Nature is for Everyone

Me in South Dakota, by Anna Magruder

I get it. Nature is intimidating for some. Sometimes, especially in the fall when hunters seem to be clogging public lands with their guns and orange vests, I don’t feel like getting out there with my binoculars. And for some people who live in the city, claiming their time in the sun might seem far away from daily concerns. But, nature is for everyone, even us punks, with our ink and fascination with all things Joe Strummer. Find your tribe.

Earthworms are easy

We love backyard earthworms! But, should we?

I like really strange movies from the ’80s, so I couldn’t resist the Earthgirls are Easy reference. We love backyard habitat, and our gardens thrive with the presence of earthworms, right? Right? Turns out, not so much. Check out this article in The Atlantic on the exotic, and possibly invasive, nature of earthworms, especially the jumpy ones. Wait, what?

Cryptic Animals of the Arctic

Nighthawks on a roof — can you see them?

I spent a fair amount of time bemoaning the fact that nighthawks were hard to find on rooftops, but can you imagine what it would be like to be a wolverine researcher? PBS’ Nature has an episode that interviews researchers that spend decades studying their spoor without ever seeing their subject, that is, until motion activated cameras suddenly became cheaper in the digital photography age. How about narwhal researchers? Check out this post.

Range shifts

Nighthawks on a gravel rooftop

In my research, I have often had the discussion about why birds such as nighthawks are important to study when they are listed as least concern by IUCN. The truth is more complex. In some places they have been extirpated and in others they are increasing. Some would argue that a massive range shift is underway. This is important. A rearrangement of biota worldwide could have ramifications we have yet to understand. Recently, this study of the Nubian nightjar raises the question: What happens when we paint a species into a geographical corner?

Ladies of Biology

Me in South Dakota, by Anna Magruder

Don’t you hate that title? Doesn’t it seem like I am about to discuss women in lab coats in a calendar? Yeah, me too.

One thing that women in science notice is the drop off in women in the workplace around the age when most women have children, and then only a portion return to the workplace. It’s true, science can be demanding and not the most enlightened of professions.

This “lady” gets it. Kudos to her for leading the way!

Dippers or ouzels?

Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota

Above is a shadowbox I made of Spearfish Canyon, South Dakota, in the Black Hills. That little grey bird is the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) also known as the ouzel. This is the first bird I fell in love with. When I first moved to Oregon, I saw an episode of Oregon Field Guide on Oregon Public Broadcasting that featured this little bird that feeds and swims underwater and often builds its nests behind waterfalls. I immediately went out hiking that weekend and found a dipper doing its thing.

Years later, when I moved to South Dakota, I made a trip to the Black Hills, and was delighted to see the little birds in the water at Spearfish Canyon along with other western birds, like my beloved violet-green swallows. For many birds, the Black Hills is the easternmost point of their range.

This summer, I made a trip to Oregon for some remote camping, and made a stop in the Wallowa Mountains. While my friend and I sat six feet apart along a stream, a dipper popped out of the water and jumped around.

Recently, Audubon wrote a nice post about the only aquatic songbird of North America. It’s a good read.