The Nature Zine, Issue 2


I can’t believe it’s been a year since the first issue of The Nature Zine. Now I have a whole new collection for you to enjoy!


Issue 2 is packed full of intense stories, thoughts, poems, art, photos and an ‘interview’ from multiple contributors. I’m thrilled to share with you this next run of submissions- they are all quite inspiring. People share their fears, passion, and thoughts on exploring, connecting with and studying nature. The beautiful ruffed grouse on the cover was painted by Jay Dowd, owner and tattoo artist at Consolidated Tattoo Parlor and Barber Shop in Flint, Michigan. Jay and I have gone on a LOTS of outdoor adventures together and he spends any moment that he can out in the wilderness, so of course it was a pleasure to include his painting. I really enjoy receiving submissions from all over the states (and Canada!), so please keep them coming.

My friend Matt and I collaborated on a piece together for issue 2- never too late- as we had once discussed writing of our 6 month adventure (much of which has been described here, but we now we were able to reflect on our journey and share new aspects of it all). We essentially interview ourselves- as in we came up with a few questions and then separately wrote our responses. We waited to share them until we both completed our pieces. I then meshed them together, leaving them as they were- not letting our answers influence one another.

If you are interested in a copy, I’ll send you one for free, trade or a $1-$3 donation.  Donations just help to cover the cost of copies and shipping. Plus allow me to keep up with this very enjoyable project. I’m on a student budget so anything helps. Just use the the paypal button below or email me for other options, batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

Donate for a copy of The Nature Zine

Much thanks to everyone who has contributed to this project! I’m keeping Issue One in print as well, so let me know if you are interested. Both a creative outlet and a way to share our thoughts on connecting with nature, The Nature Zine will continue on with more issues.  If you are interested in contributing, please send your stories, thoughts, and art to me or contact me for more information:  batsnbikes [at] gmail [dot] com

p.s. wondering what a zine is? This should help.


Pond Mountain Wilderness

We try to control our surroundings everyday.  We hide in rooms where we control the temperature.  We attempt to control the sounds around us by drowning them out with headphones or closing our windows.  We turn dials in our vehicles to create sounds we want to hear and to cool or warm ourselves.  We turn on lights when the sun fades.  The door to our house latches shut, an attempt to keep out what we don’t want in our homes.

We shut out the natural world everyday, and yet we constantly try to manipulate it.  Our actions and daily routines have impacted our climate, but we cannot control the weather.  Everyday that I work outside I am reminded of this- and I respect this constant awareness.  Sure, I’ll admit that this summer has been full of frustrations as it has stormed and rained almost every single day.  We take the risk of setting everything up to catch bats for the night, only to have a storm rush in ruining our chances at a full night of bat surveys.  Rain is only a reminder that I’m not working in a controlled environment-  I am exposed to the rain, wind, humidity, heat, cold, insects…. I have no control, nor do I want to control the wilderness.


We could see lightning off in the distance, perhaps too close, but we heard no thunder.  We keep the nets open, stretched out across the old gravel road, between two metal poles- 20 feet tall.  The lighting becomes brighter, more frequent and the rain is quick to follow.  We close up for the night, but by the time our gear is packed my clothes are soaked, plastered to my body, and my hair is heavy with rain.

We’re out at Dennis Cove, near the pond and the Appalachian Trail crosses our site.  My crew departs for home, but Kyle and I make our way through the field and into the tent.  The rain continues for hours, and when it finally lets up I catch the sounds of bullfrogs and spring peepers scattered through the moments that I awake through the night.

I’d hardly had time to even think about where we could hike the next day- my first true day off since the field season began.  I browsed over a map in a region I knew we’d have to work- immediately attracted to the Pond Mountain Wilderness.  The trail climbs up a ridge and we can walk to the trail head from my work site plus it deposits us back into civilization at Watauga Lake- a jump into the lake after our hike.  A quick internet search, revealed little information about Pond Mountain Trail- most of what I found of the Pond Mountain Wilderness was in regards to the portion of the AT that cuts at an angle across the western portion.  I wanted to avoid the clutter of people, a wilderness trail is always more intriguing.  All I knew was that it was 4.5 miles long and runs along the ridge top, seems easy enough.  I only took a quick glance at the topographic map.  Hey, why not add on a bit more- just a quick, easy hike before starting the Pond Mountain Trail.  Laurel Fork Trail (39) next to Dennis Cove Campground would lead us south, where we would connect with FS-50F to head back North.  It would end where FS-50 crosses, and on the opposite side is where Pond Mountain Trail (40) begins.

