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5 Ways to Reconnect with Nature
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5 Ways to Reconnect with Nature

In today’s busy world, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city. In fact, over two-thirds of Canadians live in urban areas, which makes it pretty easy for us to distance ourselves from the great outdoors. While most Canadians agree spending time outside is important, the Coleman Canada Outdoor 2017 Report found that 64% of Canadians surveyed spend less than two hours outside per week. With spring finally upon us, there’s no better time to buck this trend and bring nature back into our lives. With the benefits of spending time outside ranging from reducing stress, lifting our moods, and promoting physical health, here are five easy ways to help you reconnect with nature.

Explore your local parks

You don’t have to go far to reconnect with nature, even visiting your local city park is an excellent way to get back outside. Go for a walk with your family and friends, have a picnic, or toss a frisbee aroundthe possibilities are endless! Most importantly, leave your phone behind so you can be fully present in the great outdoors. Breathe in that fresh air, smell the proverbial roses (maybe a dandelion or two?) and listen to the birds sing!

Join a guided hike

You can even take visiting a park one step further by joining in on a guided hike! Many larger parks, whether national or municipal, have guided hikes put on by nature organizations or community naturalist groups. These are awesome ways to learn from local experts all about the plants and wildlife that call your neighbourhood home. From investigating animal tracking to identifying edible plants, there’s no limit for all the wild things you can learn. Plus, with programs ranging from family hikes to photography walks, there’s something for everyone! Check your local listings to see what’s going on in your neighbourhood.

Find a Sit Spot

The art of sit spots has been long been practiced in Indigenous cultures since time immemorial. It is one of the simplest and most powerful ways to reconnect with nature as it allows you to form a relationship with one particular spot. To pick a sit spot, all you have to do is find somewhere close to your home so you can easily visit it on a semi-regular basis. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, a quiet park bench or in the shade of your favourite backyard tree are great options. Once you’ve picked your spot, all you have to do is be still. Watch the wind in the leaves, breathe in the smell of fresh grass, and watch the bees lazily flit between the stalks. Not only is this an incredibly calming practice, but it also allows you to witness first hand how such a spot can change over time. By carving out these moments of respite in our busy schedules, even if only for a few minutes, sit spots are a fantastic way to reflect, recharge, and reconnect. [caption id="attachment_49474" align="alignnone" width="1024"] A 'Sit Spot', © Brianna Pitt.[/caption]

Go bird-watching

There’s something special about taking a moment to watch the birds soar and sing their days away. To start bird-watching, you can visit a local park or install your own backyard bird feeder to bring the birds to you. These days anyone can easily become a birderwith free birding apps like Audubon and iNaturalist to help identify and record your sightings, bird-watching has never been easier to pick up! As many species are now flying back for the summer, you’ll be surprised by all the different species hiding out in your neighbourhood. You can even make it a challengesee how many birds you and your family can spot!

Plant a garden

There’s no better way to reconnect with nature than getting your hands dirty. Even if you don’t have a backyard to play in, you can join a community garden or start your own potted oasis on your balcony or window sill! While planning your new spread, be sure to use local wildflowers to invite birds and pollinators to your garden. Whether you plot your own personal garden or get the whole family involved, there’s nothing better than working out that green thumb! Featured Image © Mya Van Woudenberg.

Green Tips for St. Patrick’s Day
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Green Tips for St. Patrick’s Day

Every year, March 17th has become a day where we all dress in green, put on green plastic beads and buttons and go to the pub to drink green beer. As exciting as this holiday is for some, it also brings with it a lot of waste. From plastic decorations to “Kiss Me, I’m Irish” t-shirts that are worn once and then discarded, there isn’t much green that goes with this holiday. This is why this year try to embrace being green year round, not just on St. Patrick’s Day.

Here are five Tips for how to have a truly green St. Patrick’s Day!


