Duke 2015 Graduates Reflect on TLC Nature Preserves

May 18, 2015

triangle land conservancy

On May 10th, Duke officially graduated its class of 2015 in the Durham Bulls baseball stadium. Though the graduates are spreading out to all four corners of the United States and around the world, many will take memories of Triangle Land Conservancy nature preserves with them. Below are three such students, highlighting their experiences at Horton Grove and Johnston Mill Nature Preserves, as well as Little River Park and Natural Area, which TLC helped permanently protect.

Shannon Switzer, Duke Nicholas School of the Environment 2015, Coastal Environmental Management

Shannon, Co-Founder of Duke Stories for Nature and People (SNAP), first visited Horton Grove on a sunny day last November as part of a video collaboration between SNAP and TLC. In an all-day workshop, SNAP leaders taught Duke students how to use camera and photography equipment, conduct interviews, and create a compelling narrative about TLC’s newest preserve.

“I was surprised how close it was to Durham and that I’d not been to it before,” Shannon says, “I loved the big open grassy meadow. It’s not a common sight in NC and I found it really fun to explore.” Though she is heading off to begin her Ph.D. at Stanford in the fall, Shannon knows she will visit Horton Grove again before she leaves: “It’s a place I plan to return to this summer now that I have more time to go trail running. I plan to make better use of it!”

triangle land conservancy

Cassie Pallai, Duke Nicholas School of the Environment 2015, Ecosystem Science and Conservation

Cassie and her corgi Murphy set out with a group of friends and fellow dog owners on a gorgeous fall day to explore Johnston Mill Nature Preserve as the seasons changed. Cassie studied forest systems as part of her Master’s Project, and she “particularly enjoyed the pine-hardwood forested areas with large white oaks and beech trees.” She also adds, “I thought that the region of forest with many fallen trees was a lovely sight.”

The group walked through the forest stands, along the river, and through the meadows at Johnston Mill. Cassie, a birder, noted that “we also observed a number of bird species near the forest edges and fields.” All in all, Cassie says, “I appreciated the proximity of Johnston Mill to Durham, the well-marked trails, and the variety of ecosystem types that were included within the property.”

triangle land conservancy

Graham McHenry, Duke Nicholas School of the Environment 2015, Environmental Economics and Policy

In addition to its own nature preserves, TLC has also been instrumental in forming partnerships to conserve land around the Triangle. Little River Park and Natural Area is a product of one such successful partnership, and was protected through a collaboration between TLC, Eno River State Park, NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund, NC Parks and Recreation Trust, and the Water and Land Conservation Fund. Graham explored some of the 7 miles of hiking trails on a day in early spring.

“I traveled to the Little River Park on a Saturday morning birding excursion with a friend,” Graham recounts, “and was not disappointed with the park’s wildlife. The forest land was composed of fairly young pine forest which provided a nice contrast to most of the hardwood forest parks in the area.”

He continues, “My favorite part of the park was that the land felt secluded in a way that made one feel as though they were truly out in nature (even though the park is not far from the Triangle), yet the park was inviting… the park has recreational opportunities for a diverse group of individuals with a variety of interests, providing a sense of openness and community inclusion that is lacking in other parks in the area.”

Though the Duke 2015 class may be leaving, TLC knows current and future classes of students from around the Triangle will continue to enjoy nearby nature preserves and protected areas. Want to explore more of our preserves? Each one is open 365 days of the year, from dawn until dusk. As part of TLC’s missions to connect people with nature, we are leading multiple events and outings at the preserves. Click here for a full schedule, and share your TLC nature preserve experiences on our Facebook page!

Erika Zambello has served as Triangle Land Conservancy’s intern since 2013. Erika also graduated thid May from the Duke Nicholas School of the Environment with a concentration in Ecosystem Science and Conservation. Erika will continue following her passion for the environment through ecotourism and natural resource work in Florida.



Find a TLC Nature Preserve Near You