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Deepening our connection with nature with Caitlin Weatherstone

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 Caitlin Weatherstone (pronouns: she/her) is a wildlife ecologist, educator, and nature connection business owner of Life Wild on Bundjalung country in Lennox Head, New South Wales. After a long resume of fantastic jobs and opportunities throughout the wildlife industry, Caitlin has landed her first permanent position as a Koala Project Officer. Caitlin shares her experiences working in the world of wildlife as well as ways she encourages women to connect with nature and our ancestral human evolution.

Deepening our connection with nature with Caitlin Weatherstone | #itsawildlife

CAITLIN’S JOURNEY

Caitlin’s love of the natural world began before her earliest memories. With parents who loved being on the coast, some of Caitlin’s earliest memories are foraging in rock pools, learning to surf, and catching octopus.

“And that began my fascination with the marine world in particular.”

With Caitlin obsessed with the animal world, she always thought she would become a vet when she grew up. However, a school excursion to Heron Island on the Great Barrier Reef changed that when she realised you could work as a ranger amongst nature.

Academically focused, Caitlin took the steps towards her newfound dream job by, and she went to university and studied a Bachelor of Wildlife Science at the University of Queensland in Gatton followed by a Masters in Tropical Ecology and Conservation.

“I dipped my toes in everything – and as a Gemini, I can’t stick to just one thing, and I need variety – so it’s been a fun adventure since studying wildlife.”

Caitlin started to experience the wide variety of opportunities available in the wildlife industry – jumping between projects, locations, and funding bodies. Caitlin has worked in public education, ecological field roles, bush care, and care for people – helping us connect with nature.

“If you’re dynamic and you like variety, contracts are a great place to start because you can try lots of experiences and work out what you really like (and don’t like!)”

INSPIRING NATURE CONNECTION

“It is so important for all human beings to connect deeply with nature because that’s where we’re from, that’s who we are – human animals!”

Caitlin dedicates her time to time to inspiring nature (re)connection in women especially as she believes we have a responsibility to share our knowledge with people and as humans, we are naturally drawn towards being in wild spaces. She explains –

“Our ancestors were not within four walls. Rather, we have had hundreds of thousands of years of evolution living alongside nature. The bush and the human were the same thing. They were connected and they could talk to each other, and we have forgotten that.”

“After all my experiences particularly in my twenties, at 35 years old now, I feel like I can act in that education and mentor role to guide younger people who are interested in wildlife and environmental science”.

To fulfil this calling, a couple of years ago Caitlin started her business, Life Wild selling eco products online and encouraging sustainable living. Caitlin explains –

“I felt like if you’re going to talk the talk, you need to walk the walk, so I looked at myself and my lifestyle and thought if I care about the environment and animals, things need to change.”

In response, Caitlin’s lifestyle radically changed in her twenties, and she felt called to share that with people. This evolved into an offering of nature connection for women, mostly through hiking and bush craft. For Caitlin, it is all about building confidence through knowledge which she has found gives women a sense of accomplishment and empowerment.

“This is why I do what I do, because I want people to feel empowered to be in the bush. I want women to feel empowered to connect with nature and not be scared.”

In all her roles as an ecologist, Caitlin has always been looking for the connection between nature and people – and helping to bridge that gap to help people feel more confident and comfortable in the natural world. She talks us through ways we can increase our connection with nature:

“There are so many ways that you can better connect with the natural world, and obviously, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re likely already really into wildlife, or you might already be an ecologist – but I thought I was really connected to nature because I spent a lot of time in the bush, right?”

“However, I was looking through an academic lens, and what they don’t teach you at university was the spiritual aspect of connecting with nature.”

“They do not teach you about human evolution or how your ancestors used to live. I became fascinated by anthropology and how early human culture survived and thrived and became the humans we are today.”

Caitlin suggests looking into your own ancestry if you too are fascinated by this to investigate your roots and understand your heritage.

“Where did they come from? What were these people eating? What were they up to? And that can explain so much of our biology, our DNA because that cell memory exists in all of us.”

And on a practical and personal level, Caitlin also recommends spending quality time in nature. She explains:

“I have found myself getting quite stressed and anxious in many jobs over the years and having some mental health struggles in my life. Over time, I have found healing power in hiking and bush walking in particular – and just immersing myself in wild places and getting that perspective.”

“When you walk into wild places, whether it’s a rainforest or the desert, they’re so expansive and they’re just so big and it makes you feel small – not in an insignificant way, but more like wow, there’s so much more to this and I’m just a small part of it!”

“Learning this really empowered me as it made all my troubles seem so small and insignificant… and when you look at the small details of animals, and then zoom back and get that perspective, it really shifted my mindset, and I felt the expansiveness and awe at the beauty of these wild places.”