1. Get Outside

There isn’t anything greener than being outside in nature. It may not look so green yet with so much snow on the ground, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any benefits from taking a walk outside. Connecting with nature has proven to reduce stress, minimize depression, increase happiness, and overall increase one’s wellbeing and overall health. It is also a great way to learn more about the flora and fauna that are around you and appreciate the beauty of it all!

2. Eat Green

Eating green isn’t just about eating salads all day. It’s about eating sustainably, buying locally, reducing food waste, and reducing your carbon footprint. Eating green requires eating more fruits and vegetables, and reducing meat consumption, as well as buying free-range and organic meat products when available.

3. Use Green Transportation

If you are going out to celebrate, consider taking public transportation, carpooling with friends, or even walking! This will help you minimize, or even eliminate the carbon emissions incurred from transportation.

4. Say No to Plastics & Single-use items

Avoid buying plastic decorations such as green beads, glittered leprechaun top hats, plastic drinkware and plastic drink straws! Most of us will only use these decorations for one year and then throw them away. To avoid plastic waste, consider choosing decorations made from cloth, paper, metal, or glass, and keep reusing your decorations instead of throwing them out! Putting up more green plants into your home can also add a bit of St. Patrick’s Day magic and purify your home at the same time!

5. Choose Sustainable Beers

When it comes to St. Patrick’s Day, you really can’t avoid beer, particularly the green beer. This year, why not opt for an eco-friendly beer option, rather than the artificially dyed green beer you can see offered everywhere. A good option is to get your beer from a local brewery that uses natural ingredients. This in turn reduces the carbon footprint of your beer, so you can have a nice drink and feel like you are doing your part to help the environment. Choosing organic or eco-friendly beer also has much less of an impact on the environment than regular beer by producing less carbon emissions and using energy and water more efficiently in the brewing process.

Whether you try all these tips this year, or just one, hopefully these tips help you enjoy St. Patrick’s Day while making the day a little bit greener than usual!

March Calendar Image: Silver Fox Kit
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March Calendar Image: Silver Fox Kit

Don’t be fooled by its name. The Silver Fox is the exact same species as the Red Fox, Vulpes vulpes. The main difference being colour. Where a red fox has a coppery tone to its fur, the silver fox, while there is a lot of variations in the colour (some being completely black and others mostly silver) is mostly black with silver showing through on the top of its fur. It is estimated that silver foxes make up about 10% of the Vulpes vulpes population. On average, silver fox adults can weigh anywhere between 5 to 7 kilograms. Measured from head to tail, they can reach up to a meter long. Their striking silver pelts are very highly valued for their colouring and this has resulted in silver fox farming, where they are raised specifically for profit off their pelts.

Where is the Silver Fox found?

The silver fox, along with the red fox, is one of the world’s most scattered species from the Order Carnivora (these are mammals that are carnivorous and have teeth). From North America, Asia and Europe to Australia, these foxes are able to thrive in many environments varying in temperature and habitat. But similar to the red fox, the silver fox has to owe some of its success and dispersion to humans who brought them from England for the sport of hunting. The silver fox lives about 3 years in the wild, where they remain very independent. They will often store their food, in order to save it for a rainy day. These omnivores indulge in both meat from rodents or rabbits to plants such as berries. This flexibility is what has allowed the silver fox to thrive throughout the years and across many continents.

Lifespan

The silver fox’s mating season varies depending on their location in the world. Usually occurring in January or February, female foxes, or vixens, can mate with multiple males before deciding on one that she will breed with annually. Silver foxes do not always choose to mate with other silver foxes, and so they may often mate with red foxes. The gestation period is just under 2 months, with the average number of kits per birth at around 5. It takes 2 weeks until they will open their eyes and another 3 weeks to leave the dens that they were born in. The family stays closely knit until the Fall season. By this point, the kits have reached maturity at 10 months old and will set out to find their own place.  

