Fairfield's Biardi to Teach Naturalist Program at Audubon
When friends and family see a wild animal in distress, Dr. Biardi, associate professor of biology and director of the Environmental Studies Program in the College of Arts and Sciences, knows that he’ll be the one that they call for help. Just last week, he was brought an orphaned squirrel pup that he is currently helping to rehabilitate.
Though, it is not just squirrels the biologist knows well. Dr. Biardi is familiar with all of Connecticut’s critters from the abundant squirrels, deer and raccoons to the rare shrews, bats, moles and mink. And this fall, he’s taking his expertise out into the community by teaching at the Connecticut Audubon’s Master Naturalist program.
The Master Naturalist program is a certificate program where participants are trained to be stewards of the natural environment. Dr. Biardi began teaching for the program in the spring of 2015 and will do so again this September and October. It is held in the Fairfield Audubon Center on Burr Street.
Dr. Biardi said, “This is a great program that helps citizens become more aware of the Fairfield setting and the natural world as a whole.”
“Mammals of Southwestern Connecticut,” one course taught by Dr. Biardi, presents an overview of the diversity and ecology of the common and not-so-common mammals found in Connecticut. Other classes range in topics from habitat, ecosystems and plant identification; nature and trail interpretation; wild life rehabilitation; bird ecology and identification; herpetology and entomology.
In addition to explaining identification marks and behaviors, Dr. Biardi also discusses changes to Connecticut’s habitats and what that means for the mammal population. One example he gives is why coyotes, a non-native Connecticut species, have become more prevalent while the previously common cougar has disappeared.
“The nice thing about teaching in this program for me is that I get to focus on mammals, and the University doesn’t offer a course in that field,” said Dr. Biardi. “This is an opportunity to foster an interest in mammals in a different group of people.” Dr. Biardi also volunteers his time with young children (budding environmentalists) through the River-Lab, a nonprofit in Fairfield focused on strengthening environmental science education.
On campus, Dr. Biardi teaches courses in biology, ecology and environmental sciences – in addition to directing the Environmental Studies Program, which evolved from being a minor to a fully-fledged major in the College of Arts and Sciences last fall. Its newly designed curriculum is solutions-oriented and offers a mix of humanities, social sciences and physical sciences courses.
“Our degree program is designed to train students with the skills and expertise in their area of interest—perhaps ecological science or climate policy—combined with exposure to the breadth of perspectives on environmental issues across the sciences, social sciences and humanities,” Dr. Biardi said. “This allows our students to help solve problems effectively as part of an interdisciplinary team that may contain multiple stakeholders with divergent goals.”
Dr. Biardi is a long-term advocate of studying and caring for the natural world. He grew up exploring the open areas of Orange County, California, and is a mentor that any budding environmentalist or naturalist can come to for knowledge. “I’ve always been interested in noticing what was being lost and why,” he said. “These programs are a great way for me to make the unnoticed ecosystems we all depend on more prominent.”
To learn more about the Master Naturalist program, visit the Connecticut Audubon website.