I. Learn to name and recognize native plants and animals.
- Visit Parks and Native Plant Demonstration Gardens
- Tacoma Metro Parks
- Point Defiance Park and the Native Plant Garden. Point Defiance Park has miles of trails through native plant habitat. It also has a Northwest Native Plant Demonstration Garden, where the plants are labeled and you can watch seasonal changes in different types of habitats. https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/place/point-defiance-park/ https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/place/northwest-native-garden/
- Tacoma Nature Center is a 70-acre nature preserve with trails that includes Snake Lake and the surrounding wetlands and forests. It has a visitor center that includes excellent displays of native flora and fauna. They offer many educational programs for all ages. https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/place/tacoma-nature-center/
- Wapato Park features a .9 mile trail through forest, wetlands and a lake. Volunteers have planted many native plants along the lake that feature seasonal displays. https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/place/wapato-park/
- Titlow Park is a 75-acre park surrounding a tidal lagoon and features the lagoon, forests and beaches. Great place to watch birds. https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/place/titlow-park-lodge/
- Northwest Trek, Eatonville WA is a wonderful wildlife park dedicated to Pacific Northwest native wildlife. https://www.nwtrek.org/
- Audubon Adrianna Hess Wetland Park: is a wetland park and Audubon Nature Center in Tacoma that focuses on birds and native plants. They offer educational programs for all ages. https://www.tahomaaudubon.org/adriana-hess-audubon-society
- Morse Wildlife Preserve, Graham, WA: The Morse Wildlife Preserve was established in 1995 by a donation of land from Lloyd and Maxine Morse. Situated near the headwaters of the north fork of Muck Creek, the 238-acre preserve is a mosaic of conifer forest, wetlands, oak savanna, and prairie. https://www.tahomaaudubon.org/morse-wildlife
- Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, Olympia, WA features the Nisqually River estuary in three different habitats: salt marsh, freshwater wetland, and riparian forest. It has 4 miles of trails, a visitor center, and an environmental education center with many educational programs for educators. https://www.fws.gov/refuge/Billy_Frank_Jr_Nisqually/visit/plan_your_visit.html
- McLane Creek Nature Trail in Olympia, WA offers a 1.1 nature trail around a beaver pond and along a salmon bearing creek. It is located off of Delphi Road in Olympia. https://www.dnr.wa.gov/publications/eng_rms_mclane_nature_trail_2.pdf
- Nisqually Land Trust has many publicly accessible properties: https://nisquallylandtrust.org/public-use-nisqually-land-trust-lands/
- Mary E. Theler Wetlands Nature Center, Belfair, WA. features 3.5 miles of salt marsh trails with good birding. It is located near Twana State Park. The two locations together make a great day trip. https://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/mary-e-theler-wetlands-nature-preserve https://parks.state.wa.us/294/Twanoh
- Mount Rainier National Park located near Ashford, Washington offers diverse habitats in all seasons. https://www.nps.gov/mora/planyourvisit/index.htm
- Washington State Parks are numerous in the South Puget Sound Region. Click here to find a nearby state park https://parks.state.wa.us/847/South-Puget-Sound-Region
- Tacoma Metro Parks
- Keep a Nature Journal The best way to learn to name and recognize native plants and animals is to keep a nature journal to record your drawings and observations while you visit parks and alleys near your home. As you write down what you observe, you can use field guides to help you identify what you saw. Just drawing a plant or bird draws you closer to it. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a fantastic online course about Nature Journaling and Field Sketching: https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/nature-journaling-and-field-sketching/. In addition here is a list of books by Claire Walker Leslie that will help you learn how to keep a journal:
- Claire Walker Leslie, Keeping a Nature Journal: Deepen Your Connection with the Natural World All Around You. (The Third Edition of this book will be published in March 2021, but the second edition is wonderful, too)
- Claire Walker Leslie, The Nature Connection: An Outdoor Workbook for Kids, Families and Classrooms
- Use Field Guides and Websites to learn the common and scientific names of plants and animals to confirm your observations.
- Native Plant Field Guides
- Pojar, Jim and Andy MacKinnon, Plants of the Pacific Northwest Coast: Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska, Revised Edition, Auburn, WA: Lone Pine Publishing, 2016
- B. Jennifer Guard, Wetland Plants of Oregon and Washington, Auburn, WA: Lone Pine Publishing,
- Animal Field Guides
- Paulson, Dennis, Birds of the Puget Sound Region: Coast to Cascades, 2016
- David Allen Sibley, The Sibley Guide to Birds, Second Edition, Knoft, 2014
- Moskowitz, David, Wildlife of the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2010
- Link, Russell, Living with Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2004
- Pyle, Robert Michael and Caitlin C. Labar, Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest, Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2018
- Charlotte Corkran, Amphibians of Washington, Oregon and British Columbia, Auburn, WA: Lone Pine Press
- Flip Cards: Western Washington Plants for Birds: Produced by a partnership between the Washington Native Plant Society and Eastside King County Audubon. This set includes 34 birds and 34 native plants each bird uses, partnered front and back. size= 9.5 x 4.25 inches.