The Polar Bear: Rider of Icebergs
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The Polar Bear: Rider of Icebergs

Legendary commercial actor, close friend of Santa Claus, and explorer of the North, the Polar Bear is nothing if not the symbol of Arctic life. Their Latin name, Ursus maritimus, translates to sea bear and provides great insight into how they live. As apex predators, polar bears spend lots of time hunting in and around Arctic waters for their prey, their favourite of which is the ringed seal. Polar bears are recognisable by their white coat and their large size. Males tend to weigh between 350-600 kilograms while females will weigh between 150-290 kilograms, both can be over 10 feet tall when standing. Their bodies are made to withstand all the cold that the Arctic climate has to offer, as their two layers of fur and thick layer of blubber offer them more than enough warmth to survive – sometimes even too much warmth for the summers! Apart from the big screen, polar bears live across the Arctic region, particularly in five countries: Canada, the US, Greenland, Russia, and Norway. As such, polar bears represent history for many peoples across the Arctic. For millennia, various indigenous groups have counted on polar bears as key contributors to their ways of life. They are still hunted today as part of their long-held traditions, but the process is very monitored and respectful of the prey. Nearly every part of a polar bear is used by the hunters, whether for weather-appropriate clothing or for calorie-rich meals. Many regulations have been imposed on the hunters, serving to protect polar bear populations from being threatened by direct human action. So what’s the issue? According to both SARA and COSEWIC, polar bears are a species of special concern. Although effective in curtailing over-hunting, the regulations do not address the main threat polar bears face; climate change. Polar bears rely on sea ice as their habitat. This has historically worked very well for them as it allows them plenty of room for hunting, but lately, with rising global temperatures as a result of climate change, living on the ice has become more trying for them. Different polar bear populations face different challenges, but among the most threatened are those living in regions of Seasonal Ice and Polar Basin Divergent Ice. The existence of Seasonal Ice, as the name suggests, is dependent on the season as it melts in the summer and begin to return in the fall. When the ice melts it leaves polar bears unable to hunt, forcing them into a fast. Fasting is not new to them, but the duration of the melt is getting much longer than it used to be, making it more challenging for polar bears to fast through longer summers. For Polar Basin Divergent Ice regions the challenges are similar. The sea ice builds up near shores and will retract from the shores as it melts in the warmer months. Climate change accelerates this process and melts more of the ice near the shore. This forces the bears to either go back to land where they would have to fast or swimming further out in search of more ice.  What can we do? The most important thing we can do to keep polar bears safe is to support environmental initiatives in government. Making green choices from the top-down is essential to fighting climate change on a macro scale, and the best way to do this is to stay informed on the issues along with the candidates who advocate for them. On a more personal level, supporting polar bear charities or conservation organisations goes a long way in furthering research, and making eco-friendly decisions in our daily lives can push others to follow suit.

The Leatherback Sea Turtle, a Unique Giant
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The Leatherback Sea Turtle, a Unique Giant

