As Roan Naturalist, I am thankful to have become so intimate with this unique habitat. The Roan Highlands have been a special place for me to visit throughout my years as a student at East TN State University, and as I passed through the area during my AT thru-hike last year. I am proud to have served in this position working with the many different organizations and volunteer groups that protect this land.
With the changes to my position this year because of COVID-19 safety protocols and restrictions, I was not able to interact with as many visitors as I would have liked to. Instead of trying to talk to as many visitors as I could, I focused on other tasks and connected with people as they engaged me. When visitors saw me in my Roan Naturalist shirt and gear, they often approached, loaded with questions about what I was doing, plants, the mountains, history, camping, etc. Or, visitors saw us doing fieldwork on or near the trail – monitoring a species or mowing the balds – and when they asked questions I had a chance to teach about the unique habitat.
Although this has been an unusual year as the Roan Naturalist I could not be happier with the way the season turned out. I actually had the chance to work on a variety of projects and fieldwork that I would not have otherwise. I am thankful for everyone who helped this summer run smoothly. This position is important for outreach, and it has been incredible to see how everyone works together to make this place possible to both protect and to play in.
The Roan Naturalist position is co-hosted between SAHC, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club.