Self-professed 'nature nerd' sparked by fly fishing experience to look deeper at ecosystem, inspire others
A graduate of Lock Haven University’s recreation management program, Andrew Bechdel continues to find ways to connect people with the outdoors – a passion personally sparked in him by family experiences as a child.
“Growing up, my family didn’t really go on vacations to amusement parks or anything like that. We were always taking weekend trips and vacations to state parks and national parks,” he said. “Hiking with my parents, especially my dad, was such a big part of who we were as a family and who I was. I always enjoyed being in the woods and the solitude it gave me.”
Bechdel added that his focus while being outdoors has changed quite a bit in recent years.
“It has been less about the adventure and more about actually studying these places I am exploring, thinking more like an ecologist, more like a naturalist,” he said. “That includes doing plant identification, tree identification, going birding, identifying different species, that sort of thing.”
This shift was sparked by a fly-fishing trip with a friend.
“He took me to Spring Creek and it was the first time I actually put on waders and went in water. It gave me a whole different experience than hiking the ridges and mountains that I am used to,” he said. “(My friend) showed me how to look for aquatic insects, where fish would be, how to read the water, it was a totally different experience.
“From then on, I just have become more obsessed with exploring these tributaries, the Susquehanna and wetlands. It transformed me from being a hiker and adventurer to being sort of this nature nerd.”
This new perspective has helped Bechdel better understand aquatic ecology, and some of the threats our river and its tributaries face – including a lack of riparian buffers and an influx of invasive plant species.
“If those natural buffers aren’t there, then the stream really has no defense against erosion, pollutants including both point and non-point source pollution. Thankfully I have seen a lot of activity lately of people trying to go in and restore those kind of areas,” he said, adding that he is also concerned about the status of invasive species in our region.
“About a third of the state’s plant life is invasive, creating sort of mono-cultures that choke out the native species,” he said. “There has been a lot of research that shows things like the more invasive (plant) species you have, the less birds (and other species) you will have because they aren’t natural host plants for insects and other important parts of the ecosystem.”
Bechdel serves as a STEP AmeriCorps volunteer with the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership and was an assistant environmental educator via the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, along with serving as a traveling day camp director for Krislund Camp and Conference Center. Through these and other roles, he strives to connect more people with our natural resources.
“I just want to help people get outside, enjoy these resources and hopefully help do something to protect them,” he said.
For more about Andrew Bechdel, who can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out the full conversation via our most recent episode of the Middle Susquehanna Riverkeeper Podcast via this audio player:
Check out our podcast page for the most up-to-date list of previous podcast episodes. Also, you can access them individually here:
John Zaktansky is an award-winning journalist and avid promoter of the outdoors who loves camping, kayaking, fishing and hunting with the family.