We are so pleased to introduce the newest member of the One Planet Life family.  Yvonne Dwyer is our resident naturalist and we are honored to have her on our team. Yvonne brings a nature-centric perspective to OPL and will share her insights, experiences, and recommended back-to-nature excursions with the OPL community.

We recently sat down with Yvonne and asked her five questions which she gladly answered.

What exactly is a naturalist?

A naturalist is also commonly referred to at times as a nature lover, tree hugger, natural historian, senior or junior National Park Ranger, or outdoors woman.  It incorporates many facets of studying and understanding our impact on one another, human impact on other species of life, and our impact on the environment in which we live. 

As a naturalist, I  spend a lot of time in nature through activities such as hiking, biking, bird  watching, camping, canoeing, fishing, foraging, snowshoeing, skiing, and  forest bathing. I love to record what I see by taking tons of pictures and to write in a journal recording my personal experience and then share what I have observed and learned with family, friends, colleagues, and patrons throughout my many careers. 

I am considered a native naturalist. My experience has been a lifetime of observation, growth, knowledge,  conservation, and volunteer environmental stewardship. 

Naturalist Yvonne Dwyer Collage
What made you become a naturalist?

It has always been my passion to learn more about nature, discovering this naturally beautiful world year-round in all elements. My love for nature began at the age of seven in a little community on Oneida Lake in Upstate New York. The front of my home faced the lake, and acres of woods were my backyard. One day, I found some bi-fold doors in the trash and dragged them into the wilderness to create a fort. It was quite a creative fortress that I built, and it enabled me to spend time outside. The incredible beauty of the ground cedar, mulberry trees, wildflowers, raspberries, and other foliage that surrounded my fort year-round was captivating. As a young Girl Scout, being outside and participating in hiking, camping, scavenger hunts, and creating arts and crafts from an array of flowers was always exciting to me. Thus was the beginning of a lifelong love for the great outdoors and becoming a naturalist.

What have you gained by spending time in nature?

Experiencing our natural world has helped me to slow down, take in the beauty that unfolded before my eyes, and reflect on simplicity, diversity,  sustainability, and conservation. Whether it be in our local, state, or National Parks, the Adirondacks, the North Country National Scenic Trail, our Rails to Trails, the ocean, a rainforest, or in other countries like Canada, the Bahamas, or, as far away as, New Zealand.  By using my senses to embrace the environment, my excitement of gratitude, respect, and awe continues to grow as I recognize how fortunate I am to experience this love of being outdoors. I love watching the many species of birds fly, how they nest, and how they take care of their young.

What are your thoughts about human impact on nature and the environment?

Sustainability is intricately connected to nature through the air that we breathe, the water we drink, and the food that we plant and eat. We are continually learning more regarding our daily impact on the environment by studying the interesting formation of rocks, glaciers, different sea shells and fossils along our ocean coasts, foliage in the rainforest, plants and healing, and of course, the importance of mammals, aquatic animals, reptiles, and coral. Environmental health goes hand in hand with our own individual health, wellness, and fitness, both mentally and physically.

What can individuals do to make a positive impact on the health of our planet?

There are so many things that individuals can do to sustain our planet. One way to get started is to experience nature and share our love of the planet with others. While working at REI, I lived the core purpose of the company, which is to “inspire, educate, and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship.” Anytime you get the opportunity to work with an amazing group of individuals who are passionate about conservation and outdoor sustainability, it changes you.  Understanding the impact of my choices allowed me to make new choices.  For example, I am diligent about leaving no trace in all outdoor activities.  This single action protects the natural areas from trash, polluting the water and harming wildlife.    This ripples into other areas of awareness and changes from the clothes that we wear, the tools that we use for outdoor recreation, the food we eat, and the impact on our carbon footprint.

At the end of the day, our goal should be to be great stewards of this earth — our home — to create a culture of love, understanding, community, diversity, sustainability, and conservation in a manner that our planet can say, “Thank you.”