What exactly is a naturalist? Who is a naturalist? What do they look like? You might have a certain type of person in mind. Maybe an old British guy in a stuffy room full of bugs in glass cases and preserved birds in drawers. Maybe your old British guy is on safari in Africa, donning short khaki shorts, a shirt with too many pockets, and a big goofy hat.
Charles Darwin was a naturalist. So was the Crocodile Hunter himself, Steve Irwin. Sir David Attenborough is probably the most well-known and well-loved naturalist in recent history. I mean, he’s basically the voice of nature documentaries and has been for the better part of the last century.
The point is that there is indeed a stereotype. Here’s the thing about stereotypes: they don’t only generalize entire groups of people, they exclude those who don’t fit the description. It can happen in a couple of ways, actually. Maybe you identify yourself as belonging to the group, but other insiders who fit the stereotype don’t recognize you as a true (fill in the blank). Maybe you have an idea in your mind about what something is, and because you don’t fit the bill you decide to quit before you ever try.
So, when it comes to being a naturalist, or becoming one, how do you do it? What are the rules for admission? How do you dress? How do you act? How do you…be a naturalist? Here is your step-by-step guide.
Being a naturalist is a matter of action. It’s something you do, and there’s no one right way to do it. I believe that every single one of us is a naturalist at heart. We certainly all were as children. Maybe at some point, you stopped looking at the bug on the bark with wonder. The beauty is, you can get that back. Maybe you never lost that mesmerization to begin with. Well, congratulations! You’re doing great!
You don’t need special gear, expensive outdoor clothing, field guides, and a leather-bound journal full of sketches. You just need yourself and your own innate sense of curiosity about the world around you.
Anyone can be a naturalist. Everyone is a naturalist. Never let anyone tell you any different.