Alumni Profiles

Rose Richter

Class of 2016

Rose Richter
At Earthworks, the ancient skill of tracking goes much deeper than track
identification. Here Rose points out a squirrel track to encourage students
to read visual clues in the landscape, bring awareness to other animals, and
understand how their own presence affects the movement of creatures in
the forest.

I started my journey at the University of Rochester as a biological scientist and imagined myself pursuing a PhD to uncover the mysteries of the natural world. My interest in nature began as a young child which fueled my pursuit of biology all the way to a research lab studying insect genetics. I learned about the field of environmental humanities while looking for classes to complete graduation requirements. Those classes were like nothing I’ve ever encountered: reflective, personal, and revolutionary in thought. I began to understand the depth of connection between emotions, race, politics, technology, and colonialism to nature/environment. Climate change never was so simple as using data and research to reduce carbon emissions.

I began to understand how environmental humanities “asks the questions you didn’t know needed to be asked.” Each class opened my perspective to new questions I never knew were needed and challenged my worldview, sense of self, and understanding of the environment in the best way possible. The process was transformative. It taught me to ask hard questions, think deeply, voice my ideas, make new connections and most importantly engage environmental issues in ways I hadn’t done before.

Environmental humanities classes changed my post-college career entirely. I completed my biology degree and began searching for opportunities in environmental humanities. Now I work at an organization called EarthWorks to create lasting and meaningful connections between people, community and land in the greater Rochester area. I use my skills and knowledge to meet the needs of the community from forest school, to urban after-school programs, to nature workshops and even restorative justice.

Unlike old-school naturalist programming, we get dirty with purpose, learn to fox walk silently without being heard or seen, learn to climb trees and make tools while using the landscape to create fire, food and shelter. A large part of the knowledge I teach is indigenous and therefore a way to remember what was forgotten through generations of ecological disconnection. The experiences I provide in nature are designed to promote a deep-rooted connection to place, foster a bioregional perspective of the land, give meaning to lost history and provide challenges that empower people. Much of the work I do is connected to topics and ideas discussed in environmental humanities courses at the University of Rochester. These environmental humanities ideas come to life in the forest. I'm not teaching the next generation of students to go out into nature but providing experiences and knowledge that are foundational for a new type of environmental thought. These experiences lend themselves well to encouraging students to “ask the questions they didn’t know needed to be asked.”

Rose Richter giving a coyote howl.
Rose giving a “coyote” howl to call the campers over for a game of camouflage. Unlike hide and seek the objective is to see without being seen, a skill possessed only by the greatest trackers. It teaches kids how to be still and pushes their edges of what it means to get dirty. They have only 30 seconds to hide—jumping into bushes, climbing up trees, or covering themselves in leaves. Charcoal, mud, and other paints are used as camoflauge to break up the patterns of exposed skin.