Today: Scott Kudelka is the naturalist at Minneopa State Park in Mankato.
Not surprisingly, I find myself reading a lot of different articles and journals about bison and paying attention to what is happening in other places such as Yellowstone National Park and Theodore Roosevelt National Park when it comes to the interaction between bison and people. One of the more fascinating books I've read lately is called "Eager: The Surprising, Secret Life of Beavers and Why They Matter" by Ben Goldfarb. I've always been interested in the natural history of beavers and this author does a great job in writing about the ongoing conflict between beavers and humans.
I try to keep up with what others in the environmental education field are doing and how they connect with the public. I am a big fan of the Ney Nature Center outside of Henderson, Minn., and how executive director Becky Pollack, her staff and volunteers have really done an incredible job with building that program from the ground up. Another organization is the Water Resources Center at Minnesota State Mankato who have been working hard at bridging that gap between the public and water-quality issues. It really is a thankless and tough job, but it does it with a lot of vigor and patience.
Hard not to be watching all the monarch butterflies getting ready to head back south. We are fortunate here at Minneopa State Park to have the perfect native prairie to attract a large number of monarchs. A few weeks ago, we hosted a monarch tagging event that brought out around 75 people with everyone having a blast trying to catch one and put on a tag to help track their route back to Mexico. I'm also watching the changes as we transition to fall with the days getting shorter and leaves beginning to take on new colors before your eyes.
This is a great time of the year to do a paddle on Swan Lake over by Nicollet, Minn., before waterfowl hunting season starts. I took a group out there a week ago, and like to spend about 10 to 15 minutes having everyone get as quiet as possible and listen to the natural world they are in. There is something special about listening to wind rustling cattails, the buzzing of dragonflies as they pursue lunch and water lapping against a canoe or kayak. In our busy lives, it can be tough to stop what you're doing to just listen and not think about the next thing that needs to be done.
I consider myself very fortunate with the life I have and the job I do. I've always enjoyed what I do whether as a park ranger in North Dakota or studying rivers and lakes as part of the Water Resources Center, but never imagined loving a job like I do now. To be able to ride your bike to work, lead a group on a paddle, and connect with people of all ages by leading a simple nature hike makes me feel very lucky.