Nature Net’s monthly blog highlights seasonal topics and helps you feel like the expert. Each edition features tips for educators and families, and links to exciting, nature-focused websites.

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January 2023 – Urban Canids
I once saw a fox in the backyard of my near-west Madison home. It sat along a stone retaining wall with its cozy tail wrapped around its feet. Light snowflakes swirled as it quietly gazed across the yard. We keep backyard chickens so we were certainly a little nervous. But more, we were awed. It was an amazing experience to see “real” wildlife up so close. Turns out, my “urban” fox encounter was not so rare. Foxes claim several Madison ...Continue Reading
December 2022 – Earthshot
Sometimes, being an environmentalist can be downright depressing. A quick scroll through the news generally elicits a somber list of stories about climate change, biodiversity loss, habitat destruction, pollution, and the list goes on. But lo, hidden among the tabloid news earlier this month was some good news, a ray of hope - five of them, actually. I heard the Royals (Prince William and Kate Middleton) were visiting Boston (and that there were gossip-inducing “hiccups,” and of course front row ...Continue Reading
November 2022 – Turkeys
After many years of trekking through the UW Arboretum, I've noticed a fairly recent increase in turkey encounters. Flocks - or rafters - of turkeys can be spotted wandering Longenecker Garden's curated edges, or ambling across Monroe Street near Spring Trail Pond (a location I grew up calling "the duck pond"). Had I walked these routes 150 years ago, there would have been no turkeys. They were extirpated from Wisconsin for nearly a hundred years starting in the late 1800s.  ...Continue Reading
October 2022 – COP 27
A quick survey around the office revealed that even among us environmental educators, COP 27 is a bit of a mystery. We know it is a meaningful climate action forum that’s occurring next month but what does COP even stand for and what exactly will be happening? None among us could answer for sure. A little research was required…  COP stands for Conference of the Parties, with “parties” being the 196 countries or territories that make up the supreme decision-making ...Continue Reading
September 2022 – Beavers
I was on a road trip earlier this summer when I caught the tail end of an interview on the Larry Meiller Show about beavers. Meiller's guest, Bob Boucher, was making a case for beavers as environmental and ecological engineers who could help solve the flooding issues Milwaukee faces on an increasingly frequent basis. Boucher, who considers himself a "Beaver Believer," explained that beavers are a "keystone species." This means their presence on the land impacts the surrounding habitat and ...Continue Reading
August 2022 – Black Bears
Somehow the topic of bears came up in our house the other day. My daughter said offhandedly "I didn't know there were bears in Wisconsin." I guess it's not surprising given that she's lived her whole life in Madison, where bear sightings are quite rare. But I was somewhat shocked that she didn't realize the American black bear is a native Wisconsin species. The environmental educator in me couldn't help but chime in. Black bears are in fact listed by ...Continue Reading
July 2022 – Moths of Wisconsin
The most extraordinary caterpillar marched its way across my back patio the other day. With spiky hair all around, a bright red head, and four white globules on its back, it caught everyone’s attention as it traversed the blue seat cushion. I pulled up the Seek app on my phone to capture its image and found it was a White-marked tussock moth, which metamorphoses into a fully un-extraordinary adult with drab gray and brown coloration. An amazing transformation indeed. The ...Continue Reading
June 2022 – Climate Education
I recently came across an interesting research article that influenced my thinking on climate change education and the impact we, as educators, may - or may not - be having on people’s understanding of climate change risk. The article was published in 2012 by a collective of researchers from Yale, Ohio State, Temple University, George Washington University, and a nonprofit research consortium in Eugene, Oregon. The team asserts that a commonly held notion about climate education is fundamentally flawed. The ...Continue Reading
May 2022 – Climate Anxiety
Have you ever - like me - stood bewildered in the grocery aisle, trying to make a selection that keeps in mind both the family budget and the environment? When I was in graduate school, the professor for my "Climate Change and Human & Planetary Health" class asked students to track the carbon footprint of our meals for a day. As a born-and-raised Wisconsinite, it was near heartbreaking to learn that cheese has an extremely high carbon footprint (e.g. producing ...Continue Reading
March 2022 – Wolf Conflicts
Just a few weeks ago (February, 2022), a US District court re-listed the gray wolf as a federally endangered species. This pertains to wolves in the lower 48 states, except the northern Rocky Mountain region. I don’t know about your newsfeed, but this transpired with seemingly far less fanfare than the October 2020 announcement that the US Fish & Wildlife would remove the wolf from the Federal Endangered Species list. Particularly since this latter event triggered the opening of a wolf ...Continue Reading