Sometimes, it is the smallest things that end up changing our lives. For Miami Dade College alum Nikolas Wong, it was his friend asking him for his help to “save the endangered Beluga whales.”
Since graduating from the University of Florida in 2014, Wong went in search of inspiration amongst the despair that comes with job-hunting. What he didn’t foresee, is that it would come in the form of nature. That precise moment came when one of his closest friends encouraged him to get more involved with the environment, and eventually led to him becoming a naturalist trainee, and release his latest work: The Field Journal of a Naturalist Trainee.
His previous work, titled The Coffee House (2013), was a collection of short stories centered on having coffee with friends. The transition from that to this field journal was a genuine and natural one for Wong, “I thought: I’m inspired, let’s do this.”
Since The Coffee House, Wong has graduated and been on several book tours. He greatly helped out at the training center, unfortunately he didn’t finish his training. That’s why this field journal exists, as an embodiment of all he learned.
“I didn’t want to throw any of my knowledge away,” Wong said. “There were a lot of things I learned, and that’s everything I put into this book.”
Wong hopes to go back and train some more.
His journey to the Biscayne Nature Center began soon after his graduation.
“I couldn’t find a job because it was really hard for me to find something to start excelling in my career path,” Wong said.
Not long after that push from his friend who was interested in Beluga whales, he contacted program director Claudia Succar Ferré, a friend of his cousin’s. Next thing he knew, he was regularly helping out at the Nature Center.
A naturalist is in charge of taking a group of students on a field trip, and teach them about the creatures there. A trainee, then, is responsible for shadowing these naturalists and learning what they are doing.
“You’re supposed to memorize all of it even though you may not have a background in it,” Wong said. “You’re expected to learn these things, so I kept a lot of field journals, which became this book. This was the process of me learning and remembering everything.”
To promote his field journal, Wong headed to the Everglades, as a means to pay homage to Marjory Stoneman Douglas, known as an advocate for its conservation.
“Being there helped me learn a little bit more of what she was really trying to preserve,” Wong said. “In a way I was going back to the source of all that I learned.”
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Biscayne Nature Center is a nonprofit organization, whose main focus is to promote eco-literacy and environmental education.
The Coffee House, gave half of its proceeds to the American Cancer Society, as a dedication to Wong’s aunt who passed away from cancer.
The Field Journal of a Naturalist Trainee can be found on Amazon.com