Bill is a 20-year veteran with the Loudoun Wildlife Bluebird Monitoring Program, regularly shares his plant expertise as a “Knowledgeable Plant Person” at our Native Plant Sales, helps ID plants at JK Black Oak Wildlife Sanctuary, and was a monthly volunteer in the Wild Shop prior to its closing due to COVID.
In honor of Bill and all that he does to help create a place where people and wildlife thrive together, we are sharing his story on how he got interested in nature.
Growing up I was fascinated by the natural world. But I grew up in a family that wasn’t that way, and there was sort of an understanding that it was something you outgrew. So I never pursued it beyond high school Biology. Although it kept popping up in watching documentaries on TV, hiking on vacations, etc.
One year, when I was in my forties, our son gave me a trilobite for Christmas. It captured my imagination, and I started reading up on geological history, evolution, and such things. The next spring our brother-in-law asked if we could take his cousin, who was visiting from England and was a passionate gardener, somewhere to see American wildflowers. There was a wildflower hike at a local park the next weekend, and we went. We were introduced not only to incredible spring ephemerals but to field guides that made them knowable. We went out and bought a Newcomb’s and a Peterson’s and had great fun misidentifying flowers all summer.
The next spring there was a short spring wildflower class and I signed up. Then, looking for more such opportunities, I stumbled onto a formal, college-level class given through the Audubon Naturalist Society and the USDA Graduate School. I signed up for that and found out that it was part of a certificate program in Natural History Field Studies. One class led to another, and I went through and got the certificate; receiving background in biology, geology, ecology, mammalogy, ornithology, et al. I finished just as we moved to Loudoun, and I got plugged into LWC, Banshee Reeks, and the Master Naturalist program.
When we asked Bill what his favorite thing in nature was, he responded, “I find everything fascinating. I can’t say I have a favorite kingdom, much less species. And there are so many wonderful places I’ve been and things I’ve seen.” Bill struggled to come up with an answer but finally decided his favorite nature thing was the trilobite his son gave him because it is “the touchstone for the midlife re-opening to the natural world of someone with no academic background and little experience.”
You just never know where the spark for interest in the natural world will come from, and we hope Bill’s story will encourage others to pursue their interests.