What advice would you give to beginning naturalists? What are the particular challenges of being a naturalist in the Midwest?
A beginning naturalist needs to feed on their natural curiosity. Usually the first step is finding some good books to assign a name to a critter, but before long the curious person begins to observe behavior, which only creates more questions and an opportunity to observe and find answers. The mysteries never end. I don’t consider being a naturalist in the Midwest a particular challenge but rather a unique opportunity. Although we might not have the environment for endemic species like one might find elsewhere, we have shown in the past few years that the Midwest is home to adventurers. What species are pushing the envelope to expand their populations our way? Is there a relationship between this expansion and climatic change? Are there species retractions related to these same issues?
What are your favorite natural areas in the Midwest? What areas do you return to constantly, and what's your favorite newly visited area?
Wow, that’s a tough question because my favorite is usually the last one I visited. We are lucky here in the Midwest to have such a variety of habitats within close driving distance no matter what your state of residence. I’ve always been somewhat partial to any area around the Mississippi River, although the boggy forests of northern Minnesota and the beautiful rivers of the Missouri Ozarks also have a lot of appeal. Some of my local favorites here in south central Iowa include many of the lesser-known county parks where few people visit and exciting discoveries await the adventurer.
Ann Johnson, Dragonflies and Damselflies in Your Pocket: A Guide to the Odonates of the Upper Midwest