The Eye of the Whale

Fin Whale

Fin Whale – Stellwagon Bank, Massachusetts 2014.

It was 43 years ago that I was a whale researcher in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Quebec, Canada. After 6 months of living and breathing whales for 16 hours a day, 7 days a week, I crossed over into dreaming about them. I had the following dream three times that summer.
I was standing at the estuary’s edge,
A fin whale swam right up to me
And lifted part of its head out of the water.
All I could see was its eye.

 This did not feel like an ordinary dream, but more like a vision. It was not so much about the eye, but more about the intensity that pierced the veil into another world. I had the feeling the whale was calling to me.

Blue Whale Eastern Tropical Pacific 1976.

Blue Whale Eastern Tropical Pacific 1976.

 

GettingToKnowWhales

I continued working at sea for another 4 years, then we started a family.  In 1985, I finished my book, Getting to Know the Whales. I interviewed renowned whale biologist, Dr. Roger Payne, and one thing he said, I really connected with:

“….down deeper, whales are moving
with slow drifting currents – whales that are
great, gentle, cloudlike beings”.

The whales were still with me, even though I was landlocked.

In 2013, I started saving to go to Antarctica. About a month before I left, I had the following dream:
The setting was before the whalers ever came to Antarctica.  I was a whale and the interconnection between all the whales was unlike anything I have ever known as a human. I was not only connected to other whales, but to all living things in the ocean. There was a real beauty in the flow between all the sea life. The movement of the currents and whale sounds were part of my daily life. I could feel the currents moving inside of me as well as in the ocean itself.

Antarctica is calling.....

Antarctica is calling…..

Whale try pots where whale oil was rendered.

Whale try pots where whale oil was rendered.

This past January, I actually went to Antarctica with a group of close friends. During the trip, we visited two shore-based whaling stations established in the 1920’s or 1930’s. At Deception Island there were eight rusted ovens where the whale blubber was rendered into oil. When I realized what I was looking at, the horror I felt was beyond words. It was like walking through a World War II German death camp.

 

Whale bones

Whale bones, Whaler’s Cove Antarctic Peninsula

At Whaler’s Cove, we found a pile of large whale bones (probably blue, humpback or fin whales). One of the goals of our group was to “listen” to the land. For most of us it wasn’t hard to hear what the land was saying. From my perspective, there was agony on that beach. The agony of so many whale’s lives cut short. On the day of a whale kill, the beach and water around that cove must have been red with whale blood.

 

Whale bones litter the beach
Reminders of the genocide
So long ago.
Still, the air smells of agony
Humans breath in the pain
Breath out hope and caring
Tears fall to the sand
Removing the stain on the land
Healing
For whales and humans

 Since the 1970’s I have been aware of the Antarctic whalers who decimated the blue whale population in the early 20th century (over 200,00 blues were killed). Sometimes, it is hard to be a human. So much ripping apart of the whale tribes to support the greed of a few people. I have carried this burden with me for 40 years, and I am finally free of it. Also, I feel that I had completed a cycle that began many years ago with the dream of the “Eye of the Whale”.

Humpback "blows" at Sunset

Humpback “blows” at Sunset, Antarctic Peninsula, 2016.

Lastly, that very evening, there were over 50 humpbacks within a half-mile of the ship. Many were right in front of the ship: bubble cloud feeding, tail lobbing, and fluking-up. It was a great celebration of life for whales and humans.

Humpback "fluke-up" Antarctic Peninsula, 2016.

Humpback “fluke-up” Antarctic Peninsula, 2016.

