Lecture Series Hosted On The Shawangunk

The SUNY New Paltz Biology Department will be hosting a six part series of lectures in alliance with The Shawangunk Ridge Biodiversity Partnership (SRBP) in order to promote awareness of the Shawangunk Ridge within the community. The series, named “Secrets of The Shawangunks,” will begin on Thursday, Feb. 6 and feature a guest speaker each week that will discuss topics concerning The Ridge.

Director of the Nature Conservancy’s Shawangunks Ridge Program Cara Lee said the yearly “Secrets of The Shawangunks” lectures play a noticeable part in teaching the public about the importance of The Ridge.

“I think that many people are interested in knowing more about where they live — that’s valuable because it improves one’s quality of life,” Lee said. “And if people know about a place, they are more inclined to protect it. If people understand [that] different birds and wildlife live on the Ridge, they are more likely to be concerned about protecting that area. Many of us who work for conservation organizations want to inform people [about this].”

According to Lee, the series generally reaches full attendance. “Secrets of the Shawangunks” has been held yearly for over a decade, with each year bringing upon new topics and guest speakers.

“People particularly like to learn about wildlife of the area,” she said. “We bring in research scientists, authors and all kinds of people who are knowledgeable about the natural history of the Shawangunk,” she said. “We always have it in the dead of winter when people are thinking about the outdoors, but maybe not going out of doors as much as they usually do. We have presented over the years all kinds of topics related to the natural history and management of the ridge in terms of conservation.”

Professor Emerita of Biology Carol Rietsma said  although the college hosts other lecture series throughout the year, few, if any provide this kind of information to its audience.

“These lectures deal with natural resources and their protection/conservation on the Shawangunk Ridge which is in the backyard, so to speak, of the college,” she said. “[SRBP] uses field research and analysis to manage the landscape, provide environmental education, and work with local communities to preserve open space on the slopes of the Ridge.”

Along with providing students with an opportunity to learn about the nature surrounding New Paltz, Rietsma said biology students attend these lectures to fulfill department requirements.

“As a graduation requirement, students in the Biology program are required to attend a specified number of seminars that are officially sanctioned by the department. Many students attend the Shawangunk Ridge lectures — particularly those who are in the Organismal and Environmental track in the Biology program.” she said. “The Shawangunk Ridge is a very special place with so much land protected from development within 90 miles of New York City,” Rietsma said.

Each “Secrets Of The Shawangunks” lecture is free and is open to the public. They will take place in Lecture Center 102 at 7 p.m. on Feb 6, 13, 20, and 27.

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Kristen is a fourth-year journalism major and editor-in-chief of The Oracle.