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Nothing excites and soothes me more than nature. It calms my mind and cleanses my soul. When I came across the Florida Master Naturalist Program (FMNP) there was no question whether I was going to participate. The very moment the class started, I had the feeling that people "spoke my language", meaning I was among nature enthusiasts that possessed the same bottomless passion for Mother Nature's conservation as I did.
Attending the FMNP is a way for people to gain a deeper understanding of the connectedness between humans and the wild. However, I must say that the first class of every module (there are three which consist of Freshwater, Uplands and Coastal) was very intimidating as I found myself among highly educated professionals that "save the world" on a daily basis and get a salary for it. As the classes continued my intimidation slowly diminished and I found that we all learned from eachother, no matter what backgrounds we had.
The FMNP instilled a deeper understanding about Florida's ecosystems and awakened a never ending thirst for knowledge in regards to our environment. I looked forward to each and every class and dreaded the days it would end after a 6 week period. I saw this class as the perfect opportunity to widen my horizon and wish everyone living here would enroll. The field trips (you get to go on tons of them) allow you to meet some of the most knowledgeable professionals that you would not meet otherwise. For example, at Blue Springs State Park we visited Manatee Specialist Wayne Hartley who told us amazing stories he got to encounter first hand while doing research with these gentle giants.
I remember my instructor telling us on the last day of our Freshwater class that although the course is over, this is only the beginning. Words that resonate with me still and have given me much inspiration to follow my true calling.
A class mate contacted me a few months later to ask if I have any gopher pictures as she was trying to educate people at the library about them, so I went and took pictures of gophers so she would have material....and this is how I got where I am today. I kept taking and donating pictures from documenting my butterfly garden to showing people what places to visit. It lead me to create a basic website to share my knowledge and passion. My pictures have been featured in parks and exhibits. I was asked to give presentations to non-profit organisations, did a year long photo documentary and was just published in a newspaper for winning Florida's State Park annual photo contest. Our talents are given to us for a reason and it is our responsibility to share them with the world, one good deed at a time. Go find yours!
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Linda Wilinski is a certified Master Naturalist and Springs Ambassador who sees herself as the bridge between humans and nature, raising awareness through her pictures.