 

Posted in Nature Guardians, Whales & Oceanography | 8 Comments

Naturalist in the Schools

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1st grade Decomposer Lab

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1st Grade Pebbles, Sand and Silt

 

 

 

 

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2nd grade Grasshopper Lab

Second grade Schoolyard Nature Hike

Second grade Schoolyard Nature Hike

 

 

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Schoolyard Fieldtrip to Gro-Tonka Park

2nd grade Seed Lab

2nd grade Seed Lab

 

2nd Grade Spring Bird Lab

2nd Grade Spring Bird Lab

 

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3rd  or 4th Grade Mammal Lab

 

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3rd Grade Pond Lab

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4th or 5th grade Oceanography Unit

 

4th Grade Glacial Rocks Lab

4th Grade Glacial Rocks Lab

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3rd or 4th grade Microscope Lab

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Microscope Lab  – leaf (30x)

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3rd or 4th grade Nature’s Challenge

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5th grade squid Dissection

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Squid Beak  (30x)

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Resources | Leave a comment

Holiday Books for Nature Loving Kids

During the holidays, you can buy my books at a 50% discount off of the retail price. All books are priced at $12 + $3 shipping. I will sign all books. Books can be returned for 100% refund.  How to purchase:  Send me a Check for $15. Will ship within 24 hours.
Also, please send me your email address and I’ll get the tracking numbers to you. The last day for the sale is Dec. 21st (visiting my mom).

Larry Wade
15524 Day Place
Minnetonka, MN 55345

or order by email:  larrywade16@gmail.com
or call me to order:  (952) 288-5025

You can also pay by credit card through PayPal go to: /www.oldnaturalist.com/nature-seeker-workbook/  and scroll down  ( Nature Seeker only) ($19.46 includes shipping)

OceanographyOceanography includes challenging activities on physical oceanography, biological oceanography, interviews with oceanographers and a teacher’s key. For students 4th-7th grade. This book is in its 6th revision (2015). 144 pgs. topics:
Plate Tectonics          Marine Communities
Geology of seafloor   Marine Plankton
Mapping the Seafloor   Marine Food Webs
Ocean currents               Food pyramids

To learn more about this book and Getting to Know the Whales go to:  www.oldnaturalist.com/oceanographywhales/ or go to the pull down menu at this site and go to Publications. Click on Whales/oceanography.

GettingtoKnowWhalesThis book had to be written because of the author and illustrator’s passion for whales. Whale biologists have readily contributed data to make whales come to life for children. For students 4th-7th grade. This book is in its 5th revision (2015). 146 pages

Whale Biology Topics
Draw a whale         Prehistoric whales
Whale and dolphin key      Whale dissection
How Whales feed       Lunge-feeding flip book           How Whales Breathe
How long doe a Whale dive?       A Day with a Blue          Whales  How Fast is a Whale
Whale Migration              Year in the life of a Humpback Whale

Nature Seeker Workbook

Wade Cover 020913_flt@300 copy 2Nature Seeker Workbook is the product of 20 years of work as a school naturalist. It is a unique personal field guide to the natural world.
Over 50 field-tested activitiesHundreds of detailed and original drawings
Highlights natural history through all seasons
Entire units to forest and wetland ecology
Includes Nature songs, poetry, weaving and more
For students  2nd – 6th grade 157 pages  (2013)

To try out some of the activities go to:
www.oldnaturalist.com/nature-seeker-workbook/

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Life and Death in the Okavango Delta

Editor’s Note: Jane Ball is a world traveler, and has some incredible photos at her website: www.janeballphotography.com.     This is the second of a two part series, written by Jane, about her latest trip to Botswana.

Our final camp had tented cabins built on pillars and connected by a boardwalk about eight feet in the air. At this camp, there were palm trees whose ripening nuts the elephants loved. One night, an elephant broke through the boardwalk to get to some of these palm trees.  Early the next morning, I realized the elephant was near my tent eating the nuts. I looked through the screen window, and the elephant’s head was right in front of me, only a few feet away. I watched it put the length of its trunk against the palm tree, tusks on either side of the tree, and using its whole body, shake the palm tree until the nuts fell down crashing on the boardwalk. Fabulous! Elephants are big and strong, and for the most part, they get what they want.

