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New Year’s Resolutions

January 28, 2018
Goldenrod

Goldenrod and snow in my patch of the world, (c) Megan Draheim, 2017

It’s January, the season we make promises to ourselves about how we’ll live a better life in the coming year. Most of our resolutions focus on our own wellbeing: exercising, eating better, meditating, or cracking an unhealthy habit, for example.

I’d like to offer a slightly different take. Why not promise yourself the gift of creating a more biodiverse world? It satisfies what seems to be one of the major criteria of resolutions, making yourself healthier (there’s abundant literature out there that suggests being around nature is good for you, physically and mentally), but also makes your city (and even the world) a better place, both for people and for wildlife.

So what is this promise I’d ask you to consider as part of your yearly self-analysis? Plant more native plants in your yard or whatever outdoor space you can access. Obviously not all city-dwellers have a yard, but there are other options here: a balcony, a windowsill, lobbying your building to change the plantings in its public outdoor spaces (tree boxes, front walks, etc.), a community garden plot (or, even better, convince the community garden board to set aside one plot or the outside edge of the garden for a native pollinator garden in perpetuity), a corner of your children’s schoolyard, lobbying your city to let you use a corner of the local pocket park – possibilities abound.

This isn’t to say that every bit of turf should be dug up. Instead, take an objective inventory of the space in question. Is all of the lawn actually used? For sitting in, playing in, whatever? If not (and I’m betting much of it is not), consider turning that into a native planting bed. Not only will this help local wildlife (for example, by boosting native insect populations you provide many native birds with more food), but it has the side benefit of reducing the carbon footprint and other environmental impacts of your outdoor space (gas powered lawn mowers become irrelevant, and you don’t use as much – or even any – fertilizer, resulting in less run-off to your local waterways, for example).

There’s something about acting as stewards of our little piece of the world – however little – that is inspiring. You’re committing yourself to care about your local ecosystem and all that lives in it. You’re spending your own resources (time, money) on caring for the world in a tangible way. Watching native bees buzz around your patch of goldenrod is a wonderful thing, when you’re the reason the goldenrod is there in the first place.

And besides all of that, you just might end up with less lawn to mow. Maybe that gives you more time this summer to follow through on one of your other resolutions?

Happy New Year, everyone.

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Coyotes in DC

September 20, 2017
Coyote Portrait

Coyote, (c) Matt Knoth via Wikimedia Commons

I recently wrote an article for DCist.com on living with coyotes in Washington, D.C. Check it out!

 

Cartagena, Part I

August 18, 2017
Cartagena 2

Getsemani, Cartagena, (c) Megan Draheim, 2017

Last month I was able to travel to beautiful Cartagena, Colombia for the International Congress for Conservation Biology, the Society for Conservation Biology’s biennial international meeting. I’ll be writing more about this soon, but wanted first to link to a post I wrote for my department about it, partially focusing on a presentation I co-wrote for the meeting.

More to come!

Raccoons in Fairlington

July 27, 2017
Young_raccoon_siblings

By Ken Rushia – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29208540

I wrote an article in DCist about raccoon-human conflict in Fairlington, which is in a suburb of DC in Virginia. The complex has an interesting garbage policy: residents leave out their trash in garbage bags only (no trash cans) six days a week, which provides a ready supply of easy meals for all sorts of animals. When wildlife becomes used to the idea that such food supplies are linked closely to human presence, bad things can happen (this also happens from intentional feedings). This can have extremely poor outcomes for both humans (bites, scratches, or worse) and the wildlife (many times animals like that will be captured and killed). Have you ever heard the expression, “a fed bear is a dead bear”? It’s sadly often true. So please don’t feed the wildlife!

 

Sea Level Rise in Maryland

July 15, 2017

Chesapeake_Bay_Bridge_linking_western_and_eastern_shores_of_Maryland_(89275)

This isn’t necessarily specifically urban in nature, but I thought worth posting anyway. A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists demonstrates the damage sea level rise is going to do to coastal communities, including those rather close to home for me: the coastal towns of Maryland. That’s not new, of course, but the timeline they present is quite chilling. The Washington Post reports, for example, that 22 communities in Maryland (out of 91 in the entire US) will face “chronic inundation” by 2035. This is a good reminder that we not only need to find ways to halt climate change progression, but also need to adapt to conditions that are going to change.

 

Odds and Ends

April 2, 2017
6990838504_1593b88815_z

Public Domain via the EPA: http://bit.ly/2opJgH8

Here’s an essay I wrote for the Oxford University Press’ blog, on how to effectively talk about the policy threats our environment is currently facing.

The unintended effect of calling our “fake news.”

Hope you find it useful!

Pigeons

March 24, 2017
FullSizeRender

(c) Megan Draheim, 2017

I’ve posted photos of pigeons before. Much-maligned, pigeons are actually a favorite of mine. If you’ve ever stopped to look closely at them, they’re really quite beautiful, and you have to respect their ability to survive where many other animals cannot (they’re also not dummies, as it turns out). They’re not a native species — technically, they’re feral — but they’re not invasive either (in other words, they don’t compete and win against native species). Many people are not very tolerant of them, but perhaps that also says something about how they relate to the non-human world?

In any case, I took this shot up in Baltimore last week, at the Harbor, as part of my 365 photo project this year (you can follow it on Instagram!).

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