Community| 5 min read

On Being a Naturalist with Rachael Tancock

Our Earth Month Environmental Educator discusses the endless learning opportunities available in the forest for the Naturalist in all of us.

If you’re interested in exploring the natural world a little further, our Earth Month Environmental Educator, Rachael Tancock, is the perfect person to guide you. 

A Vancouver Island-based Naturalist and Environmental Educator, Rachael’s passion for the natural world is infectious and shines through the screen in the educational videos she shares on Instagram and TikTok.

At tentree, we’ve been big fans and followers of Rachael for some time now. So we’re thrilled that she’s sharing her insight on the endless learning opportunities that are available in the forest, and how to unlock the Naturalist in all of us to tune in to nature.

Q: What inspired you to choose this career path as a nature educator?

Since I was young, I always had a fascination and love for nature. I grew up sailing the Salish Sea and exploring the Southern Gulf Islands in British Columbia, Canada with my family. All this time immersed in the natural world created a deep passion and connection between myself and nature, which motivated me to continue learning more about the species, ecosystems, and environments around me. I obtained a Bachelor of Science in Geography and Environmental Studies and found my passion working as a Naturalist, where I share my knowledge and facilitate nature experiences with people of all ages in a variety of ecosystems!

starfish freediving


Q: You call yourself a naturalist. What are the defining characteristics of a  naturalist?

Anyone who loves nature, has knowledge about nature, and is learning about nature can call themselves a naturalist! 

Some use the term to describe their identity, passion, or interests. However, it can also be used as a job title for staff providing educational or interpretive nature programs and events. Naturalists generally love to spend time outdoors and enjoy activities such as birdwatching, species identification, nature journaling, invasive species removal, photography, researching, sketching, and much more.


Q: Why is it important to spend time in nature?

Spending time outside is so beneficial and important for our minds and bodies. Nature can help us relax, be mindful, feel grounded and present as we observe and experience our surroundings. We can also become more aware of our bodies as we move in different ways to navigate more technical terrain. Being in nature builds deeper appreciation and connection with the natural world and enhances opportunities for new experiences. Spending time in nature keeps me curious, and I experience or learn something new on every adventure! I personally always feel more centered, energized, inspired, and creative after some time surrounded by nature!


Q: You lead nature walks online and in person. What common questions or concerns about nature do you hear from participants?

Regardless of age, gender, race, ability, knowledge, experience, etc., there is something to learn and experience on guided nature walks, and each person takes away something different. Everyone arrives at a nature program with their own beliefs, opinions, and experiences about nature, and therefore, each person absorbs information or reacts to wildlife observations differently.

Program participants will often share their stories with me and ask really interesting questions! I love these interactions as they expand my understanding and perspectives and encourage me to stay curious and continue learning. Throughout my programs, there is a strong interest in species identification, which is an important way for humans to understand and connect with the natural world and its inhabitants.


Rachael the nature educator

Q: What gives you the most hope for the future of the natural world?

The many people of all ages who contribute their energy and time towards protecting and conserving nature give me hope for the natural world. It’s inspiring to know that there are so many creative and innovative people who care deeply about the planet and do what they can to protect its future. I’m also inspired by the future generation of environmental stewards. I’ve led many nature programs with kids and youth who are so curious and knowledgeable about nature, which gives me hope for a future generation of nature lovers. With that being said, it is everyone’s shared responsibility to protect the natural world for the enjoyment and health of future generations of all living beings!


Q: What is your favorite tree, and why?

One of my favorite trees is an iconic species to an area very near and dear to my heart. Arbutus trees, also known as Pacific Madrone trees, are a very memorable tree from my childhood. I grew up spending lots of time sailing throughout the Salish Sea and exploring the Southern Gulf Islands with my family, which are found off the coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. The Pacific Madrone tree has a limited range in the Mediterranean climate of southern coastal British Columbia and northwestern Washington, USA, and extends downwards into California. These beautiful trees have orangey reddish thin peeling bark, which reveals light green new bark, and trunks that twist and turn depending on the growth conditions. Arbutus trees are sun-loving and can grow out of dry, rocky, fast-draining soils, and therefore occupy rocky coastlines and can be found growing overhanging the ocean. They have creamy bell-shaped flowers in the spring, which often fall to the ground with the wind and remind me of a light dusting of snow.


Rachael the nature educator

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I would love to encourage anyone reading to embrace curiosity about the natural world, regardless of how knowledgeable you are about it. Staying curious about things in nature. There are so many different ways that people can connect with the natural world depending on what suits their interests.

If you enjoy writing and journaling, consider starting a nature journal to record your observations, thoughts, and feelings during your time outside. If you love painting or drawing, take your art into nature and create while immersed in nature. If you’re interested in identification, bring some field guides or identification apps along with you on your adventures to create a deeper understanding of the natural environment around you! I encourage everyone to stay curious about the natural world. No matter how knowledgeable and skilled you are regarding the outdoors, there’s always something new for everyone to experience!


Tune in to nature today:

Nature Meditations by Carolyn Anne Budgell

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