Oceanography Lesson 3 – Mapping the Sea Floor Depth Across the Atlantic Ocean

From: Whales in the Classroom – Oceanography
              By Lawrence Wade

Graphics by Stephen Bolles

Before starting this lesson, I recommend that you do the previous lesson on the Features of the Sea Floor. To do that lesson go to: http://oldnaturalist.com/?p=11077

We can’t start mapping the seafloor across the Atlantic Ocean from Nova Scotia to France, until we know something about how sound travels in water.

key: 1. five times faster   2. approx. 4 seconds for the echo to be received





Download Ocean Floor Depth Chart which is shown below
Depth Chart


2. Double check the depths that you calculated using the key  at the end of the post.

3. Download both pages of the ocean floor graph shown in miniature  below:

Download page 1 and 2 of the Ocean Floor Graph which is shown above
Depth Graph page 1

Depth Graph page 2

3. Once all of the depths are calculated, plot the depths on the graph on the next two pages. The depths at 60°W, 55°W, and 50°W are already plotted on the graph.

Let’s plot the depth at 48°W together.

According to our depth chart the depth at 11,520 feet. Place a ruler across the graph at that depth. Find 48°W and make an imaginary vertical line to the ruler. Plot the point where the vertical line and ruler meet. Plot all of the remaining depths in this fashion.

4. Connect all of the points. The line that develops is a profile of the ocean floor from Nova Scotia to France.

5. Look at the graph and label the following topographic features of the ocean floor:

a. Continental Shelf
b. Continental Slope
c. Abyssal Plain
d. Ocean Ridge

6. In the space above the graph make a three dimensional sketch of the actual sea floor.

Key for the Activity:

Depth chart:


Ocean Floor Graph

Posted in Whales & Oceanography | Leave a comment

Oceanography Lesson 2 – Features of the Sea floor and Climate Change

From: Whales in the Classroom – Oceanography
              By Lawrence Wade

Features of the Sea Floor

Graphics by Stephen Bolles

The sea floor has many unique features. The mid ocean ridges are undersea mountain ranges that extends 42,000 miles throughout the Earth. The ocean trenches form the deepest areas of the oceans. There are undersea volcanic peaks called seamounts.

The drawing below shows some of the distinct features of the mid ocean topography. There is a second page showing the undersea coastal features. Download both the mid ocean and coastal pages. 

Mid Ocean Topography

 Download Features of the ocean floor
Features of the Ocean Floor 1
Features of the Ocean Floor 2

So You Want to Be an Oceanographer

Read the descriptions below of the ocean floor and label the geologic features on your downloaded pages. Even better make your own drawing of the sea floor and label each of the features.

Features of the Ocean Floor

Abyssal plain – The abyssal plain begins at the base of the continental slope, usually at least 2 miles (10,000 feet) deep. Much of the ocean floor is abyssal plain. These plains form the ocean basins of the world.

Continental shelf – The continental shelf is the gradually sloping shelf (less than 400 feet deep) that extends from shore. The distance that the shelf may extend from shore varies greatly (10–100 miles). Sea life is abundant in this area. In fact, many of the great fishing grounds of the world are on the continental shelf.

Continental slope – The continental slope is that area in which the ocean floor plunges from the continental shelf to the deep sea abyssal plain. The drop-off can be significant, often more than 10,000 feet.

Estuary – An estuary is a salt-water bay that has a river emptying into it. Estuaries are important nursery areas for fish, shorebirds, and other sea animals to lay their eggs.

Guyot (guy ́-ot) – Guyots are flat-topped seamounts and also called tablemounts.

Island – Islands are the tops of ocean mountains that rise above the surface of the water. On the island of Hawaii, the twin peaks of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea rise almost 14,000 feet above the sea. If you add in the depth of the adjacent sea floor (16,000 feet), these volcanic peaks, beginning at the ocean floor, are comparable in height to Mt. Everest.

Mid-ocean ridge – Mid-ocean ridges are undersea mountain ranges that extend approximately 42,000 miles and cover 23% of the Earth’s surface. This is the largest geological feature on the Earth, yet it was not explored extensively until the 1970s. The ridges occur where mantle material rises to the top of the Earth’s crust and spreads out to create a new ocean floor.

