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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April 2018 Nature Net News – School Gardening
April School Gardening One of my favorite teachers at my children's elementary school was able to sense when the kid's energy level reached a non-productive level. Her go-to response was to head out to the school garden to weed, water, and mulch. Usually they would go for just 10 minutes - but that was enough. Marta, who was named the 2015 Formal Environmental Educator of the Year, intuitively knew the power of outdoor time, gardening, and fresh air on student's ability ...Continue Reading
March 2018 Nature Net News – Algae
March Algae We set the topics for these Nature Net News posts a year in advance. I dropped in this vivid green image and sat wondering what I wanted to share about algae. The very next day, at the UW Arboretum Winter Enrichment Lecture - a series that I regularly attend - Professor Ben Zuckerberg, who was there to present on Birds & Climate Change, started talking about algae. It's funny - and wonderful - how the universe sometimes speaks to you. Zuckerberg's bird/climate/algae ...Continue Reading
February 2018 Nature Net News – Polar Regions
February Polar Regions When BBC's Planet Earth series came out in 2006, our family was psyched. Although the entire first series is now conveniently available on Netflix, back then, watch-on-demand technology did not exist (at least not in our house). So, we marked the calendar for the days it would air, and cozied up to watch and learn about shallow seas, deserts, and polar regions. I remember telling my uncle, who has always held a place in his heart for nature and the natural world, ...Continue Reading
January 2018 Nature Net News – Meteors
January Meteors I had heard of the Perseid Meteor shower (it always happens around my dad's birthday) but have to admit I was not aware that each year roughly a dozen major meteor showers occur that are fairly easy to observe. We've missed the first one of the year (Quadrantid, which peaked on January 3rd, 2018) but I'm gearing up for the next one, Lyrids, which is active from April 16th - 25th, 2018. While major, minor, and variable meteor ...Continue Reading
December 2017 Nature Net News – Winter Landscapes
December Winter Landscapes Do you remember the excitement you felt as a child when you woke to see the first snowfall had changed the landscape overnight? As adults we tend to groan as we look out the window and contemplate shoveling, scraping off the car, and the extra twenty minutes it will take to get just about anywhere. While it may be hard for us to remember that thrill, if you interview any child under the age of fourteen, you'll find that solid precipitation well ...Continue Reading
November 2017 Nature Net News – Owls
November Owls We used to teach students about the silent flight of owls by swinging blocks of wood. The blocks were attached to a rope; one was covered in carpeting and one was not. As we swung the blocks in a fast circle, lasso-style, students could easily hear the plain block whoosh by, but the carpeted block was silent. The differing blocks demonstrated the purpose of a special feathery fringe that covers the leading edge of an owl's wing. According to KQED ...Continue Reading
October 2017 Nature Net News – Ants
October Ants As a young naturalist, someone once told me that ants are to the prairie as worms are to a garden: they move soil and nutrients around and keep the top- and sub-soil layers healthy. I've shared this analogy with many students since that time, but never really dug any deeper. Last month's blog post on prairies got me thinking about the depth of ecosystem intricacies in the prairie, and the role each species plays in creating a balance. I figured it was time to ...Continue Reading
September 2017 Nature Net News – Prairies
September Prairies Aldo Leopold's chapter in A Sand County Almanac entitled "Prairie Birthday" contemplates the existence of a remnant of pre-settlement prairie and a particular Silphium plant which he estimates may have been old enough to have "watched the fugitive Black Hawk retreat from the Madison lakes to the Wisconsin River." He writes: Every July I watch eagerly a certain country graveyard that I pass in driving to and from my farm. It is time for a prairie birthday, and in ...Continue Reading
August 2017 Nature Net News – Wisconsin Mammals
August Wisconsin Mammals By best estimations there are about 72 resident mammal species in Wisconsin. Guesses on the Order with the most species? It's Rodentia with 26 species of squirrels, chipmunks, voles, and mice - plus the lemming, porcupine, beaver and pocket gopher. I recall Scott Craven, perhaps Wisconsin's most famous Wildlife Ecologist, once stating that the meadow vole is the most populous mammal in Wisconsin. I couldn't find anything to verify that but I believe him. He has, after all, ...Continue Reading
July 2017 Nature Net News – Bugs That Bug
July Bugs That Bug When I last wrote a "Bugs That Bug" post in the mid-2000s, it was West Nile Virus that had everyone concerned. First documented in Wisconsin in 2002, West Nile - an arbovirus that is transmitted by a bite of an infected mosquito - caught the media's attention and had people brushing up on best practices for avoiding mosquitoes. Now that Zika virus has joined our lexicon and our sleepless night worries, the mosquito's reputation has dipped lower than loathsome. The same ...Continue Reading