Group photo

Beyond the Trail: The Art of Science

Historical reenactor Mike Adams stole the show at the first event of “Beyond the Trail: the Art of Science,” held at Palmetto Leaves Regional Park, when he brought to life William Bartram. Participants heard first-hand what it was like for “Billy” to experience Florida in all of its grandeur and mysteriousness as a traveler in the late 1700s:

Reenactor speaking to group.

“I heard a noise about 10 feet from where I set up camp; snarling and scratching. I went to investigate but caught just a blurred glimpse. He was big and dog-like, but this was no ordinary dog. He had whiskers, like long needles, jutting out from under his slender nose, and a tail—big and bushy. I creeped over and saw a hole. I got down on all fours and looked the beast in the eye. All I could see were its beady yellow eyes staring back at me. What was it? Well…”

Participants had a great time learning about successful nature writers who have made impacts in the environment and the public’s understanding of current conservation issues, such as William Bartram.

After an entertaining presentation, full of collected artifacts to pass around, students and community partners set out on kayaks in Julington Creek to recover litter left behind from Hurricane Irma. Participants did not let anything stand in their way from reaching plastic bags, bottles and wrappers hiding in the trees along the shoreline.

To wind down from the paddle, participants put their observational skills to the test and wrote about their experiences from the paddle, like true nature writers.

“I am always impressed by how quickly nature seems to take back what is hers. The wooden docks along the bank, if not properly maintained, slowly begin to decompose. The plants are swift to move in and pull things back into the water and mud. One can imagine a day in the future when little or no evidence of our invasive species exists. Aside from the occasional heron flying over-head, there appears to be very little wildlife visible to us. However, you get the feeling that they are everywhere, surrounding us, awaiting the sundown to then emerge and begin their activities”  

                                           —Joaquin Morales– B.T.T. Participant

Everyone left happy, after joyous conversations shared over lunch. The day was a great kickoff to the series, and it will be exciting to see what the next event has in store!

Group paddling
Group paddling on Julington-Durbin Creek. Photo credit Genevieve Day.



Botanical Illustration with the Preserve Ambassadors

Last Friday, five UNF students joined the ELP’s Preserve Ambassadors Team—partnered with Florida Master Naturalist and artist, Sarah Crooks—on UNF’s nature trails for a botanical illustration workshop. The free event started with a discussion of what botanical illustration is and why it’s used, followed by a guided hike on the trails. From the insight of Ms. Crooks, and project leaders Molly O’Brien and Kyle Kenney, we learned a lot about the flora and fauna of our preserve and how to identify our surroundings. After some inspiration, it was time to put our observation skills to the test with some leaf sketching.

Without warning, we were given 2 minutes to sketch our leaves from memory. When we don’t remember every detail of something, our brains will fill the gaps with made up details. One of my major improvised inaccuracies was vein placement; I made them all branching from the middle rather than from the stem base [pictured: First attempt]. We were made aware that we don’t pay too close attention to our surroundings if we don’t find it necessary, which is something I think most people should strive to work on.

Ms. Crooks attempted to bring us outside of our heads and our habits of control and had us draw the leaf solely based on what we saw. She had us imagine we were tiny ants exploring all the details and boundaries of the leaf. While our eyes moved around the leaf, our hands drew on paper – instructed not to look at the paper we were drawing on. I got a little lost and had trouble ending my leaf where we started, but it was a fun attempt [pictured: Second attempt]

She led us through some warm-up exercises and shared techniques, like continuous tone shading and the weighted line, that would bring our drawings to life and help capture the plant’s true essence (with some more practice of course).  For the final sketch attempt, we could look at both our paper and our leaves. These drawings were far different from the first, more detailed and realistic [pictured: Third attempt]. It was as if these leaves had a unique character to them that we had overlooked in our first attempt. I can only imagine how much more we could have developed our drawings with more time and practice, but the brief time drawing was enough to clear our minds and make us all feel recharged and relaxed. Do yourselves a favor and spend some time with nature; and when you do, open your eyes and really “see” all that’s around you.