We’re highlighting all things Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) in 2021 as the program marks its 20th anniversary. Learn more about FMNP, view the first blog post here. This blog features my interview with Florida Master Naturalist John Nelson – creator of the Audubon Moment in Palm City, FL. John’s email address is email@example.com. UF/IFAS Extension programs are open to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, age, disability, religion, or national origin.
Hi John. We first met in 2011 when you took your first Florida Master Naturalist Program class in St. Lucie County. Now I refer to you as the creator of the Audubon Moment and you have gained quite a following. Please describe the Audubon Moment to our readers.
The Audubon Moment is a series of 60 second radio segments that helps listeners better understand the birds that can be found in their area. Each segment helps the listener how to identify a specific bird and then provide some interesting details about the bird in that segment. I have been producing the Audubon Moment for 11 years now and the program in being aired in 3 different market areas of Florida.
How would people learn more about the Audubon Moment?
The Audubon Moment is broadcast on WQCS in Fort Pierce, WFSU in Tallahassee, and its sister station in Panama City. Additionally, you can listen online by googling WQCS and listening to their online broadcast. The Audubon Moment also has a website at http://www.audubonmoment.com or join us on Facebook.
How did participation in the Florida Master Naturalist Program help you?
When I first started taking FMN classes, I was a beginning birder and very interested in the whole environment. I wanted to know how birds interact with our environment and where they could be found. Gaining an understanding of Florida’s different ecosystems as a whole was critical in assisting me to become a better birder and environmental leader.
Not only are you a graduate of the Florida Master Naturalist Program, but you are also an assistant instructor. Do you feel connected to a larger community of Florida Master Naturalists and UF?
Being a Florida Master Naturalist takes a commitment in order to complete the program. Time and again, my interaction with other graduates of the program has shown me just how committed FMN graduates are to our environment. Until recently, I was the president of Audubon of Martin County where I served for 8 years. In this capacity, I actively searched out board candidates that were graduates of the FMN program.
Can you describe one or two of the most memorable things you’ve done through the Florida Master Naturalist Program?
One of my final projects was a short film on the history of the St. Lucie River. After graduation, I used this project as a beginning resource for an expanded documentary about the river. After 3 years of historical research, and one year of production, my film “America’s Amazon, the Story of the St. Lucie River” debuted on January 16th 2019 to a sold out audience at the Lyric Theatre in Stuart, Florida. We were able to raise nearly $25,000 that was given to environmental organizations on the Treasure Coast.
I have also created a birding specific program using the FMN program as a model. I wrote the textbook and all course work for Audubon Field Academy that was taught to students over an 8 part – two year timeline. Additionally, I used Florida Master Naturalist graduates as co-instructors for several of the models.
I’ve met your wife at Master Naturalist events and at Christmas parties. Would you like to tell readers how wonderful she is?
My wife has become a fantastic birder, photographer, and field spotter. While she has not completed any of the Florida Master Naturalist coursework, her support in the field and in the office has been instrumental in every success that I have had.
Where in Florida is your favorite place to go birding that is also publicly accessible? Why is it your favorite place?
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is my favorite place to bird. This old growth cypress swamp is maintained by the National Audubon Society, and it has incredible diversity in the number of species that call this place home, especially during the late fall through early spring months. On the other hand, when I want to see coastal shore birds, Fort DeSoto County Park near St. Petersburg is equally amazing in its own right.
After participating in the Florida Master Naturalist Program, can you estimate how many people you’ve been able to teach about bird conservation?
Because of my radio program, I am asked to do public speaking about birds all the time. “The Audubon Moment” has become a beginners primer on birds for thousands of listeners across the state, and my courses that I have taught through Audubon has opened the doors to hundreds more. I am truly blessed to have this type of public access that I enjoy.
Do you think you’ve made an impact as a Florida Master Naturalist?
Being a Florida Master Naturalist has helped me to make a bigger impact than I would have otherwise been able to achieve. When people learn how involved one must become to be a graduate of the program, it provides me with greater respect and credibility for all of the environmental work that I do.
The Florida Master Naturalist Program is celebrating its 20 Year Anniversary in 2021. Do you have any comments about this special anniversary?
My only wish for the program is continued success. I do wish, however, that a 4th module would be added. Students learn about Coastal, Freshwater, and Upland habitats, but the fastest growing habitat in Florida is in our urban centers. The amazing amount of wildlife in our urban centers needs to be studied more and taught to our students. Florida’s Natural Areas often times do not end at the city limits.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Anyone who has even the slightest interest in our natural environment should consider taking courses from the Florida Master Naturalist program. By so doing, you will not only be learning about Florida’s amazing environment, but you will also become better stewards of it. Ultimately, this will make you a better citizen.
John Nelson completed the Florida Master Naturalist courses below:
Coastal Systems, 2011 — St. Lucie County — Central East Region
Freshwater Systems, 2011 — Palm Beach County — Southeast Region
Upland Systems, 2012 — St. Lucie County — Central East Region
Wildlife Monitoring, 2014 — St. Lucie County — Central East Region
Conservation Science, 2016 — Palm Beach County — Southeast Region
Most of my classes were taken on the Treasure Coast with Ken Gioeli and Wren Underwood as my primary instructors. I also took the Freshwater Systems module from the late Ken Bass.
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