Kristin and I have been working on a lot of concepts in the last few weeks; our collaboration has been really insightful for me. I think that even though I have a foot in the world of science and the world of art, I very much thought that our thought processes were very different, but I feel a strong and true kinship with Kristin, although I do appreciate our differences.
There are a few concepts we’re batting around right now, and they involve a few concepts as they gel into a potential project: data, the organisms hidden in plain sight, and storytelling.
And so I thought I’d share two things this week. First, yesterday was National Bird Day, so I thought I’d share this picture:
My boyfriend and I were walking through a local forest preserve (Which one? Don’t worry about it. Great Horned Owls are territorial and mate for life. The owls we saw are likely staying put for the winter, and I want people to leave them alone), and we spotted two Great Horned Owls. We were wandering along a path, and I noticed a number of droppings on the path and decided to look up. And there was an annoyingly loud little hairless ape wandering along pestering his boyfriend, and so one of the owls peered out and looked down. And we stared at each other for a while.
Great Horned Owls are the largest owls in Illinois, and they can be found throughout the Americas. They are of the genus Bubo, which I find to be an adorable name, and hunt mainly rodents. We saw two Red Tailed Hawks in a prairie on the way into the forest, and the two species are very similar, only one is diurnal and one is nocturnal. Great Horned Owls are not endangered or even vulnerable; the IUCN has stated that is of the least concern.
I asked a bunch of friends if they’ve seen a Great Horned Owl. I was so excited to see it that I may have told way too many people about it in the last few days. Only a handful had ever seen a Great Horned Owl, let a lone an owl in general. And this is a large bird; one of the largest in our area. In my discussions with friends, I kept thinking about conversations I’ve had with Kristin; how many species are around us that we have no idea are there and that we are unaware of. Sometimes, they’re too small. Sometimes, they are too well camouflaged. Sometimes they just are only out in the evening and nights, and it’s really cold at night these days. We’re so often unaware of the world around us, but it has so many wonders to give us. My boyfriend keeps making fun of me for how excited I got seeing the owls.
Did I mention that I saw two Great Horned Owls? Less than 10 miles from my home! I’m still happy as a clam about that. I wonder how many clam species were in the North Branch of the Chicago River that my boyfriend and I walked over as we made our way into the woods.
The second thing I want to talk about was the monarch butterfly. As Kristin and I are doing research around the world, I stumbled upon a fact that absolutely shocked me. I’m well aware that the western monarch butterfly, one of many populations of migratory members of the species are disappearing and threatened. It’s largely loss of overwintering sites along the West Coast and in Mexico.
I love the monarch. I like seeing them in Chicago and throughout the state of Illinois. Monarchs are our state insect.
But I didn’t know they live in Australia. Milkweeds and other plants were introduced around the world accidentally and as ornamental plants as soon as Europeans started making their way around the world. In the late 1800’s, people released monarch butterflies in Australia, potentially to eat the invasive milkweeds, but it’s likely that they had already made their way to this part of the world.
I wanted to just bring up how strange it is to think of this beautiful butterfly that I constantly worry about being endangered as an invasive species. They aren’t alone. Many species are thriving as invasive species and hurting in their native range.
What organisms are supposed to be where they are? And what species are around us that we don’t even know about? Things I keep thinking about.