Identifiable by its lack of bony shell, the leatherback sea turtle – also known as the leathery turtle, lute turtle, or luth- is the largest of all living turtles. Inky blue in colour, these gentle giants can grow up to an impressive 2.3m in length, and up to a whopping 2000 pounds1. Their hydrodynamic body structure streamlines their movement in the ocean, allowing them to be the deepest divers of all turtles- up to 1.2 kilometers! These world travellers have the largest population range of any reptile species, having populations in the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans1. Adult luths are known to swim as far North as Canada -Atlantic Canada watches these turtles swim by every year due to the abundance of jellyfish2- and Norway; whilst still being able to swim as far south as New Zealand and South America. Leatherbacks have acquired the adaptations necessary to allow them to make these journeys in northern cold waters. Being extra-large in size, changing their swimming activity and blood flow, and a thick layer of fat2 are all unique qualities that the leatherback has to allow them to create and maintain their body heat, and make theses journeys possible. The leatherback sea turtle undergoes a very lengthy mating cycle, involving the female making long migrations from South to North, to hatch her eggs in the warmer southern sands2. After laying and burying her eggs in the sand, the females return to sea. The temperature of the nests will determine the turtle sex- warmer temperatures producing females, and cooler temperatures producing males1.  A very small percentage of hatchlings will survive and return to sea2. A living relic, leatherback sea turtles evolved about 100 million years ago, and lived amongst dinosaurs! Leatherbacks are also the only living genus in its family, Dermochelyidae, making them truly the last of their kind. So what’s the issue? Both COSEWIC and SARA list the leatherback sea turtle as Endangered2. There are several knowns threats to the leatherback turtle, including entanglement, coastal development, vessel collisions, acoustic disturbance, climate change, poaching, artificial light, and marine pollution. In Atlantic and Pacific Canada today, the biggest risk to the leatherback is entanglement in fishing gear2 and marine pollution by plastics. Entanglement of fishing gear can cause injuries resulting in death, or even drowning2. Leatherbacks are also known to consume marine plastic pollutants, up to 11 pounds have been found in the stomachs of some!1 All of these man-made issues are seriously maiming the populations of leatherbacks, and the Atlantic and Pacific populations remain endangered. So what can we do in order to help these peaceful giants? The biggest thing that you can do today is start ensuring that plastics and floating debris stay out of our Canadian Oceans! Responsible recycling, and proper discarding of non-recyclables is a great place to start. Try to use reusable shopping bags, and lunch packaging. If you enjoy recreational fishing, always ensure that you are following safe fishing practices to reduce the risk of polluting in our oceans. There is a lot of ongoing work in researching more effective fishing practices to minimize entanglement in fishing lines as well2. You can contact the Canadian Sea Turtle Network to find out how to get involved locally on our coastlines today.

Calendar Image: The Lynx
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Calendar Image: The Lynx

The Lynx is a medium-sized wildcat, easily recognized by its short tail, long legs, large paws, and its tufted ears. There are four species of lynx found around the world. The Eurasian lynx (Lynx lynx) tend to be larger than the North American species, the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis). There is also the familiar Bobcat (Lynx rufus) that is the most abundant wildcat in the United States. The final lynx species, the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus) is also the world’s most endangered cat, with a population of about 400 individuals. Lynx species tend to weigh approximately the same, ranging from 5 kg to 14 kg, and measuring around 90 cm in length. The habitat range of lynxes varies between species. For example, the North American bobcat is widespread in the United States, and can be found in southern Canada as well as Mexico. Whereas the Canada lynx can be found in most boreal forests across Canada, and in western Montana, Idaho, Washington and Utah. The Canada lynx tends to prefer forested habitats, such as old growth boreal forests, where they can make their dens underneath fallen trees, tree stumps, or thick bushes. However, the lynx will populate other habitats providing there is an adequate number of prey, and minimal forest coverage. Lynxes tend to be very territorial and solitary animals, only being around other lynxes during the winter breeding season. Mating usually occurs between February and March of each year, with the young being born in April and May. The kittens are born under brush piles, uprooted trees, or in hollow logs to provide shelter from the cold, and are reared solely by the female. Female lynxes can start breeding as they approach one year of age, but this depends on the availability of snowshoe hares and on their own physical conditions. Figure 1. Habitat range of the Canada lynx (Canadian Geographic).In the winter, more than 75% of the lynx’s diet consists of the snowshoe hare. When snowshoe hare abundance is large, a lynx may kill one hare every one or two days. In the summer, the lynx’s diet appears to be more varied consisting of hares, grouse, voles, mice, squirrels, and foxes. Like most members of the cat family, the lynx hunts silently and will hunt at night, watching and listening to their prey. The lynx has a few predators, including cougars, wolves, and coyotes. However, the biggest threat to lynxes are humans. In Canada, fur trapping is one of the biggest causes of death for lynxes, apart from the population decline of their main prey, the snowshoe hare. Lynxes are fairly easy to catch, and when prices rise for their fur, most lynxes can be removed from a given area. Even today, the lynx is trapped in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Luckily, there are regulations put in place to restrict the number of lynxes that can be killed during the given year. Biologists have also suggested closing trapping seasons if the lynx population drops into a low cycle. It is important to keep studying the effects of fur trapping and monitoring the populations to ensure the Canada lynx does not become a threatened or endangered species!  

