The article below was first written for the Free Radicals Blog and is being shared again at my personal blog below. Find the original post here.
I led a group of college students on a field ecology trip to the Adirondacks in the fall of 2016. As I prepared for the trip, it occurred to me that their experience with camping and hiking would vary. Some people are to the outdoors as Beyonce is to the stage, raised in nature’s glow and clad in Gortex as she was in sequins. Others might have a little exposure to nature, like children given wine at the dinner table: introduced early enough to play it cool in later encounters. What excited me were the students for whom the word stakes only invoked dinner or gambling, not shelter. I looked forward to watching their reactions to the torrential downpour we would sleep through and the effusive sun meeting the horizon the next morning. How incredible would it be to witness someone’s nascent relationship with nature take shape?
I realized disdainfully that I would hardly see this moment during the trip—almost every student in the group had already spent plenty of time hiking. Their previous experience with the outdoors was likely the reason they had signed up for the class in the first place. Despite my initial excitement, the excursion ended up only sharpening the point of an old thorn: the racial divisions within natural spaces.
To document interesting ideas about science and nature and reflect on the experience of being a scientist from the margins.