Ocean trench – Ocean trenches form the deepest areas of the oceans. The Mariana Trench is more than 7 miles deep. Many of the trenches are several hundred miles long and several miles wide. The ocean floor is very slowly disappearing into the ocean trenches, moving at a rate of approximately three inches per year.

Seamount – Seamounts are undersea volcanic peaks that are not part of an undersea mountain range. The top of a seamount forms a cone.

A Trip to the Ocean Floor  –   A Guided Imagery

Take a journey in your mind into the oceans and explore the ocean floor. Swim through the breakers of a sandy beach and move to the edge of the continental shelf. Think about the steepest drop-off that you can imagine (mountain or building) and know that it is a short drop compared to this one. From the edge of the continental shelf to the floor of the abyssal plain it is over two miles—or greater than eight Empire State Buildings stacked on top of each other. You slowly swim down the continental slope to 10,000 feet deep. The pressure is enormous on your body. But it doesn’t bother you today.

It is dark in the abyss, but somehow you can see. You can see the great abyssal plain that stretches for hundreds of miles. You quickly move across the plain and can see the mid-ocean ridge, a huge mountain range that rises up above the plain. Most of the mountains in the mid-ocean ridge rise over 6,000 feet above the plain, but some of them are so huge that they rise above the water and form an island. You follow one of the tall ridges to the surface, then sink back to the depths. Along the mid- ocean ridge you find the place where the sea floor is being formed from molten lava. You can feel the heat because this lava is coming from below the ocean floor, in the mantle of the Earth itself. Just for a moment you imagine going into the core of the Earth.

Continuing your journey across the ocean, you leave the mid-ocean ridge and drop into another abyssal plain. It stretches a great distance, like a barren desert. At the far edge of the desert you see a huge canyon, called an ocean trench, that is over fifty miles wide and hundreds of miles long. You float above the ledge that leads into the ocean trench, the deepest of the ocean’s deep. As you swim down three miles beneath the surface… four …. five …….six……. seven miles, the pressure continues to build. Under normal circumstances you would be crushed, but not today. Finally you reach the bottom of the trench, it is a dark and lifeless place. As you swim upward, you can feel the pressure lessen on your body.

Finally you come to the edge of the continental slope on the other side of the ocean and can see it rise towards the surface. As you move up the edge of the slope, you start to see light above you. You continue swimming until you reach the surface of the water. Open your eyes, your journey is over.

Conservation Issues

 Climate Change and Global Warming

Global warming is caused by excessive amounts of pollution (mostly CO2) in our atmosphere. Under normal conditions some of the heat from the sun is absorbed by the Earth, but most is reflected back into space through the atmosphere. When excessive amounts of CO2 and pollutants enter the Earth’s atmosphere less of the sun’s heat is able to escape and more is redirected back to Earth, causing global temperatures to rise.

If the Global Warming increases too much in the future, the average temperature of the Earth might rise as much as 10°F.  Drought, hurricanes, forest fires and extreme temperatures are what we call Climate Change. We are seeing the effects of Climate Change throughout the world. Also, the rise in temperature might cause melting of the polar ice caps. When this happens, sea level will rise and flood most of the cities located on the coasts, including New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

The average person can do a lot to reduce this problem. The burning of fossil fuels (oil and gas) at power plants and in automobiles is a primary cause of global warming and climate change. Individuals can conserve energy by reducing electrical usage in their homes, buying fuel-efficient automobiles, car-pooling, and using mass transit. Planting trees is another important activity that will help reduce Global Warming and Climate Change. Trees absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) directly from the air, and thus reduce the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere.

What Is Your Carbon Debt?

Every year humans are putting larger and larger amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by driving automobiles. Living plants that absorb CO2 cannot process the amount of carbon that is being emitted into the air. To deal with this carbon debt, there is a growing conservation movement to plant more trees on our planet.

Download the following worksheet  to determine how many trees you should plant to pay your family’s carbon debt for their automobile. The trees may be planted over several years since they will continue to remove CO2 from the air for over a hundred years.

Download “What is your Carbon Debt?”

What is Your Carbon Debt?

