Meet the Northerly Community - Licia Johnson


One of the best parts about living in one of the quaint communities across the Northwoods is getting to know your neighbor. In an effort to learn more about our community members, we’re starting a series called “Meet the Northerly Community” where we interview and describe a friend, professional, or just all around awesome person that has a uniquely northern story. We hope you'll be inspired to get involved, learn more about those that share your zip code, or simply, find a similar passion you share.   


Meet Licia Johnson

Dendrophile, bat advocate, pit bull mom

Tell us your “Northwoods Story”...

I’m currently the Education Director + Naturalist at the North Lakeland Discovery Center. My job is to create and lead programs that connect people to the natural world in fun and creative ways. This will be my 12th summer at the Center.

I was born and raised in Woodruff, Wisconsin, and went to school in Eagle River. I grew up outside skiing, fishing, and hiking with family + friends. After high school I attended Carroll College where I started as a math and actuarial science major. As a requirement, I had to take an Environmental Science and was able to spend a month in Alaska for a research project. When I was there, I saw a girl holding a bird (I LOVED animals), and learned about this job called a Naturalist. When I returned to school, I switched my major to Geography and Natural Resource Conservation and never looked back.

Since then, I have worked for Trees for Tomorrow in Eagle River before moving to the West Coast to work at YMCA Camp Colman, located in the southern part of Puget Sound. I moved back to Wisconsin in 2007, took an internship at the Discovery Center, and never left! I have since bought a home in the area and live there with my fiancé and dog, Silas.


Describe your average day at the North Lakeland Discovery Center…

Every day is totally different, but here’s an example of what could happen. I arrive to work early to pack up my car with three different programming materials including a live rescue bat (buckled in the back seat so he’s safe, of course!). We have a few, so I try to pick which one will be great for the programs that day. I spend the morning with pre-kindergarten kids at a local library doing a program on animal adaptations, followed by a similar program at a nursing home with people in their 80’s and 90’s. In an average day I could teach people ages 3 to 93, so I have to change how I tell stories and share information. It’s also funny how sometimes age doesn’t matter, I can share the same stories in the classroom as I can at a nursing home.

When I get back to the Center, I do my chores - clean the live animal tanks, feed the animals, check in with my interns, or create new activities for kids. My favorite days are when I come back and there is a box sitting on my desk with a big question mark on it (I love gifts like this!). It could be live animals (baby squirrels), animal scat (her favorite), or animal bones. It’s like Christmas! I also do a lot of animal rescues that people call us about. If there is a hurt animal I take it to the Northwoods Wildlife Center where they determine the next steps.


How did you get your rescue bats?

I started working with a bat expert in the state, and learned about the process that we have to go through to have bats at the Center. We had to get an endangered species permit from the state of Wisconsin, rabies vaccines, and then be approved to be a home for bats. Once we had everything in place, we had to wait until someone in the state rescues a bat that is unreleasable (could no longer fly or another injury). Bats actually live longer in the wild than captivity, which is not the case for most other animals. All of our bats have come from the Milwaukee Humane Society.   


What is your favorite season?

Fall. It is a transition season, there are no bugs, the temperature is perfect, colors are beautiful, and the best part, it’s quieter. My favorite places to see fall colors are on a drive down Crab Lake Road or from Wolf Mountain.


What do you enjoy doing in your free time? 

Baking – I love me a good scone (Don't miss her recipe - see below!). I also like crafts like sewing, knitting, making cards, and making crazy weird stuffed animals. I read a lot! I always have a book with me and I love to find a quiet corner anywhere I can. Of course, I also love to adventure in the outdoors.

(Northerly note: Here's her favorite scone recipe that she has taken years to perfect!)


Most essential item for Northwoods living...

A positive attitude. Sometimes it’s hard to live here - heating costs and long spans of time without the sun, you have to stay positive.


Best advice for exploring? 

Grab a map, a compass and a friend – I don’t like using technology, I like to explore the old school way.


Most underappreciated place in northern wisconsin/upper peninsula of michigan? 


What is your bucket list adventure or dream trip?

Ireland, and I am going in April! I want to experience the different natural landscapes + wildlife like the fjords and greenery. I would also like to go to Sweden + Norway to visit family.


Some of our favorite ways to get involved at the North Lakeland Discovery Center are to attend events - like Nibbles N Knowledge, The Big Event, and Brown Bag Series. We suggest subscribing to their email newsletter to stay up to date on what's happening. You can also explore the trails of the NLDC in all seasons - hiking, biking, skiing, or snowshoeing. To learn more about her rescue bats and tons of other cool things, visit the Nature Nook. If you want to hire Licia to do a presentation (and trust us, you do!), you can call the North Lakeland Discovery Center to set it up.