The Field Naturalist Program
Giving Field Naturalists the tools they need to move the world
I was raised in this beautiful state of Vermont, convinced that I would live somewhere else in the world when I grew up. While I was a reluctant "outside kid," my most poignant memories involve the outdoors: climbing the backyard cottonwood to reach the roof of the shed where the clouds were closer, exploring the woods behind my house with my dog and my rooster George (he would follow us), and investigating the rocks and wildlife in the Atlantic Ocean in the summer.
As an undergraduate at UVM, I studied Biology and Chemistry, heading in the direction of a lab rat. I took a year off from UVM to swim with the fish of the Pacific, which I was able to do while spending my junior year studying Marine Science at the University of Hawaii at Hilo. Somewhere between trekking up Mauna Kea, backpacking through the valley jungles, and snorkeling under the ocean waves, my interest in the natural world flourished.
After graduating from UVM, I encouraged youth and adults to form an interest in the natural world around them as an AmeriCorps member for the Institute for Applied Ecology in Oregon. Yearning for more education experience and individual growth, I then spent two years in Kenya with the U.S. Peace Corps, teaching the sciences, agriculture, and life skills to high school students.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed my travels around the world, and intend to continue them, Vermont looks pretty good as a home base. I am eager to explore the area on a deeper "naturalist" level!
A native Hoosier, Liz's home place is a farm in the trees and hollers of southern Indiana. Home proved an excellent arena for many adventures (and many snapped beans), but her family also instilled a love of travel focused on natural wonders. Throughout her life, Liz has made friends with Alaskan crabs, Maine sheep, California trees, Colorado mountains, Indiana creeks, and some most excellent people as well.
Traveling aside, turns out agricultural roots run deep. Since graduating from college, Liz has worked on farms ranging from a CSA cooperative farm to a demonstration educational farm. Liz is thrilled to bring the lens of sustainable agriculture to her field naturalist studies, and hopes to be one day be a field-naturalizing, community-building, biodiversity-encouraging writer, scientist, and farmer. She's smitten with her hubby, Nate, and with life in general.
I recall my earliest wildlife memories through stories told by others: My grandfather regales strangers with tales of our horseshoe crab rescue missions and my earliest biology teaching moments: "how to differentiate the male [plant/animal] from the female."
Although I grew up in Saratoga Springs, New York my interest in nature truly developed during the summer months I spent on the coast, watching shorebirds and paddling through New England salt marshes. I recorded wildlife observations on a tiny notepad and kept odorous specimens - Mermaid purses, jingle shells and crab claws - in the drawer of my bedside table.
At the time I didn't realize that my love for the outdoors and curiosity about nonhuman life could translate into a career. When I matriculated at Middlebury College my affinity for problem-solving and conflict resolution led me to explore other avenues first - international relations, geography, law, and writing among them. A summer stint as a kayaking naturalist and shorebird field tech changed all of that.
Ever since I've committed myself to better understanding conservation issues, whether sailing in the Atlantic, farming in Pennsylvania, kayaking in Baja, banding passerines in Alabama or managing volunteers for Mass Audubon. I endeavor to understand the landscape; I try to relate to the people I'm with; I consider the community I'm living in or passing through; ultimately, I desire a comprehensive understanding of how these pieces fit together. When I learned about the Field Naturalist Program, I immediately saw it as a chance to build on my current skill set, fill gaps in my understanding of environmental systems, and get back to the mountains.
It took me until my first canoe camping trip, at age twelve, to realize I wanted to spend my life outdoors. Maybe I should have noticed some of the earlier clues: the highlight of my primary school career was a field trip to an outdoor centre just outside my hometown of Ottawa, Canada (I can still remember every detail of that trip, from learning gin is made from juniper berries to the amazing hiding spot I found during our predator-prey game); my favourite TV channel was the Weather Network, which I watched for nearly an hour each morning before school; and I had always felt most at home when swimming in a lake. The canoe trip put this all into perspective.
Eight years and one environmental science degree later, I headed back to the site of this formative camping trip, Algonquin Park, to work as a naturalist (or 'geek' as we say in Algonquin). The time since has mainly been filled with adventures in this wilderness area, where the hardwood forests of southern Ontario meet the spruce bogs and Canadian shield of the north. Howling for wolves, pulling bear cubs out of dens, and putting radio collars on moose calves are all highlights. Other projects over the years have found me studying soil nutrient runoff in southern Quebec, radiotracking bats through New Zealand forests, and most recently, running wetland restoration and education programs in Toronto, Ontario.
Through the Field Naturalist Program, I hope to learn how to better read landscapes as a living whole and to refine the communication skills needed to get a wide audience, not just park visitors, excited about nature and passionate about protecting their natural environment.