5 Tips to Raise a Nature Lover
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5 Tips to Raise a Nature Lover

Any parent knows that taking your kids in nature is extremely beneficial for physical . However, in a world dominated by technology and screens, it becomes very complicated to make your kids go out and enjoy a day in nature. Even though the outside world is fascinating, it is tough to take kids away from all the electronic games they can play indoors. So, what can be done? The best solution is to start from an early age and raise your kid with a love for nature. Here are five tips to raising a nature lover.

1. Take activities outside

Not every parent has the necessary time to go hiking in a park, or easy access to walking trails. Fortunately, there are several indoor activities that can be relocated to the outdoors. For example, you can read your kid’s favorite stories on the porch of your house or in the backyard. If you do not have access to a backyard, you can also have playdates at the park, or even have an outdoor picnic with family! Do not worry if it is cold outside – there are also plenty of mom-approved winter activities to get kids into nature!

2. Cultivate a curiosity for nature

Kids are curious by nature. The outdoors offer endless opportunities for exploring, and discovery. This is why it is crucial to expose children to nature and cultivate their sense of wonder at an early age. Once they’re outside, challenge them to use all their senses! What animal sounds can they detect in the forest? How many colours do they see in one natural space? Can they see any animal marknigs on the ground, or feel the direction in which the wind is blowing?

3. Include nature in your family traditions

Good habits should always come from the family. Thus, if you want your kid to love nature, then you should do it as a family tradition. For instance, you can have a regular family tradition to spend time outdoors on several occasions. You can go each month for a picnic or have dinner under the full moon. Don’t be afraid by stormy nights. If you have any fear related to nature, then it will be transmitted to your kid as well. So, even if it’s “pouring cats and dogs,” take your kid’s hand and go out for a full moon walk, showing him how nature changes its face under heavy rains. Furthermore, you can create other family traditions like collecting snails after rain or stones shaped in weird forms. Start with something that’s easy and fun to accomplish together.

4. Build memories

One great activity is building specific memories that will encourage your kids to identify with nature. While it is great to discover new places, there is value to creating a routine by taking your kid back every year to a natural spot they enjoyed in the past. Point out how the place changed each year and make them curious and excited to come back the next year!

5. Allow your kid to spend time alone in nature

Even though you are nearby, you should let children have their moments of solitude in nature. Give them enough time and space to explore and analyze the natural world. This will encourage them to observe and appreciate nature on their own from a young age.
“There are many natural spaces which are worth visiting with your child. If you take the natural areas, protected by law, you will discover breathtaking sceneries which will make them curious to explore their surroundings. Thinking of the protected areas from Canada, there are so many things your kid can learn from wildlife and nature”, says Camelia Williams, CEO of a company dedicated to reviews for essay writing services.
Daniela McVicker is a freelance writer, psychologist and a family counsellor. Her passion is writing about leading a healthy family life and helping people enjoy their lives to the fullest.

Not Every Bug Is Harmful – 7 Most Common Household Bugs That Aren’t Harmful
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Not Every Bug Is Harmful – 7 Most Common Household Bugs That Aren’t Harmful

The sight of insects in the house has most reaching for a swatter or bug spray. But did you know that there are quite a few insects, commonly found in or around our homes that aren’t harmful? In fact, they are actually good for the ecosystem, meaning that you and the environment can benefit from leaving them as they are! Before you reach for a fly swatter or bug spray - make sure you aren't

The Honey Bee

Bees are an crucial aspect of ecosystems because they help with the pollination process of flowers and crops. On average a single bee can pollinate up to 100 flowers in one trip!

