Jordan Parham

Nocs Naturalist

Introduce yourself

Hello! My name is Jordan Parham. I was born and raised in New Jersey and have always had an interest in anything relating to wildlife, public speaking and exploration. I’ve been into nature since I was a child and recently graduated from Delaware Valley University where I was the only african-american male to major in Conservation and Wildlife Management that year. I’ve had a variety of experiences from feeding tigers and lions, helping donkeys give birth, caring for reptiles and amphibians, leading nature walks and organizing collections of specimens to name a few. Now, I plan on pursuing a career in research and wildlife conservation while developing my skills as a photographer, naturalist, educator and story-teller.

Can you tell us a bit about your passions beyond “work”?

Along with nature, I always loved drawing and sketching. Whether it was heroes fighting dragons, dinosaurs or animals, drawing helped me make sense of the world. I eventually started drawing my own short comics that became more elaborate as I continued to draw them. Then, I was gifted with a Nikon D3300 after my highschool graduation. I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I went to my favorite patch of forest and started taking pictures of animals. Then I realized just how full of life my neighborhood was. I thought I had to travel to Brazil or Africa to see these colors and shapes. Turns out, Early summer in New Jersey is just as good. I eventually began to train myself to be a naturalist, identifying animals, plants and rocks that I would see. I went off to college (majoring in Conservation and WIldlife Management) and my world changed forever. I was encouraged by professor’s, students, strangers and friends to continue doing what I was doing. Eventually, my partner took an ornithology class and asked me to help her with boarding. That's when I really got addicted to wildlife photography. To this day, camera, binocular and journals in hand, I continue to observe nature both locally and abroad when I get the chance. I also cannot understate the impact that Pokemon has had on my future.I played every game from Ruby and Sapphire to Legends: Arceus. Just like filling a pokedex, I now try my best to increase my life list of birds, reptiles and amphibians.

Do you find that these passions blend, merge or complement your work?

These passions of mine absolutely complement the work that I do. I would say that all the opportunities I was given are all due to the fact that no matter what, I continue to pursue my passion in the only ways I know how.

What are your materials and how do you think about them?

Camera, Journal, Pen/ pencil and social media are my tools/ materials. Social Media, as we all know, is a double-edged sword and can be dangerous at times. It is effective at spreading your message , sharing your work and introducing new sources of inspiration but can also expose you to some unwanted imagery and ideas that can be detrimental to one’s development. Its best to use it for what it is, a tool- a means to an end. Like any tool, it takes time and practice to use it efficiently. I upgraded from my Nikon D3300 to a Canon 6D MkII with a Sigma contemporary 150-600mm lens. Once you develop your skills on your first camera, you're better able to handle the upgraded quality of a better camera.

Do you have any “heroes’ to speak of? How are you inspired?

All my heroes are in my family, namely my mother, father and brother. No matter where they were in life, they knew there was something more for them to do and see. They knew that there was a problem that needs solving and that they are the ones to solve it. As a child, I was awkward, shy and was very focused on reading about animals, science, and nature. I didn’t think that, like my family, there was really a place for someone like me in the world so I often felt out of place wherever I was. Then, as I grew up and that love for nature only grew, I was emboldened by my family to pursue wherever that passion took me. To this day, my family is my source of peace, infinite support and inspiration.

A key ingredient to building a sustainable future?

Living on the basics or “Living in alignment with nature” which is a stoic principle and taking or doing only what is necessary

A book that shaped your life?

“Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins.

Favorite artist currently?

Kid Cudi / Kanye West

Most sublime moment in nature?

My first time seeing my favorite bird- the Swallow tailed Kite. After a long day of hiking around the Arenal Volcano Observatory Lodge in Costa Rica, my classmates and I returned to our lodge to rest for the evening. I felt like there was more to see, so I sat on the grass that overlooked the arenal lake. The last few rays of light struck a kettle of birds flying overhead. I took out my camera, looked through the eyepiece and saw them- 7 Swallow tailed Kites riding the wind like, well, kites. There was something about their movements, color, long and sharply tapered wings and forked tails that tapped into something in my imagination. They swirled, catching a nearby thermal as they slowly began to ascend. Then, once they gained enough height, they continued on over the lake and out of sight. I think everything I’ve done after that, every hike and excursion, was an attempt to chase the feeling I felt that evening. I’ve had some moments that were close, but nothing has rivaled the feeling of awe, peace and majesty that those raptors brought me.

What have been your biggest challenges?

Initially, my biggest challenges were engaging with other birders and wildlife photographers out in the field. People would always stare, and still do sometimes, because I had a camera and a pair of binoculars. Now I’ve learned that most people are more curious than anything and other birders and photographers are always willing to talk and share what they’ve seen. Older people especially love having someone to talk to and tell their stories to. Just as its nice for them to share their life, it's equally as nice to hear about it.

What do you do when you get out and away from the office/lab/kitchen?

Mostly read about people, nature or plan my next hike or adventure.

What keeps you going?

My desire to learn, teach and find/ see something new. I'm used to the mixed deciduous forests, beaches and salt marshes of New Jersey, but venturing south to the cypress swamps of florida and the shrubby prairies of texas has showed me that the world’s ecosystems are just as diverse as the people and animals who inhabit them. I feel like a kid in a toy store whenever I decide to visit somewhere new.

A personal style?

I love wearing boots. I was in MCJROTC in highschool and developed a preference towards field boots. I had a pair that saw both the peak of the Catskill mountains in New York and the moist forests of Costa Rica. Now, my favorite pair of shoes are Nike SFB’s (Special Field Boots). On a nice day, I’ll wear a cool baseball cap, gray, blac, tan or green t-shirt and some cargo pants with my trusty boots. I always wanted to be, and plan on being , a field biologist or field researcher. So, I do my best to dress the part and add my own twist to it.

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