Tag Archives: nature

Scott Edwards by James Deshler

In Your Words: Scott V. Edwards

Scott V. Edwards © James Deshler
Scott V. Edwards © James Deshler

Scott Edwards is a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Curator of Ornithology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Mass Audubon Council Member. On June 6, 2020, Scott left his home in Concord, Massachusetts, to set off on a cross-country bike trip. He spoke to Mass Audubon’s Hillary Truslow in July from a campsite in Wall, South Dakota.

On Biking Across the Country

The idea for this trip was hatched a long time ago. It’s a wonderful way to see a place—some say it’s the classic American adventure. It’s got a scale that is frankly awesome.

Birding Then & Now

My first introduction to birds was when I was 9 or 10 years old when a neighbor took me birdwatching in Riverdale, New York, where I grew up. The “spark bird” for me was the Northern Flicker, or what we used to call a Yellow-shafted Flicker. I couldn’t believe that something so gaudy and outrageous in a field guide could be in my backyard. On the bike trip so far, I was excited to see a Western Flycatcher, the Upland Sandpipers were super cool, and when I saw Yellow-headed Blackbirds I almost fell off my bike.

A Scene from South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards
A Scene from South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards

Attracting More People to Science

I was fortunate that I could follow my dreams and do what makes me happy. Not everyone has that luxury. We need to ensure that young people can make a living in science and that some of the coolest, weirdest, offbeat people are scientists. It’s not all people in white lab coats spending time indoors. In fact, a major part of my classes is spent outdoors learning biodiversity everywhere from Costa Rica to Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield.

Black in Nature

I consider myself a naturalist and pretty good at outdoorsy stuff like camping. Yet I have never worked on a farm and have very little knowledge of agricultural life. The other day I was fascinated watching a hay baler and posted a video on Twitter. I used #blackinnature mainly to poke fun at myself and to say that this is a totally different world than I am used to.

At the same time, it’s interesting to think of the intersection between African Americans and the natural world. Black Birders Week convinced me that there are lots of young folks out there in this space. And the hashtag is a nice way to say, hey look, there are African Americans interested in nature, that nature is for everyone, and hopefully get even more people of color learning about nature.

Wetlands in South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards
Wetlands in South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards

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 their 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 [email protected]  to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 

The Importance of Local Climate Lessons

Climate change can sometimes feel like something happening far away that’ll only reach us in the future. Even more worrying is that Americans are least likely to think they themselves will be harmed by climate change, and over half of Americans say that haven’t personally experienced its effects. 

These findings demonstrate a need to emphasize how the crisis is happening here and now, to our communities and wildlife in our backyards. Place-based education, which uses culture, ecology, landscapes, and tangible experiences to guide our understanding of the world around us, can create that connection, allowing us to visualize these impacts close to home in real-time. 

Nature’s Wisdom Spreads Far and Wide 

We know that moving people to action requires more than just data, we must touch hearts and minds. When we use nature as the conduit for learning about climate change, we contextualize the crisis in places people care about and are familiar with. 

Place-based climate education is a pathway through which we can reach a place of empathy and care to inspire collective climate action. Using nature to visualize climate adaptation and response reaches people of all ages and backgrounds, and this knowledge can even spread to their families and communities. 

Turning Lessons into Action 

Mass Audubon offers various opportunities for place-based education to engage people in both forming connections with the world around them and then acting to protect that very same world in their communities. 

Our climate programs provide people with a space for learning and action. For example, our Youth Climate Summit Program, an immersion in climate action, engages middle-high school aged youth in brainstorming, managing, and implementing a Climate Leadership Project in their own towns and neighborhoods.  

By learning through nature, our communities, and the places we love, we build lasting connections that drive deeper dedication to acting on the climate crisis that threatens their future.