By Alison Rooney
Megan Brief, who grew up in Garrison, has an ongoing field journal on a platform created by National Geographic called Open Explorer. See bit.ly/meganbrief.
You started the field journal in October. What was the goal?
I wanted to shed light on how natural spaces in the Hudson Valley are being compromised at the expense of tourism. Breakneck, which is home to endemic species such as timber rattlesnakes and Skink lizards, is a microcosm for the potential damage that can be enacted on the environment on a global scale. We are able to measure how wildlife responds to the continuous foot traffic, noise and plastic pollution. Combating environmental issues can be daunting and difficult to grasp on a global scale. But this is a backyard exploration.
It’s called “Anthropocene on the Hudson.” What does that mean?
The word anthropocene has been suggested to describe the modern era of human influence on the planet. That includes our effects on the climate, the landscapes and atmosphere, biological diversity and geology.
How did you get interested in the natural world?
I grew up climbing trees, swimming in the Hudson and taking photos of insects and birds. In the digital age, it’s easier for people to disassociate from other species and cultures. I wanted to reimagine landscapes where wildlife could thrive.
Can tourism ever be beneficial?
There has been a surge in “sustainable” tourism. Natural Habitat Adventures and the World Wildlife Federation, for example, provide carbon-neutral and conservation-focused travel. That means that the host communities benefit financially but the stewardship helps them, too.
You plan to continue at least through the spring. Then what?
I’ll be attending the Rhode Island School of Design in the fall for its master’s program in nature, culture and sustainability. I may pursue photojournalism, or environmental education. I would love to study the conflicts that result from poaching, trading and overpopulation, and also to write novels for students that focus on conserving endangered species and the importance of leading sustainable lives.