What is a Naturalist?
And what is
a Naturalist indeed? Many people have applied for membership to the
Appalachian Naturalist mailing list thinking it is about Naturism. It
is not; the two are very different. A Naturalist is a person who
studies the natural world, and quite often is a generalist, as I tend
to be. I am interested in everything out there. In college, I was
studying Botany, but when I went to graduate school, my interest became
animals. In truth I have always been interested in everything
practically from the time I was born; trees, plants, grasses, sedges,
salamanders, frogs, turtles, snakes, and everything else. I am a jack
of all trades, as my professor Dr. Randall described himself, in an age
of specialization. I almost specialized, but ultimately refused to do
so, therefore never quite finishing graduate school, and never finding
work in the Biological Sciences field.
My greatest respect has always been for the
Naturalists of past eras, such as John Bartram, John J. Audubon,
Alexander Wilson, Charles Darwin, and Carolus Linnaeus. These men were
proficient in all aspects of Biology for their day even though some of
them specialized in one thing or another. Wilson and Audubon
specialized in birds, Bartram specialized in plants, but they all knew
enough about the natural world that they could do quite well talking to
each other; I have seen Biologists who knew nothing about the natural
world outside their field. Indeed I knew a professor who studied
Magnolias. When shown a Tulip Tree (Yellow Poplar, Tulip Poplar) he did
not know what it was even though it is in the Magnolia family! I was quite stunned.
So a Naturalist is a generalist, interested in
everything out there, and I call myself an Appalachian Naturalist since
I am a native of these Mountains, and am a Naturalist.
Thank you, and enjoy!