By Chelsea Jandreau, Nature Educator

If I were to focus solely on temperature and weather, it would seem that summer has jumped the line and cut spring a little short. It is just plain hot outside and, as of the beginning of June, I am still waiting on rain, even though it seems to have no plans of appearing anytime soon. I am not a lover of these high temperatures, but I do have to concede that I made the choice to work outside for a significant chunk of spring and summer, and I begrudgingly will adapt.  

There are plenty of people that live for a hot summer day and there are people who are thrilled when temperatures dip below freezing. The same is true with the plants and animals around the world. The large diversity of habitats found on the planet mean that the adaptations found in organisms are just as varied. 

Even in an area where you feel a sense of familiarity, there is often an incredible amount of biodiversity and differences in adaptations that go unnoticed. Sometimes, there are big, obvious differences, like those between a Bald Eagle and a hummingbird, but other subjects require you to really get to know the organisms around you. It takes time and intention to take note of those differences. 

With the current warm temperatures, the invertebrates (bugs, insects, spiders, and other assorted creepy crawlies) are making an appearance in increasing types and abundance. If we are mentioning diversity within organisms, invertebrates are a good place to start. 

The constant stream of students at ACNC for spring field trips has made me far more attuned to the presence of insects, especially ants, than I would be on my own. On a warm day, it is hard to take more than three steps without seeing an ant on the ground or climbing up a tree. With students, we watch them carry dirt around as they clear the entrance to a hole in a three-foot wide anthill or carry food as they navigate the blades of grass. There are thousands of kinds of ants in the world and as the students and I find differences in the ones we find in our short exploration at Audubon, I wonder how many we have in this area alone.

Ant tending aphids, by Jeff Tome

If we look around a little more, ants are not the only invertebrates making an appearance. Over the last couple of weeks, dragonflies, damselflies, and butterflies have emerged and are flying over ponds and fields. Within each of those groups, there is a massive variety of species in all kinds of shapes, sizes and colors.

I spent this past weekend in Allegany State Park at Allegany Nature Pilgrimage, an annual event filled with programming about a wide range of nature and outdoor topics. I didn’t set out with this plan, but for me and those I was with, it pretty quickly became a weekend devoted to the diversity of plants.

In the most basic terms, I spent a lot of time staring intently at leaves. More specifically, I looked at ferns to determine how many times the leaflets were segmented and felt stems to figure out whether or not they were triangular. I learned how to look at a ligule, which exists as the junction of a leaf and a stem, as one part of determining the difference between a grass and a sedge, which honestly is another grass-like plant, so you can imagine my initial confusion when differentiating the two. It took me a couple tries, but I did figure out the differences eventually.

This being said, you don’t have to actually learn everything about nature to care about biodiversity, as long as you understand that it is important. It is up to each individual to figure out how deep they want to go into any area, and it is pretty much impossible to know everything about every plant, animal, fungi, or any other category of organism out there. There are people who take the deep dive in amphibians, botany, or rocks, and while the amateurs, experts and everyone in between have different interests, the things they continue to seek knowledge about are eventually interconnected. 

Biodiversity in nature helps maintain healthy and resilient ecosystems and preserves native species. It encompasses every natural thing, from well-known animals such as bears and deer to the fungi and bacteria in the soil. However, sometimes the little things get lost, and in both nature and the people utilizing nature, diversity can be found by taking a closer look at the details. The little differences allow a multitude of niches to be filled and make up a foundation for the larger community to thrive. Learning more about what exists both in our backyard and outside of it helps to remind us how intricately connected the pieces of nature can be and how those differences have the potential to benefit everyone.

Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk and birds of prey can be viewed anytime the trails are open. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at or by calling (716) 569-2345.