Apply for a 2017 Bob Jennings Scholarship Today!

Greetings Interpreters,

It’s that time of year, the one where you start planning for the upcoming National Workshop. This year we’ll gather in Spokane Washington, November 14-18. As a section, we are excited to be able to offer a grant to cover some of the expenses of attending. All members of the NAI Interpretive Naturalist (IN) Section are eligible to apply for a $425 scholarship to cover registration. The recipient will be chosen based on financial need, desire to attend, NAI activity, and appearance and completeness of application. Members also have the option to complete this application for another member who would benefit from the scholarship, perhaps a student or seasonal interpreter or a colleague?

Details, along with an downloadable application, can be found here. The deadline to submit your application is May 1st, 2017!

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Thomas Say Awards Program 2017 NOW OPEN!

NAI Interpretive Naturalist Section

Thomas Say Awards Program 2017
OPEN NOW!

Being an American naturalist during the eighteenth and nineteenth century required skill, intelligence, determination, support, and some luck. Self-taught naturalist Thomas Say (1787-1834), who identified more than 1,500 species of insects and animals unique to North America (including the coyote), was one of these brave naturalists who helped blaze a trail for future naturalists. This award program is named in his honor, as are numerous species such as Say’s phoebe, Sayornis saya. He represents innovation, commitment, and a passion to contribute to science.

In the fifth year of this awards program, we strive to honor naturalists who have demonstrated the highest accomplishments of our profession and have inspired greater understanding, awareness, and stewardship of our natural resources. Nominees have to be NAI Interpretive Naturalist Section members. It does take a little time to prepare a good nomination and put it together with accurate information and clear details. However, the results last a lifetime.

These awards of excellence not only provide much deserved recognition for our fellow section members, but they also bring to the attention of administrators that they have outstanding employees, whose abilities and talents are recognized by other outside professional individuals and organizations. And, at times, it helps sway agencies and their budgets to be able to send these award recipients to the conference to receive the award in front of their peers.

It is now YOUR turn to make the effort and nominate someone (or something). The award nomination information can be found at http://naiinsection.wordpress.com. Don’t delay too long—the deadline for nominations is August 15, 2017!

Nominations should be sent to Lori Spencer, Awards Chair bflyspencer8@gmail.com.

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Life and Death: How Animals Survive Winter

Live or Die: Activities for Learning How Mammals Survive Winter
Teresa Root

You’ve seen the look – that middle school bored stare that says, “I’ve already learned all this.” That’s what I am facing in presenting several lessons on winter ecology to seventh graders this winter. These are students who have been coming to our nature center since they were in kindergarten, so there is some justification to their reaction. But their exposure to the topic hasn’t been extensive so I just need a hook to get them interested and engaged. The answer? Make it a competition to see who survives.

These students like games and are very competitive, so I’ll use three different kinds of activities – a game, a demonstration, and an experiment – that provide them with experiences to mimic real-life behaviors and challenges faced by Minnesota mammals dealing with winter conditions and we’ll see, at the end of each activity, how well they did to survive. At the same time, we’ll use their observations to deepen their understanding of what happens to animals that hibernate or stay active. Since I teach consecutive classes that are only 50 minutes long, the activities need to be easy to set up and use equipment that can be reused multiple times.

During the year, my lessons with the students have focused on energy use within ecosystems. This topic is a perfect tie-in to winter ecology, so I am planning activities that will give students experiences with how energy is used and conserved by animals that are hibernating* or staying active. (*The concept of hibernation is not clear cut in the scientific world. In researching this topic, I found a range of definitions and qualifications as to what constitutes a “true hibernator” over a “shallow hibernator” or an animal that is in torpor. For the purposes of these lessons, I am using the word “hibernation” to mean a state of decreased metabolic rate and physical activity. This will tie into the on-going discussion of energy use and conservation without getting hung up on nuances of the terminology.)

 

The Game: HIBERNATION: WHO WILL SURVIVE?

This game gives students an understanding of the importance of eating enough for an animal to survive hibernation. Students will move from station to station, rolling dice and recording the number rolled on data sheets. The numbers are totaled and represent the amount of food eaten by the animal in preparation for hibernation. The data sheets are coded to represent four different animals – black bear, ground squirrel, woodchuck, and little brown bat. One animal at a time, the food totals are listed for students to see. Then the teacher shares with the students how much food had to have been collected for the animal to survive hibernation. Part of debriefing the game will include a discussion of the function of eating and how animals put on different kinds of fat that help them survive. We’ll also discuss other strategies and adaptations that take place during hibernation (e.g. clustering, awakening and eating, periodic rousing in order to fall back into a deeper sleep).

