Here’s something to toast about: Mass Audubon is one of five local charities that will benefit from the 2021 sales of Castle Island Brewing Company’s latest IPA: Fiver.
Castle Island Brewing Company is an award-winning brewery based in Norwood dedicated to the idea that beer should be inclusive, approachable, and excellent. They recently kicked off the Fiver Initiative with the purpose of giving back to some deserving local charities.
In addition to Mass Audubon, the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy, Artists for Humanity, Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism, and Facing History and Ourselves will receive a cut of sales.
So whether you enjoy a can of Fiver on a cold winter’s day; a frosty mug of it in the heat of summer; or a freshly poured pint in the taproom this fall, you’ll be supporting Mass Audubon during every season this year. We’ll cheers to that!
You’ve probably heard the stories if not told them. They always start with … “When I was a kid…” and have some variation of … “I’d play outside all day until the dinner bell rang.” Of course, back then (whenever then was), things were different.
The internet was just a kernel of an idea. Television was limited to a few stations. And the amazing options of after school activities were, well, less than amazing. With fewer options, kids would head outdoors for entertainment–building forts, climbing trees, and playing hide-and-seek to name a few.
Sure, that still happens now, but research shows that children today spend less time outside than any other generation before them.
Why Nature Play Matters
There are endless benefits to playing in the outdoors. Specifically, nature play:
Promotes a healthy, active lifestyle
Develops imagination, creativity, and invention
Allows a space for children to navigate risk and problem solving
Supports inquiry-based learning through curiosity and exploration
Provides opportunities to practice adaptability, flexibility, and resilience.
And of course, when children are in nature, they find connections to the natural world. These connections are critical to creating the next generation of nature heroes. Researcher and educator David Sobel notes: “If we want children to flourish, to become truly empowered, let us allow them to love the earth before we ask them to save it.”
As a way to encourage everyone, adults and children, to get out and play in nature, Mass Audubon is launching Nature Play Days. Each season, our team of wildly enthusiastic educators will share Nature Play ideas and activities, all of which can be done in your neighborhood, local park, or wildlife sanctuary.
You can be someone who supports getting children outside, giving them the freedom to explore (safely of course), and ensuring they get all the benefits that come along with it.
As schools are getting back in session, we want to honor recent graduate and Mass Audubon alum Maria Vasco, an environmental studies and sustainability major in the School for the Environment at UMass Boston.
Maria received the top two honors a graduating undergraduate can receive from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education: the John F. Kennedy Award for Academic Excellence and the “29 Who Shine” Award, for her academic achievements, commitment to service, and good citizenship. As part of the JFK Award, Maria will have the opportunity to address the graduating class at their commencement ceremony, although the event was postponed due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
In her sophomore and junior years, Maria was the campus ambassador for Mass Audubon, organizing and leading climate cafes on the UMass Boston campus and at the Timilty Middle School in Roxbury and recruiting fellow students as part of a partnership between the university and Mass Audubon.
“I love to tell my fellow students about all the inspiring work that Mass Audubon is doing and inviting them to be a part of it, from attending Climate Cafes to pursuing environmental careers,” Maria said. “For many, it’s the first time they’re hearing about Mass Audubon, and they’re usually interested to learn more.”
Maria’s passion and leadership led the way for the partnership to grow and flourish recruiting students for a variety of internships, work-study placements, and summer jobs in conservation as well as nonprofit management roles. It’s a natural “fit” between Boston’s only public research university and Massachusetts’s leading nonprofit organization in conservation, environmental education, and advocacy.
In addition to her impressive academic accomplishments and important work with Mass Audubon, Maria is also an entrepreneur. She launched the UVIDA Shop webstore, which aims to help consumers reduce their plastic waste through the use of eco-friendly products like bamboo toothbrushes, reusable water bottles, and biodegradable glitter.
After graduation, Maria is continuing to build her business on the side while working for Exporta Technologies, a Harvard-based software-as-a-service (Saas) startup based in Cambridge.
