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Growing Up Wild

For many of our Conservancy staff members, nature isn't just a profession, it's a passion that they want to share with their children. New Jersey's Adrianna Zito-Livingston hopes that introducing her daughter early on to nature will build a lifelong connection and respect for our natural world.

What do you do for The Nature Conservancy?

Adrianna Zito-Livingston:

I manage the most heavily visited Nature Conservancy Preserve in New Jersey, The South Cape May Meadows. My family is also fortunate to live in a Conservancy owned house that is part of this Preserve.

Why is it important to you that your children grow up connected to nature?

Adrianna Zito-Livingston:

I hope that by connecting my child to nature we are teaching her to value and respect her natural world and everything in it. Nature is full of thousands of mysteries and lessons to feed her curiosity, and as she shares what she learns with us and others she gains confidence and appreciation for our planet and its natural resources. By introducing our child to her natural world early on and building that connection through her childhood we’re hoping that it will become an inherent part of her, and guide her actions as she grows up, even if she doesn’t follow directly in the occupational foot-steps of her biologist parents.

How does spending time outdoors impact your child?

Adrianna Zito-Livingston:

Amelia lives for the time she spends outside. There’s no better feeling than saying “let’s go outside” and watching my child’s face light up. She is happiest when she’s outdoors, whether it’s in our beautiful backyard enjoying the wetlands and meadow or at the Meadows Preserve enjoying the trails or beach. When she’s outside she is an explorer, an athlete and a problem solver, and it makes her so happy.

Is there a Conservancy preserve you spend a lot of time on with your children?

Adrianna Zito-Livingston:

The house where we live is actually part of the South Cape May Meadows Preserve; it’s surrounded by a Wildlife Management Area, and a quick walk to the preserve. The folks who donated the house and property to The Conservancy did an amazing job of planting for wildlife, and because of the gardens, bird houses, and other beneficial habitat features, it has been certified as backyard wildlife habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.

What makes this preserve special?

Adrianna Zito-Livingston:

The Meadows features a variety of habitats including open fields, freshwater wetland, dune and beach, providing a wide variety of plants and animals to see year-round. It’s a great place to bring a family, the loop trail is raised and wide, pretty easy to push a stroller and passable by little feet. Wildlife is close enough that you don’t really need binoculars to view ducks or wading birds, or to see raptors flying overhead. Like most natural places, there is always something new to see.

Any favorite activities at the Meadows?

Adrianna Zito-Livingston:

Amelia is one of the site’s youngest bird watchers. She received her first pair of binoculars before she could walk and won’t leave home without them. Before she could walk very far on her own, I would take her along on evening and weekend visits to the preserve to monitor the site’s vulnerable beach nesting birds and she’d knock me in the back of the head raising her binoculars! Now that she can walk on her own, I have trouble keeping up with her on the trails. After many visits to the preserve she’s learned what to look for along the trails, in the ponds of the wetland she exclaims “hi water!” and “look ducks!" I’m continually amazed at how excited she gets when she spots something before me.

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