Tag Archives: explore

John Burk © Stan Sherr

In Your Words: C. John Burk

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email explore@massaudubon.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 


John Burk © Stan Sherr
John Burk © Stan Sherr

I arrived in Northampton on Labor Day weekend in the fall of 1961. I was 25 and unmarried. My second-floor apartment looked out on a parking lot and then beyond to the Mill River.

Sometime over that weekend I decided to explore and followed the Mill River down through the meadows. Crossing the bridge where the river flows into the oxbow and trying to return back on the opposite side, I encountered signs that informed me I was entering Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. Not wanting to trespass, I turned around and retraced my earlier route into town.

I had been newly hired by the Botany Department at Smith College to teach, among other subjects, plant ecology. I wanted to take my students on a field trip and wondered whether I could take them to the wildlife sanctuary since the state’s woodlands were closed due to drought and a threat of forest fires.

We drove out that Friday afternoon to the white farmhouse that serves as Arcadia’s offices and knocked on the door. The person who answered was Ed Mason, the sanctuary director. He graciously welcomed us. We walked down the trail to the Mill River and its marshes, the first of many such expeditions through the years for class field trips and an assortment of independent research projects.

John Burk © Kai Jensen
John Burk © Kai Jensen

I learned that a colleague was serving on the sanctuary advisory committee, and she eventually asked me to replace her. It was an obligation I happily took on.

In the five decades since, I have focused my volunteer activities on issues of ecological management. I’ve worked with students and sanctuary staff to document the plant life of the area and identify patterns of vegetation and its responses to outside forces, such as oil ollution in the marshes, invasion by aggressive non-native species, and a changing climate.

Carefully documenting these changes over time provides important data that can help inform and guide conservation efforts. As a period of accelerated climate change becomes increasingly likely, I hope that my work with students and staff will better position us to meet the challenge.


John Burk is Professor Emeritus of Biological Sciences at Smith College and a longtime volunteer at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary in Easthampton and Northampton.

In Your Words: Camper Mia Papazian

Fourteen-year-old Mia Papazian loves hip-hop, dance, Spanish class, ice hockey, and camp. She has attended Boston Nature Center (BNC) Summer Camp in Mattapan since she was five. Here, this nature hero tells us what keeps her coming back every summer.


Mia Papazian
Mia Papazian

I have always been “into” nature, even though my family never camped before. I like the smell of the breeze and the fresh air, looking at plants and animals and bugs… there’s nothing I don’t like about being outdoors.

That’s why I started coming to camp at BNC. There are so many parts of camp I love, it’s hard to pick a favorite! Some of my best memories are the sleepovers—staying overnight at camp with my friends, sleeping in tents, learning how to build a fire, and making s’mores.

I really enjoy the nature walks. Before I came to camp, I used to be afraid of bugs. But during these walks we learned a lot about plants and insects. Now, I would never kill a bug, and if I see one inside, I bring it outside.

Mia (third kayak from right) paddling while volunteering at Wildwood, Mass Audubon’s overnight camp.

The counselors are also amazing. They’re really nice and I feel like I can trust them because I’ve known most of them for years, including Rebecca, Kim, and Zimmie. To me, a “nature hero” is somebody that’s passionate about nature and excited to learn, and that’s what the camp counselors are like.

This past summer was my first year as an LIT (Leader-in- Training), and it was so fun. I loved working with the Owls (the youngest camper group). They’re really cute. I got to read stories to them and take them on nature walks. I hope that they had fun, too, and learned to love and respect nature, each other, and the counselors, like I do.


In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email explore@massaudubon.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 

Libby

In Your Words: Libby Herland

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email explore@massaudubon.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 


Libby Herland - Canoe Meadows

Libby Herland – Canoe Meadows

Mass Audubon is a golden thread—no, a circle—that has run through my entire life. It started back in 1971 when I was able to get a city-sponsored summer job. Awakened by the Earth Day movement, I asked to work outdoors. Mass Audubon agreed to host a precocious and completely “green” (in more ways than one) 16-year- old at Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary in Lenox. I cleaned the museum and gift shop, fed and occasionally wore the boa constrictors (much to the delight or fear of our visitors), and helped with the nature camps.

After studying as a biologist and earning my BS in Marine Biology from the University of West Florida in Pensacola, I worked in various roles to protect water, wetlands, and wildlife for almost 40 years. I am profoundly grateful for and proud of the opportunities I had to serve at the regional, state, and federal level, but the last 29 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service were the most rewarding.

I had the great privilege to manage national wildlife refuges in the Northeast, including eight in Eastern Massachusetts. There, working with wonderful staff, volunteers, friends, and conservation partners, including Mass Audubon, we managed and restored wildlife and habitat on 17,000 acres of land and water and provided opportunities to learn about and connect with nature to more than half a million visitors per year.