Key for Features of the Ocean Floor

Features of the Ocean Floor 1 key
Features of the Ocean Floor 2 key

Example for “What is Your Carbon Debt?”
Example – What is your Carbon Debt?

Posted in Whales & Oceanography | Leave a comment

Oceanography Lesson 1 – Pangaea and Plate Tectonics

From: Whales in the Classroom – Oceanography
              By Lawrence Wade

Graphics by Stephen Bolles

The Earth itself has many stories to tell because it is always changing. One of the stories has to with the continent known as Pangaea. The Earth has not always looked the  way it does now, with all of its beautifully shaped continents.

So you want to be an Oceanographer

1. Download the cutout pages  6 & 7 below to build the supercontinent of Pangaea. Use the mid ocean ridge as a guide, since many continents broke apart along it. [Hint: start with Africa and add South America.]

  1. If you have an Oceanographic Map, find the Mid-Ocean Ridge on the oceanographic map and show students how the continents have spread apart over the past 180 million years.
  2. Have students put a title on page 7 “Pangaea”

4 Students can cut out the continents  by their general outline or put a continent underneath the page 7 in the correct location and trace it.

  1. Show the students how Greenland, North America and South America are to the West of the Mid Ocean Ridge today, so they must have begun “hugging” the west side of the Mid Ocean Ridge. The same is true of Africa and Eurasia, only they are to the East of the Mid Ocean Ridge.
  2. Start by showing where Africa goes and make an arrow showing the direction Africa moves in (page 9).
  3. Place South America , North America, Eurasia, and Greenland. Show the direction that each continent is moving (page 9) and make sure that the continents are placed on the correct side of the Mid Ocean Ridge. When they are drawn or taped in, have them use a black marker and show where the Mid Ocean Ridge is in relation to the continents.
  4. Put in India and show how it moved northward and literally crashed into Eurasia – forming the Himalayan Mountain Range. It is still pushing into Eurasia today and causing the mountains to grow higher
  5. Put in Antarctica and Australia south of the Mid Ocean Ridge and show the direction they both traveled.

Student Cutout Pages

Page 6

Page 7

Download Student Pages 6 & 7

page 6
page 7

Page 9    Shows the direction that the plates are moving

Finished Student page

To view the entire Whales in the Classroom curriculum go to:

Posted in Whales & Oceanography | Leave a comment

Cierva Cove, Antarctica

Photos and text by Jane Ball. Jane is a frequent contributor to the Old Naturalist. She has traveled the Earth and is a true guardian of our Planet.

Humpback Spyhop
Photo by Jane Ball

To me, Cierva Cove in Antarctica is one of the truly magical places on Earth. I have been there twice. The first time, in 2016, the glistening serenity of the water and the sky and the partnership of the icebergs and the clouds all blending together lifted the spirit of the place and made it tangible. Being there was like floating in the ether. There I saw my first beautiful floating berg of rare black ice.

Black Ice
Photo by Jane Ball

My second trip was in 2017. January 9, 2017, was my friend’s 70th birthday. For her birthday, she wanted to go to Antarctica, so I happily went again. On January 9, our boat pulled into Cierva Cove so that the guests could have a few hours in Zodiacs investigating whatever we found in the Cove. The Cove was filled with icebergs, as it usually is, and plenty of big flaky snowflakes filled the air.

What we didn’t know was that at that time, the waters of the Cove were also apparently filled with krill. Krill are tiny crustaceans and are a keystone species and essential food source for most marine species in Antarctica and around the world, including whales, seals, penguins, and various birds. Krill populations are declining in many areas which is cause for concern. But this day, they were providing a feast for dozens of humpback whales.

Eight or so Zodiacs were loaded with guests and spread out in the Cove, along with a half dozen kayaks. As we were bobbing in the water, getting our bearings and excited to see a whale in the distance, a humpback surprised us with a spyhop right in our midst, I suppose taking a minute to check out all the new flotsam in the water. From that point, the game was on!

Two Humpbacks  surfacing beside a kayak and Zodiac.
Photo by Jane Ball


The captain and crew stopped their duties to stand on deck and whoop and point. The people in the Zodiacs and kayaks tried to be everywhere at once. There was something exciting to see in every direction.

