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Read Alison's Articles

Alison grew up in Kent and is currently pursuing her PhD in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Yale University. She holds a BA in Environmental Studies & Mathematics from Williams College. A former intern in conservation and community outreach at the Kent Land Trust, Alison additionally developed her love for the natural world through work with the Central Park Conservancy and Camp Brookwoods & Deer Run.

 

We love the way Alison's writing resonates with our wonder and strong sense of place while connecting this inner, personal knowledge to science within Kent and far beyond. We're excited to showcase Alison's writings as a regular feature this year.

2024

An Appeal From An Imperfect Lawn

What exactly is the “perfect” lawn? The classic picture, familiar to us all from John Deere commercials and suburban coming-of-age movies, has become a comfortable norm: perfect squares of emerald green grass, each blade cut to exactly 2.5 inches tall in identical, uninterrupted stripes.
These lawns bother me.

Learn why in Alison's persuasive appeal to us to rethink our perceptions of what makes a landscape perfect and how that figures into our choices about how to design, plant, and care for the living rooms outside our homes. 

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How Community Science Benefits Our Birds

As an ecologist-in-training, questions of tractability often bother me. When I study a natural system, am I asking questions worth answering? And – once I have answers – are they actually usable to conserve, protect, or help that system survive?


Read on as Alison discusses the necessity and power of community-sourced data to close the ‘knowledge to action’ gap. Be inspired by case studies demonstrating how the collective observations of caring people directly led to wildlife protection and meet some Kent birds Alison has added to the dataset, as illustrated by Cody Limber's striking photographs.

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Checking in with the Snowbirds
Last week, while my partner Cody and I were out birding, we caught sight of a promising flash of gold in the branches above. Excited exploration around the tree–at first glancing only a flickering tail feather, the flash of a small black eye, a streak of russet along its flank–eventually culminated in a vaguely disappointed sigh. “Just another Chestnut-Sided Warbler…"

Read on to learn about Alison's discoveries in Costa Rica-and decide for yourself
whether Kent's summer neighbors measure up to the Resplendent Quetzal!

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Marking the Migrants' Return

Last weekend, an early spring hike down the Housatonic River by Bull’s Bridge ended with a unique highlight: not a stirring view or an impressive summit, but a faint, familiar call ringing through the trees.

 

Fee-bee! Fee-bee!

Do you recognize who Alison was hearing? Read on to learn more about how Alison uses eBird at home and out walking, why it matters, and how we each have a part to play in reversing the decline of our birds.

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A Case For Getting To Know Your Trees

When I tell you that I first caught my boyfriend’s attention with my tree identification skills, it’s barely an exaggeration. We were out for an autumn hike with a group of fellow graduate students when he started pointing out a charming assortment of birds through the branches: the bright crest of a cheeping Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, the fluttering hops of a migrating Blackpoll Warbler, and the long, banded tail of a soaring American Kestrel. Not to be outdone, but lacking in his superpowers of bird identification, I repaid his observations with a glimpse at the magic to be found in the branches themselves.

 

Click here to read more about the enchantments Alison saw in the woods and why she loves sharing the practice of observing trees.

Alison as an intern at Kent Mountain Preserve

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Alison now
 

Reflecting on a Youth Outdoors

As the whirlwind of autumn transitioned through a cicada-filled-September to an overflowing-goldenrod-October to a finally-frosty-November, I’ve felt a bit more wistful than usual. Fall has always been my favorite season.1 I’ve always loved the riotous leaves, the frosty mornings paired with warm afternoons, and looming promise of all my favorite holidays. I’ve also – somewhat unpopularly – always loved the start of a new school year, with its fresh, blank notebooks and its neat, not-too-crowded schedules promising a well-organized semester. While neither the notebooks nor the schedules ever remain as organized and uncrowded as hoped, I found myself having to a try a bit harder than usual to find that optimism this September.


Looking back on it, I’ve decided that the added wistfulness – and, I’ll admit, touch of dread – has stemmed not only from the inevitable exhaustion of starting my 20th year of school (yikes!), but from an odd feeling of a summer skipped. I’ve no right to feel like I skipped the summer, really: I took time off work with my family, I traveled to new states and hiked new trails, I dipped my toes in the ocean and did every other obligatory summer activity. But despite that schedule of vacations, despite the plethora of heat waves and mosquitos and cicadas experienced, I still feel like I missed out on something critical from the Summer of 2023.

 

Click here to read more about what Alison discovered...

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