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A Rare Specimen: Master Naturalist, Kate

By: Garrett Chisholm

Sit Down With A Master Naturalist: Kate Kruesi

Looking back to her adolescence, we can find a young Kate Kruesi learning how to maintain her very own flower garden on her parent’s self sufficient farm in Stowe, Vermont. As Kate was growing up, her parents taught her how to garden and educated her on all of the plants that surrounded her. Her father constantly encouraged her to “inquire, be observant, and ask why?” Alongside her sisters, she and her father hiked, camped, farmed, and engaged in various natural cycles. Kate was born a naturalist.

Fast forward to the year 2015, and Kate has retired to Tinmouth, Vermont, where she and her husband William Kruesi managed their own organic farm without herbicides. Kate has been both a farmer and gardener all of her life. Retirement has afforded her the opportunity to hone in on these skills in regards to rare plants. She has since trained with New England Plant Conservation Program (NEPCop) and has become a Plant Conservation Volunteer. Having become more active around Vermont with NEPCop, she came to the notice of  BPRW Field Naturalist Alicia Daniel and BPRW Land Steward Dan Cahill’s because of their similar interests. After going on a walk in the Arms Grant with Alicia, she was subsequently asked to be a part of the first class of master naturalists in the Master Naturalist BTV Program. Since she has been a naturalist all of her life, Kate thought “sure.”

Through the Master Naturalist BTV Program, Kate has been able to establish a great rapport with both Alicia and Dan. Throughout the training sessions the program has had thus far, they have been able to call on her for assistance in regards to rare plants and their corresponding natural communities. Kate hopes to eventually lead educational walks around parks, similar to those of Alicia and Dan. The Master Naturalist BTV Program has helped her to build these perceived “nature credentials.” Kate stated that “[Alicia] is an amazing teacher and she has learned a lot of skills from her on how to present…you are not going out and filling empty vessels, you are helping people to observe, learn how to observe, and learn to learn.” Alicia has helped her to develop a framework for her to use in order to help people to understand rare plants. Alongside Alicia, she has also learned from her fellow master naturalists because she has been able to understand where people’s questions are coming from and what direction they are going to go. And although she already had a basic understanding of geology, birch bark crafts, among other things, the Master Naturalist BTV Program has allowed for her to put these floating puzzle pieces together.

Kate will be working with fellow master naturalist Remy Crettol and on her volunteer project. They are exploring the development of succinct educational signage that will start at Lone Rock and go all the way to Star Farm Forest. They would like to model this signage from the brochures of Assistant State Botanist Aaron Marcus. Kate believes that “people will try to protect things is they know what it is and why.” The signage will be simple so that people can develop a baseline understanding of the delicacy of these ecosystems. The signage will include three components: what the natural community is, what pretty flowers and rare plants there are, and what they can do to make sure they are not destructive on the landscape.

Kate will also be working with other people outside of her group. She has become the “go to person” because now that she is retired she is able to share all of the knowledge that she has accumulated over the past 62 years. This summer she will be leading walks with a group at Lone Rock Point. Alicia had hopes that she would be interested in leading walks there because of her knowledge of their trail management planning. Kate stated that when leading walks on the trail she could “point out trail markers as well as rare plants” so that people would know where to walk. Kate also discussed the management plan for the trail and how heavily used the area is. She argued that they could do something as simple as putting up new markers so that the trail could be easily read.

Although she will be graduating from the Master Naturalist BTV Program later this year, she hopes to continue her involvement in the future. She would love to be “on call” during the next round of training sessions. She wants to be able help out wherever she can, without overstepping her boundaries. She has worked on managing Star Farm Forest with Alicia and would like to continue to do so in the future, whether that be with mowing infrequently or with fire. Kate also sees a lot of potential for education around the human and natural history of the different parks within the city of Burlington and if ever asked by Alicia or Dan to help educate, she would be glad to pitch in.