It’s taken many small steps but I’m now a certified Oregon Master Naturalist! Does that mean I’m an expert on all things nature? Nope, not exactly! But I’ve certainly learned a lot on this journey!
Today, I want to share my story with you to encourage you to take small steps towards your goals and dreams.
I started the Oregon Master Naturalist course, which is taught by the Oregon State University extension program, back in the fall of 2019. During the middle of the program, I learned my dad was really not doing well so I flew home to care for him during his last days of life. I was so grateful that the course was taught online so I could continue learning late at night while supporting my family in the Netherlands.
The second portion of the Oregon Master Naturalist course is field study but due to the pandemic, this course was first postponed and then changed to a hybrid class with online classes and field study on our own. I was happy I could continue the program even with the extra challenges along the way!
The third part is completing a minimum of 40 hours of community service. Again, due to covid, this proved to be a challenge! Many nature focused organizations were taking a hiatus from working with new volunteers. Since you know I love hummingbirds, I looked for a program dedicated to their conservation and well-being. I found out that it’s probably easier to find these programs if you live in a tropical climate than if you live in the Pacific Northwest!
After placing a bunch of calls, I somehow got connected with a wonderful outdoor educator who works for the Columbia Slough Watershed Council. I spent a few of my community volunteer hours working with our local youth through this organization. I discovered a park I didn’t know before and paddled the Columbia Slough (for the first time!) with a bunch of teenagers on a beautiful, sunny day. Loved it! But we were heading into fall/winter which basically meant a break in outdoor education programming.
Through a good friend, I got connected with Portland Audubon. I’ve become more and more enamored with birds so this seemed to be a perfect fit! I was invited to be a member on the community outreach planning team and completed the remaining hours of my community service through work for this awesome organization.
We’ve been putting together community outreach kits that share about the awesome adaptations and traits of specific bird species. If you’re local to Portland and surrounding area, we’ve got some fun activities coming your way!
My favorite task so far has been painting rocks with the diet of a turkey vulture. Since turkey vultures eat dead animals, I painted the rocks in a way that wouldn't scare the littlest kids in our audience.
It was a good challenge as it was not just a creative project but also needed to be an effective educational tool to share with the community about the important “clean up” work this bird does and how crucial it is that we pick up trash so it doesn’t accidentally end up in a turkey vulture’s stomach! For those of you that hunt or fish, please consider using supplies that don’t contain lead.
After working on the research and materials for the turkey vulture outreach kit, I tell you, I have a whole new appreciation for this bird! For a minute, just imagine what your next hike would be like if turkey vultures didn't do the important clean up work they do! Yikes!
I’m having so much fun volunteering for Portland Audubon that I plan to continue this work this year even though I’ve already met the required number of volunteer hours.
So what does it mean that I’m an Oregon Master Naturalist? It means that I’ve built a foundation of knowledge based on science about our beautiful state. I now plan to continue learning about different aspects of nature and find ways to share the joy I find in nature with others.
While I love getting involved in all sorts of aspects of outdoor education, community science and program support, I still think my most effective and authentic way to communicate my love for nature is through my art. Sometimes art speaks louder than words, right?
I share this story with you in the hopes that my experiences encourage you to go for your dreams and reach your goals! The journey can be a bit of a winding road with obstacles along the way but just keep plugging away at it with small steps and you’ll get there!
So, I’m curious…. What goals and dreams are you working towards right now? Or would you like to work towards??
I look forward to hearing from you in the comments. Also, if you enjoyed reading this post, please share it via the social media buttons at the bottom of this post.
Thank you for following my journey!