With Icebergs on the horizon, another humpback alongside a Zodiac.
Photo by Jane Ball

Two humpbacks lunge feeding.
Photo by Jane Ball

At one point I was furious because everyone in my Zodiac was standing up between me and a lunge feeding whale that I could hardly see. The next minute I was hanging over the side, watching a whale come directly at me and dive just before it reached the Zodiac.

Humpback fluking-up close to the Zodiac.
Photo by Jane Ball

All the while, a heavy snowfall gave an otherworldly feel to what was already an action-packed and thrilling experience, my camera alternately focusing on the whales and the snowflakes. Dozens of birds surrounded the feeding whales, getting their portion of the feast.

Humpbacks and Gulls
Photo by Jane Ball


Gulls feasting
Photo by Jane Ball


Even a raft of penguins swam next to us.  So much life! and all because of the tiny krill.”

Gentoo Penguins
Photo by Jane Ball

I’m told we were out for over three hours, but to me it seemed like 10 minutes. The crew said they had never seen anything like it and that there were at least 50 whales. If I could have stopped time, I think I’d be there still.

For more of my images of  Antarctica go to:

The Ethereal World of Antarctica
Photo by Jane Ball




Posted in Connecting to Nature, Photography/Art, Whales & Oceanography | 6 Comments

Open Ocean Odysseys

Readers Robert Pitman, James Cotton, Diane Kaplan, Jen and Jordan Ganley share their stories about being at sea.

A sperm whale swimming away from the ship. The blowhole is at the upper left hand corner of the photo.
Photo by James M. Cotton, NMFS

Mom’s the Word
Robert Pitman, Whale Biologist, NMFS
I was aboard a Japanese research vessel and we approached a pod of sperm whales. The adult females were 30 to 35 feet long, lying side-by-side and moving slowly away from our vessel.
We had cut the engines and just by chance our vessel glided to a stop where the group had reassembled. Just as we were getting ready to leave, we noticed for the first time that there was a newborn calf in their midst.

Our tiny calf was spasmatically flailing at the sea surface with a tail it clearly had not gotten the hang of yet. It looked like a newborn fawn trying to get up on wobbly legs for the first time.

Sperm Whale cow and calf.
Photo by James M. Cotton, NMFS

Then, an utterly miraculous thing happened. One of the females appeared to suddenly become aware that the struggling calf was positioned between her and the ship only meters away. She dropped her massive lower jaw, carefully took up the calf in her mouth, and rolled over, depositing it on her other side, putting herself between the boat and the baby!

There was stunned silence onboard our vessel. Everyone on the boat had connected to what just happened: a concerned mother had, without a moment’s hesitation, put herself between her young and a perceived threat. I was standing on the bow and immediately swung around to see everyone on our little expedition staring at the water, visibly shaken. We engaged our engines and slowly pulled away.



Green Sea Turtle
Photo by Lawrence Wade


In 2018, I was honored to visit the Galapagos which are truly enchanted islands.  Often I felt like I was walking in a dream and wondering whether the experience was real. Being so close to this beautiful green sea turtle was the high point of my snorkeling experience.

Lawrence Wade

Dancing with a Green Sea Turtle
Floating together
Back and forth with the surge
Experiencing wonder
Such beauty and wildness
Never to be forgotten

Contributor Alex Munoz contributed the following story:
I once had encounter with a large sea turtle, It’s back was green with a light undercoat, I was swimming 100 ft from shore at the pier in Ventura, California. We swam together for about 5 minutes, I was astonished at how graceful it was and huge in comparison to  myself at age 17. An experience I have never forgotten.



Whale Shark Photo by

Video by Jen Ganley

This video is from the Sea of Cortez, Baja California and was shared by Diane Kaplan, Jen and Jordan Ganley.
“I felt excited to swim with the whale shark. It was humongous and I thought was it going to suck me up.” Jordan Ganley, 7 years old.
“All my fears disappeared when I saw how gentle the creature was.  The animal was so HUGE under the water.”  Jen Ganley.
“I had to swim on the side of the whale shark and keep up with it because  it could slam me with its tail. My entire body felt this intense calmness and excitement all at once. The whale shark was so powerful and calm. The whale shark  was on some level connecting with me.  It allowed me to share its presence like I was another fish. The whale shark touched me deeply and I felt at ease with it.”  Diane Kaplan



