Durango Nature Studies


Understanding nature is critical in this changing world

If you are like me, your morning routine isn’t complete until you’ve checked Jeff Givens’ latest forecast.

His blog, durangoweatherguy.com, is bookmarked on all my devices, and he is frequently referenced among the Durango Nature Studies’ team as well as among my friends. Based on Jeff’s following, I know I’m not alone. This week, we have celebrated the snow, but we have had our fair share of disappointments with busted forecasts recently. It is clear that our region is seeing less precipitation annually.

When I was a teenager here in the 1980s, I remember snow starting to fall in October, and by December, we had accumulations that would last through February, at least. We could ski and sled at Chapman Hill all winter, and there was no snowmaking there back then.

Last weekend’s Durango Herald had a couple of front-page stories about climate change. Those that rely on natural resources for their livelihood are poignantly aware of the changes. Ranchers and farmers are adapting to more extreme weather conditions. Outdoor outfitters are also keenly aware of climate changes. Military leaders understand climate change significantly affects our national security.

While I don’t want to sound like a broken record, we all need to do our part to curb greenhouse gas emissions. We also need to adapt to rapid changes. The Southwest is expected to become drier and hotter. America’s East Coast is becoming wetter and warmer. Coastal areas will lose land mass to rising seas. Ignoring these changes makes it only more costly to us all in lives and dollars.

The next generation is inheriting some significant challenges, and they will need to understand the natural world to be able to adapt to and address those challenges. While it is important to engage our political leaders now, it is also critical to prepare tomorrow’s leaders. This is the reason I shifted from working in environmental policy to environmental education.

There is a growing disconnect between children and the natural world. In our region, we buck national trends given our proximity to an abundance of natural treasures and a demographic that enjoys these natural resources, but the fact remains that most youths do not know the natural world like their grandparents did.

Durango Nature Studies staff and volunteer naturalists diligently work to increase students’ understanding of environmental science. We have the privilege of partnering with Durango School District 9-R and other schools throughout the Four Corners to provide experiential education programs that align with Colorado’s education standards and performance indicators from kindergarten through eighth grade. We are passionate about fostering curiosity and instilling a deeper understanding and love of nature in the students with whom we work.

This fall, 1,800 students participated in our education programs. From mid-January through February, we’ll work with another 1,000 students – primarily in fourth and sixth grades – to introduce them to the wonderful world of winter adaptations and snowpack science. These programs take place on snowshoes, providing students with a fun and unique way to learn.

If you want to help introduce future generations to scientific concepts connected to the natural world, consider joining us as a volunteer naturalist. We’ll host our naturalist trainings in early January. For more information, just drop me a line. We need all the help we can get at this stage.

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