In 2012, Environmental Educator Maggie Stoudnour organized and coordinated UVLT’s first Upper Valley Naturalist Training. She is currently gearing up for another training beginning at the end of the month. Below, she answers some questions about her inspiration for this project and what inspired the naturalist within her and, perhaps, within you!
UVLT: What prompted you to develop the idea for a naturalist training?
Maggie: I organized something similar in another state, and found that there was a lot of interest. I used to walk around outside a lot admiring plants, taking in the view of a wetland at sunset, noticing tracks or evidence of animals, inspecting various rocks and soils, not really even realizing that I desperately wanted to know more about these things I was seeing and experiencing every day. I think people really want to know more about the natural world around them.
UVLT: Why do you think learning about nature is so important for people?
Maggie: I could cite all kinds of studies about how important it is to spend time outside, for both physical and mental health. But for me, the most important thing is that when people learn about something, they tend to like it more. They see more value in it, and will want to protect it. Educating people about the natural world around them encourages conservation and stewardship.
UVLT: Did anything pleasantly surprise you during last year’s training?
Maggie: Well, I am always surprised and delighted by how enthusiastic people can be about things they see in nature. I love to see people’s eyes light up when they see something they’ve never seen before, or learn something new and exciting about a plant or animal they previously thought of as mundane. There is so much going on in our own backyard habitats, if we just go out and explore. There is so much to learn. There is so much to learn. Adults are just grown up children, and nothing brings out that inner child quite like exploring outdoors. It’s fun to help facilitate that sense of wonder. I also really appreciated the various styles the presenters had, and watching them present about the topics they love and know so well. I was surprised by the different angles and approaches they took. They brought perspectives that were completely new to me.
UVLT: What outcomes of offering such a training do you hope to see?
Maggie: I really hope that these programs will help people feel more connected with the habitats and wildlife in the Upper Valley, and give them the confidence to share their knowledge with other people. I hope that they will feel inspired to get involved in conservation and stewardship. There are many wonderful groups doing great work in our area, and I hope this will help connect knowledgeable training graduates with opportunities to apply their new naturalist skills. This year, in addition to the presenters giving the classroom and field sessions, I have invited people from local conservation groups to come in and talk about some of their projects and how naturalist training graduates might be able to help.