by Brittany Wagler
I’ve always had a deep curiosity about the natural world and an urge to peek over the next ridge. I’ll try any activity that enables me to travel to a little further into new (and old) places. My favorites are biking and skiing, but I’m down for any adventure. I enjoy simplicity in my life. I prefer a regular toothbrush over an electric one. I like being in the hands of nature. My favorite feeling in the world is the one I get knowing I am in a place where something could eat me. Second to that is the feeling along the lines of the one I get when waking up on day 2 of a weeklong August backpacking trip to 2 inches of snow. I feel strongly connected to the natural world. This is likely true for many zoology majors, ENR majors, and sustainability enthusiasts. That’s why we do what we do. There’s no reason to study and protect something we aren’t connected to.
As an adult my passion for the outdoors translated to a wildlife biology degree. I am able to satisfy my adventurer, contribute our understanding of ecosystems and species, and work towards protecting them. It’s a professional version of who I was as a kid: a curious person wandering around in the woods. My connection to the natural world came from growing up in the mountains. I was raised in Wapiti, WY. There were 20 kids in my elementary school, and we had a bear fence around our playground. Most nights my goal was to convince my mom to let me sleep outside. I am going to share a few memories with you that have shaped my connection. One of my earliest memories is black bear hunting with my dad. We were walking back to the truck and right after the sun went down he told me I had to find it on my own. We were only two hillsides away, but to a five year old a hillside is no different than a whole mountain range. Mostly due to fear of being eaten or of losing my dad forever, I found the way back to the truck. In the 6th grade my buddy and I found a pronghorn fawn and a sage-grouse with a broken wing while we were out exploring the prairie. As much as we wanted to help raise the pronghorn, we knew enough to leave it be. But, we had to save the sage-grouse. We took it to her room, built it a home, and fed it food we stole from the fridge. It didn’t take very long for her mom to find out and shut down our operation.
There’s many more stories I could share with you, but I think you get the idea. Our connection to the natural world as modern humans is an interesting concept. By knowing a little about where my connection comes from, you probably have an idea about how I think. That is the first step toward working together. For me, it is difficult to put myself in someone’s shoes that doesn’t think a huge chunk of undisturbed desert is the coolest place around just the way it is. Many people see a chunk of undisturbed land and automatically want to conquer and develop it. I’ll never agree with them, but by understanding how they think I can at least begin to work with them. We’re running out of these wild places. I like to think that sharing our connections to these places is a powerful way to protect them. Where does your connection come from?