Bonner McAllester grew up in Connecticut in a family who loved the outdoors. Her father was an ethnomusicologist, which involves a combination of anthropology and music. Every summer, he brought the family to live in a tent on a Navajo reservation so that he could record the music and oral traditions of an elderly singer. Bonner picked up an avid curiosity for the natural world from both of her parents. She studied biology at Antioch College in Ohio, where she had her first introduction to nature education with her work-study program. She continued on to graduate school, but dropped out to work as a “wrangler biologist” at a dude ranch in Wyoming.
In 1974, Bonner and her partner Joe left Wyoming to make their home in Monterey, Massachusetts. “We decided to come here and live as close as we could to the natural world,” she said. They lived in a tipi and a shed on her family’s land during the five years it took for them to build their house and accommodations for their chickens, goats, dog and cat. The couple adopted and raised two children, and produce almost everything they eat on their own property.
Bonner continues to teach nature education programs as well as play hammer dulcimer in her forty-year-old band. She writes two nature features in Monterey News, a monthly publication. People tell Bonner that they’ve never liked biology, but she makes them interested in the world around them. “One thing I think is true of myself as a teacher is that I just assume people are going to want to know, and be just as excited about every little thing as I am,” she said. Her nature walks give people the chance to focus on the fascinating things that are right in front of their eyes. They may be less “walk” than “crawl,” she jokes.