March 2017 Nature Net News – Equinox
March Equinox Although there's currently snow on the ground and my outdoor thermometer was hovering around 20 degrees this morning, I keep saying to myself, "there's no turning back now." And indeed, spring is coming. The solar terminator will be perpendicular to the equator, the sun will cross the celestial equator, and the sun's ecliptic longitude will reach zero. And this will all happen on March 20th, regardless of any amount of snow out my window. The vernal equinox, which marks the astronomical beginning ...Continue Reading
February 2017 Nature Net News – Enjoying Winter
February Enjoying Winter I have to admit, my innate preference for wintertime activities leans more toward the Danish practice of hygge (pron. hUE-gah) than to snow-spraying adventures. Hygge is loosely defined as "cozy" but really, it's deeper than that. It's the way Danish people survive the cold, dark days of winter with plenty of candlelight, piles of blankets by the fireplace, or tea and conversation with friends -- it seems each person's definition of hygge is as unique as they are. And while spending wintertime hunkered ...Continue Reading
January 2017 Nature Net News – Starry Skies
January Starry Skies With nearly 14 hours of darkness still cloaking our nights this month, it's a perfect time to take advantage of the lack of sunlight to explore the night skies. Easy to spot constellations like Orion, Cassiopeia, Pegasus, and Ursa Major/Big Dipper all track across the sky during pre-bedtime hours, and this week's night sky includes bright-shining Venus and Mars simultaneously in the southwest. As an amateur star-gazer who would like to instill a sense of wonder and delight in my own children's upward ...Continue Reading
December 2016 Nature Net News – Wisconsin Pioneers
December Wisconsin Pioneers My first summer teaching at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center, there was a line like no other for the Laura Ingalls Wilder day camp. Children in bonnets, clutching their copies of "Little House in the Big Woods," couldn't wait to spend the day living like Laura. We made jam, churned butter, swept out the cabin, and hung laundry on the line. When their parents came to pick them up, they didn't want to stop scrubbing soapy rags ...Continue Reading
November 2016 Nature Net News – Paleontology
November Paleontology Remember Brontosaurus? When I was a kid, it was all about Brontosaurus, T. Rex, Stegosaurus, and Triceratops. Those were the big players in my childhood fascination with dinosaurs - and they were pretty much it. So imagine my surprise when twenty-five years later, as I delved into dino books with my kids, that not only was big, booming, Brontosaurus gone (though lately returned - more on that later), but there were hundreds of new species. Who was this Sarcosuchus ...Continue Reading
October 2016 Nature Net News – Birds Around the World
October Birds Around the World Some people just have a knack for storytelling. George Archibald is one of them. When I heard him speak last fall at the Midwest Environmental Education Conference about his love affair with cranes and his lifelong passion for crane conservation, he wove a tale filled with hilarious encounters with a Whooping crane who was pair-bonded with him; his amazing travel exploits to the demilitarized zone in Korea to work on saving precious crane habitat; and his never-ending message ...Continue Reading
September 2016 Nature Net News – Nature Journaling
September Nature Journaling I've always enjoyed the image Aldo Leopold depicts of himself in "Great Possessions," the July chapter in A Sand County Almanac. He writes, "at 3:30 a.m., with such dignity as I can muster of a July morning, I step from my cabin door, bearing in either hand my emblems of sovereignty, a coffee pot and notebook. I seat myself on a bench, facing the white wake of the morning star. I set the pot beside me. I extract a cup from ...Continue Reading
August 2016 Nature Net News – Bees & Wasps
August Bees & Wasps As a young summer-camp counselor, I was in charge of a reptile-searching crew of twelve lively second graders. Rolling over logs on a hot summer day could have meant discovering a drowsing garter snake, but in our case it meant unearthing an angry nest of "bees." One poor lad had an infuriated insect fly up his shirt to jab him with multiple stings. Chaos certainly ensued but no one was allergic (more on that later) and everyone enjoyed ...Continue Reading
July 2016 Nature Net News – Zoo Animal Enrichment
July Zoo Animal Enrichment Gone are the Victorian animal menageries, and in their place are thoughtful zoos and aquaria that work to conserve animal species and educate the public about animals around the world. Following the passage of the Endangered Species Act (1973) - which encourages captive breeding efforts as part of species recovery plans - and the Animal Welfare Act (1966) - which regulates the treatment of research and zoo animals - zoos are now working to save species from extinction and ensure ...Continue Reading
June 2016 Nature Net News – Nesting Birds
June Nesting Birds While the excitement of spring transformations may have waned, and migratory birds may have passed through our midst to nest in further-north climes, it's heartening to know that many bird species do spend summer months breeding and nesting in Wisconsin. There's few greater childhood thrills than finding a bird's nest filled with eggs - and many scientists share this enthusiasm. Bird nests and their contents can tell us a lot about the health of the bird species, as well as the ...Continue Reading