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Rutgers Naturalist club exposes students to outdoors

<p>Courtesy of Olivia La Warn | The Naturalist Club meets every other Wednesday and helps students connect with nature. The club also helps clean up polluted sites, with the next major project being the Arbor Trail. The club hopes to have it ready for Rutgers Day.</p>

Courtesy of Olivia La Warn | The Naturalist Club meets every other Wednesday and helps students connect with nature. The club also helps clean up polluted sites, with the next major project being the Arbor Trail. The club hopes to have it ready for Rutgers Day.

To strengthen their connection to nature, members of the Rutgers Naturalist Club will be hiking the Arbor Trail on Douglass campus and planting seeds along the way. 

A naturalist is someone who likes being outside and also enjoys learning about it, which is a large part of the Rutgers Naturalist Club, said Olivia Le Warn, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore.

"We like learning and activities like bird watching and taking the skills from our classes and really applying them outside,” she said. 

Students can still call themselves a naturalist, even if they do not love roaming around outside, said Angela Monaghan, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior.

“Maybe you like how plants make you feel, or you enjoy learning about different animals that are outside," she said. "Maybe you look at the birds from your window and can identify the different birds that come to the bird feeder. I think there’s just having a general interest in nature."

The club’s main focus this semester is the Arbor Trail, which they hope to finish revamping by Arbor Day, Le Warn said.

On April 16, the club is going to have a cleanup project to remove the trash located at the trail, she said. On April 23, they are going to replant native plants and on on Arbor Day, they are going to formally reopen it, coinciding with Rutgers Day.

The officers are also excited about a guest speaker who will provide insight for interested club members, Monaghan said.

The guest speaker, Lindsay Napolitano, owns a permaculture farm, which blends ecology and farming. She grows medicinal herbs and is with the Community Supported Agriculture club, Monoghan said. 

Not only has the club helped the environment, but its members have grown closer and connected throughout their experiences together, Monaghan said.

“A lot of us have become friends over the period of time that we’ve been in the club, and we seem to get pretty comfortable pretty quickly with each other," she said. "There’s a lot of bonding going on and finding likeminded people is really helpful in such a big university setting." 

We all care so much about nature and have similar interests, so it’s easy to make friends, Le Warn said.

The club usually meets on alternate Wednesdays in the G.H. Cook Room at the Cook Campus Center, according to the club’s Facebook page.

“Myself or the other officers will come up with an agenda beforehand and we’ll go over the agenda (at meetings), and talk about upcoming trips like hikes, future hikes, different projects," Monaghan said. "Right now we’re focusing on the Arbor Trail, which is located behind the Rutgers University Inn and Conference Center." 

Members of the club can also contribute to the open discussions at the club's meetings, Le Warn said.

“A lot of people are from New Jersey and they’ll know little secret spots that we can go to. So we’ll ask if anyone knows any places to hike, to camp. Our meetings are relaxed because most of the things that we are doing are going out on trips and that’s fun,” she said.

Kelsey Kaskoun, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, said she joined the club because she was raised by parents who love to hike and go on outdoor adventures. She was also looking for a change and a way to meet new people. 

“The club is growing. Last semester, our attendance at meetings increased," Monaghan said. "But it had also been kind of difficult for us to figure out what we needed to do and how to accomplish our goals. This semester we’ve really gotten it together and we’re making stuff happen." 

Usually during the more rare events, a lot more people will come that we don’t recognize, Le Warn said.

There are about 30 or 40 of the same faces during the clubs regular meetings, she said. 

Students have several ways to join the club if they are interested, Le Warn said.

“Like us on Facebook. Write a message to us. I have an under an hour response rate. Once we’ve gotten your information, we can add you to our Sakai site. You’ll get all the information you need. Just coming to a trip or two, you really will just like find your groove,” Le Warn said.

Kaskoun also encouraged other students to attend at least one meeting and hopefully become involved with the club.

“The executive board is great," Kaskoun said. "They're all passionate and brainstorm fun activities for almost every weekend in the month. We're a group of really down to earth people, from a variety of majors. Also, think of all the cool Instagram posts you could have if you joined."


Nicole Osztrogonacz is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in English. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum. Find her on Twitter @nikki_osz for more.

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