To be clear, a “naturalist” has nothing to do with nudity.
Rather, a naturalist is someone who studies and unearths discoveries about natural history, and in Southeast Ohio, there are always new mysteries to solve. Thanks to the region’s rugged topography and abundance of woodlands, many areas remain underdeveloped, creating a wealth of biodiversity. Tourists travel from afar to witness the biological wonders inhabiting Southeast Ohio.
Jim McCormac, life-long Columbus native, has enjoyed a short commute to experience the marvels of Appalachian wildlife. McCormac works for the Ohio Division of Wildlife and operates a nature blog, JimMcCormac.blogspot.com, full of breathtaking photos and expert information. We spoke with McCormac about his work, his knowledge of the region, and his unwavering love of the outdoors.
A natural communicator
“I’m in the ‘Wildlife Diversity’ section, and we do a lot of public outreach about non-game animals. We’ve done about 15 booklets that tend to be 60 to 80 pages long. We’ve done four [booklets] about birds, covering most of the groups of birds in Ohio, and we’ve done them about reptiles, amphibians, and fish. We’ve given away a million in the last eight years. We’ve really done a lot of outreach work to help interest people in nature and educate people in nature.
A mission to blog
“The current iteration is about 8-years-old, and I think I’m nearing 1,500 posts. It’s a great way to pipe information out to people. An overarching theme for me that unifies all it is I want people to get interested in nature because I want them to protect it. You can’t get people to protect what they don’t know anything about. So I do what I can.”
Southeast Ohio sweet spots
“Adams and Scioto counties, those are my two favorites by a long shot. Adams County has these little heather glade prairies, or short grass prairies; sometimes they call them bluegrass prairies. But they have some of the richest diversity in the entire Midwest and they’re full of rare species. In Scioto County is Shawnee State Forest, you’ve got the influence of the Teays River, which flows north out of what’s now the [Great] Smoky Mountains National Park and enters Ohio right around Portsmouth and flows north, northwest through Ohio. Many of the plants it’s brought in over the eons of its existence still survive there today, so it’s sort of this Bermuda Triangle of weird plants. But it’s a goldmine that’s really rich in diversity, and it’s not that well explored. I think the only place in Ohio where knowledgeable people have a reasonable expectation that they might find something brand new to Ohio, or possibly, new to science.”
Philosophical by nature
“The way I look at nature, it’s an inexhaustible intellectual pursuit. You could never even begin to learn all this stuff; it’s just far too ornate. You can become fairly masterful in segments, but when you start looking at all these pieces of the puzzle and all these little things that are out there, you’ll just be constantly dumbfounded by what you learn. It’s amazing.”