Robert L. Niese
// science // art // education
// explore // discover // educate // engage
I often call myself a naturalist, but I rarely get the opportunity to describe exactly what that means. Natrualists are more than just overenthusiastic nature-nuts. We are observers - we explore, we discover, and we document. In the words of Mythbuster's Adam Savage, "the only difference between screwing around and science is writing it down." We keep journals, take notes, and accumulate our observations through space and time. We see the world from many perspectives - from hand lenses to satellite photos - and use those views to construct and synthesize a more complete understanding of the world around us and how it varies from place to place, season to season, and year to year.
But we are not only observers, we also must be educators. Naturalists are the quiet stewards of our public lands and wild places. We defend these ecosystems not through front-lines activism or policy advocacy, but through education. We engage and cultivate the curiosity of every kid with a camera and every geriatric gardener. You found a feather in the forest? Neat! Let's use a digital feather guide to find out what it came from! You'd like to encourage native pollinators in your yard? Awesome! Let's build a bee box and learn about some native plants! We utilize our knowledge and expertise to help others make genuine connections to the outdoors and the organisms that surround them every day. By fostering these connections, we are helping people discover their place in the ecosystems around them, which, hopefully, leads some to become stewards as well.
This is truly what it means to be a naturalist. We explore and observe. We make discoveries and share those experiences with others. Armed with our knowledge and enthusiasm, we engage the curious and engender stewardship for Nature.
Photography: Every time you take a photo of an organism, you are creating a tangible record of that creature's existence in space and time. Simply by writing down the date and location, you can transform a pretty picture into a scientific data point. So, for me, photography is just another means of learning more about nature and science!