Students are accustomed to seeing Associate Professor of Biology James Biardi teaching in Bannow Science Center. But recently, he’s extended his teaching outside of Fairfield’s campus to Burr Street, where Connecticut’s Audubon Center is located.
Biardi, who is also the director of the Environmental Studies Program at Fairfield, is one of the instructors in the Master Naturalist program, a series of workshops at the center that focuses on ecosystems, plant and bird identification and wildlife, to prospective naturalists. The certificate program, which began on Sept. 15 and runs every Tuesday until Nov. 17., is open to anyone who is interested. The program entails 40 hours of classroom instruction as well as four-hour field training sessions. Prospective naturalists also must complete 40 additional volunteer hours to receive their Master Naturalist certificate.
This is Biardi’s second time participating in the workshops at the Audubon Center, explaining that the program “brings in experts on the variety of organisms (birds, mammals, insects, etc.) and habitats (coastal, estuarine, forest, etc.) found here in southwestern Connecticut. Each speaker gives a workshop that includes some classroom discussion, followed by an opportunity for the students to learn outside in the Larsen Wildlife Sanctuary and practice that new knowledge.”
Considered an expert on Connecticut wildlife, Biardi intends to incorporate his knowledge of the local wildlife, among other topics, into his course at the Audubon.
“I will give an overview of the diversity and ecology of the mammals of southwestern Connecticut. In the classroom we will examine the major groups of mammals, ranging from those that are abundant and familiar (squirrels, deer, raccoons) to those that are much more shy or rare (shrews, bats, moles and mink),” he said of the course.
In addition to this, Biardi will discuss the habitat and niche of the creatures he will cover in his course, along with their importance to ecosystems in the Northeast.
“We will also have a chance to talk about some current wildlife management (i.e. deer), conservation (i.e. bats, carnivores, cottontails) and health issues (i.e. Lyme disease) related to natural populations of Connecticut mammals,” Biardi added.
In reflecting on his own interest in science, Biardi explained that he has wanted to go into the field for as long as he can remember, but specifically developed an interest in nature while studying in college.
“I became more interested in biology as an undergraduate, when I had the chance to do research on packrats, pocket mice and other small mammals in Baja, California. I’ve continued that work ever since, and am still learning new things all the time,” he said.
Biardi went on to explain the crucial role science plays in our lives today, as well as the benefits of science that we all enjoy that often go unnoticed.
“Science is essential to understanding the natural world, underlies new technology and medical innovations and helps in solving real world problems,” he said. “We all benefit from scientific knowledge, so even if you’re not planning a career in science it’s important to understand how science works. If nothing else it might save you from wasting money on fortune tellers.”