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In this Nature League Field Trip, Brit introduces both herself and Missoula, Montana as hosts of the channel. Future Field Trip locations are revealed, and we break down our first Wild Word: ecology.

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Welcome to our first field trip here on Nature League. What I wanted to do for this first field trip was kind of introduce myself, and also introduce this place that we're going to be exploring together.

I am from Florida. I did my bachelor's degree at the University of Florida in zoology, and I minored in wildlife ecology and conservation. I discovered conservation genetics, which is what i really fell in love with in terms of research. I went and did a master's in North Carolina, at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. And, i did that degree in marine biology.

After going my master's, I realized that I wanted to tell the story of science to a bigger audience. So, do it in a way that could incorporate some of the other things I love in life, which are performing and teaching. And, so I decided to move out to Montana to do a degree in science and natural history filmmaking. 

Turns out, filmmaking wasn't the perfect fit. At least, not with that program, and I really missed science. And, the nice thing is that, there was an expert in conservation genetics right here where we are now in Missoula, Montana. So, I switched over, and I am now doing a PhD in wildlife biology.

So, we are super lucky to be here filming this show in Missoula, Montana, and, before I tell you about it, I think we should probably go on a little walk so you can see a little bit more of it.

So, where is Missoula? Well, we're on the northwest side of Montana. The elevation is close to 3,000 feet or about 1,000 meters, and that sits us right here in the Rocky Mountains of the United States.

So, if you were here 13,000 years ago, you would see something totally different, because Missoula and Missoula Valley actually use to be a glacial lake. And, you can still see signatures of the fact that it was under water where the waves would lap against the shore that are all on stripes along the mountainsides, or we call them striations. So, there's still little hints of what this use to be like.

There's evidence that there have been people here in Missoula Valley for over 12,000 years or so, and then Lewis and Clark came through. They led expeditions and so, since the last couple of centuries, Missoula has grown, like a lot of other places out in the west. So, nowadays, we have about 72,000 or so people in terms of our population. Which, depending on where you live might be big or small, but, for Montana, it's actually the second biggest town in terms of number of people.

And, even though there are relatively a lot of people here, more than half of the land in Missoula County is actually designated as forested or woodlands. Meaning that, despite having a heavy population of humans, there are tons of wild spaces and places where you're going to see something other than just concrete or human-built structures.

We are right here in the Rocky Mountain ecosystem. So, besides humans, there's all kinds of other species you'll get to see here. A lot of neat mammals, both big and small, birds, all kinds of plants, amphibians, and reptiles, even. And, we are so excited to get to show you all of those things here on Nature League, both on our field trips and in the studio.

And now a word, not from our sponsors, but from the dictionary. Years of studying Latin in high school and a highly curious personality has made me into someone who loves words. Whenever I come across a term I'm unfamiliar with, I try breaking it down first and looking at its pieces. You'd be surprised by the fascinating stories that words begin to tell once you see their roots. Once a month, on Nature League, we'll look at the etymology, or origin and history, of words related to nature.

To start us off, I'll start with a personal favorite: the word "ecology". Yes, you probably already know this word, and you probably already know that the ending -ology means the study of. But, what I find interesting about the word "ecology" is the first part. The word eco derives from the Greek word "oikos," which actually means house. So, while a formal definition of ecology might be the study of living and non-living things sharing an environment, ecology literally means the study of the house. Isn't that kind of beautiful. I mean, living and non-living things is true in denotation, but the word "house" has a totally different connotation, or feeling, and it's one that I love.

To me, the word origin recognizes that when we study living and non-living things, we're actually studying a home. And, in the case of certain systems, our home. And this is a fundamentally different thing philosophically. It's asking us to be a part of the thing, instead of just studying it. And, that is pretty sweet.

For other field trips here on Nature League, we're going to go to all kinds of places that are right near by here in Missoula. So, we have the university, University of Montana, right near by with amazing scientists and really cool, different labs and natural experiments all over the place. We also have Glacier National Park just to the north of us, which is awesome and I can't wait to take you guys there. We also got the National Bison Range on the way up, and Flathead Lake, which is totally beautiful. It's one of my favorite places. So, with all of this, I think we have some serious fun ahead.

Thanks for joining me here on Nature League for our very first little field trip. Make sure to come back next week when we are going to dive into the scientific literature and break down a really neat study on what we're calling de-natured. Thanks so much for joining, and we'll see you next time.