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Family Field Trip - Hickory Run Boulder Field

  My older kiddo collects rocks. We have rocks on our book case. We have rocks in a large pail. He has rocks in his room. Because of his love of rocks and our family's general love of adventure, we decided to visit the naturally occurring boulder field in the Hickory Run State Park during a recent school break. The Boulder Field is a National Natural Landmark under the National Park Service.    The field is of composed of two types of boulders of various sizes. Each of us was struck my different elements at the site. I was, of course, closely observing the trees. My younger kiddo liked the red sandstones. The conglomerate boulders reminded me and my husband of Roxbury puddingstone. My older kid bounded almost effortlessly across the entire field and back. The total size of this geologic wonder is "400 feet by 1,800 feet and at least 12 feet deep."   We would like the Boulder Field to be improved in one way: provide at least one trail off the rocks. I was exhausted doing
Recent posts

Minetta Creatures, an eco-art collaborative to celebrate the historic ecologies of the Minetta Brook watershed

Minetta Creatures has a funding page on IOBY and received matching funds from ArtPlace America. Last year, I spoke with ArtPlace about the project. The following is an excerpt from the conversation. Why is it important to make this history visible? When I moved to the neighborhood more than a decade ago, I wasn't aware that there once was a stream that flowed through it. I came across that information accidentally while doing some research about the trees of Washington Square Park, the history of the land. I became familiar with the word Minetta and its origins as a Lenape word and dug deeper, did a lot of Googling and realized that we are missing a core piece of what it means to live in this neighborhood and New York City more generally. You can read the entire interview here .

The Risks and Rewards of Being Black in Nature

Photo by Andre Hunter at https://unsplash.com/photos/wN8pecBHoHs   I first learned about the concept of “nearby nature” in graduate school. The term was coined by Rachel Kaplan and Stephan Kaplan in their 1989 book, The Experience of Nature. The Kaplans define this form of nature as a space that contains “one or more plants…that is proximal [and] it can be indoors or out-of-doors.” With this wide-open definition, there are arguably many subtypes of nearby nature. I’ve thought about nearby nature or neighborhood nature or next door nature especially in the context of cities because of my work in urban forestry and urban ecology. Conducting my life almost entirely from my apartment in New York City beginning in mid-March of this year because of the pandemic brought home the importance of nature I could easily access, from my window, on a walk around my block, and when things felt less dire, in my local park. The pandemic and how much I craved nature were the catalysts for writing an essa

Avian biodiversity in a small park

Large parks such as Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn top the list of birding hotspots in New York City. But smaller, neighborhood parks support diverse bird life, too. My favorite small park, Washington Square Park, is within 10-minute walk from my apartment. It is 9.75-acres and located in the center of the Greenwich Village Historic District. The park is renowned for the Washington Arch, named for the nation’s first president and a doppelganger for the Arc de Triomphe. Locals and tourists also flock to the park to photograph the Empire State Building and One World Trade Center, to sit around the fountain, and to watch and listen to the grassroots performing artists that enliven the park. Locals and tourists engage with wildlife, too. Squirrels are enticed with nuts and bread. Pigeons and house sparrows, the most numerous and gregarious species in the park, get a lot of attention. But most tourists and some locals miss the breadth of bird life in the park. You h

Did fill kill a large American linden in Washington Square Park?

The title of this post is a rhetorical question. While I cannot say definitely that fill killed the 35-inch American linden in the northwest woodland of Washington Square Park, fill contributed to the death of this tree. In summer 2019, the soil grade in the northwest woodland was changed (fill was added) as part of a lawn repair project. I voiced concerns about the impact of soil mounding on mature trees on this blog and directly with the NYC Parks administrator of the park. Image: Critical root zone via Arlington VA Environment The critical root zone (CRZ) of a tree is just that: it is essential to the health of a tree and every effort should be made to prevent disturbance in this area. A quick estimate of the CRZ is the area below a tree's drip line or the area underneath the tree's canopy spread. NYC Parks requires a CRZ ratio of "½ foot per one inch DBH (diameter at breast height) to 1½ foot per one inch DBH." The agency provides a stricter calculation of 1½ fo

Observe nature from home

It’s spring! Migratory birds are on the move and plants are flowering and leafing out. Typically, our public landscapes would be teeming with people, some of whom would be outside to count brightly colored warblers, to watch cherry trees reach peak bloom, and to track the “green wave” of maples, oaks, and poplars pushing out new leaves. In the global wake of Covid-19, however, human movement is largely on pause. In the U.S., several states have orders and advisories to stay home. Despite this incredibly necessary limitation, if you have a room with a view (or a private outdoor space), you can make nature observations from home. Observation tools Observing nature while inside might require binoculars depending on how close birds or plants are to your windows. If you have bird feeders next to your windows or in your private outdoor space, you will be able to bird watch without binoculars. If you have neither, and birds will congregate at some distance beyond your windows, then binoculars

Birding for beginners

Image: Screenshot of PopSci.com (Cardinal photo by Bruce Jastrow/Unsplash) A spot of good news: I've got a new story--a how to guide for beginning birders! It was published by Popular Science as How to start birding in any U.S. city . Thanks to DIY editors John Kennedy and Sandra Gutierrez. Let me know what you think about the bird watching guide. Be well.