Latest posts in Queen of Green

How to get to know nature

April 26, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: How to get to know nature

Be quiet and seek solitude. (Credit: Jennifer Rodriguez)

You love nature.

Together we even coined a term to describe what happens when we're not getting enough of it: "Treeprived".

For a fifth year, I ask you to immerse yourself in nature for 30 minutes a day for 30 days. We call it our 30×30 Nature Challenge. You might call it walking or biking to work, a lunch break outside, a walking meeting, a hike or time in the garden.

What else might you do for 30 minutes (minimum) a day? Well, there's a book for that: The Big Book of Nature Activities: A Year-Round Guide to Outdoor Learning, by Jacob Rodenburg and Drew Monkman. (Win a copy by commenting on this blog.) Here are 10 tips from the authors:

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How to land a great volunteer gig

April 13, 2016 | 1 comment
Photo: How to land a great volunteer gig

Annually I volunteered to spend a weekend releasing endangered burrowing owls into the grasslands of B.C.!

Happy National Volunteer Week!

I love mentoring volunteers — like my 130+ friends, a.k.a. Queen of Green Coaches.

I've had gratifying, heart-warming volunteer gigs:

  • At the Strathcona Raptor Shelter, I did ultrasounds on an injured Swainson's hawk, washed tar off a snowy owl, released a great horned owl, took orphaned red foxes for walks, collected aspen trees for beaver food, rappelled down the banks of the Red Deer River to tag prairie falcon chicks — and much more!

And the David Suzuki Foundation couldn't do what we do without our amazing volunteers. Last year, more than 15,000 dedicated people, including Blue Dot community leaders, devoted some 27,000 hours to our work!

Canadians contribute two billion hours of volunteer time each year — people of all ages giving back to help build healthier, more resilient communities.

How to find the best volunteer gig

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How to be a citizen scientist

April 12, 2016 | Leave a comment
Photo: How to be a citizen scientist

Let SciStarter play matchmaker, connecting your interests with its more than 1,100 citizen science projects. (Credit: Brendon Purdy Photography)

I've spotted humpback whales from my neighbourhood beach. But I didn't record my sightings for science!

So this year, for Citizen Science Day (April 16), I'm downloading the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network WhaleReport App.

Twenty-three species of cetaceans and sea turtles have been recorded in British Columbia waters. Many populations are at-risk and under-studied. The B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network relies on people like you and me — plus lighthouse keepers, ecotourism professionals, mariners and recreational boaters — to record sightings of whales, dolphins, porpoises and sea turtles. Participation is free, kid-friendly and requires zero gear!

Who are citizen scientists?

Anyone who wants to be one! (Look at the person next to you glued to a smartphone — even they could be filing a citizen science report!)

For example, do you road bike? Sign up for Roadkill Survey for Road Biker. By identifying and recording types of wildlife killed by traffic, you'll help collect clues about wildlife distribution, activity and responses to climate change. You might look at roadkill differently on your next holiday road trip...

How can I choose a project?

Let SciStarter play matchmaker, connecting your interests with its more than 1,100 citizen science projects. Join scientists, community leaders and people like you and me to observe and collect data on a range of topics, from bacteria to child behaviour to whales to butterflies. Research can involve one person or a collaboration of millions.

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How to forage for food

April 7, 2016 | 4 comments
Photo: How to forage for food

Foraging for morel mushrooms is a hobby fit for all ages. (Photo credit: Lindsay Coulter)

I grew up foraging for morel mushrooms, Saskatoon berries, wild blueberries, strawberries and raspberries in Alberta. On the West Coast now, I forage for salmonberries, blackberries and young stinging nettle.

For me, foraging is less about sustenance and more about time in nature with family and the thrill of seeking and finding — and Grandma once made me a delicious wild blueberry pie! My family looked for morels in the spring — my grandmother, Mom, my aunts and me. Last spring, my then two-year old son developed a killer eye for morels. It's a hobby for all ages.

If you're a city dweller or don't come from a lineage of gatherers, don't fret. You can take a foraging tour in a local city park. For example, Forager Foundation @ForagerFDN leads tours in the Vancouver area, ranked beginner to advanced. There might be similar tours or courses led by businesses, non-profits, Indigenous groups or parks where you live. (If so, please share below with a comment and link.)

Tips for foraging

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How to lure pollinators with sunflowers

March 22, 2016 | 21 comments
Photo: How to lure pollinators with sunflowers

Sunflowers are rich sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees, bumblebees and other wild bee species, butterflies and other beneficial insects. (Credit: Nick Grapsy via Flickr)

Your garden is bee and butterfly-friendly. You've made a bee bath, a bumblebee house and count birds in your backyard. What's left?

I quizzed Mark from West Coast Seeds about the benefits of growing sunflowers!

All garden sunflowers are descended from the Central American Helianthus annuus.

Conventional plant breeding allows for selection of height, flower size and colour, and size or oil content of seeds. Russian mammoth and giganteus grow ten feet tall or more in a single season, with a stem more like a tree trunk. Each flower head "face" is actually individual florets tightly packed into a spiral pattern. Each pollinated floret produces a single sunflower seed. Really big sunflowers produce hundreds of seeds!

Which pollinators like sunflowers?

Sunflowers' height makes them beacons for pollinators, rich sources of nectar and pollen for honeybees, bumblebees and other wild bee species, butterflies and other beneficial insects.

Planting sunflowers in your food garden lures the most important insects and will improve pollination for a host of fruits and vegetables.

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