Coming Home to the Lloyd Center!

by Bruce Traban, Lloyd Center Educator/Naturalist

My short time at the Lloyd Center has felt like coming home to family after time apart. The Lloyd Center was a formative part of my childhood, providing an outlet to explore the environment and great teachers to provide a way to do so safely. My first experiences started with walking the trails with my dad to the causeway to catch and release crabs from underneath the rocks.

My Pops has always loved the outdoors, especially the ocean, so learning about sea critters and watching him snorkel were always favorite summer past times of mine growing up. My sister and I embraced his passion for the ocean.

When my sister started interning at the Lloyd Center, her focus was on marine biology to help further her studies. I must have bugged her every day during her internship to bring me so I could help feed the creatures. At that time, the Lloyd Center was involved with head starting Diamondback Terrapins and I was eager to help raise these little hatchlings. I would also help feed anything else that I could. Croc, the big snapping turtle, was off limits despite being docile, but the touch tank inhabitants, tautog, and other turtles, no bigger than a half dollar, were all happy to be fed by me and I was more than happy to help.

When I got older, I could finally start attending programs. I never thought it to be in the family budget, but I learned about the scholarships the Lloyd Center offers for students who wish to attend. From there I got to writing, my first two paragraphs here being a synopsis for the lengthier scholarship letter I wrote. Though at this time my focus had shifted from marine biology to herpetology, and I really wanted to be a part of Amanda’s (one of the Educator/Naturalists) herpetology program. It was during this experience that I got to hold my first snake, a ball python from Cold Blooded Pets & Supplies. I now (and for the last 12 years) have a ball python of my own named Monty.

I was also fortunate enough to attend Liz’s (Lloyd Center Education/Outreach Director) “I Can Paddle, Canoe?” program. My hope was I could stop riding middle in my family canoe and have an actual hand at paddling. I learned so much during that week that still sticks with me today. Sure, I can tell you about a handful of different paddle strokes, the best ones to keep you straight, or the best to sneak up on wildlife to get a closer look, but what really stuck was more important. We learned leadership skills and how to follow instruction as well. It was a necessity to learn to be in sync, otherwise you would be pushing against your partner. Communication was key. You needed to able to dish out commands and to learn from criticism. Liz made the process so much fun, every learning experience was enjoyable, and even when things were serious it still was something to which we looked forward. Like flipping a canoe on purpose to learn how to bail and reset the canoe in an emergency. The controlled setting mimicked a real scenario, but the process was a fun time.

I was away from the Lloyd Center for some time. I went to New Bedford Vocational High School, studying environmental science. After high school, I attended UMass Amherst under their Natural Resource Conservation major and had to specialize in a subject come my sophomore year. I still loved marine sciences but thought I’d like to spend most of my time wandering through the trees and focused on forestry. After some odd jobs and time spent at Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust (DNRT) in a myriad of positions, from a daffodil ranger, seasonal field tech, to AmeriCorps service member, I have found myself back at the place that started it all for me.

The Lloyd Center is an amazing place to work. The sense of community is very much at the forefront with colleagues going out of their way to help one another. I had never been in a teaching role prior to this, my closest experience being leading nature walks and hosting an open house at DNRT’s Allen’s Mill, but I never once felt unprepared. The staff was quick to get me involved in an observing role, learning from the best, and once I felt comfortable enough, I was able to take part in the lessons.

It has been approximately ten months since I started at the Lloyd Center and I have been able to teach in school lessons, lead field trips, and have my own summer program. The experiences have been so rewarding and I’m thankful to be a part of the team that got me so interested in the environment as a child. I hope I can, in turn, inspire a few young minds. I have to say the most rewarding part of this whole experience has been introducing the environment to those children who don’t have the opportunity to see it often, whether that be because of access or safety. It brings a smile to my face and lifts my spirits when I can show a kid a turtle for their first time or help them to overcome a fear. One student was terrified of crabs and by the end of a coastal creature presentation she was playing with the spider crabs and said they were now her favorite! It’s those moments that remind me just how important our work is in introducing nature to everyone.