Nature’s Notebook: Becoming a Volunteer Naturalist at Bernheim

By volunteer

BullfrogI have long admired the beauty and tranquility of Bernheim. The transition from the chaos of the outside world to the peace of Bernheim was evident each time I drove through the gates. My appreciation always ran deep, but my view of Bernheim (and indeed the world!) has been transformed since joining the volunteer Naturalist in Training program this past January.

The program is encouraging me to slow down and look closer at the world around me. Where I once found Bernheim to be a beautiful and peaceful retreat, The ‘About Bernheim’ course, our first course in the series of training opportunities, helped me to look closer. The forest was brought to life by the vision of Isaac Bernheim – a man with a story as inspiring as the land itself. This land, once scarred by decades of salt and iron ore mining, has blossomed into the 14,500 acres of beauty we enjoy today due to his unrelenting desire to connect people with nature.

The old me would always admire the trees. After a guided hike through the hollies with a seasoned Naturalist on an ECO Kids Saturday, now I look closer. I notice and appreciate the vast diversity of the Holly family, the uniqueness of the hackberry tree’s bark, and realize that some of our trees are vanishing from the face of the earth. The old me would be happy to capture a shot of a picture perfect pile of rocks next to a stream. After the Geology 100 class, I now take a closer look. I could spend hours looking at rocks, trying to identify New Albany Shale or even Louisville Limestone, hinting of a time millions of years ago when Kentucky lay under an ancient sea.

The old me would focus only on avoiding an accident on I65. I now take notice of the elevation change between Bernheim and Elizabethtown, realizing that I’m driving up onto the Mississippian Plateau. After the ‘Plants of Bernheim’ class, I appreciate the fact that my yard is more than just “green”. Rather, it is a community of floral life – Butterweed, daisy flea bane, mock strawberry, red dead nettle, and of course dandelion. Not only has Bernheim inspired me to look closer, but also to listen closer. On a recent quarter moon hike, what would have been to me “sounds of night”, were instead the utters of a bull frog with the occasional accompaniment of his cousin, the banjo sounding, green frog. There were the sounds of the soft prairie grass underfoot as we listened for the occasional American Woodcock fluttering and making its nasal “pent” call overhead.

My first four months in Bernheim’s Naturalist in training program have sharpened my senses and made me more curious about the world around me. I look forward to continuing to learn from the other Naturalists, and from the land itself.

Tara Eudy, Naturalist in Training since January 2016. Growing up in Wisconsin, she developed an appreciation of nature through frequent family camping trips and hours spent watching nature shows with her dad. By day she is an Army Financial Manager, spending her free time gardening and relaxing with her husband and two dogs.  Tara Eudy

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