Humpback Whale Breaching. Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Photo by Jen Ganley

“Getting to see these majestic, gentle creatures breaching was incredible. Of course, I know that whales are huge, but it wasn’t until they breached that I got a real sense of their size.”  Jen Ganley

Humpback whale splash after breach.
Photo by Jen Ganley

Diane Kaplan’s observation of  the humpback whale’s breach:
“It is impossible not feeling the powerful energy that emanates from Humpback Whales.  When you are close and they breach the full size and power of them is amazing.  Everybody always gasps and “oohs and ahhs” when their bodies slam against the water.  Tremendous gift.”

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Whales & Oceanography | 5 Comments

The Beauty and Value of Fungus in a Forest Ecosystem

A fungus photo essay by Jen Ganley who is from New England; Janine Pung who is from Minnesota; and Jim Cotton from Redwood country, Northern California; Maria Montero, from Minnesota. Thanks to Ron Spinosa of the Minnesota Mycological Society for identifying the fungus.

Purple Crust Fungus            Phlebiopsis crassa
Photo by Jen Ganley

When most of us think of fungus, we think of mushrooms sprouting out of the ground. A mushroom is actually the “fruit” of the fungus. Most of a fungus grows underground and is a large network of tiny threads called “mycelium” that intertwine with trees.

American Caesar’s Mushroom, Amanita Jacksonii
photo by Jen Ganley

This attractive mushroom is found in hardwood forests of New England. Most types of Amanita are highly poisonous, whereas this one is edible. It is a close relative of Caesar’s Mushroom, which grows in Italy, was a favorite of the emperors of the Roman Empire. The mushroom has a symbiotic relationship with the roots of certain trees.

How large can a fungus get? The largest known underground fungal network in the world is a honey fungus in Oregon that measures over 3 miles across.


Tremella foliacea.
Photo by Jen Ganley

Jelly fungus is usually found growing on fallen logs or stumps of trees in deciduous forests.

In a healthy forest, trees are inter-connected with other trees by the fungus’s mycelium network. The mycelium allow trees to share water and nutrients.

Violet Cortinarius
Photo by Jen Ganley


The Violet Cort emerges after a fall rain. As the fungus grows, its brilliant color fades.

The future of our forests may depend more upon what is beneath the ground rather than above. Most trees have underground fungal partners that channel water and minerals from the soil into trees. In exchange trees supply the fungus with energy-rich sugars from photosynthesis.

Laetiporus sulfphureus
Photo by Jen Ganley

Giant Puffball
Photo by Jen Ganley

Giant Puffballs feed on decaying organic material and are always found growing on the ground rather than on a tree. As the puffball ages, it turns brown and releases its spores. The spores were used by Native Americans to treat bleeding and prevent infection. The largest puffball on record was 59 inches around.

Honey Fungus
Photo by Lawrence Wade

Some species of Honey Fungus are bioluminescent, meaning they glow in the dark.

Amanita muscaria guessowii emerging from the ground
Photo by Jen Ganley


Amanita Muscaria Guessowii fully grown
Photo by Jen Ganley

Amanita is one of the most recognizable mushrooms in the world. The mushroom is featured in the video game “Super Mario Brothers”and in the movie “Fantasia”. It is  highly toxic if ingested. It has a symbiotic relationship with various types of trees. It sends nutrients into the tree’s roots and receives sugars from the tree’s photosynthesis .

Jack o Lantern
Photo by Janine Pung

 We saw the Jack o Lantern on August 14 at Minnewashta Park.  I remember we both thought it was kind of surreal or “other worldly-looking”.  It had a unique energy.
Janine Pung

I was with Janine and we saw a few clumps growing in a hardwood forest. The Jack O Lantern is poisonous and is said to glow in the dark, thus its name, “Jack O Lantern”.
Lawrence Wade

Indian Pipe
Photo by Janine Pung

Whenever I see an Indian Pipe in the woods, my first reaction is, “What’s that?”. Lawrence Wade

Indian Pipes are not actually mushrooms but a unique form of plant also known as the “ghost plant”. It grows in the shade and lacks chlorophyll, thus it has a pale color. Since it is not able to photosynthesize, it “steals” nutrients from the mycelia of fungus who are interconnected to the roots of trees.

