St. Lawrence University
Nature Up North

Grant year(s)

2013

Principal investigator(s)

Erika Barthelmess and Mary Hussmann

Project description

Nature Up North is a community-based organization whose mission is to “foster a deeper sense of appreciation for, and connection to, the North Country environment and in doing so to create a bioregionally literate community that is committed to protecting the wild things and wild places that define this place we call home.” The North Country region of New York State stretches from the St. Lawrence River and the state’s northern most border, which it shares with Canada, south to the Adirondack Park, and from Lake Ontario at its west to Lake Champlain and the border of Vermont on the eastern side of the state. The region is abundant in natural resources, including rivers, lakes, ponds, forest, fertile farmland, and the foothills of the majestic Adirondack Mountains. Rivers, such as the Raquette River that originates in the Adirondacks, offer not only opportunities for recreation, but also windows into the natural and geological history of the region and the history of its towns and villages. Yet even with abundant opportunities to hike, canoe, ski, skate or otherwise appreciate the outdoors, very few people in the region actually get outdoors to exercise and take advantage of the natural environment, and even fewer think about or contribute to local or regional conservation or natural resource management efforts.

In a world increasingly dominated by technology and defined by a growing sense of apathy toward the natural world, Nature Up North seeks to build an environmental community in northern New York using the technological tools with which people are most familiar. The goal of Nature Up North is to use technology to encourage and enhance outdoor experiential learning. Using web-based technology, Nature Up North enables the sharing of experiences and observations in nature through artistic inspiration and scientific data collection, and allows people to connect with nature in the ways they are most comfortable, whether through science, art, photography or writing. It is an important goal of the organization to foster a journey of discovery about the North Country environment, the people who inhabit it, and the inextricable connections between the two.

With support from the Henry David Thoreau Foundation, faculty leaders Erika Barthelmess and Mary Hussman have trained St. Lawrence undergraduates to be environmental educators who help to plan, design, and deliver outreach programming that explores local ecosystems, species at-risk due to climate change, the impacts of human activities on the environment, and how to collect and analyze local scientific data. Students have worked closely with local K-12 teachers and students and also played a key role in generating content for and maintaining the Nature Up North website and its virtual nature center.

More information

Program website