You don’t really have to worry about a honey bee unless you spot a beehive around your home. It is better to have the hive removed unless you plan on starting a bee farm.

The Ladybug

Ladybugs, are one of the most harmless insects you can come across. They may be a nuisance if they come inside your home but they do no harm. They do play a role in eating smaller pests such as mites, aphids, and fruit flies. So they actually do you a favor by ensuring there is no infestation of smaller pests in your home. Pests that can actually be harmful, more so than the ladybug.

© Lucie Gagnon

Spiders

You rarely find harmful spiders such as the black widow or brown recluses in homes. Those are obviously spiders you need to be careful because of their venom. The common house spider, wolf, and the long-bodied cellar spiders are not harmful. Like the ladybug, these spiders also help get rid of household pests and smaller insects around your home. So these can actually prove to be quite useful to keep around.

The Praying Mantis

If you have a garden, then you are probably well aware of the wonders of the praying mantis. The insect can help keep your garden clean of all types of pests. This ensures that the insect population is controlled and your plants remain intact. Of course, we recommend you make sure that the mantis stays outside and doesn’t come in. But that doesn’t occur very often as the mantis prefers the outdoors.

The Solider Beetle

The soldier beetle isn’t the most appealing insect, it kind of resembles a cockroach. However, they are beneficial for the ecosystem of your house garden. The beetle feeds on aphids, which can be dangerous for the health of your garden. They also help with pollinating flowers, helping your garden grow.

The Centipede

While the centipede is one of those creepy crawlers that we hate encountering, they aren’t harmful to humans. They usually have anywhere from 15 to 177 pairs of legs, which give it that repulsive look. While it contains venom, the centipede doesn’t have the capability to prick through the human skin, so it isn’t harmful. It does keep other insects in check and ensures that pests don’t easily infest your home.

The Yellow Jacket Wasp

The yellow jacket wasp looks a lot like your honey bee, but they are bigger in size. Like the honey bee, they are also great for flower pollination. Besides this, they also prey on numerous pests you find around your home like grubs and caterpillar. These wasps do sting harder than the bee but you normally have nothing to worry about with them.


Insects aren’t all harmful, make sure you know the insect you encounter before you exterminate it. If they fall in this list, it is probably better if you learn to live with them. They will prove to be more beneficial than harmful for you and your home.

About the Author

Luqman Butter has been a pest control technician for over 20 years. He is passionate about solving people’s pest and wildlife control problems through innovative, eco-friendly and humane methods.

Reducing Anxiety Through Nature
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Reducing Anxiety Through Nature

Sherry has taken her upbringing in rural Saskatchewan, together with a career in public health, to the "natural" conclusion that time in nature is good for us, physically, emotionally and socially.

Is “fight or flight” a friend or foe?

For millennia, the biological 'fight or flight' reaction has served to protect members of the animal kingdom from harm. It kicks in when there is potential danger; for example, when a rabbit senses a fox.  There is an autonomic cascade of reactions that is activated in the amygdala in the brain.  In turn, it signals the hypothalamus which launches a series of reactions of the sympathetic nervous system.  Adrenaline floods the body causing increased heart rate and respiration.  Glucose goes to the muscles for instant energy; senses are heightened to hear, see and smell danger.  If the threat continues, additional hormones are released, including cortisol, to sustain the stress reaction for longer periods of time[i]. This physiological response enables the "fight"- the buffalo charges the wolf, the blue jay attacks the owl, the mother bear protects her cubs.  In some species it enables the 'flight'- the slap and swim of the beaver, the skittishness of songbirds, the sudden dive of a frog. Quick response to danger is vital to survival of the organism, and ultimately of the species.

