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We are proud to include a large community of voices in our blog. Volunteers, partners, community members, etc. are encouraged to share their stories with us!

The world is at a tipping point with plastic pollution. Several countries are stepping up to make drastic changes and to ban single-use plastic in the wake of political and public pressure to wean us off this toxic convenience product. The United States is lagging behind, though many people are becoming aware of the problem and some states are looking at regulating plastics. The problems are our current approaches to tackling plastic pollution focus on small-impact solutions, which are well-intentioned and personally educative but are being quickly absorbed and morphed by the growth of global plastics production.

Beginning as early as the 1850s and continuing for over a century, urban planners increasingly focused on grand designs for parks that would restore communities by providing a place of leisure and recreation. Seeing the transformation of rural America and the expansion of urban populations, it seemed that the loss of contact with open spaces created pathological conditions in cities. 

Thursday, 31 January 2019 06:47

Where Art Meets Ecology

I got started volunteering at the Urban Ecology Center through small mammal monitoring in the summer of 2012 and have been fortunate enough to help with that project at least a few times every summer since, alongside numerous other projects. These opportunities and the UEC have helped me get to where I am professionally, granted me steady friendships, taught me so very much, and, most importantly, welcomed me, enthusiastic quirks and all, with open arms.

Friday, 27 April 2018 06:04

Brilliant Beetles

Who doesn’t love living creatures that are brilliantly colored, small and abundant in their desired environment? Beetles have been treasures, delicacies, and pets for thousands of years.

Just like feathers have been used in fashion, so too have beetle wings. Over the summer, my dentist was preparing for an Indian family wedding in Canada. She was painstakingly embroidering metallic, vibrant colored beetle wings (beetlewing embroidery) onto the wedding gown.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 10:17

Once you’ve read Fabre, you’re never alone

I’m not a professional scientist. But animal stories, biographies of scientists and works of natural history have always been my favorite reading material. Since childhood I’ve been nourished by the prose of ones who observe, measure and count; imagine and experiment. I still have natural history books I acquired as a child. One of them is Animal Behavior from the Life Nature Library series. It was published in 1965; presented as an introduction to what the editors of the time called the “infant science” of ethology. 

The thought of hiking 100 miles through the northern Maine wilderness was just an idea thrown around between my dad (Alan) and I (Erin) until one day at the end of 2016, we decided to book flights and make it happen. After months of training, it was finally time to get on a plane and go to Monson, Maine. We started our hike on Mt. Katahdin, the northern most point of the Appalachian Trail. Everything we would need for the next 11 days was on our backs and once we entered the 100 Mile Wilderness, there was no access to civilization until we reached the other side.

Monday, 15 May 2017 09:51

Epic World Dance Party

On May 6th, 2017, brothers Zion Singh Ponder (4 years old) and Zephaniah Singh Ponder (8 years old) hosted the Epic World Dance Party. This was their second year doing the Epic World Dance Party in partnership with the Urban Ecology Center. The boys invited dancers from around the city to teach mini dancing lessons during the party. This year, Mari Otero from Salsabrosa Dance Company taught Salsa and Bachata. Gabi Sustache from Danceworks Milwaukee taught Modern Dancing.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 14:57

Storied Landscapes

Earth Day is nearly upon us. Each year we pause on April 22nd to think about ecology, climate change, preservation—survival. This past year, people the world over have come together around the protection of our waters, taking up the chant "Water is Life."   Now as we think about the health of our planet, I invite you to consider the way we "story" water, the earth, the sky, and all the natural beings in the universe. In The Truth About Stories Indigenous writer Tom King asks, "Do the stories we tell reflect the world as it truly is, or did we simply start off with the wrong story?"

During hot months, prairies come alive with phenomenal displays of wildflowers and the prairie restorations of the Rotary Centennial Arboretum at Riverside Park are, right now, in full bloom. There you can find this week’s wildflower: Prairie Fleabane (Erigeron strigosus).

With flowerheads that look like small, delicate daisies, prairie fleabane is a member of Asteraceae, the asters. Asteraceae is one of the two biggest families of plants in the world along with Orchidaceae, the orchids. Which family is bigger depends on who’s counting what as a species.

Some wildflowers grow modestly, a few delicate blossoms held a few inches off the ground. Then there are bold wildflowers like the Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum).

Waterleaf can’t wait for you to see it. Growing some two-feet tall, the waterleaf puts out showy balls of flowers. If you walk through Riverside Park on the right day in late spring, the whole park will be alive with this bushy wildflower.

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