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Susan E. Quinlan – Naturalist, Author, Illustrator

I am a naturalist–someone who loves being out in nature, seeing and identifying all the creatures that inhabit our world, and learning as much as I can about the ecosystems I live in or visit. My love of nature comes from many years spent hiking, camping and exploring outdoors, both as a child and later as an adult.   

I earned a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from Colorado State University and an M.S. degree in Wildlife Biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. I spent many years conducting field research on seabirds, songbirds, and migratory shorebirds and waterfowl in remote areas of Alaska, working for both state and federal wildlife agencies.  In my years as a government-employed biologist, I authored scientific papers, interpretive brochures, and award-winning conservation curricula for schools. Later, while working as a naturalist guide with Lindblad Expeditions, I was fortunate enough to explore a wide range of environments, from deserts to rainforests, the high arctic to oceanic islands.  

Though I had enjoyed creating artwork  as a child, I never studied art formally because I was too busy with science classes and research.  I learned to draw mostly by experimentation, practice, and reading books about drawing.  I had the good fortune to travel with Dennis Puleston, a remarkable and talented naturalist and artist. He generously admired my drawings and encouraged me to try my hand at watercolor. Thanks to his advice and encouragement, I began creating color illustrations of birds and wildflowers with watercolors.  My successes with watercolor encouraged me to explore other mediums.  I now create art pieces and illustrations using watercolor, digital mediums, fabric, mosaic tile, and fused glass. 

My work as a field researcher and guide went by the wayside after my husband and I adopted two children.  I spent my daughters’ early years trying to balance my life as a mom with work as a freelance writer and illustrator.  I taught classes on birds and plants to teachers, authored four award-winning science books, and wrote and illustrated a good number of interpretive signs and guides about nature.

However, unlike some moms who can “do it all,” I got a bit over-whelmed when we added into the mix a move from Alaska to Colorado, building our own house, the needs of my aging parents, and a full time job as a computer programmer.  For several years, life demanded a different focus from me, so birding, plant identification, reading scientific journals, writing books, and creating art mostly got relegated to stolen moments, early in the morning, late at night, and here and there on family outings or in preparation for classroom presentations.  

Today, my children are striking out on their own, both my parents have passed away, and our house is as finished as any owner-builder home ever is.  So I am here, opening a new chapter in my life, re-focusing back on my first loves: nature, science, and art.

Though I am a good naturalist, with passable skills in several areas, I do not consider myself an expert on anything.  Rather I am a continuous learner.  I aim to learn about nature and science from as many sources as I can find the time to explore: field experience, lectures, books, teachers, friends, and scientific journals.  

And I aim to share my passion for nature and ecology with others, in any way I can.  Writing books.  Blogging.  Guiding.  Teaching.  Speaking.  Creating art.  

“In the end we will conserve only what we love. We will love only what we understand. We will understand only what we are taught.”  –  Baba Dioum, African Ecologist

I want to help everyone discover and enjoy the incredible natural treasures that surround us: the beauty, complexities, and mysteries of all parts of nature.  I want to find and share better ways of living that will help ensure that more of the plants and animals and wild places that enrich our lives today will exist far into the future.   And, through everything I do, I hope to raise money to support nature conservation.

I welcome you to join me on this next leg of my life’s journey.  Let’s see what we can discover and accomplish together!

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Thanks for your interest in my work!