DSC_0465 (1)Elephants are really tough on trees. In addition to rubbing and scratching on a tree to the point of uprooting it, they will eat everything right down to the nub. After they have eaten every leaf and most of the branches, they will use their tusks and their feet to dig up and eat the roots. Elephants have six sets of molars during their lifetime. As one wears down, due to continual grinding, another one moves in to take its place. When elephants are younger, they’ll eat the biggest and toughest pieces of wood. As they get older they will eat smaller, finer branches because they don’t want to wear down the last set of molars they have. Once those molars are gone, they starve to death.

Hippos also pretty much get what they want. We think of hippos as dancing in tutus. They don’t. They spend most of their time in the water but come on shore at night to eat grass. There are a lot of hippos in the Okavango Delta, and I heard them grunting and rumbling day and night. Usually all you see are ears, eyes and a nose, unless they are irritated. Then you see a great gaping maw, which is not a yawn, but a threat.DSC_1119

If you are in a boat and get too close to a hippo, it will be unhappy with you. It will open that giant mouth and with those giant teeth, clamp down on the boat and possibly bite it in half. If the boat is too big, it will attempt to climb up into the boat until the boat capsizes. Then, if the hippo doesn’t bite your head off, the crocodiles will get you before you reach shore.

DSC_0004We went by boat from our third to our fourth camp. It was late in the season, and the waterways were drying up, which meant fairly narrow, shallow channels for the boats to travel. Our group was transferring in two boats, and I was in the second boat. The first boat was whipping down the channel and almost ran over a submerged hippo. The surprised, and irritated, hippo stood up in the water, saw our boat heading toward it, and charged us. I spent a few long seconds considering how I could possibly live through this. Fortunately our driver had backed up our boat enough that a side channel was exposed between us and the hippo, and the hippo chose to take a hard left instead of killing me. (I found it difficult not to take the situation personally.)
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I have so many stories from this trip. More than any other, this trip impressed me with nature’s life-death continuum–the lion killing the cub; the zebra stallion trying to kill another stallion’s foal; the elephants eating the trees to death; the eagle catching the fish and pinning it to a branch with its talon; the bird catching the frog and beating it to death on the branch before eating it; the gecko on the tent wall catching and eating the moth. It’s all happening, all the time. The first time I went to Africa, I went as an entitled American, fairly certain that nothing would hurt me. This time, I came home grateful for the doors on my house, the food in the grocery store, and the animal that lives with me that lets me hug him and would never think of eating me. But make no mistake–I love Africa, and I can’t wait to go back.
Article and photos by Jane Ball
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Posted in Connecting to Nature, Mammals | 1 Comment

Fall on Fire – Gatewood School Poetry

Fifth graders at Gatewood Elementary expressed what was in their hearts, writing haiku, cinquain, and sensory poems. All photos by students. The poetry residency was funded by the Gatewood PTO.

I am

Mary O'Neil

Photo by Mary O’Neil

I am the ladybug, gliding gracefully up the wall
I am the paper wasp nest hiding in the crack
I am the ant, about to get stepped on
I am the squirrel nest, swaying high in the trees
I am the wind biting at everyone’s necks
I am the cottonwood, shedding all of my leaves
I am the hornets nest, waiting for my hornets to leave me for the winter
I am the frog, hopping away from attention,
I am the fallen tree, with a carving so people will remember me
I am the giant waiting for someone to sit on me
I am the leaves, that are littering the ground
I am the bush, yearning to be a hiding spot
I am the tree, dying and drooping low
I am the tall grass, grabbing at everyone’s feet
I am the tree with what looks like a face,
Waving good-bye to all of the humans out here
I am nature.
Quinn Ingham

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The Sun
Sun gleams through the flowing trees.
The shining ball bounces off the leaves.
The leaves shower into the meadow of sun.
The sun shines so bright as you are blinded.
Rays shine through the crunchy leaves.
Trees cuts out the shower.
Beware the sun lives for millions more years
as it has a super power
Lizzy Helling

