an illustrated knowledgebase helping connect local folks & local nature in Delaware County, Indiana.
Let's talk purpose.
Hi! My name is Kortnie (or, you can call me Kort).
I'm the artist, developer, & naturalist behind the site – thanks for visiting!
This site is a personal conservation project of mine to connect local folks & local nature through technology, art, writing, & interpretation.
It's an evolving repository of colorful wildlife illustrations (created by me), observations & storytelling (as experienced by me), and scientific data (sourced from scientists, subject matter experts, & nonprofits); or, for short – an illustrated knowledgebase.
It's my hope this project increases local interest in wildlife, conservation, natural resources, critical habitats, & community-based problem solving by providing free resources to learn, create, explore, collab, & enjoy nature.
Why free? Poverty shouldn't prevent kids and adult learners from making connections with nature. As a former reduced-lunch kid, it's important to me that our community combat child poverty in any & all ways we can. So, all content found here will be free.
Let's talk more about poverty & nature.
Recent U.S. Census Data shows Delaware County has one of the highest poverty rates in our state, with ~31% of our community's kids (5-17 years) living below the poverty line. Our local United Way finds 26% of Delaware County households are considered ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). These are working families with ~$1000 in savings who would be 1-2 emergencies away from poverty & not being able to afford housing, insurance, transportation, bills, medication, child care, or groceries.
Kids living in poverty lack access to quality natural environments & outdoor play opportunities, and have limited access to school libraries & resources. If kids with access to these things are healthier and more likely to care for the environment as adults, let's address those inequalities in our community.
Let's talk early nature experiences.
I spent a lot of time in my childhood backyard making friends with the resident rollie pollies & worms, searching for four-leaf clovers, and building mini habitats using recycled coffee tins, sticks, & leaves to attract caterpillars. And I was always coloring, drawing, & painting animals. None of this has changed.
One of my first memories in nature was a family trip to Tennessee – we camped on Dale Hollow Lake where I caught my first fish (pic below!). And, visited my papaw's house on Wolf River (pic above!) where I played in the riffles and learned river rocks are slippery! The water was, and still is, incredibly clear. Now, when I'm on our White River I think about how clean & blue our water could be.
In 3rd grade, visitors taught us about endangered species, habitat loss, climate change, & how to help. In 5th grade, we visited Mammoth Cave. Also in 5th grade, a biologist visited class. We dissected owl pellets to learn about their diet (taking off my gloves, digging in, & analyzing what I found was really fun!).
Even TV shows (& people) like The Crocodile Hunter (Steve & Terri Irwin), The Joy of Painting (Bob Ross), The Wild Thornberrys, Gullah Gullah Island, & Going Wild with Jeff Corwin made a huge impact for me.
Or Zoo Tycoon, which I still play. I've logged weeks building the perfect exhibits for endangered species.
I collected brochures from places with animals, like zoos or museums. They make great reference photos!
As a teen, I fell in love with marine biology thanks to Mote Marine Laboratory & Aquarium. I wanted to rehabilitate dolphins, manatees, & sea turtles. I was surprised with a Dolphin In-Water Adventure at the Indy Zoo on my 16th birthday. I learned from real marine biologists, fed dolphins fish, signaled behavior, and one even peed on me.
Note: I didn't pursue marine biology because dolphins aren't found in Prairie Creek. Seems reasonable, right? If you feel the same, please know there are many local opportunities to study aquatic biology – the mussels, amphibians, macroinvertebrates, fish, reptiles, insects, & mammals found in our waterways and wetlands here in Muncie. Love manatees & dolphins? Try river otters. Sea turtles? Research the eastern box turtle, or the state-endangered spotted and Blanding's turtles. Plenty of local species & ecosystems need our help!
Let's talk current current nature experiences.
I'm still painting & making friends with the resident critters in our backyard – chipmunks, bees, toads, bunnies, birds, shrews, & all sorts of other neat wildlife indigenous to our area.
Starting the Indiana Master Naturalist (IMN) program in 2019 proved to be one of those pivotal life moments. I was able to learn from local subject matter experts (biologists, educators, geologists, foresters, interpreters) on all things Delaware County nature: natural resources, water quality, soil, pollinators, forests, conservation, ethics, and existing environmental problems. I met two (2!) local big brown bats! I started joining local community events, like the White River Cleanup & Earth Day tree planting, and even learned how to build Leopold benches. After (finally!) completing the volunteer requirements in 2022, I earned my certification.
When not home playing with our 5 pets or painting, I enjoy exploring our West Fork White River by kayak & hiking our local nature trails. I'm always hoping to spot local wildlife. Here are a few species on my 'hope to see in the wild' list: otter, rusty-patched bumble bee, red bat, cerulean warbler.
This site wouldn't exist without IMN helping me (re)connect with local nature and providing the info to better understand the environmental issues impacting our local communities. And, I look forward to attempting the Advanced IMN program next year!
As for this site, it will continue to evolve as I learn, create, explore, collab, and enjoy local nature.
Thanks for joining me on this nature adventure!