Looking Back on Year One

Sep 21, 2017

History has taught us that we can prepare for the future by examining the past. In this week’s episode of Wildlife Matters, the Masked Biologist looks back at a full year of episodes, and asks for your feedback.

This episode celebrates a special one-year anniversary; I started recording Wildlife Matters for WXPR in September 2016. In my inaugural article, I listed the many amazing natural resource features that make Wisconsin so special; we have a diversity of habitats, which in turn provides homes for all kinds of fish, wildlife, and birds. As an author, I am often asked how I can come up with unique content on a weekly basis. When writing about the natural world, the subjects and ideas come to you. I thought it might be nice to run back through some of what I wrote about throughout the last year.

I tend to write a lot about birds. Understandable--with over 430 bird species, we have more birds than just about anything else I might write about in the Northwoods. I wrote specific articles about robins, cowbirds, sandhill cranes, bohemian waxwings, bald eagles and swans. I also wrote about nesting birds, hatchling birds, migrating birds, bird songs, and International Migratory Bird Day. Birds weave their way in and out of folk tales, fables, myths, legends, and a variety of religious accounts. Humans and birds are strongly linked; what we think, how we feel about birds tells us a lot about ourselves.

I wrote about a wide variety of other animals, too. Bats, shrews, foxes, squirrels, bears, bobcats, frogs, toads, rattlesnakes and canines are some of the subjects that come to mind. Some of these were triggered by questions from readers, or current events, or simply because I learned something new and wanted to share it. For example, the American Marten, our only state listed endangered mammal, gave us an interesting look at our state’s history as well as a fascinating animal. While I feel my writing might get mundane if I wrote about an animal a week, the living creatures in the world around us are important subjects in a biologist’s topic list.

While most of the animals I write about live here in Wisconsin, sometimes I want to look beyond our horizon and examine something in the world around us. The global theft of rhinocerous horn, poaching elephants for their ivory, and the global extinction rate affect us all, because once these animals are gone from the earth, we all lose something that cannot be replaced. After that episode, WXPR asked me to focus my writing on topics specific to our part of Wisconsin, or at least focus inside Wisconsin, and I obliged.

I recorded episodes that examined sustainable forestry, the effects of lead poisoning and climate change; these issues may not seem directly related to our wildlife species, but they are. The choices that we make every day, from the paper products we buy to the fishing tackle we use or vehicles we drive have an impact on the world around us and the wildlife species that share it with us. I don’t want every week to be doom and gloom, because I also like to have fun with my writing; why not ask the question of why we have no monkeys, or penguins. In fact, one of my recent episodes examined the science of cryptozoology and its relentless pursuit of bigfoot.

I also give you glimpses into my own life, and the lives of my family and my dog. My article about dads, written after I lost my father was an example, just like reflections on hunting or memories stirred by simply cleaning out the back of my truck. I also wrote about how, in late winter, I yearn for the coming of spring and strain to see any sign of it from deep inside the winter doldrums. Seasons play heavily into my writing, in fact, with columns about groundhog’s day, daylight savings, and almanac winter severity predictions. For certain you will see a trend in my writing that I love something about each of our four seasons, just like I love something about every bird or animal species I examine.

Feel free to call or email WXPR with your feedback on Wildlife Matters. How do you feel, now that I have been a contributor for a year? Which kind of article do you like most or least? Should I keep mixing it up? Are there areas where you wish I would focus more? Should I answer listener’s questions? We are in this together; you keep listening, learning, and enjoying and I will keep on writing. Thanks for a wonderful year!

Striving to make new things familiar and familiar things new, this is the Masked Biologist coming to you from the heart of Wisconsin’s great Northwoods.