Category Archives: Spring 2015

Get Out There

Consider the film showings, talks, and citizen science trainings below: Learn more about the natural history of the Monadnock region; spend time with people who celebrate the joy, wonder, and gratitude that comes from active engagement with the living world; enjoy the wildness around us by getting out there!

The series of events is made possible by the Harris Center for Conservation Education and the KSC School of Sciences. For more information on these and other upcoming Harris Center events, visit their online Calendar of Events.  Or write or call the Harris Center Science Director by e-mail (Brett Amy Thelen) or by phone at (603) 358-2065

Magic of the Snowy Owl Film Showing
Thursday, January 29, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. in the Putnam Theater

This hour-long documentary provides an intimate look at the Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus), a bird that made headlines last winter when it appeared in record-high numbers throughout New England. Though these visitors from the North stand out for their physical beauty, it’s their ability to survive that reveals their true magic. Following the film, Eric Masterson – one of the Harris Center’s resident bird experts, and author of Birdwatching in New Hampshire – will be on hand for an informal Q&A session. Co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education, the Monadnock Conservancy, and the KSC Film Society.

Watching the Weather: A Citizen Science Training
Tuesday, February 3, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Science Center 175

Join meteorologists Chris Kimble and John Cannon of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to learn how to become a volunteer weather watcher! Chris and John will introduce the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS), and explain how to take measurements of precipitation and snow. They will also provide SKYWARN Storm Spotter training, which includes detailed discussions of thunderstorms, tornadoes, and other hazardous weather, and of how volunteer storm spotters can provide crucial information to the National Weather Service. Co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education, NOAA, and the KSC School of Sciences.

Wood Turtle Ecology & Conservation
Thursday, February 26, from 7 to 8 p.m. in Science Center 175

Wood turtles (Glyptemys insculpta) occur in cold streams in forested areas throughout the Northeast ‒ including the Monadnock Region ‒ but they’re especially vulnerable to habitat loss and fragmentation, mowing, and poaching. As a result, they’re considered “endangered” by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. Join ecologists Liz Willey (Antioch University New England) and Mike Jones (University of Massachusetts-Amherst) for an introduction to the wood turtle, and to the regional efforts underway to preserve this seldom-seen resident of New Hampshire. Co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education and the KSC School of Sciences.

Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteer training
Thursday, March 26, from 7 to 9 p.m. in Science Center 129

As the earth thaws and spring rains drench New Hampshire, thousands of salamanders, frogs, and toads make their way to vernal pools to breed. Many are killed when their journeys take them across busy roads. Each spring, the Harris Center’s citizen science program trains volunteers to serve on Salamander Crossing Brigades at amphibian road crossings throughout the Monadnock Region. These heroic volunteers count migrating amphibians and safely usher the animals across roads during one or more “Big Nights.” If you’d like to join the fun, attend this training on Thursday, March 26, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Putnam Science Center (Room 129) or a repeat training at the Harris Center for Conservation Education in Hancock, from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 28. (No need to attend both.) Co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education and the Keene State College School of Sciences.

Vernal Pool Project volunteer training
Thursday, April 16 from 7 to 9 p.m. in Science Center Room 102, and Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to noon in the field

Vernal pools are small, temporary woodland ponds that serve both as critical breeding sites for a suite of amphibian species, and as important feeding grounds and shelter for many reptiles, birds, and mammals. In efforts to protect this vital (yet often overlooked) wildlife habitat, the Harris Center’s citizen science program is once again training volunteers to identify and document vernal pools, with special focus on lands where information is needed for conservation planning. We’ll cover the building blocks of vernal pool ecology in an indoor training session on Thursday, April 16 from 7 to 9 pm in the Putnam Science Center (Room 102), then venture outside for hands-on instruction at a vernal pool complex in Keene on Saturday, April 18, from 10 a.m. to noon. Registration is required. For more information or to register, contact Brett Amy Thelen. Co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education, the Monadnock Conservancy, and the Keene State College School of Sciences.

Symphony of the Soil Film Showing
Thursday, April 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Putnam Theater

Filmed on four continents and featuring impassioned scientists, farmers, and foodies, this award-winning film artfully examines the complex, dynamic nature of soil. Join us for an Earth Week presentation from Thursday, April 23, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Putnam Theater. Following the film, Dr. Rachel Thiet – soil ecologist and professor in the Department of Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England – will be on hand for an informal Q&A session. You can see a preview of the film here. Co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education, the Monadnock Conservancy, and the KSC Film Society.