Sea Urchins

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I once lived under the sea,
People get scared looking at me,
I wiggle I wobble,
I jumble around,
But now I’m not here I’m buried in the ground,
My bones are still here I’ll never leave,
Sea urchin, love is all you need
Lola Jessen

 

Leaves
One leaf, two leaves, three LeavesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Red leaves, orange leaves, yellow leaves, green leaves
All the colors of fall
Leaves are any color
You can’t count all the leaves of fall
Many leaves on trees
Many colored leaves
Imagine you’re deep into the woods
See the colors of the leaves
See the critters on the leaves and in the treesP1100407
Hear the crunch of the leaves as you run
Smell the damp leaves
Feel the leaves fly down onto you
Stop!
Touch the leaves on the forest floor
The leaves crunch and fall to ground
Crunch, crunch, crunch
What’s that
It’s a squirrel!
Lizzy Helling

                     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWilderness
Trees and rocks!
Animals and plants!
They beg me to come
I wonder if I can help them grow?
I feel very touched
Nature is wonderful!
 Evelyn McNeil

 

 

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Flying Squirrel
Dead and paralyzed
People are amazed at the sight
Sad and filled with pain
Quinn Ingham

 

 

 

 

 

 

I smell the rain
Falling on me
Hear the trees tumbling like lighting
Feel the autumn breeze
As it rushes  through my soul
I hear the trees calling my name
They wish to sing me a lullaby
The coldness of mother nature
Chills my bones
Aisha Yusef

I am Somebody
I can’t spell
I can’t remember that well
i can’t name the 50 states and capitals
I AM somebody
I am not perfect
I am not always right
I am beautiful
I am somebody
I have a scar on my eyebrow
I have the letter D on my right hand
I have an imperfect body
I am Somebody
I love my family
I love my friends
I love my dog
I am somebody
I must do my best
I must care for others
I must write with my left hand
I must be respected, protected, and never rejected
I am somebody
Marit Elverum

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo sad
the moose has lost his hips
now he can’t hip,
hop,
and rock his moves.
Alyssa Forstad

Dead Wolf

Gray fox

Gray fox

Prowling the world trying to find my place
A land of freedom that’s what they say.
Going from place to place but I can’t stay.
I am lost, hungry,  and tired.
I should have stayed with my pack.
It it my fault.
I have met my demise.
Marit Everum

Twinkle twinkle little star
I can see you bright and far
All across the world so high
I just love to see you cry
Twinkle twinkle little star
I can see you bright and far
Alexandra Litel

                  Snowflake

www.its.caltech.edu

www.its.caltech.edu

 

Gleaming and falling,tumbling and floating,
Screams, “winter is here!”
I wonder if there will be more?
I feel wondrous and excited
winter is here!
Evelyn McNeil

 

 

 

 

The brown wasp’s nestOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Old, destroyed and discarded
But it was still safe
Theodore Wogstad

 

 

 

BUT I AM SOMEBODY
I am myself everyday
I am a singer by heart and soul
I am not you and you are not me
BUT I AM SOMEBODY
I have a dream to be a singer
I have friends and family
I have people that care about me
I AM SOMEBODY
I have freedom
I don’t have nice things
I don’t have a lot of money
BUT I AM  SOMEBODY
I must be my best
I must be a singer
I must do what’s right
and I must be respected, protected, and never rejected
I AM SOMEBODY :)
Alyssa Forstad

Sea Urchins

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There once was a sea urchin named Stubby
He lived on the ocean floor
He is very spiky
But still adorable, and then Stubby once more.
Erin Anderson

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Poetry | 5 Comments

Life and Death in the Kalahari

Editor’s Note: Jane Ball is a world traveler, and has some incredible photos at her website: www.janeballphotography.com.     This is the first of a two part series, written by Jane, about her latest trip to Africa.

lionLove1

Two lions greeting.

