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Naturalist-in-Residence

Alex Booker Announced as the 2024 Naturalist-in-Residence for Madison Public Library

Alex Booker Announced as the 2024 Naturalist-in-Residence for Madison Public Library

Booker will lead a 6-week nature residency July 15-August 23 that will take place in libraries and green spaces across Madison.

Madison Public Library and Madison Parks are proud to introduce Alex Booker as the 2024 Naturalist-in-Residence!

Booker is a Madison native who has always loved the outdoors. He said that his passion for nature started from a young age, and that farms and gardening have been at the center of many of his experiences.

“One of my most fond nature memories is going to my family farm in Mississippi, being amongst family, and riding in the back of my great-grandpa’s pickup truck,” said Booker. “There were different types of critters down there and bigger bugs, too! I’ve always enjoyed exploring different types of wildlife and plant life.”

The theme of Booker's residency is “Find Your Way Back to Nature" and will focus on ways to reconnect with the ecosystems that surround us. Naturalist programs will include nature walks, tea blending, flower arranging, sound baths, and more. 

“My goal is to help people hear the messages nature is trying to give them by exploring traditional ways of connecting to the land,” said Booker. “The lessons we learn by observing the natural ecosystem can help people take steps to become the person they want to be in our community ecosystem.”

Over the past four years, Booker has been working in the nonprofit world, focusing on food insecurity and urban agriculture. Currently, Booker works as the Manager of the Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, where he started out as an Assistant Farm Education Manager. 

“[In that role], I worked with a middle school class on gardening and different food and cooking activities, as well as working with community gardens,” explained Booker. “Community gardens mean a lot to me, because I actually started my own agricultural journey by being part of the East Madison Community Center gardening program when I was in elementary school, so I was able to learn how to garden as a child. My mom saw how much I loved it, and I started gardening at home. It’s been a really big part of my life - being part of community gardens, and community work.”

He has found and built community in other spaces, as well. Booker has belonged to a collective called Firm Footing Farms located in Black Earth, WI for the past three years. The couple that owns the farm provide free space to Queer BIPOC farmers so that they can start or learn different agriculture practices. Booker makes the 45 minute drive out to the farm on a weekly basis to take care of 18 chickens, beekeep, and tend his beds of fruits, wheat, collard greens, herbs, and more. He plans to use some of the items he grows on the farm during programs for the library. 

“Growing up in Madison, I’ve been going to the library for as long as I can remember. I have utilized workshops on cooking, arts and crafts activities, etc. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen how our libraries have put an emphasis on natural learning through things like the Seed Library, gardening programs, foraging classes, and more, so I’m excited to add to that knowledge and be a part of the library family,” said Booker. “I have also used books from the library to read and develop on subjects like herbalism, and I’m excited to share some of those titles as part of the Naturalist-in-Residence book list that will be released as part of the residency.

Check back in early July for programs to be released! 

The Naturalist-in-Residence program is made possible thanks to a generous donation from Nancy Leff and Kenneth Lerner.

Why A Naturalist?

The goal of the  Naturalist-in-Residency project is to encourage our community to explore, learn, and reflect upon our natural world and their place in it, through the guiding vision of an experienced or emerging local naturalist.

Questions? Contact community@madisonpubliclibrary.org (link sends email).

Look Back at Last Year's Naturalist Program

Aline Puente Fears Buried at Sunset on Display at Central Library Naturalist in Residence 2023Madison Public Library’s popular Naturalist-in-Residence program returned for its second year in September 2023! In partnership with Madison Parks, nature-based programs for all ages took place in libraries, parks and natural areas across the city of Madison from September 1-30, 2023

Although the Naturalist-in-Residence program wrapped up at the end of September, really amazing things sometimes live on! We wanted to thank Qwantese for her fantastic leadership during this residency, and for sharing her skills, talents, charm, wit, grace and deep knowledge with us.

Over the course of more than a dozen events, nearly 200 people got to meet and learn from Qwantese. Two of these events were Nature Writing and Meditative Walks to Edna Taylor Conservation Park and Heritage Prairie, where Qwantese encouraged participants to study and write about nature. The results? A stunning painting created by Alina Puente called Fears Buried at Sunset, and a collection of short poems that Qwantese combined to create two collaborative poems - one for each walk location. Click the link to read the poems and view the painting.

You can learn even more about last year's residency on the 2023 Residency: Rooted in Nature page.

Past Years

Qwantese Dourese Winters

2023 Residency Theme: Rooted in Nature

John Newman

2022 Residency Theme: Nature is for Everyone

Sponsor(s)

This program was made possible in part by generous support from: