Becoming a Citizen Naturalist
I don’t know when it started - my love for nature. Was it when I was little, holding my grandpa’s hand as we walked through the park together, and he told me all about the trees around us? He knew so much about nature, my grandpa. He worked for the Nature & Wildlife Department in Holland so this was kind of his thing.
This love for nature apparently also rubbed off on my dad. When he was a little boy (and super agile!), he’d help his dad with field work. One of my memories growing up is of my dad excitedly spotting a bird of prey while driving and my mom cautioning him to just keep his eyes on the road….
I’m also a bit of a nerd in that I’ve always loved school and learning. Well, this past weekend, I got the chance to sit in a college classroom again. You should’ve seen my smile! I told my husband I was so happy and excited to be there that morning. He responded with “you didn’t have to tell me that!” Okay, besides my smile, I guess I was a bit bouncy in my seat too…
My fascination with nature became stronger after experiencing lots of pain and healing from a spinal surgery. It wasn’t that I didn’t like nature before but having to seriously slow down, I just noticed more. As part of my physical therapy rehab, I needed to walk every day. Being outside didn’t just make my body feel better, but my mind as well.
Anyways, my husband and I took a Naturalist class to learn more about the beautiful nature around us. We signed up for the class because when I’m on a hike, I notice all these beautiful wildflowers or critters or mushrooms and then I want to know what I’m looking at! My husband loves nature too so we thought it’d be even better taking the class together. The class was super helpful in learning about different resources and we got to spend time in nature practicing our identification skills as well.
What I wanted to share with you most of all, was that one central idea of the class was that everyone can be a citizen naturalist! Yes, you too! You might ask what the heck even is that?
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It basically means someone who loves nature and wants to help make a positive impact on the environment. Depending on your interests, you can choose to help in different ways. You can help scientists with reporting data about wildlife or plants in your area. You can volunteer with a local organization to help clean up an area by removing invasive plants or litter. You can share your love for nature with the community.
This work is increasingly important as people spend more and more time indoors and we’re more removed from nature than ever before.
What are you passionate about? Is it wildflowers? Do you think frogs are cute? Are you fascinated by mushrooms like me? I want to encourage you to continue to explore these areas you feel curious about, learn more and maybe even get involved in what gives you joy while at the same time helping your community.
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on the concept of “citizen naturalists” and what area you feel most passionate about. Also, if you enjoyed this blog post, please consider sharing it via social media. I appreciate it!
Have a wonderful weekend! I hope you get to spend some of it outside!
UPDATE: Since writing this blog post, I've completed the Oregon State University course to become a certified Oregon Master Naturalist. I really enjoyed this program! Feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have any questions about it. Thanks!
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