Vernal Pool Stroll at the Horatio Colony Nature Preserve
Friday, April 24 from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Horatio Colony Nature Preserve

Every spring, small depressions in the northern forest floor come alive, filling with rain, melted snow, and, eventually, salamander and frog eggs. By summer’s end, many of these vernal pools will have dried out, revealing little trace of the life they contained in April. Join one of the Harris Center’s resident amphibian enthusiasts for a moderately strenuous, 1.2-mile roundtrip hike to a hilltop vernal pool on the preserve’s land in Keene, where we’ll explore the exquisite, ephemeral world of spring-breeding amphibians. Meet at the Horatio Colony Preserve parking lot on Daniels Hill Road at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 24. Back by 3 p.m. Co-sponsored by the Harris Center for Conservation Education and the Horatio Colony Nature Preserve.

Thinking about Wildness

One can begin to think about wildness with the words of Gary Snyder from The Practice of the Wild:

The word wild is like a gray fox trotting off through the forest, ducking behind bushes, going in and out of sight. Up close, first glance, it is “wild”-then farther into the woods next glance it’s “wyld” and it recedes via Old Norse villr and Old Teutonic wilthijaz into a faint pre-Teutonic ghweltijos which means, still, wild and maybe wooded (wald) and lurks back there with possible connections to will, to Latin silva (forest, sauvage), and to the Indo-European root ghwer, base of Latin ferus )feral, fierce), which swings us around to Thoreau’s “awful ferity” shared by virtuous people and lovers. The Oxford English Dictionary has it this way:

Of animals-not tame, undomesticated, unruly.
Of plants-not cultivated.
Of land-uninhabited, uncultivated.
Of foodcrops-produced or yielded without cultivation.
Of societies-uncivilized, rude, resisting constituted government.
Of individuals-unrestrained, insubordinate, licentious, dissolute, loose. “Wild and wanton widowes”-1614.
Of behavior-violent, destructive, cruel, unruly.
Of behavior-artless, free, spontaneous. “Warble his native wood-notes wild”-John Milton.

Wild is largely defined in our dictionaries by what-from a human standpoint-it is not. It cannot be seen by this approach for what it is. Turn it the other way:

Of animals-free agents, each with its own endowments, living within natural systems.
Of plants-self-propagating, self-maintaining, flourishing in accord with innate qualities.
Of land-a place where the original and potential vegetation and fauna are intact and in full interaction and the landforms are entirely the result of nonhuman forces. Pristine.
Of Food crops-food supplies made available and sustainable by the natural excess and exuberance of wild plants in their growth and in the production of qualities of fruit or seeds.
Of societies-societies whose order has grown from within and is maintained by the force of consensus and custom rather than explicit legislation. Primary cultures, which consider themselves the original and eternal inhabitants of their territory. Societies which resist economic and political domination by civilization. Societies whose economic system is in a close and sustainable relation to the local ecosystem.
Of Individuals-following local custom, style, and etiquette without concern for the standards of the metropolis or nearest trading post. Unintimidated, self-reliant, independent. “Proud and free.”
Of behavior-fiercely resisting any oppression, confinement, or exploration. Far-out, outrageous, “bad,” admirable.
Of behavior-artless, free, spontaneous, unconditioned. expressive, physical, openly sexual, ecstatic.


Language is wild

The conventional way to think about language is cultural. However, the commonplace distinction between the cultural and the biological may be less helpful in understanding how language works. Here is a question and a response about the proposition that language is wild from an interview with Gary Snyder published in the Paris Review:

INTERVIEWER: You’ve written that language is wild, and it’s interesting that, in your essays and in some of the poems, you track down words as though you’re hunting or gathering. But do you believe that language is more a part of nature than a part of culture?

SNYDER: Well, to put it quite simply, I think language is, to a great extent, biological. And this is not a radical point of view. In fact, it is in many ways an angle of thought that has come back into serious consideration in the world of scientific linguistics right now. So, if it’s biological, if it’s part of our biological nature to be able to learn language, to master complex syntax effortlessly by the age of four, then it’s part of nature, just as our digestion is part of nature, our limbs are part of nature. So, yes, in that sense it is. Now, of course, language takes an enormous amount of cultural shaping, too, at some point. But the structures of it have the quality of wild systems. Wild systems are highly complex, cannot be intellectually mastered—that is to say they’re too complex to master simply in intellectual or mathematical terms—and they are self-managing and self-organizing. Language is a self-organizing phenomenon. Descriptive linguistics come after the fact, an effort to describe what has already happened. So if you define the wild as self-managing, self-organizing, and self-propagating, all natural human languages are wild systems. The imagination, we can say, for similar reasons, is wild. But I would also make the argument that there is a prelinguistic level of thought. Not always, but a lot of the time. And for some people more than other people. I think there are people who think more linguistically, and some who think more visually, or perhaps kinesthetically, in some cases.

 You can read the whole interview at the Paris Review.