As Past President of the Saskatoon Nature Society and an active member of Wild About Saskatoon, Sara Bryson had dedicated her spare time to engaging Saskatonians with the world around them. She does not hesitate to approach people looking at a plant and ask, “Wanna know what that is?” But her experience goes far beyond that. Sara is skilled at guiding people through the first stages of bird identification, starting with a description of a little brown bird and concluding with a list of the many species visible in the most unlikely places. In our conversation, we also talk about Richardson Ground Squirrels (Gophers), Canada Geese lawn mowers, Orb Weaver Spiders, Bats, and many more. Most importantly, we cover the complex relationships between natural spaces.
When asked about her hopes for the direction conservation could take in Saskatoon, Bryson compares the experiences of fragmented habitat with those of people who have become isolated due to COVID-19. “They’re cut off from everyone; they’re having a really hard time. They are isolated. People are social animals naturally, and most don’t function in isolation.” Similarly, a biome does not function well isolated from everything else; “it needs to work with its other parts.”
From our conversation, I learned more about what inspired Sara to become active in the community. For her, growing up in Thompson, Manitoba, nature was close by. She got to watch ravens and learn “how they work in a group to open your metal garbage can with a click lid and lift the blanket off. It’s just amazing to see those kinds of things in person.” However, Sara also recognized the importance of having a nature mentor who taught her some of the basics when she was young. Sara didn’t hesitate when I asked her what her younger self would think if she knew what she was doing now. “I’ve been a nature person my whole life, so young Sara would be like, “Oh My Gosh, You’re the President and the other week, you flew a hawk! She’d be freaking out right now!” It’s inspiring to see people doing what they love.
I have known Sara for years, and we spend time laughing about a fall bird count we went on together. Our conversation also includes stories about singing to Redpolls and dancing about Blue Grama Grass, and on a more serious note, about finding your community. For Bryson, the Saskatoon Nature Society played an important role in finding belonging in Saskatoon. She explains, “when I joined the Saskatoon Nature Society meeting, I remember calling my mom and being like, “Mom, I went to this meeting. I’ve found my people! Everyone’s like me! Everyone’s a nature nerd!” It was this conversation that led me to title the episode “connections.” Most of what we were speaking about related to the complex interrelationships between all parts of the natural world. It demonstrated how nature is a social and ecological experience that brings people closer to the biosphere and each other.
Many of the themes we explore in this episode are carried through the season. We will learn more about humans’ interactions with Nature, about some of the lives of the wild animals around us, and answer some of the questions that people commonly ask us, including “what does the fox say?”
Saskatoon Nature Society
Founded in 1955, their objective is to promote the appreciation of nature, and encourage a deeper knowledge of it through observation, education and sharing of experience.
Living Sky Wildlife Rehab
Is a non-profit, registered charity, based in Saskatoon, SK. They provide a safe place for injured and orphaned wild animals to grow and mend until they can return to their natural habitat.
Northeast Swale Watchers
Are a group of concerned citizens from a variety of backgrounds who have been monitoring development & advocating for the protection of the Swales.