What better way to celebrate Halloween than to learn about some of the creepiest critters in North America? Bats, sharks, snakes and spiders scare a lot of people, but in reality they’re typically rather harmless and, as the saying goes, more afraid of you than you are of them.

I did this project to wrap up my natural science minor in college and to combine my two biggest passions: illustration and environmental education. I put a lot of research and planning into my choice of species, the information on the cards, and of course the illustrations themselves! It was both a challenge and a joy to work on these, and I’m excited to do more educational natural illustrations in the future.

"If Voting DIDN’T Change Anything"

Author’s note: I am not at all implying here that voting alone is sufficient or that any of these things came about through voting alone. This is my response to the shallow, societally-damaging, and completely non-historical and non-empirical phrase by anarchist Emma Goldman, “If voting changed anything, it would be illegal.” I think we should work inside the box like there is no outside of the box, and work outside of the box like there is no inside of the box.


On this day in 1993, Congress established the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area - to protect a unique environment that supports one of the world’s most dense concentrations of nesting birds of prey.   The Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 officially added the name of conservationist Morley Nelson to the NCA, in honor of Nelson’s work on behalf of birds of prey and their habitats.

The BLM manages the area, a part of the National Conservation Lands, to preserve its remarkable wildlife habitat while providing for other compatible uses of the land. The area’s 485,000 acres host some 800 pairs of hawks, owls, eagles and falcons that come each spring to mate and raise young.  

As a complete, stable ecosystem where predators and prey occur in extraordinary numbers, the NCA is a valuable place for research and education. The youth pictured here - Idaho 3rd through 8th grade students - recently participated in a day camp where they learned about raptor characteristics and became raptors for a day. The kids also visited the World Center for Birds of Prey and Dedication Point. 

Learn more about the Morley Nelson NCA: on.doi.gov/1zNqQgP and Dedication Point: on.doi.gov/1zNqUgh

-Krista Berumen

When the wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, they quickly restored the equilibrium of the ecosystem. 

From the TED-Ed Lesson From the top of the food chain down: Rewilding our world - George Monbiot

Animation by Avi Ofer

Dear Tumblrs,

I received the following in a Change.org email this afternoon:

The students in Mr. Wells’ fourth grade class in Brookline, Massachusetts love The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. They love the story, and they especially love the book’s message that if we don’t start prioritizing the environment, the consequences will be disastrous.

So they were super excited to learn that Universal Studios made The Lorax into a blockbuster animated movie (it comes out in March on Dr. Seuss’ birthday). But when the kids went to the movie’s website, they were crestfallen to see it had no environmental education at all. Nothing about pollution, nothing about trees, just information on how to buy tickets.

“The website is more about making money than helping the planet, and that’s exactly what the book says not to do,” says Georgia, who is 10.

If this doesn’t deserve a signal boost, I don’t know what does. Please please sign!

Watch on climateadaptation.tumblr.com

Discovery Channel exploits wolf killing, garners highest cable TV ratings among males 25-54.

Lately, these shows have also filmed killing of wolverines, lynx, grizzly bears, rattle snakes, and crocodiles for no reason other than ratings. The wolf, above, was no threat to Tanana. The show exploits viewer’s naivete about guns by shooting this animal with an AR-15 semi-automatic gun. That’s not how Alaskans hunt, they use hunting rifles, not assault weapons that look good on camera. In fact, Alaskan outdoorsmen and women are appalled at this blatant exploitation of both the animal and the audience. There is no need for this.

My point is that we are at a critical time in human history. Species are going extinct at a rapid pace, science education is under attack from aging politicians, and young people are generally experiencing nature less and less.

I am genuinely worried about the future of this country’s environmental leadership. Federal conservation programs, which have taken decades to create, are weakening. The ethic of conservationism (a conservative ethos) is dwindling. Young people are being pulled in the direction of technology, and away from grandeur, away from fresh air and nature.

It seems to me that one important aspect of this messy new milieu are education based TV companies who heretofore have been untouched by healthy criticism.

I think it’s time to analyze the impact of these shows. I believe that the Discovery Channel et al are not contributing to a healthy planet nor are they assisting educating viewers. It seems to me they are mastering fear for short term gain and profits. If I am correct, and I believe I am, these companies need to stop and focus on their mission, which is non-fiction, education-based media - not sensationalism or harm.

I hope you agree with me.


