I grew up outdoors. In my hometown of High Springs, Florida, my days were spent walking trails, swimming in springs, catching toads and snails, and making beads out of river mud. My mom guided my path to conservation both then and now. As a middle-school science teacher and librarian, she instilled in me an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.
One of my early memories is walking around outside, looking at butterflies, and feeling distraught with the thought that I had already asked all the world’s questions and that there was nothing more left to know. I was wrong, very wrong, thankfully. Then and now, I have found plentiful questions and answers in nature. From the swinging bridge of O’Leno State Park – How does this work? Who built this? – to the waters of Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park – Why are they so blue? – I found wonder, freedom, and truth in the outdoors.
Fast-forward to 2021 and my curiosity for nature is as strong as ever. Thanks to amazing opportunities like the UF/IFAS Master Naturalist Program, I have been able to visit many natural wonders around Tallahassee. I wish every Floridian and Conservation Voter could witness the beauty I’ve experienced: the tiny but mighty dwarf cypress of Tate’s Hell State Forest, the pitcher plants of Florida’s flatwood habitats, the sunsets over the rolling dunes of Grayton Beach. In nature, my imagination runs wild. Along winding paths, the busy-ness of the world falls away. The complications of work and politics fall like leaves, gently landing and crunching beneath my feet. There is a simplicity in nature that cannot be replicated or mimicked. The sounds of crickets and smell of a coming rain are as much a part of me as my family and friends. The outdoors wrap me in a blanket of warm sunshine and says, “welcome home.”
But despite the hope and inspiration I find with every hike and paddle, there is fear. Fear that my generation may be the last to experience natural Florida. Fear that if road developers have their way, these special places will be only a memory. I owe it to Florida to try and save her. I help conserve our water and land every day, thanks to the thousands of you who take action to protect our state’s natural resources.
2021 has shown me just how important the outdoors is for my emotional nourishment and my community’s well-being. Long walks and gardening have gotten me through the tumultuous turns of the pandemic and I am thankful for the ability to get outside every day.
I was very privileged to grow up with an appreciation and passion for the outdoors. Not every girl is as lucky. That’s why I’m here. As a communicator, it’s my job to ensure that Floridians know why our environment is so special and what they can do to protect it. My job is to uplift the beauty of Florida – our prairies, swamps, and species – and uplift Conservation Voters’ voices as they advocate to protect those things.
My conservation story is simple: My mom instilled in me a love for nature. I pass on that passion to the next generation of young, curious girls, and advocate on their behalf so they can have places to play, learn, and explore, for years and years to come.