Tag Archives: nature

Scott Edwards by James Deshler

In Your Words: Scott V. Edwards

Scott V. Edwards © James Deshler
Scott V. Edwards © James Deshler

Scott Edwards is a Professor of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University, Curator of Ornithology in the Museum of Comparative Zoology, and Mass Audubon Council Member. On June 6, 2020, Scott left his home in Concord, Massachusetts, to set off on a cross-country bike trip. He spoke to Mass Audubon’s Hillary Truslow in July from a campsite in Wall, South Dakota.


On Biking Across the Country

The idea for this trip was hatched a long time ago. It’s a wonderful way to see a place—some say it’s the classic American adventure. It’s got a scale that is frankly awesome.

Birding Then & Now

My first introduction to birds was when I was 9 or 10 years old when a neighbor took me birdwatching in Riverdale, New York, where I grew up. The “spark bird” for me was the Northern Flicker, or what we used to call a Yellow-shafted Flicker. I couldn’t believe that something so gaudy and outrageous in a field guide could be in my backyard. On the bike trip so far, I was excited to see a Western Flycatcher, the Upland Sandpipers were super cool, and when I saw Yellow-headed Blackbirds I almost fell off my bike.

A Scene from South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards
A Scene from South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards

Attracting More People to Science

I was fortunate that I could follow my dreams and do what makes me happy. Not everyone has that luxury. We need to ensure that young people can make a living in science and that some of the coolest, weirdest, offbeat people are scientists. It’s not all people in white lab coats spending time indoors. In fact, a major part of my classes is spent outdoors learning biodiversity everywhere from Costa Rica to Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield.

Black in Nature

I consider myself a naturalist and pretty good at outdoorsy stuff like camping. Yet I have never worked on a farm and have very little knowledge of agricultural life. The other day I was fascinated watching a hay baler and posted a video on Twitter. I used #blackinnature mainly to poke fun at myself and to say that this is a totally different world than I am used to.

At the same time, it’s interesting to think of the intersection between African Americans and the natural world. Black Birders Week convinced me that there are lots of young folks out there in this space. And the hashtag is a nice way to say, hey look, there are African Americans interested in nature, that nature is for everyone, and hopefully get even more people of color learning about nature.

Wetlands in South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards
Wetlands in South Dakota © Scott V. Edwards

In Your Words is a regular feature of Mass Audubon’s Explore member newsletter. Each issue, a Mass Audubon member, volunteer, staff member, or supporter shares their story—why Mass Audubon and protecting the nature of Massachusetts matters to them. If you have a story to share about your connection to Mass Audubon, email explore@massaudubon.org  to be considered for In Your Words in a future issue! 

The Importance of Local Climate Lessons

Climate change can sometimes feel like something happening far away that’ll only reach us in the future. Even more worrying is that Americans are least likely to think they themselves will be harmed by climate change, and over half of Americans say that haven’t personally experienced its effects. 

These findings demonstrate a need to emphasize how the crisis is happening here and now, to our communities and wildlife in our backyards. Place-based education, which uses culture, ecology, landscapes, and tangible experiences to guide our understanding of the world around us, can create that connection, allowing us to visualize these impacts close to home in real-time. 

Nature’s Wisdom Spreads Far and Wide 

We know that moving people to action requires more than just data, we must touch hearts and minds. When we use nature as the conduit for learning about climate change, we contextualize the crisis in places people care about and are familiar with. 

Place-based climate education is a pathway through which we can reach a place of empathy and care to inspire collective climate action. Using nature to visualize climate adaptation and response reaches people of all ages and backgrounds, and this knowledge can even spread to their families and communities. 

Turning Lessons into Action 

Mass Audubon offers various opportunities for place-based education to engage people in both forming connections with the world around them and then acting to protect that very same world in their communities. 

Our climate programs provide people with a space for learning and action. For example, our Youth Climate Summit Program, an immersion in climate action, engages middle-high school aged youth in brainstorming, managing, and implementing a Climate Leadership Project in their own towns and neighborhoods.  

By learning through nature, our communities, and the places we love, we build lasting connections that drive deeper dedication to acting on the climate crisis that threatens their future. 

Ticks in Fall

Now that summer is over you can stop worrying about ticks, right? Think again.

While summer in New England is a prime time to spot deer ticks (the chief culprits of Lyme disease—a potentially serious bacterial infection), many don’t realize that they can still pose a serious threat in the fall. This is especially true for those who love a good old-fashioned roll in a leaf pile.

Keep these pesky (and dangerous) little critters from ruining your autumn adventures by following these tips:

  • Know Where They Hide Contrary to popular belief, ticks do not jump or fall from trees; in fact, they’re blind and find their hosts by crawling to the top of low-lying vegetation, such as grass and shrubs, where they wait for passersby to latch onto. And, since tick bites are usually painless, most people don’t even know when they’ve been bitten.
  • Keep a Tidy Yard At home, keep your lawn mowed short and your yard clear of leaves and other brushy debris. If your property abuts a wooded area, adding a three-foot-wide wood chip or gravel border around the edge of your yard can help prevent tick migration.
  • Watch Where You Walk Stick to wider trails and avoid overgrown pathways in their preferred habitat: wooded or bushy areas where the ground is covered in high grass or leaf litter.
  • Dress Right Don light-colored socks, pants, and a long-sleeved shirt and tuck in everything (pants into socks, shirt into pants). While this look isn’t likely to win a fashion awards, it will allow you to spot ticks, which can be as small as a poppy seed.
  • Bring On the Bug Juice To help repel ticks and other creepy crawlers, like chiggers, use a DEET-based product on areas of exposed skin. (Just remember to follow the label instructions when applying insect repellent!)
  • Perform “Tick Checks” Upon heading indoors, perform a full-body “tick check,” taking special care to inspect the areas between your toes and the backs of your knees, as well as your groin, armpits, neck, hairline, and ears. Remember to check your children, pets, and gear, too!

Been Bitten?

If you discover an embedded tick, use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to your skin’s surface as possible and pull straight out with steady, even pressure. If you wish to have it tested for Lyme, immediately place the tick in a sealable plastic bag. Cleanse the bite area with rubbing alcohol and wash your hands with soap and water. Make a note of the date as well as the location on your body where the tick was discovered and call your doctor to determine next steps.

For more information on ticks, the diseases they carry, and how to avoid them, visit our website or the Center for Disease Control’s tick website. For information on Lyme disease, visit the CDC’s Lyme website or check out the special “Living with Lime” series produced by WBUR.

Photo via United States Department of Agriculture/Wikimedia Commons