From 2003-2011 Nancy taught ecology and environmental science labs at a liberal arts college. She is very excited to be in graduate school so that someone can give her feedback on her papers for a change! Before her teaching job, Nancy was a field tech at a marine ecology lab, and prior to that she served two years in AmeriCorps doing environmental education and watershed management. Her goal is to be an ecologist in the land conservation/stewardship arena, leading agencies and organizations in the asking of scientific land management questions. Nancy loves learning practical field skills, but she also looks forward to wrestling with some conceptual questions while at UVM. In a list, she is: a make-a-list-and-check-stuff-off kind of person; an ISTJ; a person who does better early in the morning than late at night; a spiritual person who is also a scientist; a detail-oriented, implementation type; a neatnik. Nancy grew up in several different places but has lived in Maine now longer than she lived anywhere else; Maine is home. Nancy likes snowshoeing, hiking, writing, running, reading, and making good food.
Matt Cahill has read thousands of times that he, as a native of the Granite State, should do only one of two things: live free or die. He is not currently interested in dying. However, living free has proved no easy feat either. Returning to Vermont after several years traveling the spines and gullies of the continent, Matt is looking for some good advice in these quiet hills.
The last four years often saw Matt in Alaska, leading wide-eyed visitors into the open wilderness, talking about grizzlies and eating blueberries. He now wants to find the same excitement in small streams and old farm towns showing people, including himself, the beauty of nature in the most ordinary of places. Matt wakes up looking forward to munching granola, writing about trees and time, and enjoying the company of good people. Though he is trying to accept that he has no good answer to the question, "What do you want to do with your life?" with some good luck and a loaf of bread, Matt feels confident that he has at least a working definition of freedom.
As a fresh and eager college graduate, Kelly Finan began her first day of field research by crashing a four-wheeler into a sand berm in front of her new coworkers. For a moment she thought about running home to Pennsylvania and a comfortable office job, but the unbridled joy of being paid to take long walks on the beach while protecting an endangered species (green sea turtles) quickly reminded her that outdoors was where she belonged.
For the last three years, Kelly has been happily self-employed as a scientific illustrator, known among her friends for drawing things as literal as velvet grass, as ridiculous as a tiger driving a Lamborghini, and as abstract as air. Her strong policy to never say "no" to an illustration gig has made possible her vast amount of traveling, as well as her random islands of esoteric science knowledge. In the Field Naturalist Program, she seeks to build the bridges between these islands. For more information on Kelly, her artwork, and her thoughts about natural gas activities in the Northeast please visit www.kellyfinan.com.
Gus Goodwin tracks in lots of dirt. It comes from all over, from surrounding mountains, nearby woods, or a good friend's farm. Looking at the floor, Gus can't tell if work or play is more responsible for the mess. And that makes him happy.
Gus has found rewarding work in land conservation and plans to use his time in the Field Naturalist Program to gain fluency in the science that guides it. He is an avid climber, backcountry skier, backpacker, puddle stomper, and rock skipper who believes the best adventure is a shared adventure. On rainy days, he dreams of woodworking projects and schemes to gather all his far-flung friends into one place.
Gus has lived in places with taller mountains, deeper snow, bigger trees, and fewer black flies, but something consistently tugs him back east to Vermont and the Adirondacks. He is happy to call Burlington home for the next two years, but granted a second wish he might place a 14,000-foot, glaciated volcano somewhere nearby. The first wish? A tail. Certainly a tail.
Matt Pierle can be found following the tracks of nature, culture, and language to the places where they mingle and the places they diverge. From science and technology to storytelling and mythology, he knows that these all contribute to the deeper understanding of place.
In his upper Great Lakes biome, Matt has applied his skills to the needs of regional land conservancies, farmers, biologists, timber framers, social entrepreneurs and a Native American tribe. This integrative work often deals with interpreting natural or cultural history and ecology, documenting traditional knowledge, and working to protect unique places or threatened cultural life ways.
In his research and teaching posts at the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS), Matt has more than once lost track of linear time while absorbed in investigating and sharing natural sciences, insect ecology, or ethnobotany with college students and colleagues from around the world. Away from his homelands, Matt has earned numerous fellowships catalyzing opportunities to study landscape architecture in Germany (Fulbright-Hays) and to research the social and ecological dimensions of land and resource management in northeastern Brazil (Rotary International).
Human-powered explorations - by pedal, by paddle, and by boot - have transported Matt overland through rugged, wild, and civilized environments, from the Mountains of Patagonia to Amazonian tributaries in Guyana, from the coasts of Turkey to villages in rural Laos and many places beyond. On these journeys he has come to know the landscapes as well as the people who rely on them to meet their daily needs of food, material resources, and spiritual sustenance.
As an ever-curious learner, Matt knows that communication and nuance matter. He spends as much time exploring the "languages" and signs of frogs, wrens, cicadas, wildflowers or other life forms as he does experiencing the topography of expressions in German, French, Turkish, Spanish, Portuguese, and Anishinaabemowin, an indigenous Algonquian language.
Last modified November 07 2012 02:56 PM