The Human Experience

Humans also experience this biological phenomenon when we are stressed. Nowadays, the stress is seldom related to a predator's attack, but we do experience a stress response to difficult life events as well as day to day challenges.  We feel our heart pound, our breathing quicken, our muscles tense, our gut clench. This response helps us respond to emergencies and extract ourselves from uncomfortable situations.  Mild stress can be positive; it heightens our senses, motivates us and improves performance. But what happens when our body stays in a persistent stress response?  We become overly anxious, worried, tense, tired and even depressed.  We experience panic attacks without provocation.  Chronic stress with elevated hormones is hard on our blood vessels and cardiovascular system; it increases the appetite leading to weight gain[ii]. If it reaches a level where it interferes with daily living it can become a clinical anxiety disorder:  phobias, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, generalized anxiety, post traumatic stress syndrome, obsessive-compulsive disorder[iii].  According to Statistics Canada 8.6% of Canadians have a diagnosed anxiety disorder[iv].

The Effects of Time In Nature

Time in nature can directly counteract some of the physiological and psychological effects of anxiety.  Research is showing that for healthy individuals time in greenspace contributes to mental health; for those with diagnosed mental illness, including anxiety disorders, time in nature can be an effective component of treatment[v]. Spending time in, or even passively viewing, greenspace, has beneficial psychophysiological effects[vi] by lowering blood pressure, muscle tension, and heart rate.  Cortisol is lower in people when they are in nature.  The Attention Restoration effect reduces some of the mental fatigue of being in protracted fight or flight mode.  Time in nature decreases rumination, which is the persistent recurrence of unwanted negative thoughts[vii].  The affiliated effects of time in nature, in particular increased physical activity and increased social connectedness, in and of themselves, are beneficial in reducing stress and anxiety[viii].

Getting nature in your day

With the hectic holiday period soon upon us, let all of us ensure that we build time in nature into our daily routines.  Walk through the park on the way to work, watch the birds at the feeder for a few extra minutes, get out on the snowshoes in the woods.  Use a natural scene as your computer screensaver, put up some photographs from your camping trip, get some plants or fresh cut flowers for the house, start a nature journal to record thoughts, observations, doodles and poetry. There is some irony that nature where generations of humans experienced “fight or flight” is now our respite from stress. The natural world is balm for the senses; even in the winter, the smell of balsam, the fresh cold on the face, the sound of running water, the serenity of snow covered trees can help us de-stress and calm the anxious mind. Wishing you all time in nature, and may it bring you peace and good health in 2019! Sherry, RN BSN
[i] Harvard Medical School.  Understanding the stress response.  Downloaded on November 8, 2018 from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/understanding-the-stress-response [ii] ibid [iii] Canadian Mental Health Association.  Anxiety Disorders.  Downloaded November 9, 2018 from https://cmha.ca/documents/anxiety-disorders [iv] Statistics Canada.  2017. Mental Health Disorders and Life Satisfaction in Canada. Downloaded on November 8, 2018 from https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2017033-eng.htm [v] National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health. 2015. Summary:  Review of Green Space and Mental Health.  Downloaded October 2016 from http://www.ncceh.ca/sites/default/files/Summary-Greenspace_Mental_Health_Mar_2015.pdf [vi] Beyer, K. M. M., Kaltenbach, A., Szabo, A., Bogar, S., Nieto, F. J., & Malecki, K. M. (2014). Exposure to Neighborhood Green Space and Mental Health: Evidence from the Survey of the Health of Wisconsin . International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 11(3), 3453–3472  Downloaded November 8, 2018 from https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/11/3/3453/htm [vii] Bratman et al. 2015.  Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation.  Downloaded May 3, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4507237/#!po=8.62069 [viii] National Collaborating Centre for Environmental Health. 2015. Summary:  Review of Green Space and Mental Health.  Downloaded October 2016 from http://www.ncceh.ca/sites/default/files/Summary-Greenspace_Mental_Health_Mar_2015.pdf
 

Swimming with the Porbeagle Shark!
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Swimming with the Porbeagle Shark!

