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Make a Plan for Lifelong Learning in the Great Outdoors

A Conversation with Jana Marshall - The Roaming Naturalist

LMC Wildflower Walk - Hall's Creek

A significant gift to oneself is enjoying the outdoor world and learning something new each time you venture out. Even if you do not consider yourself an outdoorsy person, the activities offered by the Little Miami Conservancy and its partner organizations will open your eyes and provide diverse activities to enjoy with friends, family, or just by yourself.

One such partner is the The Roaming Naturalist, founded by Jana Marshall. Jana shares her love and knowledge with local nature groups. Working with The Little Miami Conservancy, Jana has devoted a great amount of time, developing innovative nature programming, sure to get you hooked on exploring the land that borders the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. We caught up with Jana to catch up on her vision for nature education and what is new with her upcoming programs.

A Conversation with Jana Marshall - The Roaming Naturalist

Jana and her vintage VW van, "Minnie"

How did you discover your passion for the outdoor world to become a naturalist?

My parents were both role models for the natural world. We were always going on family hikes all over Ohio and everywhere else we travelled. My mom was a self-taught Naturalist - always carrying around field guides, identifying birds from our windows and gardening with native plants. My dad was always finding new trails for us to hike and searching maps and books for a new part of the world to explore.

What do you find most exciting about the natural world?

I am a big fan of our freshwater mussels and honestly, just exploring our natural world and coming across an interesting find whether it's scat or a wildflower!

How did you decide to launch your company, “The Roaming Naturalist?”

I was inspired by a student when teaching environmental science on the coast of Georgia. This student had never been to the ocean before and was in awe of everything. I loved his curiosity, questions and excitement and thought to myself, EVERY kid needs these opportunities. When Covid hit, I thought why not now?

What program is your favorite to teach?

Honestly, I love to teach them all because nature never stays the same so the programs are always different and exciting!

What are the objectives of the programs you have created for the Little Miami Conservancy?

· Spring Wildflower Hike - To empower adults to get outside and connect with their local flora and fauna. It makes hiking way more fun when you know what you're looking at!

· Beginner Bird Watching - Understanding our winged friends in their natural environment to contribute to citizen science in our understanding of native birds.

· Nature Unplugged - Engage youth in the natural sciences by providing hands-on learning experiences.

· Scenic Saturdays - This series explores specific topics in nature through fun activities, stories and exploration.

What is your best advice in getting youth and adults engaged with their “great outdoors?

If you have children, let them lead the way! Let them be curious, get dirty and don't say "yuck" As for adults - I think it would be the same. Be curious, ask questions, observe, get dirty and don't say "yuck"

Reflections on a recent Wildflower Walk led by the Roaming Naturalist–

If you have never participated in one of Jana’s sessions, now is the time. We followed Jana to her natural habitat for the Wildflower Walk.. We were not disappointed. Spring glory was evident throughout the Hall’s Creek State Nature Preserve in Morrow, OH.

Our group experienced the beauty of natural adornment during the annual return of wildflowers. Flora and fauna – mostly indigenous - blanket our forests and meadows with a beauty that is indescribable unless you experience it firsthand. The group explored the area around Hall’s Creek, a State of Ohio Natural Preserve. The naturalists – Jana and Alyssa – led the group on a two hour walk through the preserve that runs along Hall’s creek, a tributary of the Little Miami State and National Scenic River. They helped identify numerous wild flowers and plants. A picture perfect day yielded a shared learning experience that will stay with us, and keep us on our toes identifying and enjoying the natural beauty of Spring wildflowers.

So - what’s stopping you? Now that Spring is in full bloom, learn to love the outdoor arena created by the natural beauty of the 110 mile long Little Miami State and National Scenic River by attending an upcoming event.

We are looking forward to seeing you soon. Check out our events!

About The Roaming Naturalist -

Jana Marshall, Founder Jana has a background in Environmental Science and Natural History from Eastern Kentucky University and Miami University. ​Jana is an environmental scientist and wildlife advocate whose work is inspired by her lifelong curiosity and passion for the natural world. As a Certified Interpretive Guide, Jana has taught outdoor education for more than thirteen years. Her career also includes teaching marine science on Georgia’s coastline, working as an outfitter guide in the Okefenokee Swamp, aquatic research locally and abroad, sea turtle conservation, migratory bird research, and entomology studies.​

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