By Sadie Hunter
Growing up in the outdoors in Michigan, Karen LaMere, who has a Native American ancestry, said she’s always had a connection to nature.
Now a naturalist for the City of Noblesville, LaMere will lead the Noblesville Parks and Recreation Dept.’s Indiana Master Naturalist Program beginning Oct. 11.
“My father is Native American, and we always knew there was a connection between people and the land,” LaMere said. “I grew up in Kalamazoo, along the Kalamazoo River. We did a lot of fishing, and I always had an interest in the outdoors. When I was 8 years old, I went off to the Kalamazoo Nature Center and decided this is what I wanted to do when I grew up.”
LaMere has been working as a naturalist for more than 35 years, including the past year and a half with Noblesville Parks and Recreation.
“I take all the complicated workings of the outdoors, and we take how all of the systems and how all that kind of stuff works together, and we simplify it and present programs about it to the general public,” she said. “I work with, well, I call it ‘K to grey,’ kids, adults, teens, all different ages.”
Beginning next week, LaMere, in conjunction with Noblesville Parks and Recreation and the Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources, will begin its second year of the Indiana Master Naturalist Program, a series of classes for adults 18 and older, which will provide students a hands-on experience to the outdoors in Indiana.
“Being at Forest Park, we have a prime habitat here for nature education, and also at (Hague Road) Nature Haven,” LaMere said. “This is a program to actually get adults engaged in what’s going on in the outdoors, and also build a volunteer base, too. For every hour they have in the classroom with a different natural resources person, they have to volunteer an hour at a natural resources place, or do something related to natural resources. It could be a park, a church, any venue that is doing that kind of thing.”
Students should expect to split time outdoors and in a classroom at Forest Park, but LaMere said the class may visit Hague Road Nature Haven when learning about birds. This year’s program can take up to 20 students. Each week, a different speaker will address the class on a variety of topics.
The 24 hours of class time includes six hours of botany, six hours of zoology, three hours of people and the environment, three hours of soils and geology, three hours of water and three hours of miscellaneous.
“We definitely have a connection to the environment. If the environment is not functioning properly or we don’t know much about it, we can’t really make educated decisions on what should happen with it, like the use of lawn chemicals,” LaMere said. “I think it just connects us back to the basics. A lot of the adults in the program will say, ‘You know, I haven’t done this since I was a child.’ There’s a connection we have to have there, and I think it’s really important to get adults back out there.”
JOIN THE PROGRAM
What: Indiana Master Naturalist.
When: 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday evenings, Oct. 11 through Nov. 29.
Where: Forest Park Lodge, 701 Cicero Rd., Noblesville.
Cost: $80/resident, $85/non-resident.
Register: 317-770-5750, noblesvilleparks.org.
What to wear: Good walking shoes, clothes that can get dirty.
MEET KAREN LAMERE
Residence: Has lived in Noblesville for approximately 15 years. Originally from Michigan.
Career: Has been working as a naturalist for more than 35 years. Also works at Carmel Parks and Recreation as a naturalist. Has worked for the Indiana Parks and Recreation Association and the City of Indianapolis at Eagle Creek Park for assistant park manager, naturalist and administrator.
Education: Graduated from Olivet College in Olivet, Mich., with a bachelor’s degree in biology. Went on to Michigan State University, earning a master’s degree in fisheries and wildlife management with an emphasis on environmental education.
Family: Son Paul, 25; husband Timothy, married 29 years.