The Demonstration: ENERGY IN, ENERGY OUT

Animals that remain active during winter need a certain amount of food each day to survive. For example, deer need to eat five pounds a day for every 100 pounds they weigh. In this demonstration, students will see how three different animals expend energy to collect the food they need. A small group of students are chosen to represent the animals: mink, feral cats, and coyotes. The “animals” will begin on one side of the room with “food” being on the other side of the room. At a signal, each kind of “animal” begins collecting “food” according to the approach it uses in the wild – mink eat frequently throughout the day while cats only need to eat a couple of times a day, and coyotes will eat daily, if possible, but tend to exist on a feast-or-famine approach. What the students will notice as the food collection is happening is that the mink are moving constantly, the cats move a little less often, and the coyotes work hard for a little while and then have lots of time to rest. In debriefing the demonstration, we’ll talk about the challenges winter-active animals face in needing to expend energy to get energy and what kinds of things can impact them (e.g. competition over resources, weather conditions, predation).

The Experiment: BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE

A third activity will look at energy loss as mammals work to maintaining body heat. Students will be measuring the change in temperature among a group of containers that represent different strategies used by mammals in cold climates. Hopefully, they will apply knowledge they learned in the earlier activities to be able to predict which containers will maintain temperatures the best. Students will be given plastic containers of different sizes containing water that is 100°F/38°C. Some containers will be placed in bags that provide additional layering. (See complete directions at the end of the article.) The groups place their containers outside within a given area for twenty minutes. Then they’ll measure the temperature of the water inside the container and compare their findings to see how size and layering impact the ability to maintain a constant temperature. For this activity, we will not be able to easily identify who survived and who didn’t. Part of debriefing the activity will be to introduce the idea of the subnivean zone and that even small animals can conserve energy by making use of the insulative properties of snow. The broader point of the lessons will be to help the students see there is not a one-size-fits-all approach to survival in winter.

By the time we finish this series of activities, students should have a better understanding of the critical role energy use and conservation play in hibernation and staying active in winter. And, hopefully, they will have enjoyed the way they learned about it.

For full activity descriptions and directions, please visit our Environmental Education Corner.

Teresa Root is a Naturalist and the Naturalist Fellowship Coordinator at the Dodge Nature Center, West St. Paul, MN. She can be reached by email at troot@dodgenaturecenter.org

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Nominations 2016 Thomas Say Awards Program are Now Open!

NAI Interpretive Naturalist Section

Thomas Say Awards Program 2016
OPEN NOW!

Being an American naturalist during the eighteenth and nineteenth century required skill, intelligence, determination, support, and some luck. Self-taught naturalist Thomas Say (1787-1834), who identified more than 1,500 species of insects and animals unique to North America (including the coyote), was one of these brave naturalists who helped blaze a trail for future naturalists. This award program is named in his honor, as are numerous species such as Say’s phoebe, Sayornis saya. He represents innovation, commitment, and a passion to contribute to science.

In the fourth year of this awards program, we strive to honor naturalists who have demonstrated the highest accomplishments of our profession and have inspired greater understanding, awareness, and stewardship of our natural resources. Nominees have to be NAI Interpretive Naturalist Section members. It does take a little time to prepare a good nomination and put it together with accurate information and clear details. However, the results last a lifetime.

These awards of excellence not only provide much deserved recognition for our fellow section members, but they also bring to the attention of administrators that they have outstanding employees, whose abilities and talents are recognized by other outside professional individuals and organizations. And, at times, it helps sway agencies and their budgets to be able to send these award recipients to the conference to receive the award in front of their peers.

It is now YOUR turn to make the effort and nominate someone (or something). The awards for will be given during the section meeting at the NAI national conference in Corpus Christi, Texas, November 8-12, 2016.

The award nomination information can be found at https://naiinsection.wordpress.com. You don’t have to wait until the deadline, which is July 1, 2016, sent to Awards Chair Lori Spencer, bflyspencer8@gmail.com.  You can nominate someone or something today!

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Riddle Me This…

Riddle Me This…
Lori Spencer, IN Section Director

Riddle me this: what do a frog pitcher, handmade knitted shawl, butterfly book, native plants, and a $150 gift certificate from Acorn Naturalists have in common? They are just some of the items that have been collected for the member services auction being held during the workshop August 2-5!

Although you can fill out a form when you drop off items at workshop registration, you can fill out this form. ahead of time and save time. Or, if you can’t attend the workshop but would like to contribute, fill out the form and send with the item to workshop chair Lori Spencer.

See you in August!

