At the aquatics station, several dead fish were being examined and prodded by several teenagers, while others watched live critters swimming in bowls at another table.
Elsewhere, a bird claw, an animal pelt and two different jawbones were under scrutiny at a wildlife station.
A total of five stations — aquatics, wildlife, forestry, soil and a current event — had to be completed by each of 25 teams representing 17 Baltimore County high schools at the April 20 Baltimore County Envirothon Competition at Oregon Ridge Park Lodge.
"It's gotten bigger and bigger," said Pat Ghingher, Baltimore County Public School Outdoor Science educator, of the competition. "This is a wonderful facility. It looks like a competition here."
Teams from around the county began arriving at Oregon Park at 8:30 a.m.
Stations were located both inside the lodge and outside, under pavilions and near trees. Each team had 30 minutes to complete each station.
Kim Bickerstaff, biology and ecology teacher at the Western School of Technology and Environmental Science, has been bringing teams to the Envirothon for at least six years.
In the last three years, Western's teams have brought home two first-place awards and one second.
This year, the school continued its strong showing as Western teams finished in third and seventh-place.
"It is great teamwork," Bickerstaff said of the Envirothon team. "They do a lot on their own. I give them a tremendous amount of credit."
Herford High won the competition and now advances to the Maryland Envirothon, scheduled for June 20-21 at St. James School in Washington County.
Perry Hall was second with Carver fourth and Catonsville fifth.
The winner of the Maryland Envirothon will represent the state this summer at the 2012 Canon Envirothon at Susquehanna University in Selinsgove, Pa., where more than 250 teenagers from the United States and Canada will compete for $125,000 in scholarships and prizes.
The Envirothon is sponsored by the Maryland Association of Soil Conservation Districts and the State Soil Conservation Committee, and supported by other state and federal programs.
Students participating in the Envirothon have been studying since September. As part of this extracurricular training, teenagers identify and categorize living resources, perform soil surveys, identify issues related to trees, and delve into other complex natural resource issues.
The program focuses on a special environmental issue that changes from year to year. This year's issue is nonpoint source pollution and low-impact development.
For Baltimore County schools, Ghingher has hosted two workshops, one in the fall and one in spring, and provides various resources to the schools to help prepare for the competition.
"She really does an outstanding job in all aspects of the Envirothon," said Holly West, an Advanced Placement science teacher at Towson High."There are a lot of aspects ... professionals, jobs, the exposure to different career opportunities."
After the final station, teams gathered in the lodge to eat lunch and await the results of the competition.
All of the students who competed at Oregon Ridge found common ground in the study of natural resources, but after the results were announced, there was no time for mingling — groups yelled "good-bye" and "thanks" to Ghingher as they rushed to their buses for home.
"I think it went pretty well," said Reiter Boldt, a senior at Catonsville High School. "It's fun learning about the environment, and it's important."
Teammate Jacob Marshall, also a senior, plans to continue studying the environment in college, a pursuit that he said was fueled by Catonsville science teacher Sarah Sheetz.
"All my life, I've been a fisherman and an outdoorsmen," Marshall said. "I met Mrs. Sheetz in environmental science my junior year, and she got me an internship with (the Department of Natural Resources) last year. Next year, I'm attending West Virginia University for wildlife and fisheries resources."
West couldn't say enough good things about the Envirothon.
"The kids have a great time ... and are excited to come," West said. "It's a fun competition."