I arrived in northern Wisconsin in the dead of winter. It was the last week of this past January. Snow blanketed the ground, with bare twigs poking through and gray clouds hovering above. I wasn’t fooled. Having spent four years in Ashland as a Northland College student, and having lived in several other wintery places, I have come to appreciate the joy of the changing seasons. You’ve all been reading about those seasonal changes, known as phenology, in NatureWatch articles for the past 20 years. As the new Naturalist/Educator, I am honored to begin writing the Museum’s weekly column.
With a new voice comes a new name. Throughout my life as an educator and naturalist all across the U.S., one theme has been consistent: connections. I love discovering connections in nature: how algae and fungus work together to create lichens; how mosquitoes benefit from the bug-catching skills of the carnivorous pitcher plant; how yellow-bellied sapsuckers provide food for the early spring hummingbirds; how blueberries, wintergreen, and Pacific madrone trees are related by genetics and habitat. But knowing about these connections is an empty accomplishment if I can’t share my excitement for nature with others. So my interest in connections also manifests itself in a desire to connect people, including myself, to nature. Gathering wild edibles, enjoying silent sports, gardening, and just experiencing wonder at the world make me feel a part of nature, instead of apart from it.
One of the natural connections I’ve made since moving back to Wisconsin is with the students, faculty and staff at Northland College. Many of my friends and classmates at Northland were interns and Naturalists at the Museum. They all received excellent mentoring and gained valuable experience. I hope to continue that tradition. In my short time here I’ve already hired three different Northland students for various internships and fellowships. One of those is Lacy Sellent, a senior in Humanity and Nature Studies with a minor in Writing, from Cumberland, WI. She will be writing the Natural Connections column for several weeks as a part of our Focused Fellowship program. It has been my pleasure to work with her, I’m sure you will enjoy her writing.
This fall, before the snow blankets the woods once again, I will return to share my favorite connections with you. Making connections is natural, and once you begin to see them, you see them everywhere. In the words of John Muir: "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."
For over 44 years, the Museum has served as a guide and mentor to generations of visitors and residents interested in learning to better appreciate and care for the extraordinary natural resources of the region. The Museum invites you to visit its facility in Cable at 13470 County Highway M. The new exhibit, The Joy of Birds: Feathers in Focus opened in May, 2011. Find us on the web at www.cablemuseum.org to learn more about our exhibits and programs. Also discover us on Facebook, or at our blogspot, http://cablemuseumnaturewatch.blogspot.com/.