Conflict or Coexistence: Why Words Matter

I have a confession: I don’t know WHAT I study. I still struggle to summarize my research in a very basic way because of terminology… Crop-WHAT? Raiding? Feeding? Foraging? Monkeys eat fruit that farmers grow. That’s what I know. Initially I used the term crop-raiding. During interviews, I translated the phrase literally in Bahasa Indonesia:Continue reading “Conflict or Coexistence: Why Words Matter”

Sacrifice, Sapi, and Selamat Lebaran

Selamat Lebaran and Eid Mubarak to all who celebrated yesterday! “Mau lihat?” Do you want to watch? My friends repeated until finally, anxiously, I walked from the porch over the to corral. People and animals around me seemed stressed and excited, stimulated by lots of activity and new smells in the air. In the IslamicContinue reading “Sacrifice, Sapi, and Selamat Lebaran”

Serpents Taken Up: Snake-Handling From the Snake’s Perspective

“Feeling after God is dangerous business,” wrote Dennis Covington in Salvation on Sand Mountain. Dangerous for who, exactly? Years ago, Covington’s remarkable book introduced me to one of the most intriguing human-animal relationships I’ve ever studied. In short, believers “take up serpents,” drink deadly substances, speak in tongues, and follow other signs from Mark 16:17-18.Continue reading “Serpents Taken Up: Snake-Handling From the Snake’s Perspective”

Pawpaw: The Plant, The Person, Home

I learned about pawpaw trees when I moved to West Virginia in 2016. One dry, fall day the Potomac was so shallow I could shuffle over rocks and through knee-deep water from the Mountain State to the Free State and back again. That’s when I tasted pawpaw fruit for the first time. The flavor wasContinue reading “Pawpaw: The Plant, The Person, Home”

The Joy of a Wild Snail Eating: An Animal Encounter Inspired by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

This book is the inspiration for the title of this post, and also for my desire to befriend a snail. I highly recommend both the snail friendship and the book.  Earlier today out on my balcony, I noticed a small snail stuck to our hanging bird decor. I plucked the shell from the wood andContinue reading “The Joy of a Wild Snail Eating: An Animal Encounter Inspired by Elisabeth Tova Bailey”

Nature Book Club: Family Reading List

Choose a theme that interests the whole family. (Themes are listed in alphabetical order.) Choose age-appropriate books within the theme for each family member. (Use the key below to determine genre. Purchase books from your local independent bookstore or support your local library, if possible!) Read, read, read! Use the discussion questions and activity ideasContinue reading “Nature Book Club: Family Reading List”

My Nature Nerd Word Collection

whip-poor-will wool dew mossy cerulean solstice limpkin alula rrrobin rrred brrreast (rrreally rrroll those rrr’s) clouded leopard guppy snapdragon Susquehanna shrew salamander torreya button quail Monongahela guava rhododendron mountain voices birds eye speedwell gingko weaving bobcat elderberry chamomile crawdad fiddlehead willow monkey-puzzle pangolin sassafras sycamore mountain laurel loblolly ginseng juniper chrysanthemum dandylion* mistical Potomac* anhingaContinue reading “My Nature Nerd Word Collection”

Durga’s Tiger: A Goddess and Her Cat

Whew, I’ve been sitting on this post for a while. In my head, it was going to be some kind of palate-cleanser after watching the Netflix series, Tiger King, but I’m not sure what it is. I just knew I needed to write about Durga and her big cat, as I’ve been pondering the conceptContinue reading “Durga’s Tiger: A Goddess and Her Cat”

Castor Craft Collaborative

People increasingly recognize the benefits of partnering with beavers across the country (and the world) to address issues such as water quality, erosion, drought, wetland restoration, wildfire management, habitat and biodiversity loss, and more. My collaboration with castorids, however, is a creative one. I observe my favorite ecosystem engineers and collect the materials they noContinue reading “Castor Craft Collaborative”

Camera Trap Diaries: Beaver vs. Otter

These camera trap pictures are from The Clifton Institute, where I work in northern Virginia. As you can see in the photo sequence above, on March 10th a beaver seemed to chase a river otter off its lodge. At 7:43am an otter appeared, then became a blur of movement as a beaver followed it, alsoContinue reading “Camera Trap Diaries: Beaver vs. Otter”

How To Use Weather Stones As A Nature Education Tool

Weather stones are a tool I use in outdoor, environmental education programs to teach early learners about their surroundings and to encourage mindful nature observation, because the weather is something we can always observe with multiple senses. I bought smooth stones at a craft store, painted the symbols with acrylic paint, embellished them with glitter glueContinue reading “How To Use Weather Stones As A Nature Education Tool”