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Science and the Environment

Discovering the World through its Wildlife

Sue Schuble has always had a passion for animals, but chose a different route for her career. Now 66, 13 years into her retirement, Schuble is traveling the world to explore its environment and wildlife.

“Not your average city trip, or beach trip or anything like that but it’s going to a place and finding out about a natural world and the environment that’s there,” Schuble said.

Her eco trips started out with a simple goal, to visit all the major national parks. Schuble visited all 59 in just seven years.

“My most vivid memories are those up in Alaska because we’d have to fly in a bush plane to get somewhere and then we’d backpack over glaciers. Or we might canoe or raft some of the rivers up there, kayak some of the lakes, and go up and view the brown bears catching salmon out of the stream,” Schuble said.

Birding tours were her next gateway to the outside world.

“It’s kind of an avenue to get you into a remote place in a different country, with all different cultures, and you get to see the whole aspect and how they protect their wildlife, or if they just eat their wildlife, and how important it is to them,” Schuble said.

Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, or VENT, has birding tours in the Ozarks as well as across the globe. Barry Lyon is the chief operating officer.

“A typical day is based around your meals and night time accommodations, and you spend a full day in the field looking at birds, going to places where you would see the birds,” Lyon said.

But Lyon, much like Schuble, says there is much more behind the actual bird watching.

“You’re getting people to places that are outside the mainstream. There’s something very satisfying about being outside, outdoors, or being out in nature that adds to a person’s life,” Lyon said.

Schuble will often take a friend or even as many as 10 on wildlife adventures.

But it isn’t just the animals that have made an impact on her life. Schuble says she will always value her multiple trips to Africa.

“They are very happy people, but they have nothing, hardly anything at all. It’s a real eye-opener, it makes me appreciate what I have here in the United States,” Schuble said.

“I think it’s a good idea for people to travel to meet other people in the world. I think that is more of a unification,” Schuble said.

Her travels are extensive; Australia, Madagascar and even an island off of Yemen.

“Everybody goes ‘Well why did you go there?’ They have some endemic birds, and about 30% of their plant life is all endemic to that island because it’s gotten trapped there,” Schuble said.

Lyon, from VENT, says that’s what makes these eco trips worth it to so many travelers like Schuble.

“Every place has got its own special wildlife,” Lyon said.

Schuble says you never know what to expect on these trips, even when there’s a lot of planning that goes into it.

“It looks pretty small on the globe, but let me tell you, it’s a pretty big island,” Schuble said.

Like her recent visit to Iceland.

“And while we were over there, Bárdarbunga, this volcano was in the news for erupting. So we were keeping an eye on that, hoping we wouldn’t get blown off the edge of the world,” Schuble said.

When she is back home, Schuble volunteers throughout the community at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center, Dickerson Park Zoo, and Greater Ozarks Audubon, to name a few.

“I can’t imagine not doing anything,” Schuble said.

She helps take care of the animals, works the information desk, and runs programs for children.

“A lot of people who retire don’t have anything to do and they get really bored and they get depressed. I think if you’re involved with something that keeps your spirits up, you’re giving back to your community. I think that’s all very, very important,” Schuble said. 

And she doesn’t see an end to her travels anytime soon.

“I’ve made a bucket list, and it seems like I’ll mark off one and add two. So it’s not getting any shorter, it’s just getting longer. So I’ve really enjoyed my retirement,” Schuble said.

Soon, Schuble will mark off yet another destination from her list: Antarctica. Somewhere she’s always wanted to go.