Category Archives: Stuff We Love

Maria Vasco, UMass Boston Campus Ambassador to Mass Audubon

Student Ambassador to Mass Audubon Receives Highest Honors

Maria Vasco, UMass Boston Campus Ambassador to Mass Audubon
Maria Vasco, UMass Boston Campus Ambassador to Mass Audubon

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!

Campers inspect a bird nest at Wachusett Meadow Nature Day Camp in Princeton

Hip, Hip, Hooray for Camp!

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.

Campers inspect a bird nest at Wachusett Meadow Nature Day Camp in Princeton
Campers inspect a bird nest at Wachusett Meadow Nature Day Camp in Princeton

And based on what we are seeing at our ten 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.”

Epidemiologist-Approved

“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

Screenshot of a text message from "Kristine" that reads: "I just wanted to reach out to say that just 2 days of camp has reversed months of COVID damage in both my kids. It's compounding each day. [Heart Eyes Emoji] It really is special."
Text message received by one of our camp directors from a happy camp parent.

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.”

Heartful Thanks

“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! 

Mass Audubon Bonfire Shirt Climbing Nuthatches

New Mass Audubon Nuthatch Shirts

Mass Audubon Bonfire Shirt Climbing Nuthatches Red

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.

Only Available Until July 22—Order Soon!

This campaign is only open until July 22, so order your Climbing Nuthatch shirts today before this limited-edition design flies away!

Screenshot of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Jellyfish Cam

Live-Streaming Wildlife Webcam Roundup

Screenshot of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Jellyfish Cam
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Live Jellyfish Cam

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.

For Bird-Lovers

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.

Virtual Aquariums

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!

Zoo-Tube

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.

American Black Bear © Dorrie Holmes

My Funny {Nature} Valentine’s 2020

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 201820172016, and 2015.

Whale you be mine, Valentine?
Humpback Whale Photo © Jennifer Childs
Owl only have eyes for you, Valentine. Northern Saw-whet Owl Photo © Janice Berte
Northern Saw-whet Owl Photo © Janice Berte
Valentine, you're tree-mendous! Black Birch © Jonah Coffin
Black Birch Photo © Jonah Coffin
Valentine, I'm porcu-pining for you. Porcupine Photo © Cheryl Rose
Porcupine Photo © Cheryl Rose
Valentine, I can't bear to be without you. American Black Bear Photo © Dorrie Holmes
American Black Bear Photo © Dorrie Holmes
Some-bunny loves you, Valentine! Eastern Cottontail Photo © Frank Vitale
Eastern Cottontail Photo © Frank Vitale
Piping Plover

City Nature Challenge — Accepted!

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:

Piping Plover doing some yoga

Blue Grosbeak hawking insects out of the air

Post-breeding female Blue-spotted Salamander

Hundreds of Wood Frog eggs hatching

And a Gray Catbird singing away!

iNaturalist & Mass Audubon

Check out what people are seeing at Mass Audubon’s wildlife sanctuaries and share your own sightings through the iNaturalist Mass Audubon Project.

Crowdsourcing Nature Sightings

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!

— Nick Tepper, TerraCorps

Holiday Brush Owl

Mass Audubon’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide is Here

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.


Audubon Bird ClockGifts for the Birder

Fill your home with the sights (and sounds) of the wonderful world of birds.

See all Gifts for the Birder >

 

 

Bee Kitchen TowelGifts for the Bee-Lover

Bee devotees will love our selection of pollinator-themed home decor, apparel, and toiletries.

See all Gifts for the Bee-Lover >

 

Stainless Steel Multi-toolGifts for the Adventurer

Check out these nifty gadgets and outdoor gear for your next adventure.

See all Gifts for the Adventurer >

 

 

Kids Fisherman VestGifts for the Young Explorer

Find great games, toys, puzzles, and apparel for the youngest Nature Heroes on your list.

See all Gifts for the Young Explorer >

 

Bird Corkscrew/Wine OpenerGifts for the Entertainer

Liven up the party with drinkware, home decor, recipes for “wildcrafted” cocktails, and so much more.

See all Gifts for the Entertainer >

Mass Audubon 32-oz Frog NalgeneGifts for the Mass Audubon Enthusiast

Show off your Nature Hero pride with hats, t-shirts, drinkware, and more.

See all gifts for the Mass Audubon Enthusiast

Bird and Moon Comics

Q&A With Rosemary Mosco of Bird and Moon Comics

Rosemary Mosco is a naturalist, science communicator, and cartoonist

Photo by Adrianne Mathiowetz

Rosemary Mosco is a naturalist, science communicator, and the brilliant cartoonist behind Bird and Moon science and nature cartoons. (She’s also a former member of Mass Audubon’s Marketing team, so you may recognize her name from past posts on this blog!)

