Climate change does have an effect on the migratory patterns of the animals we have become accustomed to seeing. As the seasons change, so does the growing season of the habitats these animals need to survive. We have an obligation to notice these changes and find long lasting solutions that will carry on into the future.

As a native New Yorker, I was surprised by the rural areas and rolling hills in parts of Iowa’s Madison county that remind me of my upbringing. There are plenty of opportunities to explore the outdoors here and having rivers nearby for kayaking is especially important to me since I grew up very connected to the water. One of the similarities between these two places I’ve called home is that they are both experiencing huge shifts driven by climate change, and it took a shift in perspective for me to realize just how serious these impacts are. When my husband and I moved back to Iowa after spending some time in the Carolinas, I noticed seasonal changes right away. The winters are much warmer and start later than they used to, and the beginning of summer is a bit colder. This has a cascading effect on what kinds of flowers, birds and insects you see.

 

Iowans have the opportunity to witness the migratory path of some truly unique animals. We are not just a fly-over state for humans. We are also a place where monarchs, hummingbirds, cranes, pelicans, and trumpeter swans call home throughout the year. Blank Park Zoo’s Plant.Grow.Fly. program connects Iowans with pollinators and encourages all of us to provide habitat for these species. Climate change does have an effect on the migratory patterns of the animals we have become accustomed to seeing. As the seasons change, so does the growing season of the habitats these animals need to survive. We have an obligation to notice these changes and find long lasting solutions that will carry on into the future. I am optimistic that by engaging with our environment we can change the effects of climate change.

 

Connecting people to nature is more important than ever to bring people a new perspective about their role in fighting climate change. My role as an environmental educator is to put this into action, whether it’s teaching children about their surroundings by showing them the connection between water quality and the animals that live in it, or helping guests at Blank Park Zoo find a personal connection with the animals they see. The wild counterparts of the  animals in our care have all been affected by climate change, and we want guests to ask themselves, “What can I do to save them? What can I do to make a difference?”. Once we feel connected to nature, it’s easier to understand how everyday actions and choices matter to conserve it.

 

This understanding needs to be matched by an understanding of the science behind climate change. Scientists have a crucial job in showing us facts, and our leaders have an enormous responsibility to listen to these facts. Our leaders represent people who understand the importance of science and data and their actions should reflect this. In fact, if we all made an effort to understand those we don’t agree with and try to find common ground, I’m sure we would also find optimism and collaboration that leads to success. I am optimistic that change can happen when we all make small changes in our daily actions towards a healthy climate. Each action creates a ripple outwards to make a bigger change. Who knows how far they will go?

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Chris Eckles

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