 

Leopard peering out behind a termite mound.

Leopard peering out behind a termite mound.

I recently returned from a safari in Botswana–a wild place with plenty of “Wild Life.” I saw and experienced things I had read about, but they became real in Botswana. For example, I had already learned that it’s tough being a top predator. This trip I saw firsthand that a lion’s life is every bit as precarious as the life of a lion’s prey.

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The lion pride:  females, sub-adults, and cubs.

At one camp, we found a pride of lions, including females, sub-adults (2 year olds) and three cubs. The cubs were playing and the females were resting before their nightly hunt. This pride also has four males, who were off inspecting their other prides in different areas. We never saw them.

The next day, we wanted to find the lion pride again. As we drove in the general direction of where we had found them the day before, we heard a burst of growling ahead of us. Our guide told us that there were two male interlopers in the area looking for a new pride. He said they might be trying to take over this pride because of the absence of the four males. This is the way of male lions–they grow up in the pride and eventually are kicked out to find a pride of their own, one way or another.

The elephant charged and stopped abruptly in front of us.

The elephant charged and stopped abruptly in front of us.

As we drove toward the commotion, we encountered some agitated elephants running directly toward our vehicle. One of the females trumpeted and charged us. She was frighteningly close when she finally stopped in a cloud of dust. We had no idea why the elephants were so upset.

After half an hour we came upon the two male lion interlopers.  When male lions take over a pride, they will often kill the cubs. Although no one knows for certain, it may be because they want to get rid of future competition. Also, females will not be receptive to mating while they are nursing. These males had killed one of the cubs that we had met the night before and were eating it.

Adult male eating a cub.

Adult male eating a cub.

The bigger, dominant male was doing the eating, and the other was just waiting. Occasionally, he would try to get a part of the dead cub to eat, but the dominant male always backed him down. The dominant lions eat first–the males, the sub-adults, the females, and finally, if there is anything left, the cubs. Therefore, it’s important for the females to kill something big. Otherwise, their cubs might not eat.

Two cubs in hiding after their sibling was killed and eaten.

Two cubs in hiding after their sibling was killed and eaten.

We supposed that when the two males entered the pride, the lions scattered, creating havoc with the elephants and other wildlife. Later that day, we found the other two cubs hiding in the shade under a tree, being very quiet. We worried about what would happen to them and whether they would be reunited with the pride before the two males found them.

The next day, we looked for the pride again. We spent at least an hour tracking them. It was fascinating to see so many types of tracks in the sand and pick out the lion tracks. Finally, we located the pride, and the two cubs were with them. If the pride’s four males were to return and find the two interlopers, there would be a fight, and the interlopers would probably be killed. Two against four are not good odds. In fact, very few male lions survive long enough to preside over a pride.

I intellectually knew that prides work this way, but the reality was shocking. I felt very sad that the little cub was killed and eaten. I kept telling myself, “I am here to observe not intervene.” Of course, those two remaining cute little cubs, if they are male, may one day grow up, leave their pride to make their own, and kill somebody else’s cubs. It’s a very delicate balance.

Jane added the following postscript to her story:  – “I just got an email from one of our guides in Linyanti and Gomoti.  He’s the one who found the cubs hiding under the tree and found the leopard hiding in the tree/termite mound.  He said he had recently been to Gomoti and found the same lion pride. There is only one cub left. Damn I’m glad I’m not a lion.”
Article and photos by Jane Ball

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Posted in Animals, Connecting to Nature, Mammals | 9 Comments

Ten Year-Old Farmer

Curran Ikhaml is a 5th grader at Gatewood Elementary. Her parents, Julie and Jim are committed to living close the land in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. This is her story:
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“I got the idea to have my own garden because my family has been gardening for a few years now.  I wanted my own space, a peaceful place of my own. I decided to plant classic things like corn and tomatoes, the same things that are in pretty much everyone’s garden.

