Love of wildlife leads to award for SREL’s Sean Poppy

Charmain Z. Brackett

The Augusta Chronicle

Dec. 20, 2018   8:19 p.m.

In a time before electronic gadgets, Sean Poppy grew up playing in the woods near his home. On his adventures, he encountered numerous types of wildlife, which sparked his interest in learning about the creatures he saw.

Now, as the University of Georgia’s Savannah River Ecology Laboratory’s program outreach coordinator, Poppy hopes he sparks a similar interest in the thousands of children he meets each year through his animal presentations at schools, libraries and other venues.

“I like to show students the animals that live around here,” said Poppy, who takes a menagerie of turtles, snakes, alligators and other creatures as part of his presentations. “A lot of kids think tigers live around here.”

Poppy, who has worked at the Savannah River Ecology Lab for 20 years, gives more than 300 presentations a year to more than 40,000 people, most of whom are children. In November, he received the South Carolina Environmental Awareness Award. A committee made up of members of South Carolina’s Sea Grant Consortium, Department of Natural Resources, Department of Health and Environmental Control and Forestry Commission determine the winner.

The outreach programs are provided at no cost to the recipients. They are underwritten by the University of Georgia, U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Securities Administration.

Typically, Poppy doesn’t travel farther than Thomson, to the west and Columbia to the east, but he has traveled to Myrtle Beach, S.C., and to Atlanta. He can’t travel too far because he has to take into consideration he’s traveling with animals.

Poppy also has one animal that he can only take to his South Carolina stops. Scooter is a coyote that Poppy discovered on Highway 125 near Redcliffe Elementary School in Beech Island in 2012. He was only a pup at the time and was dehydrated and severely malnourished.

He rescued the animal and keeps him in a pen on Poppy’s 12 acres during the day, and Scooter stays in the garage at night. While he looks like a dog, he’s not a dog, and coyotes shouldn’t be kept as pets.