A walk in the woods with Wright State biologist Don Cipollini

Outdoor enthusiasts can learn more about the natural world and places to explore through a new project from Don Cipollini, Ph.D., professor of biological sciences at Wright State University.

“The Naturalist with Don Cipollini” is an interpretive walk-and-talk show in which Cipollini explores the woods or a nature preserve and interprets what he sees.

In each episode, Cipollini shares his knowledge as a biologist and environmental scientist while expressing his love of the outdoors.

“I would like to share my perspective on nature and places and special trees and special people in some cases, and teach people about these people, places and things hopefully in an interesting way,” he said.

He also hopes the series will inspire more people to get outside and even visit some of the places he films.

“It’s very opportunistic,” he said. “You know the place you want to visit, but you never know what you’re going to see when you’re there, and that’s part of the excitement of it.”

Don Cipollini, professor of biological sciences at Wright State, explores the natural world in his cable access and YouTube series “The Naturalist with Don Cipollini.” (Photo by Erin Pence)

The series is produced in partnership with Yellow Springs Community Access. Each episode initially airs on Yellow Springs Community Access Channel 5 and then is released on Cipollini’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/@TheNaturalistWithDonCipollini.

Cipollini films each episode with a GoPro camera provided by Yellow Springs Community Access. Ben Guenther, the station manager of channel 5, edits the footage and adds transitions and the intro and outro.

Cipollini’s narration is unscripted, casual and conversational. His approach is to help viewers better understand the natural world without sounding like he is giving a classroom lecture.

“It’s pitched at the general public who’s interested in nature, trees, wildflowers, prairies, natural site wonders,” Cipollini said. “It’s very much sharing what I might know about that place and those things you’ll see and to try to add a little bit of depth and richness to what people would see if they took the same walk.”

Cipollini started filming last summer and released his 25th show in March.

Local viewers will recognize many of the locations Cipollini has visited, including the Wright State woods on the Dayton Campus, Glen Helen and Clifton Gorge in Yellow Springs, Huffman Prairie and Pearl’s Fen in Fairborn.

Other sites in Ohio he has visited include Hocking Hills State Park, Stage’s Pond State Nature Preserve in Pickaway County, Davey Woods State Nature Preserve in Champaign County and Great Seal State Park in Chillicothe.

He even took a trip to attend the Groundhog Day festival in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

“That was more for fun,” he said. “I grew up about 30 miles from there, but I had never gone there on Groundhog Day for the big event.”

Recently, Cipollini started producing episodes on special topics such as fall foliage, ginkgo trees, pawpaws and the art of bonsai.

“I’m pulling from anything that either I have done in the past that I think people might find interesting or would like to learn about or that I’m also interested in learning about for the first time and trying out,” he said.

This semester, he produced three episodes about making maple syrup, starting with tapping trees in the Wright State woods and then cooking the syrup in his kitchen in Yellow Springs and at a sugar shack.

In another episode, he worked with Mesa Grine, a biological sciences major, to produce coffee from beans they grew in Wright State’s greenhouse, where Grine works.

“That’s something I had never done before and I thought, let’s try to make coffee from this, from start to finish, from scratch,” Cipollini said. “That was fun to go from the fresh fruit to roasting the beans to grinding them and tasting it.”

Cipollini has a lot of plans to continue making fun and educational episodes. He plans to expand his out-of-state episodes with trips to Red River Gorge in Kentucky, the champion trees of Lexington and Louisville and brook trout streams in Pennsylvania.

As we enter spring and summer, he is interested in producing episodes on spring wildflowers, amphibian breeding, organic farming and kayaking on the Little Miami River or Mad River.

“I have some destinations in mind too,” he said. “I have traversed this state for years, hiking and looking at nature and so I have far from exhausted all the ideas of places to visit.”

Don’t miss an episode

Keep up with “The Naturalist with Don Cipollini” by liking and subscribing to youtube.com/@TheNaturalistWithDonCipollini.

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