Wondering how everyone got into nature in general? When I was 6 my dad got me my first turtle (a Common Musk named Boreas) I think that was really the breaking point in my childhood, But when I was young my late great grandmother would teach me about the natural world around me, telling me the names of different trees and birds which defiantly lead me towards it. Later on I had begin taking photos and keeping records of the photos taken; which most I lost. So iNat ended up being a perfect fit :-). What about you?
My mother is a chemist, and my father is a materials engineer. So it was kind of inevitable that they encouraged my curiosity and supported my learning about science at every opportunity. My parents were always pushing me to play outdoors, get my hands in the dirt, climb trees, and explore.
Even my grandparents are nature and science people. My grandpa loves nature photography, my nan was a vet and has had a lifelong love of gardening (especially orchids), and my grandmother has been a supporter of the ASPCA since basically forever.
My involvement with iNat has actually lent me an opportunity to talk with them more, whether it’s about the best camera to use, or tips on plant identification, or to share neat stuff I’ve discovered.
I had a stuffed dinosaur in stead of a teddy bear, a pet Bearded Dragon when most kids might get a dog (I wanted a snake… it was a compromise). The house was always full of animals: cats, guinea pigs, newts, lizards, ferrets – plus anything I brought home, my parents let me keep and do my best to keep alive – frogs, crayfish, inverts, tiny fish.
And we had shelves upon shelves full of books. Lots of science, as well as science fiction – and for the kids as well, books on animals and plants and geology and fossils, etc. Lots of trips to the library, where my parents would take books out a dozen at a time to sate my voracious appetite.
One of my favorite books as a kid was a huge tome called Animal. I would sit on the couch with a book fully half my size, and peruse the photos for hours, mesmerized.
I hope I can pass on the curiosity and enthusiasm my parents fostered in me on to my kids, when I eventually have the opportunity.
- when my parents used birdsong tapes instead of lullabies to help my brother and me fall asleep
- plastic dinosaurs and dinosaur books
I don’t know. I have always been interested in nature as far as i can remember. I also used to take and store pictures of interesting animals but have no way of IDing them, until i found out about iNaturalist :)
That moment that triggered What is That observation skills?
When my London-born mother explained that a Cape robin (as opposed to the one I saw on Christmas cards) has a white eyebrow.
First year botany introduced me to fynbos (similar to Californian chaparral) and that will keep me engrossed for the rest of my life. In tandem with gardening for biodiversity and hiking for wildflowers in our mountains.
My mother grew orchids (commercial horticultural ones) and I have since discovered a wealth of indigenous South African orchids.
Honestly, Pokemon. I feel so weird when people ask me this because everyone else has great stories about growing up on a farm or with exotic pets or something. I grew up in a city to a single parent who was always working, so i spent a lot of time alone at home or in her break room, playing gameboy. I mean sure I loved the zoo and going to the park and so on, but not especially.
Anyway, I grew up on pokemon and spent hours collecting them all, so i was super excited when Pokemon Go came out. It also happened to come out while I was studying in a different country, and i have never explored or walked more than in the first few months of that game being out.
But then I got bored of the game because it wasn’t the same as the gameboy games, and that’s when i realised Pokemon were real. Sort of. They didn’t have magical abilities, but they were all out there and I could go find them, and after i made that realisation i uninstalled Pokemon Go, Installed iNaturalist, and never looked back.
I’m still just a kit trying to catch them all, really.
I guess there is a bit more to it than that. I became very interested in Behavioural Neurocience while studying psychology undergrad and decided to persue a research career, that’s what lead me to doing some study overseas, so my love of animals is certainly way more than just collecting them all. But it really is Pokemon Go that put me on the wildlife observation iNaturalist path, though even without iNaturalist I’d still be eager to study animal behaviour and biology. Honestly that probably comes from playing pokemon when i grew up, too.
Very boring: I grew up in a small village with forests, meadows, streams, ponds and domestic animals and fowl, went fishing, crayfish hunting, berry and mushroom picking with my family, learned local names (and uses and myths) of plants and animals. My parents encouraged my reading and bought me books among which there were quite a lot of dealing with wildlife. This extended into the Durrell’ish hunting into the ponds for tadpoles, water scorpions, leeches and similar. Also keeping toads for pets and feeding them various insects. And many other enjoyable childhood things. I am so glad, there was no Inaturalist these days, or I would have achieved nothing in my life, would be spending half of my time in the nature another half at the computer.
Ditto that. There were no computers, smartphones, internet in my childhood (for which I’m thankful) and I was encouraged by my parents to find things to do outside on summer days. Started catching snakes, frogs, etc. in and around my neighborhood. Our living room was cluttered with aquaria and terraria containing tropical fish, salamanders, gerbils, snakes. My parents bought me books on nature, including field guides, and Roger Conant’s herp guide to eastern North America was one I pored over. The path into biology and nature study was an easy one for me.
My family. My mom and dad used to take us for long walks through all kinds of terrain (in fact my dad used to just like to ramble through woods–no trail necessary since he had an unerring sense of direction). He loved trees–we were always planting butternuts and pines and maples on three acres of land he owned in southeastern Pennsylvania (PA hereafter in this note), and the man had no fear of bears or any other wildlife that sauntered along. We lived near Pittsburgh for a while and would go to a park–Crooked Creek and walk. I remember picking teaberries there (haven’t seen them since). In northern PA, where we eventually moved, we picked wild blueberries and went fishing. My mom loves plants, so we spent our time gardening with her (there were wild turtles in the garden–we were not allowed to harass them), and she loves wild flowers, so a patch of trillium that came up wild in our garden was always carefully mowed around and never dug up for cultivated species. She also bought me my first butterfly net and books when she saw I loved butterflies. My grandmother took us mushroom foraging (she learned from her Ukrainian parents), so for a while I knew my edible mushrooms too. When I read about iNaturalist, I knew I had a chance to get back into some of the joys and interests of my childhood and celebrate what my family so carefully taught.
My garden, I’ve lived my whole live in the city, but we got very lucky with a large garden surrounded by ditches, I was always catching frogs and newts and all kind of insects. (My parents still live there, I’ve got a project for it: https://www.inaturalist.org/projects/stan-s-garden)
When I grew a bit older I lost my interest a bit and I was convinced there was no ‘real nature’ or any wildlife worth looking at in the Netherlands. Then I went to Australia with my parents when I was 15. We spent a month watching wildlife and when I came back home I missed it so much. So one time while skipping school I went to the city park and looked with the same eyes as I did in Australia and I suddenly noticed all these amazing creatures right on my doorstep, I’ve been a naturalist ever since.
I think it was a magnetic fishing game when I was about 3: a cardboard rectangle with underwater river scenes painted on it, some cardboard fish and a shrimp with iron rings through their heads, and a little magnet dangling from a stick. Or it might be that I was attracted to the game because I already had an innate interest in aquatic creatures.
Different vectors for different stages of life, for me:
-My bird freak great aunt had turned my mom into a bird freak as a kid. Then they both did the same to me as a kid, such that I got into birds like other kids got into dinosaurs.
-As a grownup, started to garden and needed to figure out if something was a “good” plant vs a “weed.”
-As a near-retiree, I got a patch of mountain forest land, and the first day walking in it looked around and realized I had almost no idea of what I was looking at.
Trying to figure out some of those mountain plants eventually brought me here, and now there’s a giant snowball of learning rolling down a mountain.
Not sure, I grew up in a small suburban area that had wooded areas and loved exploring them (I did manage to get my sister and I lost one time, my parents had most of the neighborhood looking for us, - fortunately it turned out fine).
I also loved climbing the pine trees that we had by our house (my mom didn’t for obvious reasons).
I didn’t find out about iNat till last yr, otherwise I would have been doing this earlier!
It seems like I’ve always been interested. From my childhood I remember books. My grandparents had a shelf of nature books some of which I inherited. My parents bought me most of the Golden Nature Guides and when we went to doctor appointments in Scranton Pa, the nearest city, we always stopped at a used book store that is gone now. And of course the school and public libraries were there.
