We, as a culture, do not know the world around us. Every bioregion should have an encyclopedia like website for that bioregion. Students should be the data collectors...armed with digital cameras and making several visits a year to record what is seen at one particular place. The students would be "an early warning system" for ecological change, recording invasive species, species moving northward due to climate change, infestations of crop and ornamentals....

This would "leave no child inside" and have students doing real science that would be of great value to the community. The history of every ethnic group (including the vanished) of the bioregion should also be included on the website.

We don't know who we are, unless we are part of what surrounds us! Do you know the name of your bioregion? Mine is the Llano Estacado. Do you know the 50 most common vertebrates, invertebrates, and plants in the 50 miles closest to your home?


Nature centers, colleges, non profits and governmental agencies should unite to raise funds for an administrative staff to run such websites.

I would love to brainstorm more on this idea...

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Burr,

I believe that every step we take to connect people with the outdoors in meaningful ways impacts the quality of life for those people and the community they share. I support initiatives that promote education with practical purpose that engages students with their bioregion in a positive, productive, meaningful and contributory way.
A 19 year old college student wrote, when this "modest proposal" was posted on my facebook page;

This is a great idea! The "early warning system" would educate students on the needs of their ecosystems and wildlife (a lot of people tend to forget that humans live in ecosystems) plus it would be beneficial to their health and spirit to be outside with a purpose! A lot of people don't even know the BARE and BASIC facts about nature (the difference between reptiles and amphibians, what makes a bird a bird, etc.) and a program like this could really change the hearts of "city-dwellers".A lot of kids like to be outside but don't really have the means to do anything. A program like the one you have in mind could really help a needy generation.
Burr, being with the Sibley Center, I'd guess you were involved with Audubon/Cornell's recent Great Backyard Bird Count, and their previous counts. There was a great deal of activity in the recent count -- 97,209 checklists entered, 602 species, 11,226,260 individual birds. I believe the event attracted people of all ages and of all birding abilities (including beginners and families) to observe and count. There was recently another call from another group for people to help count wildflowers.

The Bird Count people did a great deal to make their activity fun and accessible. They provided checklists, photos, games and ideas on their web site. Certainly, this sort of thing can be replicated by other groups and for other animals and plants. Kids love to help be data collectors.

How can we each learn more about what our bioregion is? I mentioned to you on Facebook that here, in the San Francisco Bay Area, a lot of kids learn about their watershed, which covers a huge area but is considered one ecosystem. (The Bay itself is 400 square miles, and it connects to a whole system of deltas, tributaries, and mountain streams, as well as the Pacific Ocean.) I wonder how it maps to our bioregion? (Hmm, I just found one site that indicates that they are the same. It referred to it as SF Bay/Delta.)

http://ceres.ca.gov/geo_area/bioregions/Bay_Delta/about.html
The Nature Conservancy put a map out about ten years ago (in their magazine)...listing 63 bioregions for the continental U.S. This is a great starting point to learning what your bioregion is. Some of the bioregions are large, like mine.

According to that map my bioregion includes the Llano Estacado and then on up into eastern Colorado...the shortgrass prairie of the southern Great Plains. The Sibley Nature Center focuses on the llano estacado, and the areas influenced by it (or touch it). The northern reaches of the Conservancy's short grass bioregion has a much longer winter, plus it is 500 miles away! So we adjusted...

Another way to envision bioregions is by where Indian tribes once lived. Hunters and gatherers learn the "song" of a place, the subtle rhythms of the seasons...but past where the landscape changed (ecotones) other cultures of place developed.

Things like Cornell's backyard bird counts are useful, it is a fuzzy snapshot, highly pixillated! Developing bioregional surveys and using students to gather the data would bring a higher resolution to our snapshot...but incorporating it into the public school education curriculum would mean it would be more like streaming video.

With the push for No Child Left Inside possibly bringing fruition, it would be best if our industry (environmental education) had a focused goal for funding. This project is proactive and positive and productive. Environmental education is too often negative "how humans have ruined the world" preaching. A positive project would be embraced by the public.
There are regional guides to plants that benefit pollinators.

http://pollinator.org/guides.htm
Mark... NABA ( north american butterfly association) has a better list (for butterflies attractants and larval food plants) which local folks here on the llano estacado produced...the list you referenced is too broad and general...covers way too much area to be considered bioregional... about half the plants are not adapted to the llano estacado where I live. (I have grown most of them...we have tested over 1300 natives and adapted plants to see if they survive on once a month watering, if it does not rain 2 inches in a month )

local folks should collect the information, which national organizations could then access to understand site specific flora and fauna... we use bugguide to attempt to identify the pollinators, but it is slow going, and many families are still not fully understood ( especially their life histories and ranges)...because there has not been a system that gathers information on a county by county basis.
The source I gave in an earlier post has the advantage of coverage - the guides in total cover the entire continental US.

I agree that more granular guides (covering smaller areas in more detail) are desirable. The best place I know to start is various state agencies (unfortunately these have different names in each state.)

For Michigan, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory publishes 'abstracts' for for 50+ communities. Characteristic plants (based on climate, soils and moisture) are associated with insects and vertebrates.

Local nature centers are also a valuable resource.
I am not sure if you agreed with me, or disagreed with me.. do you think a networked nationwide program, ... would be a good thing?

Mark Charles said:
The source I gave in an earlier post has the advantage of coverage - the guides in total cover the entire continental US.

I agree that more granular guides (covering smaller areas in more detail) are desirable. The best place I know to start is various state agencies (unfortunately these have different names in each state.)

For Michigan, the Michigan Natural Features Inventory publishes 'abstracts' for for 50+ communities. Characteristic plants (based on climate, soils and moisture) are associated with insects and vertebrates.

Local nature centers are also a valuable resource.

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