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A Day in the Life

By Casey Smith, Naturalist

Casey teaching archery

Naturalists really can be called Jack of all trades. We are expected to know what tree that is from a hundred yards away, what bird just flew by in a blur of color and sound, what animal lives under your porch and makes a sound that goes “joff-tchoff-tchoffo-tchoffo-tchoff” and will this snake, insect, or spider….bite, kill or lay eggs in…… me, my kids or my pet. We love helping you solve these mysteries. We are also curious about all those things. It’s part of why we became naturalists in the first place.

Often, we tend to get really good at one area of study. One staff member here knows all the aquatic invertebrates, even down to scientific names. One of us is great with plants, butterflies, and sustainability. Still another is the go-to on fossils, snakes, and spiders. But we all know enough about the rest to input the right search terms into Google. By our powers combined, we can answer most questions that come our way.

But being a naturalist isn’t all about pondering nature’s mysteries and facilitating unique and exciting nature programs. We do a surprising amount of work behind the scenes. This morning, I had unread emails to answer. They ranged from a draft of a new kiosk sign I need to edit, to a scout group checking on a program they booked, to a reminder to submit reports for archery programs I’ve taught. I spent some time searching for possible exhibits to rent for next summer’s new theme. I helped clean up from the weekend program. I checked on the animals in the visitor center, changed their waters, and made sure the tanks were clean. I prepared materials that will be borrowed by teachers and scout leaders this week. I updated the work schedule for seasonal staff and visitor center volunteers. And I wrote this blog post.

Liz at Monarch Magic Weekend.

Not once did I leave my office to go chase a bug or identify a tree. And that’s ok. Being a naturalist is different every day. In the next couple weeks I’ll teach participants archery, what lives in a pond, and how to make a crochet bag from old plastic bags. There are plenty of days when I don’t even see a computer. But today is an office day and I can see the message light blinking on the phone out of the corner of my eye.

If you’d like to know more about what it’s like to be a naturalist, or you are thinking of becoming one, contact us about our shadowing programs. Watch us answer emails, help us clean taxidermy, and even tag along as we teach kindergarteners about bats! We may even get to spend the entire day outside!

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