Brake for Nature

About Us

Michael and Christina in California's Carrizo PlainsWe are Michael and Christina. We are biologists, naturalists, wildlife trackers, birders, explorers, and environmental advocates. We have chosen to take a time-out, to put the brakes on regular life, to explore and learn about our natural environment and to share what we learn with the world. We will brake for nature on our break for nature!

Meet Michael. He was raised in a small farming/ranching town in Northern California. Michael is a bit of a Renaissance man. He has held a variety of positions in life, from photographer to cook to car salesman to surveyor and field engineer. He has put on a full-face respirator and Tyvek suit and cleaned up landfills and petroleum dumps among other Superfund sites throughout his career in environmental remediation. His passion is nature conservation and teaching others about nature and wildlife. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from California State University, Channel Islands. Michael has an instinctive, almost superhuman talent for observation, making him a natural in the field, whether birding or tracking wildlife. Add to that his artist’s eye, and he’s a natural when it comes to photography as well.

Meet Christina, that’s me. I have always loved all kinds of science. Understanding the how and why of natural processes has always been my motivation for learning. Growing up catching butterflies and other insects, drawing wildflowers, and exploring the creek that ran through my yard in Maryland, biology was the natural choice for a major in college. Eventually I became passionate about environmental policy and management, so in addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology from Hood College in Maryland, I pursued a Master of Environmental Science and Management degree at the University of California, Santa Barbara. Before my career break I worked on local land use policy and environmental review of development projects as the “County Biologist” for Ventura County’s Planning Division. I enjoy philosophizing about life and the human connection with nature, writing in my journal, and dabbling in photography, so blogging is a natural choice!

How’d Michael and Christina meet? We met while working on a petroleum dumpsite in Oxnard, California! The site was being remediated for the purpose of constructing a neighborhood of million-dollar homes across from the beach. Michael was a surveyor on the site, and I was a biological consultant, responsible for managing and protecting an endangered plant found on the site. Michael stumbled into a hedgerow of poison oak while working and became a miserable itchy and swollen mess before I showed him how to identify poison oak in its dormant state! After several months of crossing paths on the site, we finally started chatting, and after many hikes together up “Mount Sludge” (the mountain of contaminated soil built to look like a sand dune on the site), we fell in love!

Since then, we have explored, hiked, camped, and tasted our way around the western United States during every bit of free time we have found between studying and working. Together, we have become avid birders and certified wildlife trackers through Cybertracker. We have been planning and preparing for a traveling career break for several years now, during which we have also been dealt some health challenges (more about that here). As the saying goes, “life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.” These life challenges are certainly story-worthy, and we plan to share all that we learn through the good, the easy, the difficult, and the bad times on this blog. While these challenges have slowed us down a bit, we plan to carry on with our travels and adventures in nature, making the most of our time here on Earth, and sharing our stories with you.