We had the pleasure of chatting with Rosemary recently about her artwork, inspiration, and brand new book, Birding Is My Favorite Video Game: Cartoons about the Natural World from Bird and Moon, which shows the funny side of nature (yes, there is one!) and why comics and science are natural allies. Read on to hear more from Rosemary about making unloved creatures lovable, fashion tips from nature, and finding the humor in everything.

To meet Rosemary in person, join us at the Drumlin Farm Nature Center in Lincoln on Thursday, June 21, from 7:30–8:45 pm for an Author Talk & Book Signing. The event is free to Mass Audubon members ($5 for nonmembers) and copies of the book will be available for purchase through the Mass Audubon Shop.


How long have you been drawing comics and when did you start intertwining nature topics and humor?

I can’t remember when I started drawing comics, but I must have been pretty young. I had piles of newspaper comic books—lots of Bloom County, Cathy, For Better Or For Worse, Calvin and Hobbes. I’d draw my own strips about people, politics, and the embarrassing bands I liked to listen to.

I was always obsessed with nature, but I had an epiphany about blending nature and humor when I was at a nature-based summer camp. A guy from the local natural history museum came by to give a lecture, but he didn’t stand in front of us and talk. He put a huge drawing pad on the floor and we clustered around it. He talked about dinosaurs and drew pictures of them at the same time and did funny voices! I thought, “Wait, this is a career option?” His jokes helped me remember the important facts. I was hooked.

Where does your inspiration come from? How do you choose your subjects?

I spend time reading a lot of journal articles and field guides, I go to lectures, and I hike a lot. Nature is endlessly inspirational. The really hard part is coming up with jokes. I just sort of have to wait until I come across a funny idea. Sometimes it can take a long time!

I love drawing colorful birds, but I also try to talk about animals that people don’t like. I want to encourage people to love the unloved critters—bacteria that live on your skin, vomiting vultures, mucus-covered hagfish, stinky snakes, etc.

Birding is My Favorite Video Game by Rosemary MoscoYou use several different illustration styles in the book—where/when did you learn to draw and how did you develop your unique style(s)?

My comic output is pretty slow. I drew this book’s comics over the past 15 years! That’s a long time and my style has changed considerably. Most of that is because I’ve been experimenting. I’ve had training in writing but not in illustration. I’ve taken a few painting classes and other art classes over the years.

I just try different things and see what works. I’m always learning. I try to make each critter look relatable, with big eyes or smiles or familiar expressions. But I include important field marks, too.

How do you strike a balance between engaging meaningfully with a topic and avoiding difficult-to-understand jargon?

It’s a balancing act, and I feel like I’m always learning. A science writer once told me, “We tend to underestimate our readers’ intelligence and overestimate their vocabulary.”

Sometimes scientists and science writers use huge words, and when people don’t understand us, we assume it’s because they’re not smart. But people can understand any concept you throw at them if you use the right words. That’s why I try to avoid jargon unless I’m speaking to a scientific audience or I want people to learn a fun new word.

Do you have any favorites from the book?

I’m really proud of Fashion Tips From Nature. Animals have the weirdest appendages for courtship or protection from predators and I love the idea of people exploiting those styles—wearing a shirt that looks like poop, for example, so that nobody will approach them.

A few years ago, a museum in Ithaca called PRI’s Museum of the Earth did an exhibit on my comics, and they had a fashion corner where people could try on weird animal-inspired clothes. It was ridiculously fun.

Any advice for young naturalists looking to approach nature and science from a new angle?

Everyone has their own unique style and perspective. We’ve all got something special to offer. If you think about what you love and how to convey it, you’ve already taken the most important step!

Also, try to find the humor in everything. Nature is full of ups and downs, joys and heartbreaks. Laughter will help keep you going.


To learn more and have a few good laughs with Rosemary, join us at the Drumlin Farm Nature Center in Lincoln, on Thursday, June 21, from 7:30–8:45 pm for an Author Talk & Book Signing.

Piping plovers © Lia Vito

Reasons to ❤️ Moms (Feathered or Not)

As if you needed a reason to appreciate Mom this Mother’s Day, see how our animal friends illustrate the many wonderful traits Mom’s share.

Mom’s are…

Nurturing

Tree swallow © Larry Warfield

Brave

Wild Turkey © Scott Burnham

Comforting

Piping Plover © Lia Vito

Patient

American Robins © Kjeld Mahoney

Supportive

Loons © Michael Phillips

Protective

Wood Ducks © Larry Warfield

And, of course, loving.

Red Fox © Susan Ballard

Want to give a gift to make Mom proud?

Show her the love by making a gift to support nature and wildlife in her honor.