Reflecting on her time working with Mass Audubon, Maria noted, “An important trait I have picked up…is to be confident in myself and make more of a push to leap into bigger opportunities.”
Congratulations to Maria! And best of luck in your bright future from all of us at Mass Audubon. Keep pushing for even bigger opportunities to advocate for people and the environment!
Summer just isn’t summer without camp. Sunshine, fresh air, friends, and fun in the outdoors are the optimal nourishment for body, mind, and soul. So when COVID-19 shut down Massachusetts this spring, our camp and education staff immediately got to work, developing plans to open some of our day camps if the opportunity presented itself.
While awaiting guidance from the state and local boards of health, they rewrote policies and created new safety and hygiene protocols, ordered PPE supplies, and adapted programming for the age of social distancing. Our top priority was to make camp as safe and fun as possible and give kids a healthy “dose of normalcy” for the first time in months.
And based on what we are seeing at our 11 day camps that are open across the state, it was all worth it. Don’t take our word for it, though. Here’s what a few camp families have recently shared with us.
Toads and Games and Friends, Oh My!
“What a gift to offer this magical experience during COVID! Our children came home every day energized and inspired, regaled us with stories of their encounters with the farm animals, catching toads, playing games outside, meeting new friends, and entertaining camp counselor stories about birds.”
“I am an epidemiologist and I was so happy with the safety precautions taken by the camp staff! I felt completely comfortable leaving my child at camp each day. The staff went above and beyond to create a fun and healthy environment for campers. I am so appreciative of the entire staff’s hard work this summer!”
Hitting the Reset Button
Rising to the Occasion
“I’m sad that the kids and our world is going through this, but I’m grateful you all rose to the occasion and still made it all happen. You did a GREAT job navigating this year.”
“Camp was the best week we’ve had since COVID closed Massachusetts schools in March, no exaggeration. Your enthusiasm, warmth, professionalism and flexibility were utterly fantastic. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Looking to Join the Fun?
The appreciation from our camper families and the smiles on our campers’ faces (underneath masks, of course) are just the fuel we need to persevere through these challenging times, together.
There are still a small handful of slots available at a few sites, so if your child is eager to get in on camp this summer, check with your local day camp to see if they have availability. We can’t wait to see you!
We’re back with another fun Mass Audubon shirt—this time featuring a pair of White-breasted Nuthatches! We took your feedback and are offering both youth and adult unisex t-shirts, v-neck and long-sleeve t-shirt options, and two sweatshirt styles. Only available for the next two weeks, so order yours today!
How Does It Work?
For the next two weeks only, you can order Climbing Nuthatch shirts through Bonfire, with a variety of colors, styles, sizes to choose from, including youth sizes and sweatshirts. At the end of the campaign, Bonfire will print and ship all the ordered shirts directly to your door, beginning July 30.
There’s no getting around it: things are a little stressful right now. We know that time spent connecting with nature is a powerful stress-reduction tool, but did you know that even looking at pictures or listening to sounds of nature can have an impact on your stress levels?
To give you a virtual “change of scenery” and a healthy dose of nature and wildlife, we’ve compiled a list of the amazing live animal webcams and digital wildlife experiences from all around the state, the country, and the world.
Get an inside look at the fastest animals on Earth—right in our own “backyard” (so to speak)! There are nearly half a dozen live webcams at locations across Massachusetts focused on nesting Peregrine Falcons.
Beyond Massachusetts, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has live streams of a hummingbird feeder in West Texas, a fruit feeder in Panama, and a seed and suet feeder at Cornell itself, along with a half dozen other nest cams from around the world, in season.
For a truly sublime “Moment of Zen”, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Animal Cams. In particular, the Jelly Cams offers a gentle, soothing visual experience paired with calming background music, but the boundless joy of sea otters frolicking and playing can’t be beat.
Ocean Networks Canada maintains several live webcams from 75 feet below the sea at the Folger Pinnacle Reef off Vancouver Island, British Columbia. The cameras only operate for five minutes every hour, but you never know what you’re going to see!
