Monthly Archives: September 2012

Welcoming the Migratory Birds [Integrating Bird Festivals in your Interpretive Sites]

From my years of Boy Scouts, the study of birds had an impact on the way we see, hear and feel the forest, the city and my surroundings. Those years will forever change the way I teach, lead and inspire others later.

Celebreting the Zugunruhe 2012 (Migratory Bird festival)

Zugunruhe is a german word that means Zug (move, migration) and Unruhe (anxiety, restlessness) And represent why we welcome during the month of October all those tourist that arrive from the north to the Caribbean. Every year Santa Ana Nature Center join others Caribbean Region organizations in the celebration the Migratory Bird Festival and the Bird Day.  This year theme is Connecting People to Bird Conservation, and that is exactly what we do every week in our Nature Center. As we are located in an Urban Forest in the Northern Karst’s Region we have the opportunity all year to use birds as a tool to inspire public and private school students about conservation of forests and natural areas.  As an interpretive site, is natural to use that thematic celebration to inspire families and students during the month of October, which is when Birds start arriving to the Caribbean.


Why integrating a Bird festival in your interpretive site?

Birds are everywhere and are easily to see and hear.  People love birds; they can be found in different colors, shapes, sizes and sounds. And I’m practically sure that every NAI Region 3’s Site have birds, people that do bird watch and participants that are looking for someone that   are able of organize some program in birds’ education.

Top six interpretive reasons to integrate Birds’ Festivals in your site:

Because are…

1.            Meaningful

2.            Thematics

3.            Appropriate

4.            Fun and Enjoyable

5.            Easy for coordination

6.            Non-expensive


eBird your Interpretive Birds Programs

eBird documents the presence or absence of species, as well as bird abundance through checklist data. A simple and intuitive web-interface engages tens of thousands of participants to submit their observations or view results via interactive queries into the eBird database. eBird encourages users to participate by providing Internet tools that maintain their personal bird records and enable them to visualize data with interactive maps, graphs, and bar charts. All these features are available in English, Spanish, and French.

Ebird is more than a program created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, is an opportunity integrate science and interpretation with birding to students and participants

Why not “eBird” every hike?  Join the flock of eBirders.

More information about activities to celebrate migratory birds at…

Environment for the Americas (EFTA) is a non-profit organization that provides information and materials about birds, bird conservation, and bird education from Canada to South America.

International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), the signature program of EFTA, is the only international education program that highlights and celebrates the migration of nearly 350 species of migratory birds between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding grounds in Latin America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

The Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB) is a nonprofit membership organization working to conserve the birds of the Caribbean and their habitats through research, education, conservation action and capacity building


We are the Santa Ana Center, administrate by the Natural History Society of Puerto Rico



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I Survived a Tornado in a Tent (Interpreting the Alarming)

An old friend and I were in a small nylon dome one April night last year, when we were awoken by violent wind and the sound of more than a hundred mature trees snapping.  As the campground host later put it, “They said it was an F3, which means, you boys got lucky.”  This is difficult to write.  It is not because we lived through a storm strong enough to overturn a train.  That fact is wonderful. Our children still have fathers!

What’s challenging is interpreting it effectively.  There were more tornadoes that day than any other in recorded history1.  That fits right in with other extreme weather patterns we are seeing this millennium and what the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is saying.  This group of peer-reviewed, publishing climate scientists say Climate Change is happening now, is human-caused, and will accelerate with current lifestyle trends.  I am not saying the scientists are correct, but they are unaffiliated experts and if they are right, it will affect every human on earth.  It could be the most important issue of our lifetimes.  Still, it often seems too scary, too politically-charged to discuss.  I would like to change that and could use your help.

There is good news and we can spread it:

  1. We are not in crisis.  There is still time to act.
  2. Human caused is cause for hope.  We created it so we can fix it.
  3. Understanding the science of Climate Change can be made easy for the general public.  It does not have to be polarizing or depressing.

Greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere work like a blanket, trapping heat from the sun.  The process makes our planet hospitable for life.  Data shows this gas layer is thickening from human emissions and thus trapping more heat.  Nine of the ten warmest years since records started have occurred since 20002.   An overall warming of the climate results in environmental changes being observed now in the oceans and on the continents.  It includes the increased frequency of severe weather patterns, like my tornado, and both warm and cold weather events.  These changes threaten food availability and there may come a point when our planet’s climate can no longer sustain us.  Interpreters can help in avoiding this by inspiring fellow humans to act.

Energy-use choices that shift toward a stabilization of carbon emissions are the goal.  This would mitigate problems from Climate Change and simultaneously address ecological and economic challenges at the local level and beyond.  Therefore, successful interpretation now could improve the future for our species.  We must meet the challenge of balancing why people should care with not alarming folks to the point that they stop listening or feel helpless.  Then, we can use the power of existing common values (personal responsibility, resourcefulness, and ingenuity) to inspire solutions.  The ripple effect from this could affect substantial positive change.  To get started…

    • Learn more about Climate Change and ways to interpret it.  The worst that could happen is you make an informed decision that it is not worth your energy.
    • Help make a taboo subject less intimidating for others by talking about it.  Even if you are just discussing learning more for or why it’s worth talking about, that could empower others.
    • Practice interpreting Climate Change and share successes and failures.

See for further resources and don’t ever underestimate your tent!



1. “April 2011 tornado information”NOAA

2.  NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies








Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Burnt out? Feel like your programs are stale? Struggling with an interpretive program, staff member, or funding? Take a Time Out!

Back in 1996 I was asked by two of my professors at UW-Stevens Point to attend some conference out in Billings, Montana.  At the time all I wanted to do was push through graduate and not deal with these “extra” conference or internship opportunities.  I figured as long as I get that diploma I’ll have ALL the information I’ll ever need and fast track into a State Park job somewhere, and interpret happily ever after. I considered the opportunity and thought Montana would be pretty cool to check out and with a nudge and support from my professors we loaded up the state van. After about 1100 miles of driving, a blizzard near Sturgis, SD and two professors debating raptor silhouettes high in troposphere and critiquing each other’s driving styles, I arrived at something called the National Interpreters Workshop.

What a poor college student/fledging interpreter stumbled on was an amazing opportunity to see the many paths and personalities that exist in our profession beyond the textbook, theory, and classroom.  At this point in my career little did I know Interpreters needed skills on how to ask for money, manage and coach staff, know where to find the right buttons for living history uniforms, or that interpreters actually could get stressed out. In fact there was information on about 97 topics offered, who knew?

Sixteen years and numerous conferences later there are tips, tricks, ideas, and contacts that I’ve picked up at state, regional, and national gatherings that I use with regularity.  One of the best benefits in my opinion of any of these gatherings is that it forces you to take a personal “time out” from your day to day job, and get out of the office, park, aquarium, zoo, museum, classroom, and look at things from a different perspective and open mind.  These opportunities can be enough to clear the cobwebs out of your head and just recharge your interpretive soul for a few days.  Another great benefit is meeting other interpreters at lunch, on a field trip, in a concurrent session, or out testing the local fare or brew pub.  Many of the folks you meet become someone you can email or call to “talk shop”, share successes & challenges, recruit, hire, mentee, or mentor.

This is my nudge to you to consider attending any gathering of interpreters be it a state, regional, or national  event. All of these are a great investment for you and a fantastic way to take a “time out” to recharge and re-invent yourself, your programs, and your staff. You’ll bring things back to your site with a new perspective and you’ll meet someone who’ll likely help you in some way, shape, or form at some point in your career.

For the managers out there I encourage and challenge you to look for ways to send or sponsor our up and coming students and “front-liners” to these gatherings and get our next generation of interpreters involved in NAI to share the stories of our sites.

The 2012 National Interpreters Workshop is November 13-17, in Hampton, Virginia.

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