Sarah McPeek ’19 has always found it easy to connect with nature. When she was younger, she didn’t want to be human.
“I actually wrote my college essay on it,” she said. “I thought we were evil and boring and that we just mess everything up. Animals are just so much better!”
Now, as a biology major and a manager at the Brown Family Environmental Center (BFEC), McPeek is trying to inspire the same passion towards the natural world in her fellow Kenyon students.
This year year she is doing so with a new group, the Kenyon Society of Naturalists. Every Saturday morning, McPeek takes students to different parts of the BFEC’s 500 acres. Her goal is to “get students out of bed and thinking about nature and being a part of it rather than sitting in their dorm watching Netflix.”
As a liaison between the BFEC and the campus community, McPeek aims to connect students with the BFEC and Kenyon’s surrounding nature through educational programs.
“There’s really so much amazing diversity of wildlife that we have,” she said. “No one explores it.”
McPeek’s trips begin at the Bookstore on Saturday mornings at 9 a.m. and typically last two hours, though they rarely have strict guidelines. In the most recent excursion, which was supposed to be to the prairies in the southern part of the BFEC, McPeek first led the participants around the nearby garden, where they tried to catch butterflies. When they saw a frog hop out of a pond, Alex Levy ’20 unsuccessfully chased after it with his net. The group later found a stem of grass with an engorgement on it that McPeek explained was from a parasitic wasp.
“Sarah is a fauna flora fact machine,” Levy said. “I discovered more about local organisms than I had [thought I would].”
McPeek grew up in the woods of New Hampshire, raised by parents with strong backgrounds in biology. Her childhood was inundated with natural exploration. “A lot of my childhood was spent running around, exploring streams and watching birds and catching insects,” McPeek said. “It’s a big part of who I am, so I really wanted to share that with the students here.” Now, she wants the Kenyon community to become more in tune with the natural urge to explore.
In her all-student emails promoting the group, she addresses everybody as “fellow animals.” That is because, she said, “I think we forget that we are animals … our society and our culture in particular is one that tends to distance itself from nature. I think it’s really important to think of ourselves as a part of the ecology and the landscape of everything and less as bystanders of nature.”
Indeed, McPeek said, “The point [of the project] is to get people thinking about nature and just enjoying being animals.”