IMG_0431The hardest thing about growing a garden is the weeds!  Once they get started, they are full-grown within a day or two. What I liked best about the experience was watching my tomatoes turn green, orange, then red. The veggies I liked the most are corn and butternut squash. Next year, I am going to plant corn, tomatoes, and take another shot at carrots. The carrots and dill were ruined in a hailstorm.

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For those kids who want to plant their own garden, let me give a few suggestions:
Don’t rototill because the weeds come up quickly afterwards. Also, check your garden every day in midsummer, or things will get overgrown and rotten.

In addition to gardening, I like having lots of animals at home, like chickens and a rabbit.  I also like to go camping.”
bunny

Posted in Connecting to Nature | 9 Comments

Bird woman of the forest

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Nicole Krauss, at home

 

This is the 3rd in the series about millenials who are following their passion for nature and the Earth. Nicole Krauss is a graduate of Wayzata High School in Minnesota. Here is Nicole’s story:

 

“I am going into the fourth year of my PhD studying maternal effects in black-throated blue warblers, small birds that live in mixed hardwood forests in the Eastern US.

 

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6 day-old Black Throated Blue Warblers.  The young are fledged when they are only 9 days old. . They cannot fly yet, but they can give mighty hops that will soon turn into short flights.

I love being submersed in nature. I have the opportunity to spend hours with individual birds, to see their personalities, their failures and triumphs, and undeniable persistence. Learning from the birds, and the forest is part of what keeps me moving in this direction. I also really like physiology, and my research lives at the intersection of ecology and physiology. The marriage of the two is most interesting to me on an intellectual level. Not surprisingly, females are understudied in almost all fields including ornithology and physiology. Studying female birds is my way of contributing to feminism.

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Female Black-Throated Blue Warbler on her nest. The nest is made of birch bark, small bits of dead or wet wood, rootlets, spider webs and deer or moose hair.    Photo by Becca Koch

 

 

My workday begins at 5am, and I stay in the woods until 2pm. My days often involve being too hot or too cold, getting wet, and lots of bug bites! Tripping and falling down are part of an average day too; as looking at a bird instead of your feet can be hazardous. It is not uncommon to have days where I do not catch a bird or find a nest. I would say the vast majority of my time is spent just walking or standing still. I love “nest searching” because you have to be very in tune with each bird, and you can see how different individuals are from one another. Finding a nest is always very special. Once we locate a nest, we continue to check in on it every other day.

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Each circle is a Black-Throated Blue Warbler territory. The red and black territories are control and green are experimental. The green territories have speakers that play predator sounds. We pick 15 red territories to focus on so that we make sure to follow at least 15 pairs through out the whole season.  Each square is 50m by 50m, so the whole map is 1.1km by 1.3km.

Even though I love this work, it does come with a cost. Leading 10 field technicians, who are in every other way my peers, is draining. I am collecting data for three professors and myself; and communicating with all of them is challenging. And that is just during the field season. During the year I teach, take classes, and do a ton of lab work. Each of these gives and takes in different ways, but spending time in the woods with the Black Throated Blue Warblers is the best part.”

Male Black Throated-Blue Warbler

Male Black Throated-Blue Warbler.    Photo by Danielle Aube

 

Posted in Birds, Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians, Nature Notes | 5 Comments

Wilderness Summer – Walking into the Future

MarraClay

Marra Clay in the Manti-La Sal National Forest, Southern Utah

This is the 2nd in a series of millenials who are seeking careers in environmental studies. Marra Clay is a Hopkins School District (MN) graduate. Below is Marra’s story:

MarraHopperThis summer I have an internship through the Environmental Studies department at Whitman College, where I am a junior Chemistry-Environmental Studies major. I am working as an environmental photographer for the Grand Canyon Trust, a large environmental organization. Specifically, I have been with the Utah Forests Program photographing the landscape of southern Utah.

