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NEA Big Read: Enjoying the Nature Around Us

February 22, 2021 at 10:17 AM by

Although we are in an urban area, we have plenty of options for places to go outside, take a walk, and watch our surroundings. Even in the cold weather, taking a walk around Lake Andrea in Pleasant Prairie allowed me to watch flocks of geese somehow enjoying the partly frozen lake. 

During the NEA Big Read, we have a ton of events encouraging us to take a deep breath outside. Whether we are, touring UW Parkside, or participating in the Bio Blitz, we can take part in a collective natural experience while also helping contribute to community science. For many of our activities, like celebrating urban birds, we will be using simple data kits and taking live observations or pictures to contribute to science projects.

What’s An Observation?

An observation records an encounter with an individual organism at a particular time and location. Basically, if we see or find a plant or animal that is not captive cultivated by people and take a picture, that’s an observation. 

For example

  • A picture of my cactus at home would not count as an observation because I am responsible for the cactus being there.

  • If I took a picture of that flock of geese by Lake Andrea, that would count as an observation because neither the lake nor the geese were made to be there by people

These observations help scientists understand where plants and animals are located. Organizations such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility use data from iNaturalist as part of their free and open access biodiversity data.

Where To Go

The best bets for plentiful observations are in or around any of the Kenosha County Parks or areas like the Hawthorn Hollow Nature Sanctuary and Arboretum. 

If you can’t make it to a park or sanctuary, you can walk around your neighborhood too! Many animals have adapted to neighborhood environments. I enjoy finding trails and walking alongside lakes or rivers while paying attention to the world around me.

Getting Started

The best way to get started is by checking out our event page for the NEA Big Read iNaturalist Bio Blitz. We've included links for downloading the app and guides for making observations. For your observations, I recommend starting with the plant life around us. The Kenosha County Tree Program has put together a list of native trees and shrubs. Look for

Common animals are another great way to get started. Try finding

Want to take it a step further? Submit any observations to Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory. If you spot a rare species, information will be reviewed for inclusion in the Natural Heritage Inventory database. Below is a short list of rare or endangered species that you might find in the area.