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Ithaca is People: Chris Ray

The #IthacaisPeople Files

Week 5: Ithaca's Daddy Deer-est

Say hello to our latest @VisitIthaca Instagram takeover - Chris Ray! A wildlife and forest conservationist by trade and a dedicated family man, Chris finds it essential to share the wonders of the outdoors with his children. Follow us on Instagram to keep up with his wonders of the week, and check out our exclusive interview with Chris below:

Where are you from originally?

I am from Chittenango, NY. Near Syracuse.

How long have you been in Ithaca?

Almost 2 years. My wife went to Cornell and I went to school in Syracuse at ESF - the College of Environmental Science and Forestry. And so, we met in high school and she went here to college and I was at ESF, so I was visiting here every weekend, and since those days we’ve travelled around… but we always kind of made it a point to come back to Ithaca.

Why’s that?

Because we love it here! (laughs)

What is it that you love about Ithaca?

I like the people a lot. I like the surroundings. I like the fact that my family is in Syracuse so they’re far enough away…but close enough (laughs). But it’s mostly the surroundings. The natural environment, the people, the town itself. It’s just the whole entire attitude that goes along with Ithaca. Like, I think the whole “10 square miles surrounded by reality” is an endearing thing, rather than a derogatory thing. And I think most Ithacans feel that way too.

What do you do?

I am a stay-at-home dad and I do environmental science research for a university and a nonprofit based on the West Coast.

What kind of environmental science? There are so many.

Mostly what I do is wildlife and habitat management through mapping and modelling. So a lot of GIS work. Do you know what GIS is?

Nope. Not at all!

OK, so it’s Geographic Information Systems. So it’s a computer program, basically, so you can load layers into it based on habitat data so you can either make management plans or use it as a way to predict the effects of management plans and that type of thing, so it’s a lot of forestry or wildlife-minded science. But to be honest, I work remotely and I have very little time to do that anymore, what with the stay-at-home dad end of things. The photography thing is just a strong passion of mine and something that I am just starting to make something more out of - like consulting services with scientists, and I have been talking to the Finger Lakes Land Trust and that type of thing. So everything is very amorphous right now (laughs)!

So then I assume you are taking mostly photos of nature?

Basically yeah, my kids and nature. I don’t really break out into other realms, because this is just what interests me.

I sure hope your kids interest you!

(Laughs) Yeah, they do. But yeah, you know, you have people who do street photography or portrait photography, and I take that as far as my family, and… that’s about it! And we spend a lot of time in nature, so that’s just kind of the natural way of things, you know?

So would you recommend that people raise their kids in Ithaca?

Yeah! I mean, we lived in Flagstaff, AZ for a while which - I think that Ithaca is kind of like the East Coast version of Flagstaff - and we moved here, and within a week, I met someone who has remained my friend up until now. And we just met on the playground! So my thought is that you don’t really get that “parent vs. parent” vibe out here, you know? Are either of you parents?

No, but I think I get it. Like “keeping up with the Jones’”?

Yes, that type of thing. Exactly. So you don’t get a lot of that here. The community is just so great. And I go to a dad’s group at Jillian’s Drawers. I started going. So it’s where you meet up once a week, and just kind of let the kids go at it and talk with other dads, and it’s just something you don’t see in other towns. And you know, the town itself is very walkable, which is great. I mean, unfortunately we don’t live downtown, but…

Where do you live?

Up on West Hill. But we’re still in town, so it’s nice that we can just shoot right down whenever we want. We’re not quite in the walkable zone. It would be, but it’s at the top of a giant hill, so…

The walk down is fine!

Makes it kinda tough to come home.

(Laughs) Yeah!

But we are actually only five minutes from Ithaca Beer Company, so that’s nice. You can literally roll down the hill and get there.

Ever try it?

No, but it’s on my bucket list.

Ah, ok. So, if you could describe yourself in three words, what would they be?

Three words, huh? Um… I would say… is “family-oriented” a word?

Sure. It’s hyphenated, so that works.

I don’t want to say I just fell into this role as a stay-at-home dad, but that’s where I am and it’s just… me. So… “Conservationist”, because that’s my professional calling.

That’s not an adjective.

It’s a noun.

It’s ok. I’ll accept it. (laughs)

Um… jeez. You know, no one’s ever asked me that, it’s such a simple question, but...

We get that a lot.

Um…Outdoorsy? Does that work?

Yes, absolutely. Perfect. So now here is the final question. We ask everyone.


If you could describe Ithaca in one word, what would it be?

Ithaca in one word… “Fun.” It’s just fun. Because you can do so many things and they’re all fun. (Nods head with certainty.)

... and we think you're fun, Chris! :)

Follow @VisitIthaca Instagram for more takeovers.

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