Laetiporus cincinnatus
Photo by Janine Pung

The “Chicken in the Woods”  is not only colorful, but a culinary favorite of mushroom hunters. It can be found growing on the base of dead or dying hardwood trees.

Photo by James Cotton

Loved the color variation and Redwood habitat.  James Cotton

Tetrapyrgos nigripes.
Photo by James Cotton

Really like the architecture with nature’s skylight. James Cotton

Mycena sp.
Photo by James Cotton

So tiny and delicate.  Another micro world that is so easily passed over.  A reminder to slow down and take it all in.  James Cotton

Amanita Muscaria
Photo by James Cotton

Like Gondwana land the white surface fragments of the cap breakup into other patterns as the cap evolves.  Startlingly beautiful coloration! Perhaps a cautionary signal not to eat.  James Cotton

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Upper Pennisula MI.
Photo by Maria Montero

Sleeping Bear Dunes, Upper Pennisula MI.
Photo by Maria Montero

Contributor, Cindy Eyden shared the following link: How Trees Secretly Talk to and Share with Each Other



Posted in Connecting to Nature, Photography/Art | 2 Comments

Good Use for a Road-kill Deer

Guest Posting by Dean Hansen.
Dean has contributed to Old Naturalist over the years.

I noticed a road-killed deer near my land just east into Wisconsin from my home in Stillwater.  I registered the deer online and dragged it onto my five-acre lot.  A simple Moultrie “trail cam” was strapped to a tree a dozen feet from the carcass.  It didn’t take long for hungry animals to find the carcass.

Crows on the carcass
December 29, 2019

17 March, 2020: First Spring visitor was a mature Bald Eagle.


17 March: After surveying the scene, he started to open up the chest cavity to get at the lungs and heart.


18 March: A Red Tailed Hawk joins the dining club.


21 March: The Red Tailed Hawk continued feeding in the chest cavity.


22 March: The surprise of this whole experiment was the appearance of a Red Shouldered Hawk on the carcass. This is a Threatened Species in Wisconsin. A WDNR worker told me that it was quite unusual to see this species at carrion.

29 March: The Bald Eagle returns and enlarges the hole to the chest organs.

3 April: A late spring snowfall doesn’t keep the Bald Eagle from returning. That’s a really large bird, I’d say.

7 April: Vultures appear. Again, the chest cavity is the preferred dining site.

April 8:   A curious deer


29 April: Vultures continue feeding through the month. Note the grass greening.

May 10: Finally–a coyote appears. I was hoping for a bear, but that was a no-show.

May 11 The coyotes worked on the hind quarters (the “thighs” of the deer), and they even dragged the carcass noticeably to the upper right of the frame.


Posted in Animals, Nature Notes | 4 Comments

Finding Balance in Nature

I am thrilled to share this posting that includes the voices of so many people who love nature. I hope you have time to enjoy the creative energy that they have expressed through their photography, stories, poetry and art.


Holly Einess is a naturalist and contributor to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Nature Notes.

American Goldfinch
Photo by Holly Einess

I took this photo of a goldfinch in September as he was feasting on coneflower seeds. I love how fluffy and bedraggled he looks as he’s transitioning from his bright breeding plumage to his more drab winter colors. What is it about birds that I find so charming? That makes me want to know them? I took up birding several years ago with a local Audubon chapter, and while I now can identify more than the usual suspects (robins, cardinals, crows, and chickadees), I feel as though my appetite for avian knowledge will never be sated. What a challenging endeavor it is, to become an expert birder! Not only do the males often differ in appearance from the females, the juveniles can have their own look distinct from the adults. And then there’s breeding vs. non-breeding plumage, migratory vs. non-migratory… A naturalist I know once said, it’s not so important that I  hang a name on every bird I see. It’s about being out in nature, or even my own backyard, noticing the life around me and getting curious about it. Expert or no, sharing habitat with these feathered miracles brings me untold joy, and for that I’m very grateful.  


Dale Antonson is a frequent contributor to Old Naturalist.

