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Meet Elise Schadler: Master Naturalist

By: Mary Ann Samuels

Elise Schadler is establishing roots in Vermont. Soon she will be a home owner and a mother. And Lake Champlain will be a few blocks away. (She has jumped in this lake for at least 88 months in arow!)  From these roots she reaches out to offer support to people and the environment through her work as an Urban Forester, her “Bird to Branch” community storytelling events, and her participation in Burlington’s Master Naturalist Program.

As Elise moved around growing up, she always remembered the trees that surrounded her home. Her mother remembers that along with several other possibilities, Elise wanted to be a tree doctor when she grew up. And now Elise is a “tree doctor” with the Vermont Urban and Community Forest Program. Elise travels around the state to help communities manage, inventory, and maintain trees in their parks, public spaces, and along the streets. She values her opportunities to interact with the many volunteers who help these urban forests to thrive. Elise is very committed to living in Burlington and is awed by the work and vision of Warren Spinner, Burlington’s city arborist. She appreciates the chance to help with Burlington’s urban forest through her volunteer work with Branch Out Burlington.

As a college student, Elise chose to study Classics and Anthropology. After college she worked as an Americorps member, and was immediately sent to a variety of communities in the Gulf of Mexico, including New Orleans, to help with Hurricane Katrina relief. Additionally, she worked on an extensive tree planting and salmon habitat restoration project in northern Washington, among other projects.

After that year she was hired to coordinate an urban tree planting program in Camden, N. J. and stayed there for three years. When she decided to return to school for graduate studies, she found UVM’s Rubenstein School had the right fit for her. She worked with Cecilia Danks in Community Forestry and obtained a Master of Science in Natural Resources with a concentration on environment and public affairs.

Elise and her husband, Sam Fuller, have created “Bird to Branch” events, a dinner and community storytelling combo that happens three or four times per year in various venues. There are no professional storytellers, no microphones, and no recording devices; just people to gather around shared stories and shared food.

Elise has enjoyed her year in the Master Naturalist Program. She feels more grounded in the “layer cake” of our city, and appreciates the connections and expertise of other Master Naturalists. Elise will continue to offer tree walks in Burlington. And as part of an arts celebration of Burlington’s natural areas, Elise, Katie Michels and Mary Ann Samuels have organized 3 free workshops for this summer. Participants in the photography, poetry and drawing workshops will be encouraged to submit work for a Community Art Show at the South End Art Hop in September. And on the Sunday afternoon of Art Hop, Elise will host a culminating event, inviting the public to share stories, poems and songs about their connection to Burlington’s natural areas. Elise hopes this can become an annual event.

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