Announcement Re 'Posts on Hold' Status Update, Hiatus

Hello everybody. I truly hope that all readers have been keeping well and safe, and have found ways to enjoy the turn of the season.  Just w...

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Earth Day 2021: Taking a Walk In the PaRx

Happy Earth Day. If you have been following ecotherapy posts, this one is especially for you.

As of March 2021, the Park Prescriptions Program was launched in Ontario. This enables doctors to give a "PaRx" medical prescription of spending time in nature (Martinko, 2021). 

Why this can be so beneficial it is no mystery to many people throughout the world, across many cultures and varieties of physical environments. The mental and emotional benefits of greenspace and bluespace on people in urban workplaces has been studied, as well as the emotional impacts of low vitamin D and not getting enough sun. 'Forest Bathing' has also been discussed across continents, and the developmental benefits of free play in nature was examined in depth by Richard Louv in his book, Last Child In the Woods.

Louv is also the man who coined the term 'nature deficit disorder'. Unfortunately I don't have a copy of the book anymore, but it might have been in the foreword where he wrote about how he didn't come up with that term intending to add to medical jargon. However, now in the midst of the pandemic it is possible that this descriptive term might resonate with more people than ever.

And for some, maybe especially during Earth Month.

Surprising to many, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) tends to be at its worst starting in the spring. While winter blues is real, seasonal depression takes a new swing in April of each year (CMHA).

This year, there is also a pandemic to deal with that has come with grief for many, and that has stretched on much longer than some us might have anticipated. The third wave that loomed over Ontario for a little while arrived with rain and earlier sunsets and collective complaints of bad sleep; this increase of insomnia over the pandemic in Canada as well as other countries such as China has been dubbed "coronasomnia" (Lufkin, 2021).

Original source unknown. Different versions of this meme
are being reposted all over social media.

There may be many factors driving this, but less time outside may very well be amoung them. Sunlight is known to play a key role in maintaining the body's healthy circadian rhythm, while exposure to artificial lights can be disruptive to this. Experiments from University of Rochester found a nearly 40% increase in vitality of participants spending time outside in green, natural environments. (Heid, 2016).

Referenced Times writer Mark Heid also highlighted this point from Richard Ryans, a psychology professor from University of Rochester: "While more is better, just 20 minutes a day spent in green spaces has an “enhancing effect” on vitality, Ryans says, as long as you leave your smartphone behind. If that’s not possible, packing your place with plants or just looking at photos of nature can chill you out, he says."

And with numbers to sketch out the details or not, many would wholeheartedly attest to the positive associations between lowered feelings of stress, and more good feelings when spending time in nature.

There is also information on park prescriptions available for patients and doctors alike, including on parkprescriptions.ca/prescribers. This page includes explanation on why writing out a PaRx is particularly beneficial to patients. It also touches on how people connecting with nature also benefits the environment as a whole, which extends out including the natural environment and communities (Mackay, 2019). 

This year has been hard on so many people, but time in nature has most certainly softened the blow. In parks and on trails, and while drinking a bit of sun next to plants on windowsils. Some words people have used to describe how they feel in nature include invigorated, peaceful, creative, happier, kinder.

Earth Day is in a sense, a reminder for us to be kind. This Earth Day and every day, may we be kind, and find happiness in the little things.

Sources

CMHA. (n.d.). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved April 22, 2021, from https://cmha.bc.ca/documents/seasonal-affective-disorder-2/

Heid, M. (2016, April 27). You Asked: Is It Bad to Be Inside All Day? Retrieved April, 2021, from https://time.com/4306455/stress-relief-nature/

Mackay, C. M., & Schmitt, M. T. (2019). Do people who feel connected to nature do more to protect it? A meta-analysis. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 65, 101323. doi:10.1016/j.jenvp.2019.101323

Martinko, K. (2021, March 10). Ontario Doctors Can Now Prescribe Time in Nature to Patients. Retrieved March, 2021, from https://www.treehugger.com/ontario-doctors-prescribe-time-nature-patients-5115293#:~:text=Two hours a week, 20,from time spent in nature

Lufkin, B. (2021, January 25). The 'coronasomnia' phenomenon keeping you from getting sleep. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20210121-the-coronasomnia-phenomenon-keeping-us-from-getting-sleep

Visit parkprescriptions.ca/whynature for more information on Canada's PaRx program, and how it helps.

Wednesday, 27 January 2021

The Forest for the Trees: Reflections on an Ecological Land Classification (ELC) Project

Looking back on my last semesters at Seneca College during the pandemic, a highlight that stands tall was our Ecological Land Classification project.

This is definitely something I would like to share with nature-lovers considering taking the environmental technician program, and I was lucky enough to conduct this project twice, once as a soils student, and once again as an ecology student.

While the second experience was was incomplete due to the pandemic, it did offer extra opportunity to tighten my grasp on concepts, be absorbed in the process, and reflect on the system's relevance. (And a slide doc to dump some of the photos I have accumulated from several visits to the college's King Campus --link to the final product is just below the last image in this post if you want to jump to the SlideDoc).

Ecosystems can be described as communities of living things that interact with each other as well as nonliving things in their environment. So this means it includes plants and critters and microorganisms, as well as the types of soil and how water drains through it.


There is an old saying that talks about being unable to "see the forest for the trees". While this proverb is usually used figuratively, it can be a literal difficulty in ecology.

Say you and I were naturalists that hiked through these two forests: one forest that is virtually all coniferous in the crisp, Yukon wilderness, and then a mostly deciduous forest in Southern Ontario. If we were asked to explain the difference between these two forests most of us would probably quickly point out that one is all hardy evergreens, and the other is not with trees that transforms the forest into a glowing orange world in autumn.

