Kevin O'Malley describes nature tracking as the place where storytelling and science come together. It encompasses mammalogy, mathematics and the "super-complexities" of signs left behind.
This Saturday O'Malley, in conjunction with the Juneau Audubon Society, plans to share his passion for the art of tracking and identifying signs by hosting a new program titled Tracks and Signs Saturday Wild. The event will begin at 10 a.m. in the parking lot of the Brotherhood Bridge trail.
O'Malley said the two-hour walk into the woods will touch on anything and everything they come across.
"It's about mystery and discovery," he said. "And I don't have to be nervous that we won't see anything. Signs are always left behind. Like what the porcupine nibbles off the tree, or the deer that browses on hemlock or lichen. We walk by them everyday."
Study will include local mammal and bird populations and their relationship to the environment. O'Malley, who also works as a naturalist with Discovery Southeast, said the group's goal is to connect people in the community with one another by "spending time exploring together in our backyard."
"This session I'd like to get those who don't know anything about it hooked, so to speak," he said. "I know how to ask the questions that are going to wake the mind."
For instance, "I just saw a squirrel munching down on some seeds," he said. "Now I have a mystery. What kinds of seeds are those? Are they high-energy seeds? Where did he find them?"
But mysteries like this one, O'Malley said, are easier to solve than others. Like telling the difference between the gait of a dog vs. that of a wolf, wild tracks vs. non-wild tracks. Tracking is a riddle that can get complex.
"I really get into it," he said. "The conditions right now, there's this layer of frost, it isn't perfect, but it is idyllic."
The event was created to piggy-back off of an similar program once organized by Mary Lou King, called Saturday Wild, which also brought local residents and nature together via weekend gatherings and hikes.
"Audubon is typically associated with birds," O'Malley said. "But we're not just about birds. Wildlife is another part of our focus."
He said he hopes to conduct the event twice monthly, but admits it's all still in the works.
Families are welcome to participate in the event Saturday. Elders are encouraged to share stories and children must be accompanied by an adult. Participants should dress for the weather.
The event is free and open to the public. Dogs are not allowed.
Regardless of the turnout, O'Malley said he just want to give participants "opportunities to discover things."
For more information contact Kevin O'Malley at 321-7064 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.