Date of Award

5-2002

Level of Access

Campus-Only Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Ecology and Environmental Sciences

Advisor

George J. Jacobson

Second Committee Member

Ray B. Owen

Third Committee Member

Malcolm L. Hunter

Abstract

I began this graduate program with the understanding that an interdisciplinary program of study would allow me to satisfy my curiosity in a wide range of topics as I strive to become a better writer about the natural world. I wanted a deeper understanding of the places I worked to save as a conservationist, and I wanted to become a naturalist, like the many contemporary authors I have read and admired, most notably Terry Tempest Williams, Barry Lopez, Richard Nelson, and David Duncan. What I see now is that, while I am pleased with my improvement as a writer, and I certainly have more to offer as a conservationist, this is only one small step forward along my path. For me, becoming a naturalist will be a lifelong pursuit. Each question I answered through coursework and guided exploration led to new questions and a greater appreciation for the complexity of the natural world. I find that in order to truly know the plants and wildlife of my world, I need to be out there, out in the wild, out of my self, much more than I was able to be these past three years. It is not simply a process of learning the names of the many living organisms that we live amongst, which can so easily be forgotten, but a continuous relearning, a commitment to observation and discipline that I am only beginning to develop. My work as a conservationist will continuously need to be fed by knowledge about relationships between wild things and place: wild place and domesticated place, the places of argument and anger where policy and people clash, the places of joy and an intimacy with the land that few of us truly experience, or at the very least, not often enough. The writing that follows is my attempt to understand better a few places that have special meaning to me, to convey to others the beauty and complexity of our world, and to show that writing science can be as creative as we allow it to be. My journey is not going to end here, and my curiosity will not be satiated. Section one, Ecological Writing for the Public, is comprised of a selection of articles written for Cobscook Bay Soundings, a newspaper column on the ecology of Cobscook Bay 5 (sponsored and edited by the Maine Chapter of The Nature Conservancy), an article on vernal pools, text for a website on peatlands, and an article on Canada lynx in Maine. Writing for the public is a great challenge for me. I must balance scientific information with a need to write in a language that is easily understood by a wide range of readers. I have to work within the parameters established by the institution requesting the written material, which often means separating my emotional attachment to the subject matter from the writing process. I feel, and have been told, this often leads to writing that is lacking in passion and poetry, particularly when compared to writing that follows in the latter sections of this portfolio. Still, this type of writing, whether it allows me to be as creative as I would like or not, is a necessary tool for getting valuable information out to the public, who perhaps may then use the information to become active participants in policy making processes that govern our interactions with the natural world. Or, better yet, inspire them to learn about their place in the world more intimately. The challenge remains for me to continue toward a way of writing that integrates science with poetic language when appropriate. Section two, Approaches to Fisheries Research and Management, is my attempt to capture just a small bit of the experiences I had in getting to know some of the people of Cobscook Bay. I had the good fortune to cross paths with the Cobscook Bay Resource Center staff as part of my work writing Cobscook Bay Soundings, which led to my assisting with the start up of an oral history project on commercial fishermen of Cobscook Bay. In addition, I attended the Cobscook Bay Fishery Forums for the past three years, and am deeply impressed by the coming together of divergent interests at these events, as well as the emergence of the Cobscook Bay Fishermen's Association and their subsequent efforts to conserve the resources and maintain the economic sustainability of the bay. Completing the case study allowed me to pursue a writing exercise that required observation of a community based effort to participate in the policy making process and analysis of the results of these efforts. I still feel this is in draft form, and will watch with interest as the story of the Cobscook Bay Fishermen's Association continues to unfold. 6 Sections two and three, Personal Essays and Poetry and Fiction, reveal where my heart lies. I feel my best writing comes from experience and direct interaction with the natural world, and in a format that allows the poet inside to emerge. My experiences shown here are all fed by a deep curiosity about natural processes, human interactions with wild creatures, and the natural histories of the incredible diversity of living organisms who share our world. This is by no means a finished product. It is merely a sampling of work that I produced partly to complement my coursework as an Ecology and Environmental Sciences student, and partly out of the sheer joy of expressing my love and need for wild places and wild things. Enjoy.

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