Nine creek crossings followed by a 2.2 mile hike up a winding gravel forest service road was my definition of a “quick, easy hike.”  Well, it was actually easy but the whole taking our boots and socks off to cross 9 portions of the creek within a couple of miles- surveying each crossing for the least sketchy area to cross- made things not so quick.  The rain left the creek high, hiding any rocks that may have once been available for scurrying across with our boots on.  Other crossings found the creek to be up to my thighs.  With each crossing, we became more careless.  Looking at the topo maps now, it’s so clear to see that the trail crosses the creek many times- perhaps when it’s not a summer full of rain, a shoeless entry may not be required.

Trail 39 and 50F meet up near an open field- we filter water and what we had hoped to be our final creek session knowing that finding a water source on the ridge would be unlikely.  As we reach FS road 50F, the clouds begin to darken but only a small amount of rain finds its way down to us.  We pass the only two people we see on the trails, as they casually stroll through our last creek crossing with their fancy boot gaiters.  The next couple of miles were drowned out by the sound of gravel crunching under our boots with each step, our pace steady as we followed the road that would take us up along Rough Ridge and to Pond Mountain Trail.

We reach an open gate, 50F ends at FS-50, I point directly across the road, “That’s our trail.”  Kyle is doubtful as he looks across the gravel into the forest, no evidence of a trail to be found.  We look again at the map, Pond Mountain Trail should be directly in front of us.  It’s a wilderness trail, so I’m not really surprised that as we look ahead we see only vegetation- we hike in.  Maybe I saw a faint blue blaze, but soon enough we come across a post confirming that we are on the right path.  Suddenly it’s quite obvious, as we are on an old timber road, faded into a two track- the clearest portion of the trail.  It’s, of course, in the easiest portion of the trail that I trip over a downed tree sending myself flying through the air and slamming into the damp but still hard ground.  The fall is only a reminder that we skipped lunch, my head feels light but I’m laughing at my fall. Handfuls of almonds, pecans and some dried fruit allow me to regain my energy.

The trail narrows as it climbs the ridge.  We hike through rhododendron tunnels along the sloping slides, the path is relatively clear, the blue blazes are solid and bright but as we ascend both the blaze and the path begins to fade.  The steepness of the trail is suddenly a slap in the face as we bear right with a clear view of what lies ahead.  There are no switchbacks.  We climb the steep grade, our steps slipping on the forest floor full of decaying leaves that have absorbed weeks worth of rain.

Kyle pauses above me, periodically to wait for me to catch up to his pace.  We continuously check to make sure we are still on some sort of trail but all of a sudden we are on these large bolders, covered with lichen and surrounded by brambles with a few trees that have managed to squeeze life between rock.

The blazes are gone, there is no path.

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Call for Submissions- Issue #2


Issue One of The Nature Zine is still going strong and I’m looking to put issue 2 together by September.  Please send me your stories, poems, hiking tips, backpackinging food recipes, thoughts on exploring the outdoors, your photos, your illustrations, trail reviews, escaping the city….. I could go on-  you get it.

Much thanks to my rad friends for their previous contributions, touring with my zines, adding them to their distro and spreading the word.  If you are in Chicago or NYC you can also pick up the Nature Zine at Quimby’s and Blue Stockings –  much thanks to them as well for keeping The Nature Zine in stock.

Looking forward to adding your stories and art to the next issue!  Please share widely.

Changing Into Their Fall Wardrobe

I’m not sure how I managed to get degrees in science when so much of it involves remembering names of things.  I struggle to recall the actual name of something but can describe at length its characteristics or key points.  For three days I could not remember the name of a particular tree, only to realize that I left my tree book at the tattoo shop in Michigan.  Using the internet isn’t as fun, so I decided to wait, to see if the name would come to my mind.

