BERLIN — Like many young people, Jonathan Pressman, 13, of Ohio, wants to help animals. Instead of just thinking about helping, Pressman acted by researching a cause and independently raising funds for it.

The generous young man recently presented a handful of checks totaling $935 to the Assateague Island Alliance (AIA), the nonprofit friends group of Assateague Island National Seashore. Pressman explained that Jewish boys at age 13 (girls at 12) take on a social action project and he wanted to do something to support animals.

“Although he was a little shy about saying so, the Assateague Island Alliance was actually one of several organizations Jonathan researched. He was quite impressed with what he learned about the [Assateague Island National Seashore’s] use of contraception to keep the horse population in balance with the ecosystem, thus preserving both. He wrote a description of the program for family and friends and shared it with them when he encouraged them to donate [in honor of his Bar Mitzvah]. The response from the community was very warm,” said Stacia Dearman, Jonathan Pressman’s mother.

According to the National Park Service Feral Horse Management Plan, a healthy horse population “Maintains sufficient genetic diversity to avoid problems with inbreeding”.

Genetic testing helps the park decide which mares should be allowed to breed to increase genetic diversity. The combination of such controlled breeding and immunocontraception has proven to be an effective means in preserving the long-term health and viability of the herd, and in turn maintaining the health of the island, as stated by a study in the Journal of Wildlife Management.

A donation made to AIA guarantees that all of the funds will remain in the park. With the National Park Service operating at a reduced budget and more cuts looming for the future, donations like those from young Pressman help to ensure these wildlife management programs can continue, according to the AIA.

The AIA was formed Jan. 1, 2008 to support Assateague Island National Seashore and its goal to provide enjoyment and hands-on learning experiences for millions of visitors.

For more information about AIA, call 443-614-3547 or email [email protected]