The Workshop Schedule – at a glance, Registration Packet, list of Concurrent Sessions, and information about Lodging and Facilities can be found under the workshop tab.

Looking for an auction donation form? Find it here.

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From the Trail

From the Trail
Lori Spencer, IN Section Director

Registration is Open! 

This spring has been one of ups and downs for all of us. From spring break through the Fourth of July, it seems we can’t catch our breath. The business of the section isn’t that much different.

For two years, the committee for the first-ever section workshop has been working toward the goal of providing members with an engaging, valuable workshop that will also help toward certification hours. There were times when I wondered whether or not this workshop would happen, and there were times when I wondered what end was up.

But, we are one step closer with the registration packet and form are now online! Logistics of lodging and transportation are included on the second page of the form.

I am so excited to share my state and my park with you, and meeting more of the membership that it is my honor to serve. As director, I am thrilled that as a section, we have turned this corner. As one of the largest organizational units in NAI, this is a great step forward.

Read the packet thoroughly! Register as soon as you can! We have a lot planned for you–from a character contest to a naturalist quiz to an auction and awards banquet, culminating with an interesting fund raiser on the side (it will be a lot of fun) and of course, the keynote during the banquet is our own folkgrass duo, Still on the Hill.

We have some generous sponsors, and you will meet many of them in addition to your fellow members. We are excited to see you in Arkansas!

As always, get out and enjoy your resource!

Lori Spencer, IN Section Director

The Workshop Schedule – at a glance, Registration Packet, and information about Lodging and Facilities can be found under the workshop tab.

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From the Trail

From the Trail
Lori Spencer, IN Section Director

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

–Marcel Proust

                 A new year! Call it a clean slate, a blank screen, a canvas waiting to be filled. Many of us make resolutions or set goals. I spent some time the first week of January writing down 50 goals that I want to accomplish this year. Some of them are small, like “get the kingfisher painting framed” (I bought it three years ago), and “de-clutter the bedroom closet” (it was like a time capsule). Others are ambitious and ambiguous—“have a good auction/workshop,” “learn new skill,” and “work on books.” If I stay on task, I will not only have a good year to look back on New Year’s Eve, but I will have made much of my life simpler. Well, maybe not that closet!

NAI, as you have probably read in other newsletters, has set new goals, new standards, and has changed some practices so that they are simpler. These changes are meant to help us as members and make a strong organization stronger. Check out the strategic plan on the NAI website!

As the new year begins, I would also like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the section membership for participating in last year’s election. Myself and Tom Meier were re-elected to our offices, and I wish to thank outgoing secretary/treasurer Julia Clebsch for all her years of service to the section. She continues to help the section as the chair of the Fundraising Committee, and is going to be one of the chairs for the section booth at the NAI conference in Virginia Beach. I have appointed Matthew Kantola (Missouri) as the new secretary/treasurer. Matthew is also the data manager for the new expertise/interest directory. NAI just changed the accounting codes for budgets and reports, making our jobs much simpler.

As you peruse the NAI website, you likely have noticed that we have transitioned to the wording of “Organizational Units.” This is a good thing! The sections and regions still have their distinctions, but we are on the same playing field. The perspective used to be that regions were elevated above sections. Not true! And we have a successful section! “Organizational Units” is just a way to phrase it. As Director, I serve on the Advisory Council, which is made up of all the Organizational Unit directors. We meet several times a year (mostly by conference call) to discuss ways to help our members, the organization, and we advise the board based on motions we vote on during said meetings.
I’m very excited about the initiative we have in place for this year, based on our strategic plan. Keep reading the newsletter, watch the Facebook page, and the website for additional news. I hope to see you on Mount Magazine for our first-ever workshop in August!

As always, make sure in all the hustle and bustle; that you get outside and enjoy your resource!

Lori Spencer author photo cropped
Lori Spencer

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Tips and Tricks

During our member survey, you asked us to post more “Tips and Tricks” from the field. Here’s our first installment for the website from Arkansas State Park Interpreter, Yvonne Siribouth. If you have tips or tricks you’d like to share, please email our webmaster.

Virtual Geocaches
by Yvonne Siribouth
Here is a tip that we all may or may not know about: Virtual Geocaches!
If you like to Geocache or have visitors/Guests that Geocache then this is for you.
Some organizations do not allow physical cache boxes to be placed in or around facilities or managed areas. Instead, you might be able to do the virtual cache. This is where instead of a trinket from a cache box they get a gorgeous view from a vista or get to visit a prominent site in your park or facility. The coordinates can be collected and put on a sheet of paper for the visitors as a leisurely activity on their own or as a programed scavenger hunt. I am sure there are many other ways this tip could be utilized. I hope you find this useful!