Back to the Garden
A global pandemic and climate change. Difficult headlines to avoid. To relieve ‘cabin-fever’, people are returning to the outdoors.

Clouds above my house.
Photo by Dale Antonson

There are many more people out walking, biking and paddling these days. When I was recently hiking in a state park midweek, I saw many families hiking the trails through the forest. The Earth offers ever changing opportunities to notice what’s going on around us.

Bur Oak in Kelly Park, Minnetonka
Photo by Dale Antonson

Observation of the world we’re part of can provide an endless commercial free show of wonder. Entertainment by nature. It is a hidden Blessing in these changing times.

An egret in Purgatory Creek
Photo by Dale Antonson

Across the street from my house.
Photo by Dale Antonson


Sandra Cowing has contributed previously to Old Naturalist.

This work was inspired by a late afternoon walk this summer at Staring Lake in Eden Prairie, MN. It was rainy all day, the clouds were finally breaking up and the sun came streaming in through the vegetation. The sun caused an ethereal, misty effect shining through the wet trees. It was a magical moment.



Jen Heyer is a 3rd grade teacher at Highlands Elementary, Edina, MN.
To learn more about Jen’s Program go to :  heyerlearning.net

My third graders and I went on a noticing walk and happened upon a rabbit “murder” scene. It was incredibly interesting and I literally had to pull some of them away. There were bones sticking out and all of the organs and intestines had been removed and placed next to it. We made our predictions regarding what happened and then, real close to the scene we found this feather.

Photo by Jen Heyer

With the feather in hand, we made some guesses regarding which bird of prey could have done this to the rabbit. While looking through feather guides, the children debated between the feather belonging to a red-tailed hawk or a great horned owl, but could it possibly be a Cooper’s hawk? Barred owl and bald eagle came into the discussion as well, but were quickly removed from the list.

Our class reached out to the Minnesota Tracking Club with our two main predictions and heard back from them: “Sherlock and Watson were investigating a murder when Watson called out to Sherlock, ‘I found a knife! It must be the murder weapon.’ Sherlock in a calm voice replied, ‘My dear Watson, just because you found a knife in the kitchen, do not assume it is the murder weapon.” Are you sure the feather is associated with the crime scene?” I read the response to the students and one student jumped up, “We don’t know that the rabbit died from a bird of prey!” The search was on; what bird could have left a feather this large, and not be a bird of prey? After much discussion and a little bit of research, we solved the mystery. Have you?



Christina Gregory is an artist and poet and has contributed previously to  Old Naturalist

Photo by Christina Gregory

The Sculpture Garden

Christina Gregory

Sculpted frozen trees

their artwork formed in time and wind

stretch their arms in praise.

And so we also stand as naked fragile souls

before our Maker , seeking His embrace.

 Their art-formed trunks in shapes grotesque or elegant broken lines

 groan with only a rusty, frozen leaf to blow

 in brittle memory of a past life.

 Winter’s butterfly.

 These spirited statues in motionless frost

 embrace the silence

 caressed by stillness.

 And so I view in quiet awe their majesty

 a tapestried reckless mass of threaded branches

 a lesson in frozen time.

 Like pen and inked objects before me

 they quietly teach the lessons of the universe.

 Stripped of life, save a fragile leaf or two,

 in bitter cold each branch moans and snaps

 some failing winter’s test.

Helpless and trusting they stand waiting for nature’s next event

 when bubbling life inside decorates with new spring greens

 and clothes the forest once again.

 And so I stand, as do we all, as God’s little works of art

 Shaped by tragedy and time yet filled with life waiting to be reborn:

 “clothed in the newness of life”.


Paul Gagner has contributed previously to Old Naturalist

Most of these photos were taken within a couple of blocks from our house.

Photo by Paul Gagner

Being outdoors is one  of the only places I would rather be during this period of confinement.

Twelve Spotted Skimmer
Photo by Paul Gagner

Nature is really all that counts after  waking up (not including family and friends).

Photo by Paul Gagner

Rather a tree than a human?
Not in all cases, but I think you know what I am saying.

Photo by Paul Gagner

Photo by Paul Gagner



Alex Munoz is a frequent contributor to Old Naturalist.

