Good naturalists don’t wear white.


Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

When I was working on my first ornithology research project, I was admonished for showing up in a bright yellow shirt.  It was my favorite shirt.  Purchased at the Portland Zine Symposium, it featured a lovely giraffe illustration by my friend Anna Magruder.  I was bummed.  But, if I wanted to capture a bird, I was told it would be difficult to stay incognito with such bright colors, especially for an animal that can see colors all the way into the ultraviolet end of the spectrum.  In fact, I have since become aware of a book called Good Birders Don’t Wear White. Since then, my field work clothes have become very drab — beige on beige with a splash of gray!  Just to be on the safe side, I even chose not to buy an orange car so that it wouldn’t affect my roadside point counts.

This has not gone unnoticed.  One biologist friend, a paleontologist whose study subjects are not so aware of his clothing, called me a “brown ninja.”  I agree.  I need to be sneaky. In shades of brown. Another researcher, a herpetologist who frequently wears tropical prints, a small fedora and flip flops into the field, gave me a hard time, too.

Now, it turns out that other organisms are aware of your clothing choice.  Including reptiles! But not fossils.



If it’s not one thing, it’s another.


Photo by Marijs / Shutterstock via American Bird Conservancy

I’ve detailed the sheer loss of grassland in North America in the past decade due to the push for biofuels, but the alternatives are problematic, too.  This excellent article by American Bird Conservancy details the challenges of wind energy production for flying animals.  Thoughtful balancing of industry needs and habitat for wildlife informed by rigorous science and creative engineering go a long way in alleviating the burden on biodiversity in the developed and developing worlds.

Want to Save Coral Reefs?

Recently, I came out as a climate scientist.  Common Nighthawks, while being very heat tolerant, nest in extremely hot locations, and it’s important to know when climate change will make those places uninhabitable.

However, the most vulnerable biome worldwide? Coral reefs are sensitive to changing oceanic temperatures.  With that in mind, Australian scientists have asked snorkelers to help them collect data.  What a great idea!

Inspiration for art

In a previous post, I showed the art I have been making to raise funds for research.

Here are the places I visited that inspired this art.


Bear Butte State Park, South Dakota


The geology at Devils Tower National Monument.  The pink rock is a phonolite porphyry, an igneous rock comprised of alkali feldspar. 


Wyalusing State Park in Wisconsin is an amazing place of great biodiversity at the confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers in the the Driftless Zone, where glaciers have never touched.  The topography is unlike anywhere in the Midwest.

Selling art for research

Below are some new works showing biodiversity in Northern Plains that I am selling on my etsy site. I also sell cards and candles with the images there and calendars and other such merch at my RedBubble site.


Spirit Mound, South Dakota, with Tree Swallows, Eastern Amberwing, Cup Plant, American Bumblebee, Butterfly Weed, Cricket Frog, Dickcissel, and False Dragonweed, and Bull Snake.


Bear Butte State Park, South Dakota, with Ferruginous Hawk, American Bison, Coyotes, Western Kingbird, Yellow-bellied Racer, American Copper (Butterfly), and Buffalo Bean.


Wyalusing State Park, Wisconsin, with Bald Eagle, Barred Owl, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Wood Pewee, Pileated Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Hawk , Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Prothonotary Warbler, Striped Skunks, Tall Bellflower, Yellow Ironweed, Black Rat Snake, and Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

2017-10-01_13-06-28_296 (2017-10-01T20_13_02.095)

Spirit Mound, South Dakota, with Tree Swallows, Eastern Amberwing, Cup Plant, American Bumblebee, Butterfly Weed, Cricket Frog, Dickcissel, and False Dragonweed, and Bull Snake.

White Nose Syndrome Series Starts!

I have been doing some freelance writing for USFWS’ Northeast Region on White Nose Syndrome, a disease that has wiped out many bat populations in the northeast and is spreading west.  It will all culminate in Bat Week at the end of October.  I am a nighthawk researcher, but bats and nighthawks are both aerial insectivores that share many of the same pressures.

My first article, Unlocking the mystery of White-nose Syndrome at the leading edge, was posted this week on the White-Nose Syndrome web site!