It’s Time to Teach!

Anna recently completed her Master Naturalist training! The classroom training was extensive and covered subjects from the ecology of the prairie to the geology of the Rocky Mountains.

Bobcat Ridge Natural Area
Bobcat Ridge Natural Area
Rabbit in a prairie dog hole at Coyote Ridge Natural Area
Rabbit in a prairie dog hole at Coyote Ridge Natural Area

One of  her favorite topics during the training ended up being prairie dogs. They are fascinating creatures, and a true keystone species, with about 160 other species benefiting from their presence. Prairie dogs turn the soil as they dig their complex tunnel systems, inadvertently aerating and fertilizing the soil. They are a great food source for larger animals like eagles, hawks, and ferrets. Plus, their abandoned burrows serve as homes for other animals, like burrowing owls and rabbits.

Master Naturalist training requires not just absorbing information, but also teaching it. In mid-April, each trainee had to create and present a lesson plan on a topic of their choice. Anna decided to give a talk about the water cycle and water conservation, geared towards 3rd graders. Her water cycle drawing connected with people, but the real hit was her Lego dioramas depicting the river and various ways humans use its water. She filled the river container with water, then poured the water into other containers representing a variety of city and agricultural uses. This demonstration visually showed that our water supply is limited, and that we need to conserve and share the water with wildlife.

Master Naturalist Training

Earlier this month, Anna was very excited to learn she’d been accepted into the Fort Collins Master Naturalist Program! The program provides 60 hours of ecological and interpretive training. After completing the training and giving two trial presentations, she’ll become a certified Master Naturalist. Anna will then volunteer to lead field trips and informative nature walks in the Natural Areas around Fort Collins.

Training began this week with classes in the ecology of the Rocky Mountains, taxonomy, life zones, aquatic invertebrates, and the shape and speed of rivers. The teachers and other trainees are awesome. Everyone is passionate about the natural world and each participant brings their own expertise. Anna will likely come away from the training with new friends in addition to new knowledge.

Instructor and student looking for insects in the Poudre River
Looking at insects we found in the Poudre River

Yesterday’s class took place in the middle of the Poudre River, where she practiced dip netting and identification of aquatic invertebrates. So much fun!

Anna will learn much more in the coming month of classes, including:

  • Geology of the Front Range
  • Plant Ecology of the Shortgrass Prairie
  • Mammals of the Rockies
  • Riparian Native Trees and Shrubs
  • Night Sky and Nocturnal Animals
  • Birds of Fort Collins
  • Interpretation and Outreach Techniques for Different Age Groups

Though we won’t write about all the classes here, we’ll make sure to include pieces of Anna’s newfound knowledge in our future hiking posts.

Roots and reflections in the Poudre
Roots and reflections in the Poudre

 

High Country News Gallery and Book Review

Want to take a peek into our book Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs? Well, now is your chance. High Country News is featuring 12 of Chris’s PCT images on their website. (Soon the gallery will be highlighted on their homepage too!) Check the photographs out here:

http://www.hcn.org/issues/46.3/pacific-crest-trail-a-journey-in-photographs-by-chris-alexander/@@gallery_view

High Country News also published a wonderful review in their print magazine and online. We smiled from ear to ear when we read it:

High Country News Review of Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs

If you like what you saw and read, please consider purchasing a book for yourself or a good friend. Thank you.

Reflections on 2013

2013 was a challenging and eventful year for us. The year was filled with a mix of emotions–anticipation, joy, frustration, and excitement. It wasn’t the year we had planned, but it was full and that’s how we like it.

Our PCT book in the window of the Roads, Rivers, and Trails store
Our PCT book in the window of the Roads, Rivers, and Trails store

The most memorable events were:

  • Completing our book Pacific Crest Trail: A Journey in Photographs. Before the book was finished, a friend told us that publishing a book was like giving birth to a baby. We were skeptical when we first heard this comparison, but there is truth in it. Our publishing experience was emotional, painful, and hugely time-intensive. It feels like a part of us is embedded in the book. Once it was printed, we were simultaneously proud and nervous to send our creation into the world. And of course, the work isn’t done. We must constantly support the book and find new people to love it as much as we do.
  • Hiking 200 miles of the Appalachian Trail. Each day introduced us to new sights, people, sounds, and smells. We love the simplicity of living in nature. Our hike was cut short by a terrible case of shingles, but that did not diminish the unique experiences we had on the AT.
    Anna crossing a creek on the Appalachian Trail
    Anna crossing a creek on the Appalachian Trail