Wildlife educator will teach a class that covers the connection of ecology and mindfulness at the Summit Community Gardens
Goal is to reestablish humans’ link with nature
Knowing the relationships between natural predators and their prey can be beneficial for personal gardens and the world’s ecology, says wildlife educator Patrick Schirf.
“Starting small in your backyard is a more tangible way of helping people understand what those relationships can look like, because using pesticides and rodenticides can move up the food chain and have a drastic impact on your backyards, as well as the nature around you,” said Schirf, an ecologist and former wildlife biologist. “People don’t realize the things you do in the garden can have consequences on a larger scale.”
The public will have the opportunity to learn more during Schirf’s “Ecology and Mindfulness” class that will start at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12, at Summit Community Gardens. The class, which will follow COVID-19 protocols including social distancing and mask recommendations, costs $10, which will benefit the garden.
“The goal is to try and reestablish our connection to the natural world, understanding what that is from an ecological perspective, and seeing how interrelated everything is,” Schirf said. “I want to highlight how interconnected things are so people can gain a better understanding and a greater appreciation for what those relationships are and how they are used to more effectively help grow food.”
The class fits with the nonprofit’s mission to gather, educate and garden, said Executive Director Sloane Johnson.
“Not only will Patrick help people be more mindful of what they see in their garden, but how being mindful in nature can help them excel in gardening,” she said. “It’s about understanding how you can create a healthier ecosystem in your gardening.”
One way to create a healthier ecosystem is to rely on nature for pest control, Schirf said.
“I want the class to start talking about the general idea of ecology and how things like predators and prey work together,” he said. “I want them to understand that there are so many moving pieces that have their importance, and I will show that removing pieces of the puzzle can create detriment up and down the chain across the world.”
Summit Community Gardens has already implemented some of these ideas in controlling the vole population in the area, Johnson said.
“We built a kestrel nest to encourage raptors to roost,” she said. “Studies show that just the sound of kestrels causes the voles to disperse and decrease breeding.”
The nest was installed last year, and Johnson has already seen an increased number of kestrels in the area.
“I haven’t seen any go into the nest, but they are there,” she said. “We’re doing what we can to encourage their presence.”
Another concern the garden is addressing is the aphids that can eat the vegetation.
“Instead of using poisons, we will bring in some ladybugs that eat aphids,” she said. “While that may take a little longer to control the aphids, we are working toward a solution that will help the ecosystem in a way that will be more successful in the long run.”
Schirf also wants his class to encourage personal connections between humans and nature.
“After working professionally with wildlife for seven years, I realized that there’s a big disconnect as far as the way society is moving to separate ourselves from nature, and I saw the result of what that looks like in the detriment to our overall well-being,” he said. “People think they can separate themselves, but we can’t. Everything we do has an impact. If you can become more aware of that you can shift things to bring more overall well-being to you and the people around you.”
That benefit not only includes how people will garden, but how they will enjoy the outdoors in general, according to Schirf.
“It will also help them pay attention to things when they go for a walk along a trail, and they will find that there is something therapeutic about being in that space,” he said. “Recognizing that appreciation will hopefully give people more reason to change the way they go about life.”
Shirf developed a love for wildlife and the outdoors while growing up in Park City.
“It was all about being in the mountains and having that access outside of my front door,” he said.
He also enjoyed visiting Thomas Mangelson’s Images of Nature fine art photography gallery on Main Street.
“I was just fascinated by the natural world and that continued to grow as I grew older,” he said. “I got a degree in zoology from Western Washington University, and pursued a career in wildlife looking closely at predator and prey dynamics.”
Johnson felt Schirf’s background would give him a personal insight to the “Ecology and Mindfulness” class.
“I’ve known him for a long time, and I know he has a passion for connecting people with nature,” she said. “I asked him to come teach this class, and we’re really excited to have him on board.”
When: 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 12
Where: Summit Community Gardens, 4056 Shadow Mountain Drive
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