I’m Melinda, a naturalist, biologist, and educator living on the central California coast. I love taking people out into nature and guiding them in activities that reawaken the senses, develop the ability to see the unseen, spark wonder and curiosity, and deepen a relationship with the natural world.
For the past 18 years, I’ve worked as a marine biologist, educator, and naturalist. I moved to the Monterey Bay area for graduate work at Moss Landing Marine Labs. Since then I have grown roots in this community.
I currently offer classes in nature journaling, birding and nature awareness, online and in person, to students and adults learners.
As a child, I grew up living on a flower nursery. I spent most of my free time doing crafts or playing outdoors– riding bikes, digging in the dirt, finding tadpoles, and playing with plants. My family taught me a lot about flowers and plants, and I had a natural sense about them. But I didn’t really know much about other wildlife. No one ever taught me about the birds or animals in nature.
Now, fast forward. In my adolescent years I spent less and less time in nature. When I was 21, a friend took me on a hike in the coastal oak woodlands. He introduced me to the wild birds that lived there. On that hike, one of the birds he pointed out to me is etched in my memory. It was kicking and scratching in the leaf litter beneath some shrubs. It had a black head, red eyes, rusty sides, and black back dotted with white. He called it a rufous-sided towhee (now called spotted towhee).
I had no idea that nearby birds could be so beautiful, or that they foraged in different ways, or that they even had names!! He pointed out all kinds of other birds and I was immediately hooked. I eagerly dove into bird watching. I got my first bird book, The Peterson’s Guide to Birds, and a compact pair of binoculars and I looked for birds everywhere I went.
That experience sparked excitement and I became really curious to discover our feathered friends (who were no doubt right under my nose, but fell upon my unseeing eyes). My awareness expanded and I started to recognize that birds were everywhere. I deepened my learning and made forays out in nature armed with binoculars and bird book.
This simple act of personally sharing nature with me made a lasting impression and changed the trajectory of my life. I studied nature personally and then through biology in college. I am who I am today because that kind friend took my hand, introduced me to nature and shared his love of birds. (That friend is now my husband of over 2 decades.)
This is why I am passionate about sharing nature with you- to be your guide so you can begin to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, and find your spark in nature that leads to developing a deeper relationship with the wild.
Nature Journaling has a powerful effect in facilitating closer observation, stimulating curiosity and wonder, and developing a love for what we focus on.
Melinda Nakagawa is a biologist, naturalist, and educator with a passion and skill for connecting people to nature. She founded Spark in Nature to guide participants to cultivate a deeper relationship with the natural world, slowing down to nature’s pace and seeing rather than just looking at the world.
With an approach that bridges nature, art, and heart, she welcomes all people regardless of their skill level or background. Through her gentle guidance, hundreds of participants have awakened their spark of curiosity, sense of wonder, and connection to the natural world.
Melinda has partnered with local institutions such as the world-renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium to lead educator trainings on nature journaling. She leads the Monterey Bay Nature Journal Club’s free online Sunday sessions.
She has an M.S. degree in Marine Science, and has also worked as a naturalist guide, floral designer, and wildlife rehabilitator. For the past two decades Melinda has kept nature journals and continues to learn more from nature with each journal she fills.
You can contact Melinda and learn more here: http://sparkinnature.com/
Contact me if you have any questions or would like to learn more about my programs.