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Susan Sawyer, Featured ScientistFeatured Scientist:
Susan Sawyer

I work as a naturalist, artist, and teacher for the Vermont Institute of Natural Science at our North Branch Nature Center in Montpelier. It's a small community nature center, and I get to do a lot of different things - teaching nature study to adults and children in local communities, leading drawing classes, planting the butterfly garden, and taking care of animals. I live in South Woodbury, Vermont with my chairmaker husband.

I think I knew I wanted to be a naturalist when I was about eight years old. I always spent as much time as I could outdoors, in the pond and in the woods - in Vermont in the summer, and back in Grinnell, Iowa during the school year. I liked to watch things - birds, bugs, frogs, flowers, and I wanted to know their names and lives. I was encouraged by (among others) my wonderfully witty and charismatic great aunt Frances, a naturalist, who showed me the roots of goldthread and the hidden flowers of wild ginger, and made plants seem very interesting. My birdwatcher mother was glad for my company on her walks, and my father kindly supplied field guides, inexpensive binoculars and a microscope. At New College, in Sarasota, Florida, I studied field ecology and botany, and also printmaking, calligraphy, and letterpress. I was glad for the chance to count birds at rookeries, collect mangrove seedlings, and generally muck around outside and gain a better understanding of how things work together. I was also committed to making things that I could look at, and that I hoped could express visually the wonder of what I saw around me.

After college, I came back to northern Vermont, to the same old house and woods and pond where I grew up. I worked at making art for very little money, and also on farms, mostly picking apples or milking cows. Later I raised three kids, who are 18, 21, and 24 now, while making and selling art quilts, substitute teaching, and volunteering in the same VINS program I now work for. I went to graduate school in art when my youngest started first grade. I've been with VINS since 1993. I have also taught art and natural science in the Adult Degree Program of Vermont College for many years.

My interest in vernal pools grew out of my love for all kinds of wet places - fens, ponds, brooks, and rivers - and all the things you can see there. Starting in 1995, I helped develop vernal pool curriculum for VINS' Environmental Citizenship program. I learned about the pools as I went, by visiting them, reading, and talking to lots of people who know way more than I do. It has been very satisfying to find many others who love and want to protect these places.

National Science Foundation Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Maine Forest Products Council Irving Woodlands, LLC Desiree Carlson, M.D. More Connected. More Maine.

Major funding is provided by the National Science Foundation.
Additional funding is provided by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine Forest Products Council, Irving Woodlands LLC., Desiree Carlson, M.D., and gifts to More Connected. More Maine, The Campaign for Maine Public Broadcasting Network's Programming.

A list of other funders includes:
The Davis Family Foundation, Margaret E. Burnham Charitable Trust, and Lincoln Ladd.

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