research area of educational and scientific value; and an outdoor teaching laboratory.

“The Pettit Preserve offers quarterly programs, monthly hikes, children/youth camps and school field trips and is available as a venue for business and family events.”

Open to the general public during scheduled programs, the 70-acre venue consists of various trails developed by Switchbacks Trail Design & Construction, a 9-acre lake, two aquatic stations, three amphitheaters, self-contained composting toilets and a Learning Shed. More than 20,000 patrons have visited the preserve or received outreach through its programs since the site opened in 2006.

"A trip [to] the preserve is an inexpensive outing at only $3 per person with a maximum of $10 per family," Robertson said. "Our membership program makes it even more affordable and the premier levels provide access to the preserve when we are not open to the public.

"Our new multipurpose building is coming along and will provide more opportunities for educational activities without worrying abut the weather. The 3,700-square-foot facility is expected to be completed by next fall, allowing us to see more school groups and provide more educational programs for all ages."

Along with the site’s website, more information can be obtained about The Pettit Environmental Preserve and its program by contacting Robertson at director@pettitpreserve.org or 678-848-4179.