And when I wasn’t reading I was in the yard looking under rocks and going for walks through the woods and fields. This was back when children could do that without parents being reported for negligence. Innocent times.
Reading Richard Dawkin’s books.
As a kid my mom was into bird-watching and gardening. At the time I wasn’t really interested, but got dragged along on birding trips. I was always so bored standing around waiting 20 minutes in the cold while they tried to id a far off bird that you could barely make out with binoculars. Gardening was just the same old thing every year. Go to the garden center to get some veggies, a flat or two of common annuals, and a perennial or two. It was cost prohibitive for us to do much more than that. I helped with the gardening tasks, but wasn’t very interested in plants as a kid.
Ironically, I think technology is what actually got me so much more into nature and it wasn’t until probably my mid-twenties. When I got my first digital camera with zoom, suddenly birding got more interesting. I could snap lots of photo, pull them up my computer to study the details, get input from others, and actually id things after the fact. Keeping life lists and sharing sightings on the various sites added another level to it that I enjoy.
Online gardening communities got me interested in growing plants from seed and online seed swapping. Suddenly I could afford to grow lots of plants and much more interesting ones than what was available in the local stores. That led to growing milkweeds for monarchs, which led to other butterfly host plants and raising butterflies from egg to adult. Butterflies were my gateway insect I think. All the new native plants I was adding definitely attracted more interesting and diverse insects and spiders to my small suburban yard. Nature watching is much easier when you don’t even have to leave home to see lots of cool stuff!
My grandmother and mother got me into nature, thank you! From ever, we spent the summer in a beach house in Central Chile, all those summers were fun, we had a good time with my brothers and sisters swimming and looking for small animals in the rocky intertidal. Also, having a lot pets and a big yard helps, we had ducks, dogs, turtles, rabbits, chikens, swans, a rescued parrot a goat, fish, lol plants. My friends really loved spend their time in my house. Finally, my mother help me to realized I wanted to start a degree on biology, she knew.
From a very young age, I went on family vacations with my gran, cousins and aunts to the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. I always use to explore the rock-pools at the beach to see what weird and wonderful critters I could find, and boy was there an abundance! I use to swim in the lagoon, go canoeing, catch Likkewaans, crabs and snakes with my cousin, explore caves, and so much more! There was so much to do and see at the particular caravan park that we used to visit each Christmas and even from those early days, though I didn’t quite know what field I wanted to go into, I knew in my heart that I wanted to work in, and work to save, nature
So that other kids may get the chance to have a childhood as awesome as mine :)
I was a bit of a weird kid, the only things I would ever watch on TV were nature documentaries. I remember one teacher in grade school showing us Planet Earth one day, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen!
And then there were the owls. I read through the entire Guardians of Ga’hoole series (a fantasy story about owls, for those who don’t know) and from there I started learning everything I could about them. They’re still among my favorite animals to this day, and I absolutely lose it whenever I see one in the wild.
After dropping out of art college, I ended up taking a good hard look at what sorts of things I actually enjoyed, and came to the conclusion that studying Fish & Wildlife Conservation would be a good fit. I’m in my 2nd year of that program now, and I can’t even go out with friends without stopping to ID a tree, or pointing out a cool insect. It’s great fun!
Super interesting to read how you all came to the natural world, most from a young age. I am similar in this as I started very young with naturalist summer camps and 2 weeks long birding camps in fantastic settings. That pretty much hooked me for life. Now being a parent, and while I can transfer a lot of that interest to the natural world to my daughter, finding camps and such is not easy, at least in my area of Western Canada.
Also, I decided to do a career in IT (Information technology), in addition to how people got interested in the natural world, It would be interesting to read on people career. IT is a rewarding field, but I do have some regrets that I didn’t follow my passion. I have this (perhaps mistaken) conception that most jobs in the ecology field require PHD level qualifications. Maybe there is still a path for me that combine Information technology and ecology/conservation? Cheers!