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Apply for a Workshop Grant or Mini-Grant Now

2014 National Workshop Grant
Need some extra cash to be able to attend the 2014 NAI National Workshop in Denver this November? This one’s for you.

Members of the NAI Interpretive Naturalist (IN) Section are invited to apply for a $700 scholarship to the NAI National Workshop in Denver, Colorado, November 18-22, 2014. The recipient will be chosen based on financial need and/or desire to attend in addition to appearance of application. Applicants must supply the following information and currently be members of NAI in good standing and the IN Section.

The recipient must register for the workshop on their own, by the early bird deadline, and the registration fee will be deducted by the national office. The remaining amount will be given to the recipient during the national workshop. The recipient will be recognized at the section meeting during the workshop, in the section newsletter, is expected to volunteer in our section’s booth for a minimum of two hours during the workshop, and submit an article to the newsletter about his/her workshop experience.

2014 Mini-Grant

Have a project in mind, but just don’t have the budget? Maybe you’d like to create a butterfly garden, expand your track program, purchase birdfeeders for a wildlife viewing station, day camp craft supplies, or publish a self-guided track brochure? An INS Mini-Grant can help you do just that.

To help you engage your visitors in meaningful experiences such as these, the NAI Interpretive Naturalist (IN) Section is pleased to announce the $500 mini-grant program for section members to give you the tools you need to increase your effectiveness as an interpretive naturalist. You may apply for the full $500, or less. Recipients will be recognized at the national workshop in Denver, Colorado, and in the IN Section Newsletter.

Deadline to apply for all scholarships is May 1st, 2014
Download the application on our Scholarships Page. For more information, or specific questions, contact Lori Spencer, Interim Scholarship Chair

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Naturalist’s Notes

Season of Change
by Lori Spencer

Since the bylaws rearrangement last year, NAI has been redefining a lot of material that defines us as an organization. The regions and sections are now “organizational units,” and we are in the process of redefining ourselves. So maybe it was just a matter of time before I casually said “how about a naturalist’s blog on our website?” I offered to write the first blog, and hopefully we as officers and probably guest bloggers can keep this going every few weeks if not every month. It’s just one tool we as a section can use to communicate and offer members services—a proactive way to exchange ideas and network. Additionally, we want this to be fun, informal, and valuable.

So what to talk about in this first blog? Yipe—the old fears rear their ugly heads; will it be worthwhile, will it sound like drivel, will it be accepted, will it be read, will it help someone in the section?

Black Swtl lowI had occasion a few months back to simply lift my head from my vortex of work and look outside. When I get writer’s block, I often go out and weed one of the gardens in my charge. I looked up and saw a fresh black swallowtail flitting about, taking nectar from a milkweed blossom, and envied her gift of flight. I knew she had been a caterpillar in the same garden only three weeks ago. I looked around the garden and saw all the changes—aster was replacing the anise hyssop, and hummingbirds were seemingly everywhere. The bumblebees and wasps were out in full force, too. I breathed a sigh of contentment that this finite space was very much alive.

Really, my sense of wonder and excitement haven’t changed much since kindergarten. I saw an old newspaper clipping as I attempted to clean a closet, and thought back to that day; I have a memory of it, but its not terribly clear. I remember our class walkingLittle lori a block down the street to plant flowers in that lady’s yard. I look at the simple words under the photograph and think about how much influence those experiences had on my life.

I think of all the experiences I’ve had with children as they began gardens at their schools. I hope one or more of them enjoyed the feel of the dirt between their fingers, the hope that the small plant would provide food and enjoyment for animals, and the community effort to make it happen. That experience helped shape me as a naturalist. And yes, my teacher and I reminisce when I see her; she still lives in my hometown.

Fall is a busy time for us as naturalists. With leaves changing color, late-season flowers blooming, and migration in full swing, it can be easy to get so wrapped up in the daily grind of helping our visitors enjoy our natural heritage that we forget to enjoy fall, too.

LeavesThere’s something rejuvenating about watching a monarch visit a sunflower, or a broad-shouldered hawk migrate overhead. Many people think that as a gardener, I take the winter off. I laugh and say no—spring gardening begins in the fall.

Change isn’t always easy, but it is inevitable. The leaves don’t turn colors in one day, and working together as members of this section will no doubt take a lot of time. I think it’s worth it, and I look forward to working with our membership. Some of the best things bloom late in the season; let’s work together and make this section grow and bloom.

Wishing you a colorful spring ahead—-
Lori

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