But what if we had to be more specific than this? 

Also, what if we were comparing two forested areas in Southern Ontario where the differences are not so obvious?

While describing forests more generally could be all a photography hobbyist needs, it may not suffice for a land use planner or ecologist.

In a case like this, we would have figure out what to focus on to allow a person to understand what characterizes a forest; what sets is apart from another forest from an ecological perspective. This can be important for land planning and conservation.

The ELC System

The Ecological Land Classification (ELC) system  is a method of putting different types of ecosystems into set categories. This way, instead of having two ecologists visiting the same place in nature and potentially focusing on different aspects of it, the ELC system provides a standard for identifying and communicating what type of ecosystem it is based on soil and vegetation.

For our assignment, we got a taste of parts of the Ecological Land Classification process, including on-site soil sampling at Seneca College's beautiful King Campus.

One slide from our final document. (See link in this post). If you are in the King City, Ontario area I'd definitely recommend visiting Seneca's King campus for hiking!

We made our observations by drilling into the ground with a hand auger to identify and measure soil layers (the deeper layers were quite dry so yes it takes some muscle work), and identifying and tallying up vegetation using a forester's prism to keep our observation method standardized. (If your curiosity about this is burning you can check out this video about it on youtube).

King Campus is not our program's primary campus, but it was always a little adventure to visit; it was a special treat to do this to dig into into the concepts examined for our ELC report firsthand, do some more research and group discussion, from home, and finally narrow it down to a "Dry-Fresh Sugar Maple Deciduous Forest" classification. Reflecting on potential implications for conservation of this unique old growth forest also gave it special meaning. While this could not be included in the report as it was slightly outside our polygon, on the way into King Campus I noticed tulip trees, unique to Carolinian Forests. I first learned about these trees from a Naturalist at the pinery, but perhaps the details of that memoir can be saved for another day.

It was also fun to go through old photos from King campus over the past couple years in the program, and be able to apply them to our final in-leu-of-presentation slide doc.

Without further ado, here is a link to view the PDF:*

URL: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xUmAlDFBJaAXKyI4Qh0FIcY_lA013XGh/view?usp=sharing
or click the text, not the image.

*Note: published with permission of all co-authors.

I also truly enjoyed working with my group members on this assignment. Being able to dig into this subject -both literally and figuratively- with a group that is so passionate and curious about nature was a highlight of my time at Seneca College. In case you would like to connect with any of them, here are the LinkedIn pages of the co-authors of this assignment:

Additionally, if you liked the style of our document and might be interested in collaborating on something like this for professional purposes, feel free to contact me via LinkedIn above or the contact form at the bottom of this blog.

The calm of standing between the trees, and feeling of fulfilment that came from building this project is what motivates many students take Seneca's Environmental Technician course for. The method felt quite natural; letting it grow from its very basic roots of observing nature; looking at it and examining its details, touching it, naming it. Followed by recording what we learn, and then communicating that information in a way that is useful and potentially inspiring or beautiful to a particular audience with eyes open to see value. 

Many students may not end up working outdoors; there are many jobs that need to be filled in labs, offices, and community centers. But in either case, it was a great experience to be reminded of one aspect of what we are all working for.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Announcement Re 'Posts on Hold' Status Update, Hiatus

Hello everybody. I truly hope that all readers have been keeping well and safe, and have found ways to enjoy the turn of the season. 

Just wanted to post a little update as well as record of this announcement that has been up on Nature Nimbus these past several months:

Posts on Hold


Dear Reader:

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, regular posting has been temporarily put on hold to allow more efforts to be directed towards volunteer response.

Thank you for your support, and thank you very much to those working in essential services.

As evident in the archives, this is one of Nature Nimbus' quietest years, and [edit] and as of April 2021, due to personal reasons this hiatus as also been extended; but at this time I would like to re-emphasize a sincere thank you to those who have given their hard work and support, including moral support, throughout the year. It makes a difference.

Continue taking care,

Melody

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

Perseid Meteor Shower Peak August 11-13, Moon-Free View August 17

For a bit of light in the darkness, look up until August 24th to see the Perseid meteor shower (pronounced "per-see-id"). The peak is August 11-13, where there will be an average of 75 meteors passing overhead each hour. 

Earthsky.org highlights that while the peak understandably gets a lot of attention, because of the moonlight the best time to skywatch for this event might be August 17th, when there won't be moonlight outshining the meteors.

Also, just as with any skywatching event it can be ideal to make the most of clear skies whenever they avail themselves.

More of Earthsky.org's tips can be found here.

Happy skywatching 🌠


Sources:

https://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/everything-you-need-to-know-perseid-meteor-shower

https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/explore/space-stargazing/meteors-comets-asteroids/Perseid-meteor-shower

Thanks to Reddit user mudgts for the head's up. 

Saturday, 20 June 2020

Wear masks mindfully when it's hot and humid


A couple weeks ago the World Health Organization officially announced their recommendation to wear masks. That said, amoung other measures for safe mask use some experts have recommended that people carefully consider factors such as the weather.

It's expected to be extremely hot and humid locally in the Greater Toronto Area for the next few days.

If you are able, consider going out when the weather is less extreme, or consider bringing a paper bag along with you for safe storage of your mask when it is not in use.

Links to information on this and other practical measures are below.

Have a safe weekend everybody!

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EDIT: P.s. one of my favourite resources for information and unreviewed but systemically collected data has been the Smart Air Website. Check them out at https://smartairfilters.com/en/clean-air-blog/!
Republished 2020-07-17, Edited 2020-07-20, 2020-10-25