This is what I could remember:  I couldn’t get black locust out of my head even though I knew the tree wasn’t a black locust.  I also kept thinking it has something to do with sugar or candy in the name, something sweet but I obviously knew that it wasn’t a maple.  I also know that they are the first in this region to turn such a bright, magnificent red and I often see them on road edges.  I remembered identifying them in TN/NC and shouting out the pretty scientific name to the person recording the data.  I could almost hear it and see it scribbled onto our data sheets.  The key characteristics of the bark, the shape of the leaves, the size of the tree and the way it grows is all in my head.  But the name simply was not there.

Matt has always told me that conversations with me can sometimes be like playing Jeopardy.  Too often I would describe the simplest and most complex of things, not recalling the name.  It’s embarrassing when I forget friends’ names that I know quite well or when I can’t remember the word for the thing that people sing into- microphone.  Getting through school, I had to come up with ways to help me remember, sometimes involving writing terms over and over on a dry erase board.  I remember writing a full paragraph on a molecular biology exam in an attempt to convince my professor that I knew what I was talking about but couldn’t think of the specific term- even though I knew how many letters it had and how many of the letters were tall like an or k and I knew all of the details.  If you know me really well, you know that I have a stack of 230 self-made flash cards with bird names on one side and an image on the other with their key characteristics.  The same goes for salamanders. Can I self diagnose myself with anomic aphasia?

I fear that not recalling names and nouns may also attribute to my digression.

Returning to this tree… I finally used the internet and there in front of me, like a punch in the face: BLACK GUM (Nyssa sylvatica).  Now I could hear myself in my memory saying “Nyssa” and remembering how much I love that name- not because it sounds similar to my name, Nessa.  Clearly black locust was in my head because of it being a black gum and well thinking of candy or sweet things matches up perfectly with gum.  Brains are both intriguing and frustrating.

If you made it through this annoying post, or if not, enjoy this photo of what I have been driving past a couple of miles of every morning to and from work.  In my mind it’s officially fall when the Nyssas are radiating their magnificent reds.  I write this in hopes of never forgetting the name of this tree now, and perhaps you learned something new as well.

The first to wear their autumn colors- Nyssa sylvatica.

Storms Bring and Take the Day

Favorite moments of mine will always include watching thunderstorms roll in and move past.  This morning the sun rose and along with it came thunder, flashes of lightening and a quick bout of rain.  We left the house just after 5:00am after looking at the radar and seeing that the storm would soon pass.  Sunrise was just before 6 today and I watched as it peaked through the dark clouds.  I sat in the truck doing some tedious database work but at least I had the thunder to keep me alert as we waited for the storm to clear.  I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that being near a metal turbine that protrudes well above the tree lines on top of a ridge is not exactly where you want to be when lightening is near.  So we wait for just over an hour, I watch it rumble past.

The crows land nearby, one squawks at the other but is ignored.  He looks at me, does he know I’m here to collect the snacks that he may scavenge under the turbines?  Are they taking advantage of our delayed start, picking at the lifeless bats.  The crows and vultures feast on whatever they find before we do.

Just as I started my day with a storm, the sun now begins to leave me as another storm passes by just to the north.  I sit here on my back porch and watch the hummingbirds sip down the sugar water, one will visit every couple of minutes.  From here I can also see my garden, how they must be enjoying today’s rainfall.  The thunder just rumbled all around me, the storm still has more to go, just as the sun does.  Directly in front of me, the sun glows behind a cloud, lowering behind the ridge line in the distance.

The air is heavy with moisture and as the wind picks up I can smell the honeysuckle in the air, the dampness of the soil.  The wind is beginning to pick up and the thunder is booming now, what I thought was the storm was only just the first warning bit sliding in before the other more intense portion follows quickly behind.

Mountain storms build and I laugh to myself thinking of times being caught hours away from a trail or the truck, hiking in the forest.  Hail slamming down on us and once we reach the trail, our gear weighing us down, we find that the trail is now a rushing creek and the rain keeps falling, the lightening keeps striking and we hear the breaking of branches all around us.  Here I have raced the storms afraid that they might wash away the bat carcasses that I still need to collect data on.  Just the other week as I was kneeling down to pick up a bat, I looked up to dark clouds creeping in beyond the ridge.  I had enough time to gather the rest of the information I needed and estimate the time of death.  I made it back to the wind energy office just before hail began to drop.

Hail just after the storm with my hand for comparison.

The other week lightening struck down in our front yard.  Katie and I saw it hit as we watched the storm through our living room window chatting on the couch.  We saw it, but the rest of the house felt it as well.  The thunder and lightening cracked and struck- the house shook and we yelped.