Students Experience a “Day in the Desert”

On April 4, teachers and fifty-eight 7th graders from Sunrise Ridge Intermediate School traded their brick and mortar classrooms for the vibrant landscape of southern Utah. The Red Cliffs National Conservation Area (NCA) was one of the chosen venues for the “Day in the Desert” event, sponsored by the Washington County School District, which allows middle school students to participate in “hands on” activities.
In the Red Cliffs Recreation Area, located within the NCA, specialists from the BLM Saint George Field Office, Washington County Administrators Office, and Southern Utah National Conservation Lands Friends (SUNCLF) group instructed students on ecological and cultural resources with curriculum-based workshops. They educated students about the life histories and adaptive mechanisms of native Mojave Desert species, like the desert tortoise and Gila monster; sampled and tested water quality in Quail Creek, and tried their hand at flint-knapping. They also identified native plants that were used as foods, medicines, or fiber sources by Native Americans and Anglo-European settlers, and visited the mid-19th century Orson B. Adams farmstead.
At the end of the day, “Day in the Desert” was a success with the children excitedly chatting about their experience on Public Lands as they marched back to the school bus.

-Story by Iris Picat; Photos by Iris Picat and Melissa Buchman

Want your students to take water conservation seriously? Show them what life is like with significantly less of it.

Disclaimer:  As for any activity that’s meant to give students an appreciation for something they have, it’s meant to be used in circumstances where students do in fact have that thing to take for granted.  Don’t do a faux water restriction activity with students who are regularly affected by droughts or water restrictions — neither they nor their parents will likely appreciate as a learning tool a difficulty that they already go through and know plenty about.

This morning marks just short of a week on tight water restrictions in my new town of residence in Western Mass.  Irene knocked out the water pumps here, there were some concerns about sanitation after sewage was flooded out from the nearby city and washed into one of the local major rivers, there was word of a boil order…luckily, one of the two wells for the town are operating again, storage tanks are refilling, and soon the water restrictions will likely be called off.

My flatmate and I already had two bulk packs of bottled water, which we had purchased before Irene hit, thinking it was just going to be a matter of a power outage that many of the town’s residents were prepping for like any other extended family-bonding opportunity, flashlights and boardgames and prepared no-heat no-chill food at the ready.  We’ve used it to drink, fill the cat’s dish, and in one case boil a pot of pasta (when there was no more food in the house that wouldn’t require more dishes that we’ve been trying not to wash).  I haven’t done laundry since I came back from evacuation, though today I’m going into the “city” (to a NYer, more akin to a major town than a city), which is not under water restrictions, and spending a few hours at the laundromat.  We have a few plants that need watering, so I filled up an empty plastic bottle at work (city) and have been using that.  Let’s not even talk about showers — though I never thought shower tactics would be the information I would take away from an article I read years ago about life in arctic research stations.

Is everyone taking these water restrictions so seriously?  It depends.  A few of the restaurants in town shut down for a few days because it so dented their ability to operate.  The little coffee shop has a long list of things they cannot serve or do because of the water they take to prep or clean, and the bathroom is restricted to customers only.  Some families have cut back their baths, some are only doing laundry when absolutely necessary or doing it out of town.  Some might not be doing any of this at all.  (I know Colleen has been nearly pulling her hair out over some occasions of excessive and unnecessary laundry-doing near her.)

But let me tell you — I have never had such a cause to reassess my usage of what was once, to me, a very basic and overlooked element in my life.  And I have a feeling that if your students needed to try this even for a few days, they would take water conservation more seriously, maybe even pay more attention to lessons on the water table or news stories about droughts and water shortages.

It’s important to note that this could happen for any number of reasons, even in places we don’t expect.  Natural disasters, chemical spills, heat waves, water contamination…I’ve heard the opinion that if one does not live in a drought-laden area there is no need to worry about water supply.  To this end, a mock water restriction activity might fall best after a lesson on the water table (even a brief overview, if science is not the subject at hand but is important to understand, say, a global studies issue) and during or before lessons on water conservation.

There are a number of ways to try an activity like this, but I would recommend getting parents involved if possible.  If it’s for a larger unit, or in response to a major event, one could even try getting a whole grade level or school involved — depending on the grade.  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this for young students; for a first or second grader this might be extreme.  But middle school, high school, upper elementary, college?  It depends on your students.

Have your students sign a pledge that they will try their best to stick to this activity on their own time.  Some elements of the activity might include:

  • keeping a log for a day/week prior to water restrictions of when they use water and approximately how much (or for how long, i.e. a running faucet)
  • keeping a log during their water restrictions of when they use water and approximately how much (or how long), both for comparison and for accountability
  • in-class or at-home journal opportunities to reflect on the experience

How long should it last?  A day? Three days?  A week?  Again, that’s up to the impact you want it to have on your students and the time you’re willing to spend on the material.

