What is aposematic coloration?

The natural world is filled with beautiful colors. If you’ve ever been stung by a bee, then you know that not all colors mean good things. Many plants, animals, and fungi actually have bright colors to say “stay away.” Scientists call these warning colors aposematic coloration or aposematism. But how does it work in the first place? Let’s explore the …

Why do we need forests?

Forests are perhaps the most iconic and recognized biome on Earth. When most people hear the word nature, a forest is what comes to mind. And with good reason! Forests make up around 1/3 of all the land on Earth. Meanwhile, all of those trees are the foundation of many land-based food chains. At the same time, people all over …

How does being outdoors relieve stress?

If you’ve read other posts from my Nature and Health mini-series, you know that the number of ways that nature improves our health is staggering. Spending time in natural spaces benefits us in so many ways it can be hard to keep track of them all. In this post, I’d like to expand upon one especially valuable benefit of going …

What is a food web?

Have you ever heard the expression “higher on the food chain”? Alternatively, another common and related expression is the “web of life” or “circle of life”. All of these terms sound cool and important, but what do they mean? More importantly, what can they tell us about how nature works? Ask any scientist or naturalist, and they’ll tell you that …

5 ways nature improves mental health

Outdoor activities and nature study give us a way to escape the daily grind, get some fresh air, and take a break from the indoors. However, beyond just being a source of fun, recreation, and learning, time outdoors also benefits our health in many ways. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; people have gone to nature to feel serene, calm, …

How can nature improve your health?

For many people, nature helps us slow down and escape the pace and stress of our lives. For others, it’s an opportunity for mountain biking, backpacking, climbing, or birdwatching. Beyond that, an increasing number of people are going outside based on their doctor’s orders. In other words, they’re spending time in nature to benefit their health. Although this may sound …

Why are invasive species a problem?

In early spring, wisteria (Wisteria sinensis) vines and honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) bushes bloom fragrantly all over North America. The plants are abundantly green, and their elegant blossoms pour their perfume out into the warming air. It’s delightful, even magical, but any ecologist or naturalist will tell you it’s a bad sign for the environment. These plant species, introduced to North …

The Elevation Time Machine

Going up thousands of feet or meters in elevation, it’s easy to notice temperatures getting cooler, and air getting “thinner”. You may also notice the air getting less humid, or the dirt beneath your feet changing. The soil itself may change to something more sandy, gravelly or rocky…

What is a biome?

As you may have read in my post on describing outdoor places, biomes are the largest category for classifying the natural environment. From scorching deserts and frozen tundra to the endless blue of the marine pelagic zone, biomes highlight differences in nature at a huge scale. But what makes them different? What makes some biomes cold and others hot, or …

Phenology: Timing is Everything

Being a beginner naturalist means learning the answers to lots of what, why, where, and how questions. What is a lichen? Why do bugs gather around streetlights? Where do you go if you want to spot a kingfisher? How do trees move their seeds to new locations? But we tend to overlook questions of when. Nature is dynamic, things are …