Neil Patterson Jr.
Corn Braider, Fish Eater, Tree Nerd
Assistant Director, Center for Native Peoples and the Environment
Neil reconnects Indigenous communities and youth with their ancestral lands and celebrates Indigenous ways of knowing. As a professor and assistant director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), he teaches students about Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). He also studies the relationship between Indigenous knowledge and scientific understanding to find ways to live respectfully in the world.
Jedi Warrior, Troublemaker, Runner
Director, Adirondack Diversity Initiative
Nicky has spent most of her life working toward a socially and environmentally just future. As director of the Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI), she works to make the Adirondack Park more welcoming to Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. Nicky and the volunteers she works with raise awareness about the systemic oppression of minoritized groups in outdoor spaces, advocate for public policy changes, and provide opportunities for youth and People of Color to visit and experience the Park through hiking, rafting, and camping.
Mom, Winter Lover, Swimming Junkie
Science Director, Paul Smith’s College Adirondack Watershed Institute
Michale is an ecologist and fiber artist studying how land use affects wildlife populations in the Adirondacks. She tracks boreal bird populations in peatlands and studies their vulnerability to climate change. She also investigates the impacts of development and recreation on ecological integrity within the Adirondack Park. Outside of her research, she combines her love of ecology and art by sharing scientific data through knitted and crocheted works of art. She also started a collaborative project engaging local schools and community members to join her in showcasing scientific data through fiber art. Each stripe on the dress Michale is wearing shows deviations in the global average temperature since 1880, going from oldest at the top to most recent at the bottom. Cooler colors of fabric represent cooler-than-average years, and warmer colors of fabric represent warmer-than-average years.
Guitar Picker, Swamp Dawdler, Dad
Research Station Director, Shingle Shanty Preserve
Steve is a researcher studying how bogs and peatlands in the Adirondacks are responding to human disturbance and changes in weather patterns. He has spent the last two decades working to better understand human impact on these places by measuring the depth of organic matter accumulation, taking vegetation surveys, and observing how wildlife biodiversity has varied in that time. Since 2009, Steve has led research at Shingle Shanty Preserve, a 23- square mile expanse of lakes, ponds, forests, and peatlands in the Adirondack Park. Long-term studies there will help us understand how peatlands are responding to a changing climate and provide insight into how we can better protect these places for biodiversity and carbon sequestration.
Indigenous cultures and knowledge focus on a relationship with nature that starts with gratitude and respect for Earth and the life it supports—soil, animals, plants, ecosystems, and people. By listening to Indigenous knowledge, we can move toward a more sustainable relationship with the natural world.
Indigenous peoples make up 5% of the world’s population, and yet they protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity on the lands they manage.
The Wild Center is grateful to Neil Patterson for sharing these ways of knowing.
Addressing climate change means ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to feel both safe in, and connected to, nature. Yet Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) groups often feel unsafe or unwelcome in parks, trails, and other outdoor areas. Privileged groups have often excluded BIPOC individuals from these spaces, and past and ongoing traumas and oppressions continue to affect how some People of Color experience nature.
Removing barriers is a first step to addressing the underrepresentation of BIPOC groups in the outdoors. These barriers include costs associated with outdoor activities and proximity to green spaces
SUNY Potsdam students whitewater raft on the Hudson River.
A family hikes at the Paul Smith’s College Visitor Interpretive Center during a trip led by Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI).
Hikers on an Inclusive Woods & Us excursion led by the Adirondack Diversity Initiative (ADI).
Ecosystems are interconnected webs of life. Steps we take to protect threatened species can make entire ecosystems more resilient to climate-related disturbances, like flooding and rising temperatures. Studying and recording biodiversity can help us find ways to promote ecosystem health so natural spaces can continue to provide clean air and water, wildlife habitat, and carbon storage.
You don't have to be a scientist to help study biodiversity. Science efforts in your community need volunteers to track plant and animal populations. This information tells us how species are responding to climate change.
Every day, plants and natural systems take carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in roots, leaves, tree trunks, and soil. This process, known as carbon sequestration, happens when plants convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar and oxygen. The remaining carbon is stored in the plant or the surrounding soil.
What stores carbon near your home? Forests, wetlands, grasslands, oceans, peatlands, and other natural systems all play a role in sequestering carbon. The world’s oceans alone absorb one-quarter of the carbon emissions we produce.
What makes peatland protection such an important climate solution?
Peatlands store twice as much carbon as forests, containing roughly one- third of terrestrial global carbon.
Waterlogged soil in wetlands prevents oxygen from fueling decomposition. This leads to a buildup of undecomposed vegetation, or peat.
In this picture, Steve is measuring peat depth in Spring Pond Bog, Tupper Lake, NY, with a yellow fiberglass rod. These measurements can be used to help estimate the amount of carbon stored in this bog.