What is a Naturalist?

In my class, Master Naturalist, we talked about what makes someone a “naturalist.”   There are famous ones, like Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, Jane Goodall.  But what about regular people not in a wildlife or biologist profession?

Perhaps it is through a love of nature that one becomes a ‘naturalist.’  Perhaps a realization that humans are not above nature, but rather a part of it.  Sometimes it is the call of a single animal that brings people  to nature,  and other times a love of flowers, or butterflies, or bees.  When I was growing up just a cement drive from Detroit, there was a local creek that ran under the highway.  I tried fishing there, using hot dog bits as as bait.  Dad and I even went fishing at a lake on occasion,  although I now realize that neither of us knew what we were doing.  Still, it was fun.  Later, when we moved further out from the city, we lived near a “woods” – more likely an undeveloped area surrounded by the suburb, that kids would walk in.  It was a great place to get away and pretend to be in the wild.

Over my life,  I’ve been bitten by a variety of creatures.  Cats and dogs, certainly.  Mosquitoes.  A squirrel (I was feeding nuts to a squirrel on campus, and the squirrel decided my thumb was a nut), a pelican, a duck.  In every case,  I can see where my actions encouraged the animal to bite me.  Now,  these are just rather fond memories.  Except for the mosquitoes.

I’ve never been stung by a bee.

As for becoming a naturalist,  I suspect I am just learning.  On a bear mast (food) and scat hike today, the other two women with me knew a lot about the plants in the area.  They pointed out chokeberry, wild raspberry, lots of strawberry, super-tall dandelions, wild gardenia, various relatives of peas,  and lots of other plants that I don’t really know yet.  I also found my first bear scat.  One of the women told me that “I am no longer a (bear scat) virgin.”  This time of year, bears are eating a lot of grasses and bugs from under rocks.  We saw a lot of overturned rocks and bear scrapings on trees.

Besides, it is beautiful in the mountains.

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