FT Traveler & Naturalist

I wasn’t sure if I should post here or in the General forum. I am a full time traveler who has spent most of my life in the animal care field albeit primarily with domestic animals, I did have some time as a volunteer animal ambassador at the Bronx (New York) Zoo. I am about to embark on extensive travel and often hike and like to go off trail (carefully). I have a BS in Environmental Sciences but I sadly know very little about all the flora and fauna that’s really out there. One of my main goals to travel to for betterment - of myself and the world around me. I was wondering if it’s possible to network with people throughout the states that might be willing to (safely with covid protocols in place) join me periodically for hikes to help teach me? I would be happy to teach or impart whatever I know in return whenever possible. I plan to utilize the app as much as possible as well but I really want to get the most out of my travel and would love to network with like-minded folks. I love to learn about everything so please share your wisdom regardless of what it’s in. I am expecting to be in the Gatlinburg, TN area towards the end of Feb/beginning of March and will be staying there for about a month before moving to a different part of the state. If anyone is interested in networking with me so we can share our knowledge I’d love to hear from you. Being originally from Long Island, NY we have very little diversity and especially very few things that can be dangerous but I know the rest of the country has some amazing flora and fauna. Hope to hear from folks (if this is the wrong board to post in please let me know and I can go to the right section).


That sounds awesome. I’m really looking forward to meeting more iNatters as the pandemic winds down. If you pass through the Richmond VA area, feel free to look me up - I’m happy to share what little knowledge I have!

Thank you, I do plan to go through that area as there seems to be much to do in that whole vicinity. As I make my way I’ll give you a holler

At some point you may want to take a moment to dig back in to your landscape of origin, Long Island- while development has homogenized many areas there, the portions that remain in relatively “natural” state host incredible biodiversity. If you go through a list of NY state’s rare plant species, about a third of them are primarily known from Long Island (and NY is actually a pretty large and diverse state!). Many specialized habitats are present, forests with some of the oldest and tallest trees you can find directly adjacent to the atlantic coastline, many carnivorous plants, snakes and amphibians that are rare overall, and the northern range limits of many southern ecologies mingling with species more typical further north. I hate the process of getting there, but in my limited experience Long Island is a place to go find exciting species and habitats.


Not really an answer to your question but is this a job position that allows you to travel and if so how do you obtain a position like that? I was thinking about going back to school for an ecology related field that would allow me to travel often (since I already try to go to places that I can hike/admire nature whenever I can, especially in the US). Just wondering the specifics like what major I’d have to pick and if you can make a living on it or if it’s mostly volunteer work or personal trips that keep you travelling. I already have a bachelors in Poli Sci and Writing but i need a career shift and I think that would be a perfect thing for me to do now that my current job will be ending soon.

Now to answer your question; if you’re ever back in the metro NYC area and want to go somewhere in NJ or into Upstate NY or Eastern PA, PM me and I can help you find a nice hike or go with you if I can. Also if this is going to be your first time in the Smoky Mountains, you’re in for a great time. If you want some great natural scenery outside of the park you have Caesar’s Head in South Carolina about 2.5 hours south of Gatlinburg and Catawba Falls in North Carolina about 2 hours east of it.

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Sounds like a dream job, if one can make a living at it.

I’m not sure where you’re going (it’s a big world even if it seems small sometimes), but if Japan is on your list I can help!

Nice idea, @BeKindNomad. Here is a procedure I have used to great advantage when traveling:
1- Choose a park or county that I’ll be visiting, and use the Explore tools to find out the top observers and identifiers at that place. Read their profiles to learn who might be a good person to contact.
2. Use iNaturalist direct message to contact that person, tell them when you’ll be coming and a bit about yourself, and ask if they’d be willing to be your local guide by monitoring your observations and helping ID them so you can learn as you go rather than waiting to get back home. (At this point I don’t ask them to meet me.)
3. If things go well, sometimes the person offers to meet in person or i can bring it up. And even if actual meeting doesn’t work out, the online help is invaluable.
Good luck with your travels! It’s great to learn that way.


Also, I should have mentioned in my first response, but if you ever travel to Niagara Falls- it’s not just a tourist attraction, it’s in the middle of a critical international biodiversity zone (designated Ramsar wetland site)! I work on habitat restoration projects in the Niagara Gorge regularly, and the Gorge itself as well as nearby sites on Grand Island and the rural areas south of Buffalo have some really special and unique places I’m happy to guide in or advise on. The Gorge is full of rare plants and strange habitats, and even has an endemic cicada species- hard to observe directly, but can be positively identified through audio recording of its call.


I’m going to strike a bit of a sour note here :disappointed:. Apologies in advance if this seems unkind, but many, many, many of us in the US have been sheltering for nearly a year.

How is traveling from place-to-place and meeting up with strangers outside your pod a betterment project during a pandemic?

I wonder if you could conceptualize your betterment goals a bit?

Actually, I could see how It may be somewhat safe (from the stand point of the pandemic anyway) if you are vaccinated, traveling by RV, and if you wait until your contacts are also vaccinated.


One of the most powerful things about iNaturalist is that it can open your eyes to what you may have otherwise overlooked. For example, there are over 8000 species from Long Island on iNaturalist. I suspect the count is inflated by some misidentifications and captive species, but it’s still impressive. For comparison, Great Smoky Mountains National Park has under 4000 species documented so far (for other reader’s context, Gatlinburg is the gateway to the Smokies, which is why I mention it), and it’s among the best-documented National Parks on iNat. Of course they are different sizes and there’s many more people on Long Island, but this is all to show that that biodiversity is all over the place, and if you turn on your iNaturalist eyes you might be surprised by what you find. The more people we have paying attention to, learning about, and advocating for biodiversity, the more we can do for it.

@janetwright has a good suggestion for how to use iNat to make connections. I recommend getting started now with iNaturalist so you get the hang of it before you hit the road. Be safe!


I knew this would happen. It doesn’t matter what kind of forum – Couchsurfing, TrueNudists, whatever – anytime someone mentions traveling, everyone in places the op didn’t mention chimes in. And rarely does anyone reply from a place the op did mention.

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“…but I know the rest of the country has some amazing Flora and Fauna” would seem to indicate the OP’s interest in hearing about all sorts of places. Their note that they’re looking at the Gatlinburg area and TN more generally in the near-term future did not, to my reading, suggest that replies should be limited to folks in that area. Who knows where they’ll head after that. Of course people from other places chimed in!

More broadly yes, that is often the case when asking questions in a global forum. There may or may not be anyone in on the conversation in the Gatlinburg area. That doesn’t mean all of us respondents are just ignoring the OP’s actual question- the full post implied both broader long-term and specific short-term geographic bounds.


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