My interest in nature started when I was very little. I was always the kid who liked to play with bugs. I think that this interest was initially sparked by the beautiful colors and patterns on bugs. I loved looking for macro scale vibrant beings.

4th of July Fireworks

Loads of rain near Moab on the 4th of July which meant we didn’t get a chance to see fireworks. However, I’d say the lighning storm was a better option anyways.

It’s discouraging studying the environment in our quickly deteriorating world. I also struggle with the feeling of hopelessness that many environmentalists must battle. What often keeps me inspired is talking with other individuals who have devoted much of their lives to the environment. On-the-side, I am also a journalist, and I have always loved interviewing people in my community, both to hear their stories and to see it with my own eyes. It amazes me how talking with one inspired individual can make me also feel inspired, and the passion for the environment can spread like wildfire, if you just have one person who is determined to make a change.

MantiCreek

Beaver dam on Manti Creek

 

The plans for my future change from day to day. As of now, I would love to work for High Country News (a magazine that highlights environmental problems in the West) and then eventually pursue environmental law. However, I would also love to participate in an environmentally focused Peace Corps program. Before I settle on a career I want to take the time to apply some of my skills and interests around the world to help other nations in their pursuit of sustainability.

Prairie Smoke

Prairie Smoke

 

Readers respond to Marra’s story:
Mary Serdar: What an inspiring story. Marra, you were always an exceptional student. Your dancing was amazing and what about those highly designed tennis shoes I saw at your graduation party?! Now, here you are in the vast beauty of the wilderness with all your passion for life and amazing eye for photography.
Love and hugs and your very being is inspiring to us all.

Josefina Varas:
Marra…congratulations!!! for following your childhood interest in nature…and bright bugs!
You are right when you say that sometimes we may feel hopelessness, but is always important to remember that we are not alone. If we just go out to the world, we’ll find many people in love with our planet that we can learn from…and in action to keep it healthy, in balance and protected from future irreversible harm.
Always believe in our own dreams and trust others that are passionate for the same cause

 

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians, Photography/Art | 4 Comments

3 Millennials Seek A Road Less Traveled

Recently, I had the honor of interviewing three “20 somethings” who are following their passion, honing their skills and trying to make a difference in the world. The three are Sespe Miller, Marra Clay, and Coley Krauss. Each of their contributions will be posted over the next three weeks. Below is Sespe Miller’s story:

 

Sespe Miller scraping an elk hike that he was tanning.

Sespe Miller scraping an elk hike that he was tanning.

My interests in Earth-based skills were sparked as a young boy. Spending a lot of time outside; growing up on the farm; and my father taking me out hiking and backpacking in the mountains. Then I started reading Tom Brown’s book, The Tracker. It is about two boys who were taught ancestral skills by an Apache man.  I tried to get outside as much as possible in the “front country” around here, hiking, swimming, just being a kid growing up in the wilds. .

Then I started reading survival guides and how to live out in the woods and crafting. When I was 16, I was building traps and one time I caught a scrub jay in a snare and I didn’t know what to do!  I was startled because I had actually caught something. I loved to go to the library and find books on ancestral crafts, hunting, tracking, birds, and plants. Later my interests turned to basketry.

Sespe Miller wearing a tradiitoinal Chumash willow basket

Sespe Miller wearing a  willow basket

I know basketry is not very popular, but I really enjoy it. It is very internal and I am connecting with a living source and creating something from it. I went to an ancestral skills gathering and the teachers had willow backpacks that they had woven and I was very inspired. This is where I heard about my basketry teacher who lives up north. She does Native American replica work for museums and is legendary. I stayed at her house for two months working with her.

I know that what I am doing is un-traditional, and may seem unnecessary, but I feel deeply that these skills are needed. It has helped me remember what humans valued in the past and develop a deeper connection with the Earth. In many ways, I am living my life in uncharted waters and following my heart.

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians | 2 Comments