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Just Our Nature - news, updates and insights

Why Springs Smells So Good

Three examples of springtails
By Paul J. Hetzler on
Blog: Just Our Nature
As the soil warms up in April and May and green plants spring forth once again, a delicate aroma hangs in the air, apart from any floral scent wafting on the breeze. It’s earthy and fresh, and I find it almost intoxicating. It turns out that spring’s special perfume has some fun and quirky root causes. Spring’s perfume has long intrigued humans, to the point that sixty years ago, Australian…

Eye Candy, Cough Syrup, and Early Flowers

A single yellow coltsfoot flower
By Paul J. Hetzler on
Blog: Just Our Nature
After so many months of winter whiteness, it’s a relief to watch the snow recede at last. We’re always grateful for the spring melt, even though the loss of snow cover gives way to a mostly brown world:  brown grass, sand everywhere along the roads, and brown needles under the pines. Not to mention the brown leaves we missed last fall, and maybe the dog poop that had built up, mercifully hidden…
A group of coltsfoot flowers

Beneficial Beavers

Profile for Bernard the beaver
By Liz Anderson on
Blog: Just Our Nature
Did you know that the beaver is New York’s official state mammal? It’s a warranted distinction due to their critical importance in the ecosystem. Beavers are a keystone species, meaning that their presence is essential for biodiversity and a sustained, healthy ecosystem. Beavers accomplish this promotion of biodiversity by altering the habitat of an area by way of building dams and changing water…
A pointy Birch Tree stump left behind from a beaver. An image of a wetland.

Our 6th Annual Cardboard Sled Race Recap!

Camryn Reynolds stands next to their USS_Cam battleship sled.
By Dan French on
Blog: Just Our Nature
The 6th Annual Cardboard Sled Race, planned originally for Saturday, February 10th, then moved to Saturday, Feb 24th due to weather, fell victim this year to the warm weather of El Niña. What was otherwise a delightfully warm and sunny week leading up to Saturday, melted much of the snow that had dropped the weekend prior. That, coupled with a wind chill in the negatives on Saturday morning,…
Dana Webber sits in her racecar sled. A dog sled with big floppy ears built by Leo and Cullen. Brooklyn Pitcher with her corgi sled. NUN intern Liz sits inside of the SLU Sustainability Farm's green tractor sled.

Got Biogas?

A diagram of a landfill designed for the collection of methane gas.
By Paul J. Hetzler on
Blog: Just Our Nature
Even if its precise definition isn’t at the tip of your tongue, most everyone gets the drift of what’s meant by the term ‘biogas.’ There is biology involved, and the result is gas. One example might be the funk in the air on the bus carrying the sauerkraut-eating team home after a weekend competition. Another type of biogas is cow belches, and the rotten-egg stink-bubbles that swarm to the…
Small-scale methane digester at a community garden in the UK.

My Start, My Growth, and My Return to the North Country

Nature Up North Project Manager Dan French stands under the Yellowstone National Park Roosevelt Arch.
By Dan French on
Blog: Just Our Nature
As the new Project Manager for Nature Up North, I’m excited by the many possibilities in front of me. In my first few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to visit students in Norwood as they learn about the difference between deciduous and coniferous trees. I’ve worked with the encounters on our website as we built our 2024 calendar (for sale now!). I’ve met our many St. Lawrence University interns…
Dan sits at the peak of Whiteface Mountain with two friends in whiteout conditions.

Think Snow – Gardens and Forests Need It

Snow covers the boardwalk on the Kip Trail.
By Paul J. Hetzler on
Blog: Just Our Nature
In her poem “It Sifts from Leaden Sieves,” Emily Dickinson lauds the sublime beauty of snow – gossamer flakes that garnish a forest, wispy grains that infiltrate nooks and crannies, and wind-sculpted rings of snow around fence posts. Given that the poet lived in a time before cars and stayed in her bedroom for 20 years, she never had to shovel snow, trudge through it, or drive in it. One is less…

A Brief History of Azure

A Nature Up North Intern enjoys the view looking out from the peak of Azure Mountain.
By Patrick Chase on
Blog: On the Trail
In the Northern edge of the Adirondack park, where the towering heights of the High Peaks give way to smaller mountains and rolling hills, sits one such feature. 2,518 feet tall and one mile to the top, it presents an easy hike that anyone can do. And indeed, Azure Mountain is many people's first hike given its proximity to universities in Canton and Potsdam. Typically, in the first few weeks…
Azure's fire tower sits covered in snow in front of a cloudy sky.

Groundhog Day, Again?

A groundhog sits on a rock with grass in the background.
By Paul J. Hetzler on
Blog: Just Our Nature
Again? I watched the 1993 film Groundhog Day featuring Bill Murray at least a dozen times. Or maybe it just felt that way. Just as February 2 was on a nonstop loop in the film, this year’s iteration of Groundhog Day is likely to feel roughly the same as all the previous ones. I think it’s a good metaphor for this time of year, as we stumble out each morning in the semi-dark to defrost the car,…
A groundhog peeks out of its den in the shadow of a tree.

Food Webs and Tapestries - Connecting the Dots

A ruby throated hummingbird sipping nectar from a cherry queen zinnia.
By Paul J. Hetzler on
Blog: Just Our Nature
Back in primary school in the ‘70s, we learned about nature’s “food chain.” In this linear model, which I assume was devised by surveyors who normally lay out rail lines and utility corridors, a tiny creature, let’s say a minnow, gets eaten by a bigger fish, and so on until the biggest fish of all eventually dies and its rotting carcass is maybe nibbled on by vengeful small fish. After a while,…
A bee is busy pollinating a yellow flower.