As a Naturalist Educator, Taiji is passionate about getting young people outside to explore and connect with nature in cities. His education philosophy prioritizes first-hand experiences in nature and strong peer/mentor relationships. He works primarily with middle and high school students, studying urban ecosystems and undertaking hands-on restoration projects to improve the health of parks. Through his work, Taiji hopes to share his enthusiasm about nature and science, to connect in-school and out-of-school learning, and to provide support to help kids follow their interests. Originally from rural Pennsylvania, he moved to Pittsburgh in 2006 to study at the University of Pittsburgh (B.A. Environmental Studies). He started working at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy in 2011 coordinating education and volunteer programs. Taiji loves learning and being active outdoors, and spends most of his time hiking, biking, running, and playing volleyball.
“Nature and outdoor recreation, for me, is a huge source of personal and professional fulfillment. Whenever I need to think, relax, celebrate or escape, my first inclination is to go outside. Nature and the outdoors can have a powerful, formative impact on a person’s life, and though I know that nature won’t be everyone’s passion, I want to make sure that kids are exposed to that potential. I see my role as being a mentor who is ready to recognize and foster that spark of interest or enthusiasm about nature.
“Particularly in cities, nature is competing for attention with many other interests and activities. It’s easy to miss the nature around us. I hope that engagement and education will help create a world where people understand our relationship with nature, and make its protection a priority.”
Taiji is a member of the 2017 Emerging Leaders Program.