The San Diego Zoo’s Live Animal Cams include everything from penguins and polar bears to elephants and tigers. Check out the giraffe cam for a look at the African Plains habitat, which also includes rhinos and other wildlife from their Safari Park.
The Smithsonian’s National Zoo hosts a few live animal webcasts on its website, including a Lion Cam, Elephant Cam, Giant Panda cam, and even one for Naked Mole Rats!
Around the World in 80 Seconds
On the other side of the globe, you can visit a watering hole at the Djuma Game Reserve in South Africa, where impalas, elephants, hippos, and all manner of birds come to drink.
And if none of the above are quite what you’re looking for, Earth Cam and Explore.org have an incredible array of live animal cams from around the world—although not technically “wildlife,” the Puppy Playroom cam at the Warrior Canine Connection, an organization that trains veterans to train service dogs for fellow veterans, is the “cuteness overload” we all need right now.
Happy Valentine’s Day from Mass Audubon! Show your nature-loving sweetheart how much you care with one of these “punny” nature valentines—or better yet, consider making a donation in honor of your special someone and share some love for our mission to protect the nature of Massachusetts, too.
To see even more options, check out our nature valentines from 2018, 2017, 2016, and 2015.
Our TerraCorps member Nick Tepper took over the Mass Audubon iNaturalist account from April 26 to April 29 to participate in Boston’s City Nature Challenge: a fun-filled citizen science competition to document biodiversity around the world.
Nick submitted over 400 observations and documented over 220 species. Here are some of his favorite photos from the challenge:
Have you ever asked a friend for the ID of a plant or animal you didn’t recognize? Are you the friend who gets asked? Do you ever snap a photo of something you don’t recognize to research later, but you never get to it? Do you have hundreds of pictures on your phone or computer of plants and animals that you wish could be of use to someone? If you answered yes to any of these questions, consider joining iNaturalist!
What is iNaturalist?
iNaturalist is an online platform designed to connect people like
you to an entire community of nature enthusiasts). Here, users share sightings
of plants, fungi, and animals and in return get identifications on what’s in
their images (or audio files). ID’s are consensus-based. This means other users
can see your observations, and either agree or disagree with your
identifications based on their own knowledge.
An observation becomes “research grade” when the majority of
identifiers reach a species-level consensus about the plant, animal, or fungi
in your picture. If you think your photo of an insect in your yard isn’t
important enough to post, think again! All research grade observations on
iNaturalist get added to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, and can
then be used in scientific research and publications.
How to Use iNaturalist
One of the best parts about iNaturalist is that everyone can use it–you don’t need to be a scientist or a professional naturalist. All you need is a computer or smartphone and an interest in the natural world around you.
To get started, create a free account at iNaturalist.org or via the smartphone app. Then, upload identifiable pictures or audio with a location and a date and give it your best ID (if you have no clue, the platform will often suggest what it thinks is in your photo). Within minutes or hours, other users will see your observation and will help to identify it.
iNaturalist and Mass Audubon
Mass Audubon is launching an iNaturalist initiative to compile a catalog of the biodiversity present at our wildlife sanctuaries. All of our sanctuaries are now a “Project” that you can contribute to. Make sure to scroll through the leaderboard to see the standing of your favorite sanctuary. Then get outside, enjoy the outdoors, and start observing!
Have you heard? Now through Sunday, November 18, Mass Audubon members can save 20% on our fantastic selection of nature-themed gifts, toys, books, and more in the Mass Audubon Shop.* Visit us in person at the Mass Audubon Shop at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln or check out a selection of offerings in our online store.
If you need some inspiration, find the perfect gift for everyone on your list in the 2018 Holiday Gift Guide, from birders to bee-lovers and from go-out-for-adventurers to stay-in-and-entertainers.
And remember, every purchase from the Mass Audubon Shop goes directly to support our mission of protecting the nature and wildlife of Massachusetts.
*Some exclusions apply. Valid in-store and online. Discount will be applied at checkout in the Mass Audubon Shop online store.