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News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, June 19, 2014
Self-guided nature trails with “deeriNature”
Local naturalists launch digital guide to Deer Isle trails and species

by Anne Berleant

While it may seem contradictory to join the natural outdoors with the digital revolution of smart phones and tablets, a Deer Isle couple has done just that‚ right in time for the Bridge Celebration on June 21 and the Lupine Festival that same weekend.

Retired ecology professor Ken Crowell and nature writer Marnie Crowell created the e-book deeriNature, for self-guided nature trails, Island public access areas, a species almanac and nature activities.

“We realized over the last 20 years there’s been a revolution in field guides,” including “a deluge of information” available over the Internet, Marnie Crowell said in a April interview.

“We’re interested in this side of the bridge.”

The deeriNature e-book “is a leisurely in-depth guide for our public access natural areas,” according to a press release, with a species almanac of when and where native plants and animals may be found on Deer Isle. The activity PDF offers games and challenges for an individual or a group.

Plus, as is common with digital packages, there’s more than the e-book.

Download interactive trail maps by QR codes posted at trail heads or a PDF version of the e-book.

A QR code, short for quick response code, is a bar code linked to a website address. A QR reader app scans the code and opens the web page. So, when and why would you whip out your smart phone, mid-hike, for hard-lined information?

Marnie Crowell explained: “Last Fall a friend told us they had been out walking the preserve and spotted a plant they could not identify. ‘If Marnie and Ken had been with us, they could have told us what it was.’ So what are we going to do about the fact that we cannot be with everyone, always? How might we share the knowledge we have accumulated over 50 years of giving nature walks here on Deer Isle?”

During a “digital nature walk,” on June 20, the Crowells will demonstrate how to store the PDFs on a virtual bookshelf on tablets and smart phones, “especially important since connectivity varies around the Island,” Marnie Crowell said.

And on June 21, the re-dedication of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge will include the unveiling of a QR code linking to a historical photograph from the bridge opening ceremony in 1939. The Deer Isle Chamber of Commerce will also host the deeriNature series on its website at

Finally, a slide presentation designed for elementary classroom use is also available to download, which can be tailored for age; homeschoolers can use a different version to create flip books.

“There is no sign that requests for various forms has finished evolving,” Crowell said. “We don’t love technology for its own sake, but we are delighted with what it can make possible. Before this, we did not even know what a QR code was.”