Nuggets of knowledge in unexpected places!

In these Covid times, I get what little inspiration I can muster from reading books. I admire the skill of authors who dive deep into old documents to find information for their stories. Most of what I read is non-fiction, so the information I gain is either directly from quotes by someone from a letter or other written document, but more often a mix of quoted text and the author’s interpretation of what happened. Natural…

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Species, their names, and the people who named them.

Linnea borealis, the twin flower which Carolus Linnaeus named for himself, apparently. Reading is a good pastime during the isolation most of us experience due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Recently I have been reading books that grapple with evolution, the species concept, and the naming of species (I also have read about wolves and cougars, making me much more attentive when in the great outdoors). As a student, I always thought of a species as…

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“Return of the Wolf: Conflict and Co-existence” by Paula Wild

A book review “There’s an important distinction between management of wildlife and management for wildlife” Paul Paquet I have long had a strong interest in wolves and consider myself fairly knowledgeable about them. I have read a lot about wolves, starting with L. David Mech’s “The Wolf: The Ecology and Behavior of an Endangered Species”, which at the time (1970’s) was probably the definitive work on these fascinating animals. I also wrote a term paper…

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The role of luck in life success

“In the last few years, a number of studies and books…. have suggested that luck and opportunity may play a far greater role than we ever realized, across a number of fields, including financial trading, business, sports, art, music, literature, and science.” Scott Barry KaufmannBy Joe Papp – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26473455 I recently read an article by Scott Barry Kaufmann discussing “The Role of Luck in Life Success Is Far Greater Than…

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The only constant in nature is that it is always changing

Humans are by nature conservative in the sense that we are most comfortable when our environment is stable. Change is frequently viewed as negative. One type of environment that is of conservation concern to European naturalists is the cultural landscape, particularly small wood pastures with scattered or bordering deciduous brush or trees, which are no longer in use for animal husbandry or hay production. These types of habitats have high biodiversity conservation value (Kunttu et…

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Recommended Reads – For Rainy Days/Covid-19 Isolation Activity Part II

Here is my second installment of books that I have enjoyed reading. Nature’s Argonaut: Daniel Solander 1733-1782 by Edward Duyker. Melbourne: Miegunyah Press. 1998. 400 pages. Daniel Solander was the de facto naturalist on Cook’s first voyage, although Joseph Banks, who financed the trip, tends to get the credit. Solander is little known largely because of his meagre (non-existant?) publication record, in spite of a large volume of work he did on New Zealand and…

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Recommended Reads – For Rainy Days/Covid-19 Isolation Activity Part I

As someone with “underlying health issues” and a compromised immune system, I feel that the Covid-19 pandemic has really thrown a spanner in the works of my spring activity-plan. I am sure that many naturalists are in a similar situation. Outdoor activity is of course safe assuming you abide by the physical distancing mandated by the government, and in my case I have confined my activities mostly to our backyard. The swallow bird houses have…

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Observations by a Backyard Naturalist III: Insects

“Every kid has a bug period… I never grew out of mine.” Edward O. Wilson When we consider biodiversity, no single taxonomic group that we can readily observe comes close to the insects. The estimates of the number of extant species ranges from a low of 1.5 million to a high of 30 million, but the latest estimates point to about 5.5 million species (Stork 2018).   It should be noted that there is considerable uncertainty…

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Observations by a Backyard Naturalist II: Invertebrates Other than Insects

“The question is not what you look at, but what you see.” Henry David Thoreau For as long as I can remember, insects, spiders and other arthropods have fascinated me. My typical pose as a kid. Some of my earliest memories include watching huge European fishing spiders (Dolomedes fimbriatus) at a dock on a lake where my uncle had a cabin. Many years later I kept house spiders (Agelenidae) that I found in the basement…

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Observations by a Backyard Naturalist I: Vertebrates

Winter view from our living room. I am very fortunate to live in a semi-rural part of Nanaimo. From our living room, we look out at Richard Lake, a small, shallow lake surrounded by grass-covered land that gets flooded every winter. Extraction of peat appears to have been done in this area in the past, creating a number of additional ponds, which serve as habitat for various creatures. Our backyard backs onto the edge of…

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