Rutgers Naturalist Club gives students unique chance to explore nature
Every weekend, the Rutgers Naturalist Club gives students an opportunity to get away from urban New Brunswick and enjoy nature.
James Duffy, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, is the club's secretary. He said that the club welcomes anyone with an interest in the outdoors or in naturalism.
“A lot of Rutgers students don't have cars, or they don't have the funds to get off campus and do these types of things,” Duffy said. “So we're an avenue for Rutgers students to get outside, go camping, even when maybe they wouldn't be able to afford it or have access to it otherwise.”
Olivia Le Warn, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior, is the president of the Naturalist Club.
She said that the club takes weekend hiking trips to local nature reserves. In the past, these trips have been to areas such as Sourland Mountain, Cheesequake State Park and Round Valley Reservation.
“We try to keep it local on the weekend trips so people who only have a couple hours in their weekend can hang outside, then come back and study or do whatever they have to do,” Le Warn said.
The club also schedules at least one larger camping trip each semester, she said. These trips are often several hours' drive away. Last year for spring break the club went camping at Crabtree Falls in Virginia.
Le Warn said that because the club's activities are contingent on the weather, interest is generally low in the winter.
“This semester it's been cold, and we aren't trying to make people suffer to enjoy our club,” she said. “So our big trip this semester is we're going camping April 14, 15 and 16. We're also going to do treetop adventure, which is an obstacle course right next to Turtleback Zoo. We're doing that on April 1.”
Duffy said sometimes plans for a trip have to be changed if the weather does not cooperate. Last semester, the planned camping trip was canceled and instead the club went to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.
Le Warn said that the club also holds on-campus activities for members, such as building terrariums, planting seedlings and spray painting tee-shirts.
Additionally, the club tables at "Rutgers Day," Duffy said. Normally they will sell plants that are good for the local wildlife or provide some educational activity for kids such as teaching about the planting process.
Although some of these activities may appeal more narrowly to students with a strong interest in naturalism, Le Warn said that the club attracts members from a variety of academic backgrounds.
“We do have a lot of people who use the Naturalist Club to engage in things other than their classes,” she said. “So we do have a fair amount of liberal arts majors, and science majors that aren't related to the environment. It's just a way to relax, because (the club) is pretty chill. People don't have to dedicate their lives to saving the environment to enjoy planting plants.”
Le Warn said that typical club meetings have between 20 and 30 people, and trips usually have 10 to 20 people.
She said that the club is very informal, and anyone who has interest and free time is welcomed at their meetings, which are every other Wednesday at 8 p.m. in the Cook Student Center.
Duffy said that the club's lax attitude is possible because they do not collect dues from members. Practically all of the funding for activities and trips is provided by the governing council of the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences. At most, members may have to contribute a few dollars for food on camping trips.
Le Warn said that the club is currently preparing for its April camping trip. Anyone who is interested is encouraged to contact the club via its Facebook page, The Rutgers Naturalist Club.
“For our bigger trips, we're always keeping an eye on the weather for the weeks leading up to it, trying to figure out what's happening,” Le Warn said. “But you can't predict the weather, so we just try to be as flexible as possible.”
Maxwell Marcus is a School of Arts and Sciences senior. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.