Week 2: Basic Ecological Concepts

Week 2: Basic Ecological Concepts

By Heather

One of our readings for tonight from The Sand County Almanac was “January Thaw.”  Aldo Leopold writes about a skunk who left its den in search of…whatever it is skunks search for during the January thaw.  Leopold followed the skunk’s trail discovering life under the snow and heavy bent grass.  The cycle of life continues as he watches a Rough-legged Hawk search for a meal.  As our group shared comments and memories I got to thinking about a January thaw.  I looked in the front of the book to notice Leopold was near Madison, Wisconsin when he wrote his essays.  I, myself, am from a few hours north of Madison.  This piqued my curiosity even more about a thaw in January.  I had to pose the question, “When has it ever thawed in Wisconsin during January?”  If you know anything about Wisconsin in January, especially more than 25 years ago, it is bitter cold and has many feet of snow on the ground.  The only thing to do is make snow tunnels in drifts and hope when your friend invites you to go ice fishing they have a fishing shack.

On a trip up to Wisconsin the weekend after our Tuesday night training I asked my grandmother, who has lived there her whole life; has there ever been a January thaw?  To which she replied it wasn’t so much of a thaw as a slight raise in temperature, just enough to get the crystalline icicles dripping and glimpses of roof top shingles.  She did say some call it such.  I guess it could be viewed as a bit of an oxymoron; January thaw.

Not only is it Leopold’s chapter name and something that kind of happens according to my grandmother but the Farmer’s Almanac has a small write up about it dated January 25, 2010.  Here is the hyperlink in case you are so inclined and your curiosity, like mine, won’t let it go.  Simply right click on the link below and it will take you right to the article on the website.


Our presenter for the evening, Betsy Betros, has always had a passion for butterflies which exploded into a love for all bugs.  Her book on butterflies reflects her adoration.  Betsy has such an intriguing way of being positive while injecting dashes of humor into her presentation as she crammed our brains with several weeks’ worth of college level intro class on environmental studies.  Within the weekly readings and her PowerPoint presentation, Betsy discussed topics such as limiting factors, carrying capacity, succession, restoration, preservation and wildlife in urban areas.

 “Science can explain the processes that sustain life,” Betsy stated during her presentation. This statement resonates with me because of the many different spiritual belief structures found throughout human societies and how some disregard science.  Regardless of beliefs or non-beliefs, science has been responsible for many human triumphs and yet at the same time the declination of our environment.

I would like to think the lack of science understanding in others is one of the reasons we have all decided to take this course.  To learn, change, evolve, grow and share with others how we can use scientific explanations to educate those who still believe climate change is a hoax, how the earth has a carrying capacity, how policy changes can keep our societies whole and save our only livable ecosystem.  It is truly amazing we are a ball of rock spinning on its axis within a solar system, in a galaxy surrounded by an infinite amount of stars, other galaxies and space.  This is our only place “we” can live. This is why, in some way, we have all decided to become an eco-warrior.

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