Caitlin suggests that if you feel like you lack joy in your life, go out and find somewhere wild to go for a walk and it will completely spin your viewpoint around. And there are so many studies now that correlate nature connection with benefits for the human brain, our physical body, our emotional body on a spiritual level.

“It’s having a belief in something greater than us – no matter what your spiritual, religious beliefs are, you can believe in nature.”

“If you believe that the system of life on earth will protect you, if you believe that we have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years for a reason, if you think of all that time we’ve had coming to this point in time, and we are on the precipice of another shift in the Earth’s life –

“Species are being knocked off the planet now, and while this has happened many times before, it’s not unfamiliar to the earth, but this time it’s more anthropological.”

“I feel like there’s real change that can happen, and we are the changemakers – for the bad and also for the good – so, I feel that we’re here at this really important point in time, in history.”

“Everything is so connected, and we are just animals, you know, but on computers! It is weird to us as humans – to be in four walls and feel so far removed from our animal bodies. We are so far removed from what even our ancestors, even two or three generations ago were like, so this is all unfamiliar territory for humans.”

“There are lots of studies out there showing how when you walk into a forest or by the ocean, the blues and greens instantly soothe your respiration rate, your blood pressure goes down, you feel a sense of calm and the, the anxiety just seems to drip away. That is not a coincidence.”

“It’s because our nervous systems are wired to be in these places, rather than inside at computers all day – so if you feel frazzled, go outside, take your shoes off, connect with your earth.”

“It’s what our ancestors have always done and it’s what our bodies were built to do.”

CAITLIN’S ADVICE

Caitlin quotes Mary Oliver reiterating: how are you going to use this one wild and precious life?

“We’re only on this planet for a very short and finite period of time. Humans have only been on this planet for a very finite period – so, why not put your mark on it? Why not leave a legacy and, you know, share as much of your knowledge as possible. Learn as much as possible. Mentor young people in your community.”

While imposter syndrome is something that comes up for a lot of us, causing us to question who we are to start mentoring people in ecology when we do not even know if we’ve made it ourselves? Caitlin’s confidence is infectious, she says –

“If you’re a human and you’ve had some life experiences, you are well qualified to share your knowledge and your experiences with people – I think it’s so crucial for our communities, it’s how we would have lived for many generations of our past.”

And to take some advice from Caitlin herself on the steps you can take today to get you closer to a career in wildlife:

  • Find what you’re passionate about.

Think about what it is you are here to do!

“I want to acknowledge that living in Australia as a woman, we are so privileged that we can chase our dreams when many people around the world aren’t safe to study or work outside alone. I really wanna acknowledge those women, and it breaks my heart to think that you have to be privileged in order to connect with nature.”

  • Gather as much experience as you can.

“For me, that looked like lots of volunteering, which sounds arduous, but it was the best fun. Buddy up with a conservation organization that you love and start volunteering because it just gets you so much on ground experience.”

  • Build confidence in yourself.
  • Surround yourself with like-minded people.
  • Trust the pathway you are on.
  • Go with the flow!

“Your interests may change – and you can roll with that flow and allow your journey to continue to evolve. Some jobs and experiences do have an expiration date. And you must accept that just because you identified with it once doesn’t mean that you’ll always identify with that role – and allow yourself to grow and flow.”

  • Support each other.

“Everyone’s fighting for positions and there can be so much selfishness and greed. Instead, try to help lift each other up because it’s always the connections with people that become important.”

  • Spend time in nature.
  • Ignore all the people who told you not to pursue a career with animals because you won’t make much money.

“I’m so glad I didn’t listen to that because it was my passion, and I knew it was my calling in life.”

  • Don’t take it too seriously.

“I was so stressed every time I was rejected for a job, or something would happen – it felt like the end of the world! And I wish someone could have just tapped me on the shoulder and said, It’s all going to turn out. This is your path. This is life. It is just one experience after the next, and it doesn’t need to look perfect.

And as your career in ecology evolves, there are some important things Caitlin feels we should all know –

“As you experience along the way, you’re going to have trials and tribulations and you’re going to have a lot of fun and a lot of adventures. It can be hard to hold down relationships and miss events with your friends. The change and the uncertainty isn’t for everyone – and that’s okay. But if you feel that calling that it really is for you, trust it!”

“I wish somebody had told me that. I don’t know if I would’ve listened to it at the time though, because I was pretty headstrong, especially back then! But it would have been nice to know.”

KEEP IN TOUCH

Caitllin encourages everyone to get in touch if they read this blog post or have questions!

“I’m very open and approachable, I love getting messages and helping people in this space.”

Want to hear more from Caitlin? Check out our conversation on the podcast. You can also follow her adventures on Instagram at @wildsearch and @lifewildau, or her website.

What do you think? why not let us know or follow along for the adventure!

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