These are Grizzly bear cubs, mother was killed in Montana, the cubs were donated to a sanctuary for wildlife, near flagstaff, AZ. Where they are being raised to date.

photo by Alex Munoz


Carnivore, herbivore, omnivore
Some of them squeak – some of them roar! 
When they get older they start to walk
Start to grunt and start to hunt.
Some animals are endangered species,
These kind of animals need more space.

Photo by Alex Munoz


Photo by Alex Munoz

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Poetry, Photography/Art | 2 Comments

New! Fall Nature School

The Old Naturalist has been getting outside as we leave Summer and enter Fall. It’s a beautiful time of passage for Nature, and there are many things She has to teach us!

Use the Nature School navigation link above to look at our Fall Nature School lessons, and check back frequently for new ones!

Posted in Nature School, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Teach me How to Be a Forest

Ancient Sugar Maple
Photo by Janine Pung

Most humans walk by us and think, “It is just a tree.” But a few humans stop and listen and realize we are so much more than “just a tree”.

Listening to trees
Consider this a “mindfulness” activity that includes a tree. Many people “talk” to trees, but in doing this activity, you will be learning how to listen to the trees.

  • Find a place that has a sense of wildness with some big trees
  • Find a tree that you are drawn to
  • Choose a place where you feel safe and will not be disturbed
  • Slow down your energy – pay attention to your breath
  • Be present – quiet the self-talk and chatter
  • Ground – send your roots down below your feet and let them mingle with the roots of the tree
  • Listen to your heartbeat and let the tree join with your heartbeat
  • Inhale Oxygen – a gift from the tree / exhale CO2  – a gift for the tree
  • Listen with your whole body, not just your ears
  • Listen without expectations – let your mind be a clean slate
  • Listening can come to you in feelings, colors or sounds inside of your body and it may not be in words
  • Learning how to listen is a skill that needs to be developed over time

Red Oak snag
photo by Janine Pung

Teach me how to be a forest – A human asks an old red oak snag –  “Why is it you seem so alive, when you are dead?”
We don’t think/live like you do. You think that when something “dies” it has no more life. Nothing actually “dies”, but is part of a continuum that is in constant change. There is no end or beginning.

Photo by Janine Pung

Teach me how to be a forest
Put down your phone. Don’t be afraid to open yourself up and receive. Trust the deep connection being created, for it is within this space that you will fully experience what you see, hear, feel and sense.

Blue Dasher
Photo by Janine Pung

Teach me how to be a forest  – You have to let go of the “I” and be part of the “We”.

False Solomen Seal Fruit.
Photo by Janine Pung


Teach me how to be a forestWhen you touch one of us with an open heart, you touch the whole forest.

Photo by Lawrence Wade


Teach me how to be a forest  –  You have to let go of  your dead wood.

Tree Wound
Photo by Janine Pung

Teach Me How to be a Forest –   You can heal from your wounds.  All you need is within you.

Jack O’Lantern – Highly poisonous
ID by Ron Spinosa
Photo by Janine Pung

Teach me how to be a forest – Be deeply rooted to the planet and connected to the sky at the same time.


Photo by Janine Pung

Teach me how to be a forest     You will find freedom in embracing uncertainty.

Chicken in the Woods
Photo by Janine Pung

Teach me how to be a forest  Just like all things in this forest, you have a right to exist.

Photo by Lawrence Wade

Teach me how to be a forest  –  Slow down. Walk and breathe with the forest inside of you.  Become One with us.

Reader Dale Antonson shared the following:
Connecting to the trees creates an awareness of the timeless life that exists all around us.  It’s important take the time to get out of our own way and connect ourselves back to the energy of the soil.

Performing ‘Healing Touch’ on an ancient Bur Oak that suffered major trauma in 2014.
Photo by Dale Antonson

 If this posting resonated with you, I would highly recommend, Finding the Mother Tree by Susan Simard. Dr. Simard is a forest ecologist whose research has shown how interconnected and conscious trees are .

At a forest clear cut, Simard writes, “The beauty is that with a little momentum, a little help at this site, the plants and animals will come back. They’d make the forest whole again, help it recover. The land wanted to heal itself.”

Posted in Connecting to Nature, Nature Guardians, Photography/Art | 11 Comments