Holding a chickadee
Stephen TrombulakStephen Trombulak is the Professor of Environmental and Biosphere Studies at Middlebury College, Vermont, holding faculty appointments in both the Department of Biology and the Program in Environmental Studies since 1985. His research encompasses questions related to landscape-scale conservation planning, wildlife ecology, and vertebrate natural history. His is the author of numerous journal articles on these subjects, and he is the author or editor of four books, the most recent, Landscape-scale Conservation Planning (edited with R.F. Baldwin) having been published by Springer in October 2010. From 2001 to 2008, he directed the Science Working Group for Two Countries, One Forest, a conservation NGO in the Northern Appalachian/Acadian ecoregion. He served as president of the North American section of the Society for Conservation Biology from 2004 to 2006. He is a founding member of the Natural History Network and is the editor of the Journal of Natural History Education and Experience. At Middlebury College he teaches courses on conservation biology, natural history, environmental science, and vertebrate anatomy.
The first day they're all just a little bit intimidated about holding their first chickadee, or their first blue jay, or their first humming bird. But then, once they've done it, they are converted. It is like a religious epiphany for them; that they have this bird in their hand, and it's alive. It's not fighting; it's looking at them. Then when they open their hand the bird flies away. It's a seminal moment for them.
So I try to maximize that in every class that I do. I try to give them that aha experience with something living, or something real, something that's beyond the textbook, beyond the lecture notes.