Nature’s Depths

Walking through nature with John Palka, a neuroscientist who loves plants and ponders big questions

Exploration

Trees through the Seasons

Exploration

Over and over on Nature’s Depths we have seen that a forest is in many respects like a super-organism, with startlingly many interacting components ranging from towering trees to soil microorganisms that we can only detect with a microscope or with molecular techniques. When we go walking, however, it is the trees that largely make up the forest of our experience, and that experience changes with the seasons.

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Intertidal

Exploration

The seashore is a highly diverse place. Some stretches are sandy and some pebbly, some are rocky, and still others are formed by massive rocky bluffs eroded by the unceasing action of the waves into fantastical shapes. Each stretch is home to its own constellation of living creatures. . . Among the richest and most diverse stretches of coast in the world are the cliffs, coves and sea stacks of western North America. Let’s visit two of them in the coastal wilderness stretch of Olympic National Park.

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Ebey's Landing salal flowers

Uncovering Kinship

Exploration

Modern techniques allow the determination of evolutionary relationships among organisms, so that the groupings used by systematists—the biologists whose focus is the determination of relationships and the naming of organisms accordingly—reflect not only their similarity today but also their evolutionary history.

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Red admiral, top view

The Magic of Butterfly Wings

Exploration

From spring to fall, if you’re lucky, you can revel in the sight of butterflies. They can be found in gardens, in the woods, in meadows—anywhere where there is sunshine and where they can forage for the nectar produced by flowers. Let’s look at the stunning patterns on their wings and ask how these patterns arise.

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Hoh River nurse log

Nurse Logs

Exploration

Take a walk in the ancient forests of the Pacific Northwest and you will probably come across trees literally growing on trees. . . It’s a dramatic sight, sometimes with almost mythic overtones. But what is going on, really, and why?

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