Perceptible Changes

In 2010 or 2011, when it initially seemed like a good idea to launch a blog, I thought I'd start writing about ecological restoration, the human effort to re-envision, reclaim, and rewild the world's impressive natural, semi-natural, and human-dominated ecosystems. It was a long time coming.

I grew up as a rustbelt kid, with sublime Lake Erie a stones throw away and the shadows of twentieth century urban and industrial decay around most corners. So when I struck out on my own and Cleveland was still close in the rearview mirror, I got excited about trying to understand how ecosystems get degraded, and more importantly, how they can be turned around. Restored, if you will. This vision to restore trashed ecosystems led me pretty quickly to ecology research. This excited me because it provided chances to see and evaluate the impacts that humans have had on a landscape, and where opportunities arise, work to improve the quality of that landscape through restoration. 

In short, I wanted to spend my time looking at environmental problems and implementing solutions. And, as time allowed, I wanted to write about them here. 

Restoration monitoring at a retired gravel mine: North Cascades National Park, WA
This amounted to me reporting on my early restoration efforts: small, successional projects that targeted limited damage. I wrote about projects that I was involved in, where restored ecosystems were quick to flourish. I could see how a former landfill or denuded campsite, with enough planning and effective project construction, could sometimes quickly resemble the ecosystem that it had replaced. In some cases the restored and semi-natural ecosystems' trajectories diverged, but most became largely functional ecosystems (the jargon would say "novel" ecosystems). I saw these ecosystems' evolution as perceptible changes.

I didn't coin the term, but derived it from Bill McKibben, who in his first book on climate change, The End of Nature, wrote:

Our comforting sense of the permanence of our natural world, our confidence that it will change gradually and imperceptibly if at all, is the result of a subtly warped perspective. 

I wanted to show people that the world changes quickly, and in the case of ecosystem restoration, can even change for the better...in real time.

With this in mind, I originally aspired to make the old perceptiblechanges.blogspot.com a hub for information on local events (local to me), and to profile the science, conservation, and restoration organizations, that I found fascinating.

Somehow, in the process of my Ph.D where I tried to understand how floodplain ecosystems differ from one another, I actually moved away from narrating perceptible changes in ecosystems in a way that people could relate to. This blog, like those of many scientists before me, became more of a journal, scratching down ideas opportunistically. I got busy. And I wrote less. 

Somewhere along the line, this website became natehough-snee.org, a hybrid professional landing place and personal blog. Some of this structure is working, and some of it isn't. So I'm going to make some perceptible changes of my own to the website.

In the next few weeks, I'm going to spell out where I've been lately, where this site is going, what else is starting, and why. I still want to tell the stories behind everyday perceptible changes, scientific or otherwise, but this website's next few laps around the sun will likely be quite different than the last couple. Stay tuned...

(Writing about) Restoring and conserving ecosystems: There's still a an awful lot of work to do. Wear gloves.