Libby Herland

Libby Herland

Now in retirement, I find myself connected to Mass Audubon in a different but still deeply rewarding way. As a volunteer at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Pittsfield and at Pleasant Valley, I have led trail maintenance projects, developed a volunteer trail steward program, pulled invasive garlic mustard plants, and helped with special events, to name just a few of the projects I have worked on.

As a member of the Berkshire Sanctuaries Advisory Committee, I provide input on policies and programs. I am thrilled that my expertise and experience is helpful to a place that I love with all my heart. Coming back to Mass Audubon feels like a symbolic closing of the circle of environmental protection that began here almost 50 years ago and has enriched my life in so many ways.


Libby Herland is a Berkshire Wildlife Sanctuaries Advisory Committee Member and volunteer.

Melanie Gárate | Coastal Waterbird Education Specialist

In Your Words: Melanie Gárate

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email explore@massaudubon.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 


Melanie Gárate

As a native Chilean, my passion for the oceans and their critters began in the vibrant Pacific Ocean. Led by my father’s love of the sea, I spent long summer days on the coast, where we would be the first ones in the water and the last ones out, forced back onto land as the sun nestled under the horizon.

Since my time as a child in Chile and throughout undergrad and graduate school, I have been fortunate enough to travel for research and explore a variety of coastlines—from the pristine coral reefs of marine preserves in Puerto Rico to the dazzling Mediterranean waters of Spain.

These adventures have been juxtaposed with visits to the polluted streams and oceans in Ecuador, the volcanic islands and surrounding waters of the West Indies, and nearby streams in the Greater Boston area. I noticed that where pollution was greatest, there was also a considerable difference between socioeconomic classes and a limited amount of environmental education. These disparate experiences laid the foundation for my path to conservation and urban education, where my interests are very much aligned with the mission at Mass Audubon.

Melanie Gárate | Coastal Waterbird Education Specialist

Today, as part of Mass Audubon’s Coastal Waterbird Program (CWP), I protect endangered shorebirds and their habitat, focusing on educating the diverse urban community of Revere and the metro Boston area. In addition, I’m a teacher naturalist at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center, where we provide positive outdoor experiences and environmental science education for urban youth who would ordinarily not have access to wild and natural outdoor spaces.

Mass Audubon has enabled me to transform my natural curiosity for the oceans and wildlife and passion for reaching underserved populations into my profession. Through my work with Mass Audubon, I am able to conserve the nature of Massachusetts by interacting with and engaging Boston’s urban youth, adults, and families in dynamic and enriching educational opportunities. It’s a dream come true.

 


Melanie Gárate is a Coastal Waterbird Education Specialist and Teacher Naturalist at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center.

Anne Monnelly Carroll Canoeing at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

In Your Words: Anne Monnelly Carroll

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares his or her story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email explore@massaudubon.org to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue!


Anne Monnelly Carroll Canoeing at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary

Anne Monnelly Carroll Canoeing with day campers at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary circa 1992

Mass Audubon’s Wildwood was the first overnight camp I attended. I was quite homesick at the start, but as the week progressed, I had several experiences that were transformative. One morning we woke before dawn and hiked Mount Wachusett to see the sunrise. I remember the lavender pre-dawn light and how exciting it was to be up before the sun. When we got off the mountain, it was hot and we were tired, but the best was yet to come.

The counselors brought us to a nearby bog, talking excitedly about a special ceremony, a sort of rite of passage to become “one with nature.” We walked along a boardwalk until we got to a spot where the water was deep and clear, and we completely immersed ourselves in the bog water. I can’t explain what made it so magical, but it clearly made an impression on me that has lasted all these years.

Water has always played a central role in my life. My first water adventures were with my parents in the Ozarks, where they would take me as a newborn down the Current River in a canoe, stopping to camp on gravel bars. In fact, many of my childhood family vacations took place outdoors: we hiked, canoed, camped, birdwatched, and snorkeled.

Looking back, I believe that day in the bog was so special in large part because of the Wildwood counselors. Their excitement and love of nature was infectious. I clearly caught the bug because years later, during summers off from college, I became a counselor myself at Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary’s Nature Camp in Topsfield. There, Sanctuary Director Carol Decker became a mentor who showed me how to share the magic and wonder of nature with children.

As a result of these experiences, I have focused my career on protecting water—and my volunteer work on connecting children to the outdoors. My parents planted these seeds, and Mass Audubon nurtured their growth with its wonderful staff, programs, and wildlife sanctuaries. And I hope that I am doing the same for future generations.


Anne Monnelly Carroll is Director of the Office of Water Resources at the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation.