This past semester I’ve learned so much about the world around me. Through my Travis County Almanac blog I’ve been able to get to know my environment better than I ever would have been able to before. Going out every week and just taking in the natural beauty around me was almost therapeutic. I’ll admit I feel like I’ve grown a bit attached to the clearing I would call my workspace, the place I was sit down and every week and think. Think about every little thing that was happening around me and how these little things make such a big difference. These blog entries got me to think about how even dead leaves play a part in the ecosystem. These leaves can be broken down and be used for nutrients in the soil as well as for smaller organisms. These leaves can also be home to an array of living things. As I said in my November blog I would turn over some of these leaves and reveal a new world of life. The muddy moisture filled area under the leafe was the perfect place for worms and other insects to thrive. This blog helped me discover just how integral every part of an ecosystem can be.
This assignment was really interesting because I was given the opportunity to watch something transform and grow in front of my eyes. Seeing the differences every week (though most of the time they were small) was so fun to watch. Being able to sit in the clearing and think about how different this space was months ago. Over the past couple of months branches have fallen, the leaves have changed color, and at some points more plant life began to grow and die. Watching nature take it’s course right in front of me was something I won’t forget. One of the most changed feature in the clearing was for sure the trees. When I first began taking my observations the trees were full and green, thriving in the last days of the Texas summer. Every week when I would come back and do my observations something would change about these trees. The most notable were the loss of the trees leaves and the changing of their colors. When we entered November the temperature’s dropped and it began to feel like Fall. Because of this the trees leaves began to change color and towards the middle and end of the November the leaves completely fell off. The leaves carpeted the dirt floors of the clearing creating a bright yellow cover.
Another thing that changed during my times observing in the clearing was the wildlife I saw or rather heard. At the beginning of the semester I would hear birds chirping throughout the trees and even see them flying about or perched in the branches above. By the end of November the sounds of these birds were scarce if any at all. I didn’t realize this until going back over my notes one day and thinking to myself, “I didn’t hear any birds today”. This was surprising because in previous observations the birds had been extremely loud. Along with the birds going missing in my weekly observations I noticed the number of squirrels had dropped as well. At the beginning of my observations I would usually see at least one or two squirrels a session but by the end of November I’d be lucky if I even saw one. Both of these occurrences were obviously due to the drop in temperature and changing of seasons for these animals.
For our final blog post, on top of writing a review of the entire semester we were also tasked with doing a critique of the Travis County Almanac site. To do this our Professor Dr Wasserman created a wordcloud. This word cloud visually represented the words that we used most in all of our blogs. In this visual representation words that were larger than others meant they were used more but those that were smaller were used less. On this wordcloud the three words that stand out the most are the words creek, nature, and water. It makes sense that each of these words would be used so much due to the physical location of the St Edward’s campus. Around the campus there is the Blunn Creek nature reserve. I’m sure plenty of people utilized this space to do their weekly reflections as it is a beautiful area and filled with all sorts of nature. As the name implies the nature reserve is home to a creek which would explain the use of that word so much. I’ sure that the word water was used so much because it is so present in the Austin community. With the Colorado River running through the middle of the city there are spots everywhere where one can go and enjoy the aquatic features of the city. If I could change one thing about my entries I think I would make them more water based. I would want to write my entries near a body of water like the Colorado River. Being able to watch the river as it changes in all sorts of aspects over the semester would have been awesome to watch. I think it would have introduced more wildlife as well. Being near the river could have increased the amount of birds I saw as well as allowed me to see what sort of aquatic life the river was home to. And depending on the time of night my observations were done I may have been able to see bats!
All in all I really enjoyed the the Travis County Almanac blog assignment. I felt that it helped me become more aware about my surroundings as well as become more aware about how important nature really is. I thought the assignment itself was very relaxing and has left me with a new desire to learn more about the environment around me and how I can help it.