—Who is in your backyard?: Celebrating Earth Day from home! is contributed by 2019 NEST Fellow Joanne Marras Tate.

Today we celebrate the 50th Earth Day. Differently than other years, today, we are not able to go to some of our favorite natural areas to enjoy and listen alongside others. We are not able to go into the streets to protest together in arms the rights of nature, and the human rights and justices needed for us to live a sustainable and deserving life. What we can do today is commemorate from home; celebrating life and nature in a different way: Let’s learn who is in our backyard this Earth Day!

At the University of Colorado Boulder the NEST Studio for the Arts (Nature, Environment, Science and Technology) has been supporting student and community projects that merge arts and sciences. Projects encourage artistic practice and scientific research to explore our common and disparate ways of observing, recording, experimenting and knowing.

Last year, myself and 2 colleagues, Robert Buehler and Mathew Sharples, were selected by NEST to develop a Campus Field Guide. I am a part of the Communication Department, Robert from Art and Art History and Mathew recently completed his Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. The three of us merged our expertises to create a small sample of species from our campus, showcasing intricate relationships. Today, we would like to share this field guide with you, so that you can use it with your family or friends you are isolating with, to learn a bit more about who lives in your backyard, celebrating your life and theirs.

This is an invitation for you and your family to learn about the nature that exists right next to you—the biodiversity of your yards, garden beds, home insects, singing birds, and even the foods you eat. This field guide was created based on observations of the University of Colorado Boulder, and hence, has species that are found on our campus, but this should not stop you! Many species from this guide are seen in many areas of the United States, and the world. And you will be able to relate and learn from the relationships we describe.

You can download the field guide through the Museum of Natural History’s website, or by clicking on the image below.

Field guides are essential for identification of species in varied fields of study, and they have been migrating to online platforms alongside other teaching and learning tools. You can use a hard copy of a field guide, or you can access online a variety of sources to be able to celebrate Earth Day from home. New Generation field guides are online or virtual platforms that have been increasingly used to identify species and contribute to databases (check out iNaturalist), and the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History continuously digitizes plant specimens known from the greater Southern Rockies ecoregion (www.soroherbaria.org/ portal).

As a graduate student and instructor, I am amazed by the resilience and kindness shown by my students and colleagues at this time. I am seeing family and friends teaching their children from their kitchen tables, and professors live via their webcams, making sure they check their students overall health and learning outcomes.

Today we are at home, in efforts to protect our communities and at-risk individuals, taking care of our health and of those who are now known as essential people. Essential to our health, essential to providing us food, essential to keeping our cities clean, essential to keeping animals healthy, essentials to our learning, and more. They are the people that continue to be kind to us at this time of crisis. Those that are putting themselves at risk to keep many of us safe. So let’s continue to stay at home for them.

What can we learn at home during Earth Day? Let’s learn together with our family and friends about who we share this planet with, potted around our apartments, hanging from our windows, moving across our yards, flying and landing on the trees.

Let’s take this time to celebrate those who we often do not have time to notice: our beloved nature at home.