October 2021 – “The Colors”
I took a weekend trip to Door County recently and as I prepared for the journey, several people commented on how nice they expected “the colors” would be. They were, of course, referring to the fall foliage, and indeed the Fall Color Report from Travel Wisconsin noted Door County would be just before peak color that week. When I arrived, true to the data, the sumacs, maples, and ash trees dotted the landscape with red and gold, while the oaks ...Continue Reading
September 2021 – Acorns
I don’t know if the same is happening in your neighborhood, but the oak trees in my area are just raining acorns this year. Never in my ten years of living under oaks have I seen so many acorns. The plinking and thunking of acorns hitting the roof, bouncing off the grill top, and pelting the patio furniture (and the hapless souls sitting in that furniture) has been ceaseless for the past three weeks - it keeps us up at ...Continue Reading
August 2021 – Solastalgia
I learned a new term this past year: solastalgia. Based on the Latin terms solacium (comfort) and algia or algos (pain), solastalgia is the anxiety or despair one experiences due to losing the comforts of one's surroundings because of environmental degradation. Akin to the term nostalgia, which describes the sad or sentimental longing for a past time or place, solastalgia is the feeling of loss and hopelessness associated with changes in one’s environment or ecosystem as a result of climate ...Continue Reading
July 2021 – Tree Equity
An interesting article came across my inbox a few weeks ago. It was an interactive, visual narrative from the New York Times’ opinion section that demonstrated the difference between tree coverage in wealthier (and whiter) neighborhoods vs those that are less wealthy. The authors note that “neighborhoods with a majority of people in poverty have 25 percent less tree canopy on average than those with a minority of people in poverty...in the most extreme cases, wealthy areas have 65 percent ...Continue Reading
June 2021 – Fireflies
On a fine June evening, my pre-teen son and I ventured out at sunset to watch the sun go down over Lake Mendota. We found a grassy hill-top view from the iconic Observatory Hill on UW-Madison’s campus and awaited the golden hour. If you regularly track Wisconsin phenology, you might know what happened next. Slowly and quietly the field below us filled with a glittering array of duty-bound fireflies. My son, who moments before was too cool to be seen ...Continue Reading
May 2021 – Birding & Phenology
The International Crane Foundation is reopening soon, with their grand reopening scheduled for May 1st! As many cranes are migratory, moving with the seasons to different breeding and wintering grounds, I thought now would be a great time to think about birding as a means to engage with phenology. Spring is a great time for phenological observation, with so many species changing - plants are blooming, birds are returning from their overwintering locations, and insects are emerging once again (noticing ...Continue Reading
March 2021 – Habitat Restoration
Did you know that much of the greater Midwest was originally wetland and prairie? Today, estimates suggest that only about 1% of the tallgrass prairie that once existed still remains. Loss of this habitat means the loss of all the things that live there. For many, preservation of what is left is not enough. In comes restoration! Fun fact - the Nature Net member University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum is often considered the birthplace of ecological restoration, beginning in 1936 with the restoration of the ...Continue Reading
February 2021 – Gardening, Culture, and Community Resilience
When you think of gardening and growing your own food, do you also think of your cultural heritage, and the deep history attached to using plants to feed one’s family? Maybe today I can convince you that gardening (and foraging!) can be a cultural practice that connects people together through time and space, evoking cultural roots and a deep sense of community belonging that has tied people together for centuries. Maybe I can also show you how urban agriculture and ...Continue Reading
January 2021 – Greenhouses
In temperate areas, the growing season is only so long, and the plants that can be grown are limited by their hardiness in local soils and climates. Enter the greenhouse: using temperature and humidity controls, we can grow nearly any type of plant year-round within glass walls! Greenhouses have been essential in increasing food production as well as in maintaining collections of rare plants from around the world. In the cold of winter, it's amazing to think that plants that ...Continue Reading
December 2020 – Biodiversity
Many biologists believe we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction on our planet. Pretty scary to think about - but it's not all bad news for the future. Many organizations and individuals are working hard in conservation efforts to support biodiversity and the diverse ecosystems of this planet, and there have been successes! One of the first major biodiversity conservation successes in the United States was the recovery of bald eagle populations after being decimated by DDT. ...Continue Reading