Photo of the Week – July 23, 2015

As I mentioned in my last post, we spent much of this week up in beautiful northwestern Minnesota, at the annual Grassland Restoration Network workshop.  In fact, I’m writing this as we travel back home to Nebraska (no, I’m not driving as I write).

This morning, a small group of us got up early to take photographs at sunrise.  It was a beautiful morning, but there was enough breeze to make insect and flower photography pretty tricky.  Did we give up?  No!  We are Prairie Ecologists!  (Plus, we had dared each other to meet in the hotel lobby at 5:15 am and no one wanted to back down from that).

Despite the wind, we managed to enjoy the morning,  and even got a few nice photographs out of it.  Here are two of mine:

Spider on web before sunrise.  The Nature Conservancy's Bluestem Prairie - Minnesota.

I took approximately 500,0o0 shots of this spider as it and its web bounced around in the pre-sunrise breeze.  Two of them came out relatively sharp.  This is one of those two.  The Nature Conservancy’s Bluestem Prairie – Minnesota.

Stiff sunflower (Helanthus pauciflorus) at sunrise.  The Nature Conservancy's Bluestem Prairie - Minnesota.

The peaceful appearance of this stiff sunflower (Helianthus pauciflorus) silhouetted against the rising sun is merely an illusion.  In reality, the sunflower was waving back and forth like a maniacal metronome while I tried desperately to push the shutter release just at the moment it came into focus.  I actually managed to catch it several times, and this was my favorite of the batch.

P.S. For you kids out there, a metronome is an old fashioned device that had a kind of upside down clock pendulum that rocked back and forth while it ticked.  Music teachers used to use them in vain attempts to get their students to keep a steady rhythm while playing “The Entertainer” on the piano.  Now there are smartphone apps that do the same thing.  …I hope kids still have to learn that song – they deserve it.

P.P.S. A clock pendulum is what used to help clocks keep time before…oh, nevermind, go ask your grandmother.  

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About Chris Helzer

Chris Helzer is the Director of Science for The Nature Conservancy in Nebraska. His main role is to evaluate and capture lessons from the Conservancy’s land management and restoration work and then share those lessons with other landowners – both private and public. In addition, Chris works to raise awareness about the importance of prairies and their conservation through his writing, photography, and presentations to various groups. Chris is also the author of "The Ecology and Management of Prairies in the Central United States", published by the University of Iowa Press. He lives in Aurora, Nebraska with his wife Kim and their children.
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3 Responses to Photo of the Week – July 23, 2015

  1. James McGee says:

    Since you are posting about Minnesota and kids, did you know about “Students Today Leader’s Forever” and how they are getting kids involved with restoration in the Chicago Region? I only ask because most of the students I have met through this group are from Northern Iowa or Southern Minnesota.

    • Lori Phalen says:

      Thanks for the fun and thoughtful post Chris. Love the image of the stiff sunflower!

      Curious James McGee about the Students Today Leader’s Forever program. Would like to know more about it. I am a Michigander and work for the Michigan Association of Conservation Districts. We host the Michigan Envirothon program, a high school team based environmental education program. Many involved in ME move on to become natural resource professionals. The more we do to engage youth in our natural resources the better!

      • James McGee says:

        Here is the Wikipedia page about the group. I think it has more information about the origins and development than the official website.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Students_Today_Leaders_Forever

        This group is not targeted specifically at developing skills in youth to prepare them to be conservation professionals. There are good programs for that task like the internships offered through various non-profit organizations.

        The thing I like about Student’s Today Leaders Forever is it gives a large swath of youth exposure to a range of societal needs that are worthy of more attention. Using the “pay it forward” philosophy and the expressed purpose of developing leadership skills the youth receive the opportunity to learn about and participate in a wide range of efforts being conducted by a variety of organizations. This is knowledge they will hopefully take home and that will help them improve their own communities. Even if the students do not get involved directly, it is important for the democratic process to have voters who are knowledgeable enough to be able to make decisions on a range of issues.

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