PA Master Naturalist Guest Blog: Alaska!

In this PA Master Naturalist Guest Blog, John McGlaughlin shares notes and a video from his trip to Alaska.

John McGlaughlin: Alaska!
Howdy y’all! I’m happy to report that my capstone presentation went off without a hitch and was well received by the panel of specialists and my cohort of fellow trainees alike! With all the preparation through I’m finally gearing up to take my capstone project to the streets over the next few months by featuring some local environmental organizations on this here blog. Stay tuned!

I must admit that after the capstone presentation I was pretty wiped out and ready for a little vacation. Luckily, my fiancé and I had a few greenbacks in our bank account so we decided to plan a trip that would be an escape from our daily rigmarole (and also an opportunity to solidify some of my newly minted naturalist knowledge!) After relentlessly spinning the globe and carefully crafting our budget we finally decided on a destination… ALASKA!

The name Alaska instantly evokes tales of wild adventure, outdoor excitement and pressing ecological issues in my mind. Nicknamed ‘The Last Frontier”, Alaska’s mythical appeal continues to draw over 1.5 million adventurous spirits each year to its endless natural wonders and rugged frontier culture. With a landmass greater than Texas, Montana and California combined and only a handful of roads, this majestic behemoth of a state is ripe for outdoor exploration. And exploring we did!

Renting a car out of Anchorage, we immediately headed south to the Kenai Peninsula and the stunning coastal town of Seward. The Peninsula has been dubbed “Alaska’s Playground” due to its close proximity to Anchorage and wealth of outdoor opportunities. After a few days hiking around glaciers and whale watching in Resurrection Bay, we drove from Seward to Valdez along the magnificent Glen Highway and Richardson Highway to witness some salmon spawning in action. We were in awe of the shear size of this annual migration and had the chance to see bear, sea lions and bald eagles take part in this annual feeding and reproduction frenzy. We rounded out the trip by traveled along the famously desolate McCarthy Highway, spending the night in the land of the midnight sun in Fairbanks, and hiking among arctic squirrels and caribou in Denali National Park.

It’s impossible to capture the splendor of Alaska without being there in the flesh and blood but I created a little travelogue video of some of the highlights from our travels to aid your imagination. Happy Trails!

PA Master Naturalist Guest Blog: Nature Journaling

Continuing on with our PA Master Naturalist Guest Blogs, John McGlaughlin discusses nature journaling.

Well, here we are, a few weeks into the Naturalist program and the work is rolling in! One of our weekly at-home assignments is to keep a nature journal. Hmm, I initially thought, what good can come of this? I haven’t kept a journal since 3rd grade when I wrote about important things like what color eye-mask I would wear if I were one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. My initial reservations with this assignment’s purpose were eventually subdued after reminding myself that as naturalists we are encouraged to explore, observe and reflect on the natural world. What better way to synthesize these 3 tasks then by keeping a nature journal?!

Nature JournalingThe art of nature journaling has been around for a while. Pliny the Elder put together a mean nature journal in ‘Naturalis Historia’ a few thousand years ago where he collected all the natural phenomena of his day that he could find. And the tradition continued into the modern era with authors like John Muir, Rachel Carson and Aldo Leopold all keeping nature journals that are thought to contain some of the most important ecological writing of the 20th century. And then there’s me to carry on the torch.

So where to begin? Us naturalists-in-training were informed that a good way to start a nature journal is by selecting a special ‘nature spot’ outside that you can visit regularly in order to expand your sensitivity to and familiarity with nature. Then after your nature spot’s all mapped out you need to ‘get in the zone’ by sharpening your five senses to tune in with the natural world. Finally, once your nature mojo is flowing, you need to make careful observations of your nature spot, reflect upon those observations and finally record them in your trusty nature journal… easy enough!

Each week we’re assigned a different way of experiencing our nature spot to broaden and enrich our nature journaling. For example, previous assignments included wearing a blindfold at our natural spot to alter the typical optical-centric perspective of the environment. Another week we were directed to look for evidence of the water cycle in action and to visualize the changes our nature spot undergoes during each part of the cycle.

This past week we were charged with visiting our nature spot to observe the variety of species living there, with the specific task of identifying the producers, consumers and decomposers. For those in need of a brush-up in science-speak, producers make their own food, consumers feed on producers or other consumers, and decomposers eat and break down dead producers/consumers/decomposers. I brought my camera along for this assignment to provide a video log of my experience. See ya next time!

Our first annual Teachers Networking event

This Thursday, the GreenTreks team and many of our amazing partners will be hosting a fantastic evening of learning, networking, and fun at the Beautiful Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center on Philadelphia’s Schuylkill River. We’ve invited educators from around the region to come network with fellow science teachers, learn about local environmental non-profit organizations and community-based programs that offer experiential-learning opportunities, and discover the resources we’ve made available on our flagship Online Resource Center, EcoExpress.

Light fare and drinks will be provided. All teachers who attend will receive a packet containing special materials from and EcoExpress’ Community Partners (while supplies last). A donation of five dollars will be accepted at the door.

To register or to see the list of scheduled event activities, please visit EcoExpress.EventBrite.Com

A Special Shout out to all of those who have helped make this event possible, including generous support from:

Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center

BFN – The Business Friends Network

Save Some Green

Dynasty Wines (Distributed by Vintners Choice, 610-631-3120)

AND viewers like you : )

World Water Day 2011: What will you do?

Sure, the stats are bleak:

  • Almost a billion people on the planet don’t have access to clean drinking water.
  • One in eight people on the planet drinks water that’s likely to make them sick.
  • Unsafe water and a lack of basic sanitation cause 80% of all disease and kill more people than all forms of violence, including war.

And yet the reality is that CLEAN WATER is possible.


charity: water is one of of many great groups working to bring clean water to those less fortunate than us. We love their mission, their approach, and the way they share the stories of the difference they’re making all over the world.

Check them out. Learn more about the issue. Pledge your support. Go to their site >>

The story of charity: water – The 2009 September Campaign Trailer from charity: water on Vimeo.