I never tire of a storm- the sounds, the smell, the sight of dark clouds moving in on you and lightening flashing all around.  It’s time  for me to switch back to enjoying catching up on zines and books with the storm- far better than a computer on my lap.

The hummingbirds continue to sip, the strength of their tiny wings far greater than the wind and rain.


Project Setup

I’ve watched the sunrise everyday this week.  The search crew has to get out to the site and start searching at sunrise.  Shortly after, the scavengers will be searching for their breakfast and we want to find what deceased animals we can before they do.  This makes it sound like we are fighting with crows every morning, but the nights have been too cold for much activity and the crows use their wits, not their strength.

So wait, all of this might sound confusing.  What are we doing out here? Scavengers? Carcasses? Sunrise? You may have gathered a few things from my previous posts, but I’ll explain more.  In case you forgot, I’m working on a bats & wind energy project.  Worldwide wind energy is becoming more common and I can support this, but wind energy companies and wildlife biologists need to work together to lessen and hopefully one day even prevent the negative impacts wind turbines have on wildlife- especially bats and birds.  Thankfully some companies are very willing to have this crucial partnership.

But back to the bats and birds.  Last week we all worked together to set up our transects.  We are searching the area under randomly selected wind turbines on the site.  Our particular wind farm is on ridge tops, so many of our transects are on slopes.  The searchers walk about 21 transect lines for each plot, but this can vary depending on the habitat and slope under the turbine.  We set up and labeled stakes and used flagging to define each transect line stretching north and south.  The searchers walk at a slow pace looking 3 meters out to each side in an attempt to find any bats or birds that were killed by the turbines.

So yes, we witness the direct impacts of wind energy and see dead bats and birds.  But when I compare wind energy to mountain top removal for coal and other coal energy sources, hydraulic energy and the impact of dams, oil drilling, and in general the use of these energy sources and their long term effects, their direct and indirect impacts on the environment- wind energy isn’t perfect, but in comparison I’d say it’s a much better option for the environment.  And if it’s something we are going to head towards and use less of these other options we need to do the research now and be sure to fully understand the impacts and what we can do to prevent or at least lessen them- and find ways to make it more efficient.

I’ve decided to not include images of fatalities, as many of my readers may not be comfortable with these images and also I can’t publicize a lot of this.  I’m ok with witnessing the fatalities, even as a vegan, and perhaps especially so.  I want to be aware and I want to help these animals.  (Duh! That’s why I’ve dedicated so much to conservation!)  The research will be published at some point though and previous project information can be found here.  I’ve included some photos of the turbines (they are HUGE- about the height of a 17-story building!) and our plots, that way you have a better idea of what these things look like.  Turbines are in restricted areas so most of you have probably never seen one up close, let alone stood directly underneath one.  It’s required that we wear hardhats, protective eyewear, orange vests and steel toed boots everyday.

When the field crew members find a bat or bird, I meet them at the location to identify the species and we collect all of the necessary data and photo documentation.  This week while they were searching I was recording habitat descriptions and collecting plot information using a Trimble GPS for the GIS analysis.  It’s a bit different to go from working with live bats to dead ones, but it feels good to be a part of such important research and too broaden my experience. And I LOVE working outdoors.  More to come soon, but I have the day off and I need to go out and enjoy it!

(Also, what I write in my blog expresses my personal views and may not represent those of the organization I work for.)


During the past couple of months I’ve read a few incredible books and they have all related back to many important topics that I think about often and all of the topics were connected.  Everything is connected from what we eat and consume and how we treat others.  We are all guilty of not thinking of this enough.

I really want to dive into these subjects but I think over time my writings will constantly interact with all of these things because they are all a part of my life.  I want to dedicate my life to conservation to include the species that live on this land and all that we and they need. But we all too often take more than we need, leaving little for others.  No land, no food, no clean air and water. We’ve poisoned most of it. Leaving others to choke and smother in what we’ve ruined.

I am guilty of this and everyday I think about what I need to change in my life.

The following books that I have just completed have all been very thought-provoking and inspiring:


The Emotional Lives of Animals: A Leading Scientist Explores Animal Joy, Sorrow, and Empathy – and Why They Matter by Marc Bekoff

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