The Porbeagle shark is found in open seas in the Northern and Southern Hemisphere. In the North Atlantic, if you are anywhere from Newfoundland to New Jersey to Greenland and Russia, you might have the opportunity to witness one. But do not fear, the Porbeagle shark is known not to feed on other mammals, and is actually recognized for its playful behaviour!  The main diet of the Porbeagle shark consists of herring, lancetfish and mackerel. However, they do also dine on cod, redfish, haddock, squid and shellfish. Overall, their diet consists of pelagic (open sea) creatures. If you think you see a Porbeagle shark, look for its distinctive features. It has dark bluish-grey to bluish-black colouring on its back with white colour underneath. On its tail, it has a secondary keel underneath its longer primary keel. This shark has a stout head, with a pointed snout and large black eyes. Its teeth are small and smooth-edged narrow, with lateral cusps at the base of each tooth. But its most recognizable feature is the white spot at the base of the first dorsal fin. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHmWe0Qj4w8 The Porbeagle shark joins the other species of sharks found in Canadian waters including the white shark, salmon shark, and shortfin mako. Different from other shark species', the Porbeagle shark has to keep moving in order to breathe. It also has a heat regulating mechanism that keeps its body temperature 3 to 8°C above the surrounding water temperature. This shark is limited to where it can go, and so, it spends most of its time in waters between 8 and 13°C. When not in the cooler waters, the mature female Porbeagle sharks migrate south to the seas between Cuba and Bermuda. It has also been seen near Brazil and Chile. It is in the warmer waters that the females pup, which occurs in late winter or early spring. Yet, their mating occurs in southern Newfoundland, in September to November. The Porbeagle shark prefers to remain in deep waters between 1,350 to 4,400 feet, but they often shift from shallow to deep, even being sighted in waters as shallow as 3.3 feet! The female can produce between 1-5 pups, but generally it is only four that are between 60-75cm long at birth. The female Porbeagles reach sexual maturity at a size of 217 cm long (which they reach around 13 years of age), while males mature at 174 cm (8 years old). The adults can reach a size of over 3 meters (10-12 feet)! Usually, it is only between 1.5-1.8 m and 135 kg (298 lbs). They have a life expectancy of 30-40 years, with most Porbeagle sharks indicating growth rings in the vertebrae that indicate at least 26 years of age before death. The biggest threat that the shark is facing is overfishing, both by fishing on purpose and by accident. This makes the Porbeagle very likely to be caught as bycatch. Luckily, directed fishing has been suspended, which does provide some hope for this helpless shark, but they still continue to be caught as bycatch. When caught, fisheries have strict rules that they must be returned to the water in a way that is least harmful. Since the fishing of the Porbeagle shark was suspended in 2013, no licenses that have been issued since that year. The population has not been estimated since 2009, but it was estimated between 197,000 to 207,000 individuals, including approximately 10,000 to 14,000 spawning females. The Porbeagles are very vulnerable to over-exploitation because they have a late age of maturity, and a small number of pups (average of 4 per litter). Sadly, the mortality rate for the Porbeagle shark is estimated at 100 tons per year (that is approximately 600-700 Porbeagle sharks per year). In addition to threats posed by fisheries, there are other human related threats. These threats include noise associated with offshore petroleum exploratory seismic surveys, and marine pollution.

This species is endangered, but there are things you can do to help!

  • Learn about sharks to better understand them!
  • Reduce purchasing shark products, anything from meat to oils (found in any beauty items and health nutrition)
  • reduce your seafood consumption, this would also assist in stopping the accidental bycatch as seafood would be in less demand, so less fishing would occur.
  • In order to reduce pollution, begin your ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ regime! You have the potential to make a difference.
  • Lastly, share this with your friends and family so that can learn about this 'playful shark' that needs our help!

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