Happy New Year! Now is the time when everyone is coming out of the holiday haze and making serious plans for what 2022 is going to look like. If you’re a fan of New Year’s resolutions, we have some suggestions for resolutions to keep in mind for yourself and for wildlife in the coming year.
- Plant Native
Gardening has long been one of the most popular hobbies in America, and whether you’ve got an expansive outdoor garden or just a balcony with room for a few planters or pots, the plants you add to the landscape can have real value for wildlife. A lush backyard full of native shrubs can provide nesting habitat, forage, and cover for birds and small mammals, with water features for amphibians and diverse insect life. Even just a couple of pots of native wildflowers on a balcony or in a shared yard can mean the difference between life and death for pollinator insects, though. These bees, flies, butterflies, and moths play a vital role in keeping native plant populations healthy, and they depend on nectar and pollen that can be very hard to find in densely populated areas or during the early spring and late fall. The Native Plant Trust has a Plant Finder Tool that lets would-be gardeners search for plants using numerous factors, such as size, flower color, blooming time, attractiveness to pollinators, sun, soil, and water requirements, and more. The Xerces Society also offers an excellent, detailed guide to pollinator-friendly plants for Northeast gardener.
- Get Outside (even just a little!)
Amid an ongoing pandemic, it’s easy to get lost in feelings of “compassion fatigue” – some days, caring about another problem in the world just feels like too much. We’ve all been there, but spending just a little bit of time outside – a quick walk, a calm sit-down, or a brief bike ride – can be an excellent way to re-center yourself and shake out some of the cobwebs. Spending time outside is also the surest way to keep yourself connected to the landscapes and wildlife we know you care about. Even if there are no rare species living in your neighborhood, the most heavily developed areas still have hardy communities of plants, fungi, insects, and birds that weave intricate interconnected webs all their own.
- Do Community Science
Once you’re spending time outside, why not take it one step further? Community science projects are everywhere, and opportunities for interested nature fans to get involved with real research have never been more accessible. Community science draws on large numbers of observers to allow scientists to perceive patterns and answer questions that would otherwise be too large to tackle via traditional experiments. Whether you record the birds you see on eBird, identify the plants that grow near you for an iNaturalist project, or listen for frog calls for Frogwatch USA, there is something for everyone. If you’re local to Boston, join us for the Franklin Park Biodiversity Survey this year! More opportunities can be found at NatGeo’s web database.
- Read Nature Writing
One of the best ways to feel more connected to and informed about the world around you is to read widely. Nature is always a popular topic for writers, and every year brings a new crop of great books that can show you the natural world in ways you hadn’t previously considered. If you’re looking for a few recommendations, Doug Tallamy’s The Nature of Oaks will make you appreciate one of our most common native trees with fresh wonder. David Sibley’s What It’s Like to Be a Bird combines breathtaking illustrations with fascinating insights into the daily lives and amazing talents of birds. Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer is an enchantingly written series of essays blending Indigenous knowledge with the latest scientific understandings of plant life. Finally, Aldo Leopold’s classic A Sand County Almanac inspired a generation of conservationists and is a must-read for anyone who wants a deeper connection to the land around them. Visit your favorite independent bookseller or local library for these and many more titles!
- Join our Conservation Society
You’ve heard about it before and you’ll hear about it again – Zoo New England’s Conservation Society is your opportunity to directly support native wildlife and get a host of great benefits for doing so. Access to both virtual and in-person exclusive events, free admission to some of the coolest Zoo New England events (like our Cocktails for Conservation coming up on January 20th), direct updates on our conservation work, and opportunities to meet the team and volunteer with turtle monitoring and habitat restoration projects. If your New Year’s resolutions this year include community service, protecting the environment, or meeting new people, then a Conservation Society membership is just what you’re looking for. Sign up here!