Photo by Len Moser
BY BROOKE KAPELLER
The Grasslands Naturalists (GN) Society is a group of passionate naturalists working toward improving stewardship efforts in southeastern Alberta, sharing our knowledge and passion through educational programs, and getting outside to enjoy the diversity of life in this corner of the province. Operating out of Medicine Hat, the first recorded meeting of the club was in September 1985, and we have been active in the region ever since.
Some of our main activities include: managing the Medicine Hat Interpretive Program, offering regular field trips for Hatters, indoor presentations, and a regularly published newsletter called the Sagebrush Chronicle. The formation of the Issues Committee many years ago has given the society an avenue to more fully explore local environmental issues. When a member has an issue they would like discussed, the Issues Committee is there to mentor, assist, and figure out a way forward for GN to act.
Our most recent initiative, in partnership with the Southeast Alberta Watershed Alliance, is the Adopt-a-Pond program. This program asks folks to visit a pond near where they live or work once every week or two and give it some love; hum a tune, write a poem, sing, whatever brings joy! On the practical side, we also ask people to pick up any litter and report any invasive species they see. It’s a lovely marriage of art and science. We have identified around 20 ponds in Medicine Hat, and have had volunteers adopt each and every one of them!
This story from one of the volunteers highlights the success of this program:
“I headed out to our ‘wetland’ we are tending to this year… As we were strolling and picking up debris, a random kiddo came up with a bag. She asked if she could help, and we got to chatting. This 11-year-old rattled off the importance of helping out your community, doing your part ,and being caring during a pandemic. She wondered if my regular visits could be scheduled around her roller derby evening, so she could keep assisting… Oh, little random kiddo, you helped me more tonight than just picking up trash for an hour!”
We are very proud of the success of this program; not just because of the stewardship that is occurring in our city, but because of the connections that are being formed through these acts of community service. After all, if we have learned anything during this pandemic, it is the importance of human connection.
Our next initiative is planning a climate change symposium in Medicine Hat. We are very aware of the impacts that climate change will have in southeast Alberta, and we want to create an accessible forum for Hatters to discuss solutions specific to our region. We will build on our foundations of community connection in planning this event, and we are looking forward to it being a positive and engaging experience for our community.
For more about our club, programs, and events, please visit grasslands-naturalists.org.
Brooke Kapeller is a member of the Grasslands Naturalists Society and Nature Alberta. She works in the environmental non-profit field.
This article originally ran in Nature Alberta Magazine - Fall 2021