Impress your friends with these quick and simple tips on how to read the natural world all around us. From gigantic and itty-bitty to beautiful and bizarre, if you take the time to stop and observe all of the nature nuances that are hidden in plain sight all around us, you can gain a wealth of knowledge on the inner workings of our world! Let’s dig a little deeper into how you can get on your way to becoming a naturalist, fluent in the language of nature.
1. Determining direction without a compass: 1. North/South: Observe the trees around you; in
most places north of the equator, the branches on trees facing south will typically grow outward toward the direction of the sun, whereas the northern branches tend to grow more upward. 2. East/West: Put a stick upright in the ground and mark where the tip of the stick shadow is cast on the ground. Return in half an hour and mark the new shadow tip. The line between the marks represents west to east, with the first mark indicating west.
2. Reading the clouds: 1. Beach Day: White fluffy clouds that look like sheep scattered lower throughout a blue sky (Cumulus) typically indicate good weather. 2. Bring an Umbrella: A tall, fluffy vertical cloud that many times appears anvil-shaped (Cumulonimbus) means a
thunderstorm or other bad weather is on its way. Summer and early fall months are considered the rainy season in Florida, with short showers or thunderstorms predictively occurring almost daily in the late afternoon or early evening (explained more here).
3. Indicating air quality: 1. Lichens: The presence of many lichens, typically found growing on the bark of trees in Florida, indicates clean air because lichens are sensitive to pollution. Lichens are also sensitive to pH, so if you see some growing on one species of tree but none or few on a different type of tree nearby, you can generally assume the tree with fewer lichens has a higher bark acidity. If you’re not familiar with lichens, come visit the ELC!—Our mangrove tree forest habitat is the home to many lichens. 2. The Sun & The Horizon: On a cloudless day, using caution, raise two fingers up to block out the sun, then observe the color of blue closest to your fingers compared to the bluest parts of the rest of the sky. The bluer the color near your fingers, the better the air quality. A general idea of the air quality in a location can also be determined by looking far out into the distance along the horizon. If far away objects or the horizon appear whiter, then there is less pollution, but if they appear greyer then you can assume the presence of more air pollution. These phenomena are due to the way light reflects through our atmosphere and the particles found in it! (explained more here).
Congrats! You’re officially on your way to becoming a nature navigator! Be sure to test out your newly discovered skills, and -for an added bonus- record your findings in a nature journal (be sure to add the date, time, location and other details). The more you practice these talents, the better you will become at understanding the natural world all around us. Also, be sure to share your adventures in reading the signs of nature in the comment section below, or email them to us (pictures encouraged) at Education@discoverELC.org. Happy explorations!