I grew up in Wichita Falls, a town in North Texas where our landmark and namesake is a muddy-brown, artificial waterfall (usually turned off to conserve water). The town’s unofficial motto is “Fake Falls, Real People” and I have found that to be true of Texans in general…you just won’t meet more authentic people. As you can tell from my style (and the bright pink cowboy boots out of frame in the picture), my mom had dreams of raising a real, authentic Texas cowgirl.
Unfortunately, I was allergic to horses and hay, so her dream didn’t come true. Since I couldn’t be a cowgirl, my love for the outdoors took root on family fishing trips, where my parents introduced me to the joy of casting a line into the river long before I could even walk.
These early moments of connection with nature set the stage for my lifelong passion for the outdoors, but one specific trip stands out in my memory. During what we were sure was the hottest summer in Texan history, my dad, sister, and I took a float trip down the Brazos River. At some points, the water level was so low that we had to get out and drag the canoe. We spent the days rowing, complaining about the heat, and waiting for my dad to cast his line into a coveted deep pool in the river. Once he determined there were no fish for us to spook, my sister and I could hop out and swim to cool down. Our trip was full of misadventures, including an accidental lantern fire, a tipped canoe, burnt dinner, tents placed on top of fire ant nests… and my dad finding it very funny to say, “Taylor! You asleep yet?” every ten minutes as I tried to drift to sleep in the oppressive heat (still nursing fire-ant bites). Looking back, we laugh at our misadventures but also cherish the whirlpool we swam in for hours, the fish we caught, and the fun we had. That memorable trip left me with more than just anecdotes: it instilled in me a profound respect for the wilds of Texas and nature as a whole. It made me realize that I find my true happiness outdoors, even amongst the misadventures.
Since then, I continued to spend time exploring and investigating the natural world, whether looking for insects or turning over rocks in the creek. These early experiences and lessons nurtured my curiosity and led me to pursue a career in STEM. I have explored many paths at the confluence of health and the natural world- conducting field research with bats, exploring the human dimensions of conservation efforts in Central and South America, and managing research programs that bridge human health and environmental concerns. My career has led me to beautiful places, from the prairies of Texas, through the forests of the Carolinas, and currently to the mountains of the Colorado, where I spend my time fishing and exploring with my dog, Mango.
But despite my roaming, I will always be Texan by Nature. I am an earnest advocate for advancing the understanding of the connections between nature and health and working towards a future where everyone can access and enjoy the benefits of nature. There is no better way for me to promote these goals than working with Texan by Nature and the Nature and Health Alliance.