RANDOLPH COUNTY, N.C. — Louie Barton, 9, of Randolph County, loves science.
When the Mars rover Perseverance landed on the red planet on Feb. 18, Louie was watching the moment on his tablet.
And when Louie isn’t tracking the rover, he is keeping up with his massive fish tank filled with snails, small sharks and fish.
Space and animals came together last month when Louie asked the scientist aboard the International Space Station could they see the world’s largest beaver dam from space. The astronaut didn’t know. But some folks back on earth who knew all about the beaver dam were very impressed by Louie’s question.
The world’s largest beaver dam is in Wood Buffalo National Park in far northern Canada. Kevin Gedling is the communication officer for Parks Canada.
“This looked like a really fun opportunity,” Gedling said. “He was teaching the astronauts about the beaver dams. Wouldn’t it be cool to reach out to this guy because he knows a lot about the beaver dam?”
Video conferencing isn’t just a work tool. The staff at Wood Buffalo National Park used the technology to bridge the nearly 3,000 miles between the park and Randolph County.
“Totally shocking that a small town in North Carolina, a news station, and that story would make it all the way to Canada,” said Louie’s mother Gina Barton.
Louie had a great talk with the staff from Wood Buffalo National Park. They told Louie all about the buffaloes that roam the nearly 17,300-square-mile park. Louie was also fascinated that the park embraces the night.
“In the park, they have the largest dark sky preserve in the world,” Louie said. “It restricts light pollution for astronomy and for wildlife like bats and other nocturnal animals.”
Rob Belanger is one of the park rangers at Wood Buffalo National Park. Belanger explained to Louie one reason why the beaver dam is over 2700 feet long.
“You can’t boat there, it’s a river system and hard to get to. You have to use a helicopter,” Belanger said.
Talking to the team from the national park was like one of Louie’s science books coming to life. This could be a moment that will stay with Louie for some time.
“I’ve seen a few years later they end up sticking with it, getting in tight and finding a career with Parks Canada at some point,” Gedling said.
And for a fourth grader from Randolph County, working in Canada is an option.
“I want to be a park ranger at Wood Buffalo National Park, an astronaut, and a lot of things,” Louie said.
Wood Buffalo National Park is sending Louie a care package. Inside of the box, there is a hat, t-shirt and a stuffed animal named Parka. Parka is a beaver that was “born” at the world’s largest beaver dam. Check out www.pc.gc.ca/woodbuffalo to learn more about Canada’s largest national park.