Well, everyone, it seems like winter’s finally here. The last three days I’ve woken up, made a quick thermos of coffee and thrown on my snowshoes for a morning hike. During those hikes, I was reminded of the stark differences in the ecosystem from season to season. We’ve talked before on the podcast about how to make the most of the outdoors throughout the year, but an aspect we didn’t touch on is ecology studies.
A few days ago I found a few plant clippings I’d taken in the summer and failed to press and research, and that got me thinking about continuing ecology studies in the winter months in a hands-on way. There aren’t plants to press, but there’s plenty of other aspects of the outdoor world that are easier to study in the winter. The first thing that comes to mind is studying the things we CAN see in the winter. Snow lets even songbirds leave prints, and other sign sticks out like a sore thumb against the fresh white backdrop. Stars you studied in the summer may have moved to another part of the sky, and that’s good information to have if you plan on winter camping.
The second thought is noticing the absence of certain plants and animals that are abundant most of the year. Keep an eye out for your favorites, and if you can’t find them, I challenge you to look into their winter habits. If they migrate or hibernate for the winter, does another animal fill their niche? It’s not only an exercise that’ll help ward off cabin fever as the winter months progress, it also creates a richer understanding of the ecosystem you’re a part of year round.