What do you do with the experience when it’s over?  Talk about why students might actually find themselves without the luxury of all that water, whether it be a plausible situation in their own home town or a matter of time and place.  Talk about people and places in the news that are living without water — most in worse conditions than we could experience even under strict mandatory water restrictions or boil orders.  Talk about what made students the most uncomfortable about not having access to the water they usually use — but ask them if they noticed any water they’ve been using that they could cut back.  (Did they used to leave the water running while they were brushing their teeth, washing their face, pumping soap to wash their hands?)

Most of all, don’t just let it go once it’s over — make the experience count for something.  Check on their water use now and again via conversation, or do another water log later in the year so students can see if they’ve changed their water usage.  Students can have a great role as leaders here if you ask them, simply, “What should we do with this experience,” or “What can we do about water conservation.” They might make a poster list of things they can do to conserve water, sign a pledge, or start a school-wide educational campaign.  They might turn it into service-learning and raise money for drought-stricken areas.  (People pledge money as students try to be “homeless” for a day in school gyms, or fast for world hunger — a water restriction activity might be used in a similar way.) 

Again, this is something that would require some level of parental involvement, at least notification, and a certain level of honesty from your students.  And it will not necessarily be pleasant.  But if they’re up for the challenge, I highly recommend it — if only to give them a new appreciation for one of the things that many of them may well take for granted.

Environmental Education Cartoon

If environmentalism was a cake (yes this is the direction today’s post is going) the icing would be legal policy and the sponge, people power. And the decoration, the notorious cherry on top of our cake, is this sort of thing:

Well I hope that cleared up any questions on Global Warming. Now let’s more onto environmental stewardship:


And some festive cheer for good measure:


I like Rustle the Leaf & Co. They’re honest and ironic and strangely positive at the same time. I wish more great cartoonists would focus on environmental awareness.  If you’re a great cartoonist, please do send me an eco one. I’ll publish it in The Hummingbird.

Contact me on jessica@nektarinanonprofit.com

For those of you who don’t know, I currently work at a outdoor education center in the Catskills. I wish to share a golden moment with you: 

A 4th grade boy, during pond ecology, caught a huge dragonfly larva.

He excitedly asked me what it was, and I had barely gotten and explanation out when… he brought it up close to his face, grinned huge and excitedly screamed “I’M GOING TO CALL HIM HARRY. YER A WIZARD, HARRY!!!”


Public Land in North Texas Serves as Outdoor Classroom for Local High School Students

As part of the BLM’s “Hands on the Land” youth initiative, the BLM Amarillo Field Office recently hosted an outdoor classroom for local high school students on the Cross Bar Ranch

The Cross Bar is a 12,000-acre area of public land near Amarillo, Texas, managed by the BLM for its ecological and recreational values. Students spent much of the past school year learning about native plant and animal species in North Texas. The Cross Bar field trip was designed to reinforce those lessons and highlight the conservation challenges associated with managing natural resources. They spent the day engaged in various hands-on learning activities about habitats, behavior, physiology and more. 

BLM Natural Resources Specialist Adrian Escobar, who manages the Cross Bar, said, “It’s imperative that we educate and excite young people about the importance and value of our public lands. They will be the ones who inherit our stewardship responsibility going forward.”  

The recent outing was a joint project with Caprock High School. Key partners supporting the project included West Texas A&M University, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Parks Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

Unregulated landfill the day after burning, Yaoundé Cameroon. (Carey, 2014)

Waste management is a huge challenge to the public health, quality of life, and environment in Cameroon. Plastic, paper, metal, and food waste is all thrown together and set on fire when the pile grows too large.

  • Uncontrolled burning of plastic is associated with a whole myriad of harmful pollutants, which can affect everything from mental function to the immune and reproductive systems. (x)

  • Contaminants can also seep into ground water, rivers, and lakes, thus contaminating the drinking water for people and wildlife. (x)

  • Malaria, cholera, diarrhea, and hookworm have all been associated with improper waste disposal. (x)

  • A 2009 report on waste management estimated that only about 40-50% of waste in heavily populated African cities is reportedly being collected. (x)

  • Even in cases like Limbe where there is waste collection, about 3/4 of the city’s waste management budget is spent on transportation alone. Leaving a small portion of the budget dedicated to waste treatment and recycling. (x)

  • There is little to no education or public awareness programs on waste management and recycling. Policy makers must incorporate environmental education into their programs. People need to be aware of the importance of waste management, for it to outweigh the convenience of littering. (x)

Related Reading:

How a small African recycling project tackles a mountainous rubbish problem (x)

While there is plenty we can do as adults, the future of our planet lies in the hands and hearts of our children and grandchildren…so why not start inspiring, informing, educating and enabling them to ‘do their bit’ now? - The Woodward family

Share if you agree!