Full color photos and complete descriptions in this laminated, weatherproof set, secured with a binder ring for easy use together or separately. A great resource for in the field, in the classroom, the nursery and in the garden. https://www.wnps.org/store/western-washington-plants-for-birds-flip-card-set
- Native Plant Websites:
- Washington Native Plant Society Starflower Project: includes hands-on activities for teachers and students, native plant identification cards useful for all, weed identification cards especially handy for individuals engaged in restoring habitats, and informational posters to alert others to the joys of native plants, as well as a helpful guide for those interested in establishing a native plant garden. The site includes 200 native plant species reports https://www.wnps.org/starflower
- Burke Museum’s Plant and Fungi digital resource page is the entry point to images of the plant and fungi collection. https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/plants-and-fungi/digital-resources
University of British Columbia Coastal Indicator Plants of British Columbia https://blogs.ubc.ca/coastal-plants/plants-of-bc/
- Oregon State University’s Landscape Plants Website includes many native plants and beautiful images of the plants in different seasons. https://landscapeplants.oregonstate.edu/
- Cornell University’s All About Birds Website offers detailed information about identification and life history of birds, including photos, videos and sound recordings. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/
- National Audubon Society offers a free Bird App you can download on your phone or tablet to identify over 800 species of North American Birds. https://www.audubon.org/app
- Butterflies and moths:
- Pacific Northwest Moths: http://pnwmoths.biol.wwu.edu/
- Butterflies and Moths of North America
- Butterflies of Oregon. https://www.butterfliesoforegon.com/
- Gilbert, Rod and Ann Potter, Washington Butterfly Association PDF Guide to Butterflies of South Puget Sound Butterflies
- University of Michigan’s Museum of Zoology created the Animal Diversity Web, an online database of animal natural history, distribution, classification, and conservation biology. They have recently created a downloadable app for your phone. https://animaldiversity.org/
- The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has an animal viewing website that features information about amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and marine life. https://myodfw.com/wildlife-viewing
- The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife offers information about Washington wildlife and habitat. https://wdfw.wa.gov/species-habitats/species
- The Burke Museum in Seattle has a Mammals of Washington Data Base that has information on 90 native land animals. https://www.burkemuseum.org/collections-and-research/biology/mammalogy/mamwash/?_ga=2.4963511.569787226.1605905172-552951801.1603508253
- Native Plant Field Guides
- Visit Natural History Museums for a close-up view of wildlife. Some of the parks listed above, like the Tacoma Nature Center and the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge have visitor centers with displays of plants and animals. These are wonderful for sketching animals. In addition, you can visit a natural history museum.
- Slater Museum of Natural History at University of Puget Sound’s main goal is to provide a well-curated collection of plant and animal specimens for education and research. To visit in person: https://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/slater-museum/. To visit an on-line resource about local marine plants and animals: https://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/slater-museum/exhibits/marine-panel/ . For local terrestrial plants and animals: https://www.pugetsound.edu/academics/academic-resources/slater-museum/exhibits/terrestrial-panel/
- Evergreen Natural History Museum at The Evergreen State College has an amazing collection of insects, birds, mammals, aquatic organisms, skulls, nests, etc. To visit http://blogs.evergreen.edu/naturalhistory/
II. Learn the Coast Salish Lushootseed Names for Plants and Animals.
Long before scientists gave us scientific names, the Lushootseed speaking people of Puget Sound (Salish Sea) named the plants and animals of our area. Learning these names help you appreciate that for over 8,000 years people have been caring for the plants and animals in our region. When you visit another country, it’s only polite to learn a few phrases of acknowledgement. If you choose to learn more about Lushootseed, you can see how many of the names developed from the sounds that animals and earth elements speak. You will discover how the place, animal and plant names are woven into stories and calendar that are specific to our place and teach cultural values.
In our region, there are different dialects of Lushootseed. On the website, I have included the northern pronunciations from the Tulalip encyclopedia. Locally (Puyallup, Nisqually, and Squaxin tribes) speak a different dialect called Twulshootseed. The Puyallup Tribal Language Program is dedicated to increasing the number of Twulshootseed speakers by incorporating the language into daily life.
Here are resources I have found helpful.
Bates, Dawn, Thom Hess and Vi Hilbert, Lushootseed Dictionary, Seattle, Wa: University of Washington Press, 1994
Tulalip Lushootseed Encyclopedia https://tulaliplushootseed.com/encyclopedia: includes voice pronunciation for many Lushootseed words.
- TT Waterman, Vi Hilbert, Jay Miller and Zalmai Zahir, Puget Sound Geography, Federal Way, WA: Lushootseed Press, 2001 A rich compilation of indigenous place names that has much to teach us.
- The Puyallup Tribal Language Program offers language instruction and resources: http://www.puyalluptriballanguage.org/
III. Create or Enhance Backyard, School or Neighborhood Habitats with Native Plants
- Kruckeberg, Arthur R., and Linda Chalker-Scott, Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press, 2019
- Link, Russell, Landscaping for Wildlife in the Pacific Northwest, Seattle, WA: University of Washington Press in Association with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, 1999
- Pettinger, April, Native Plants in the Coastal Garden: A Guide for Gardeners in the Pacific Northwest. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2003
- Stark, Eileen M. Real Gardens Grow Natives, Seattle, WA: Skipstone Press, 2014
- Where to Buy Native Plants. The most comprehensive list of where to buy native plants and seeds in the Pacific Northwest is kept by the Washington Native Plant Society. Click here to see the 2020 List: https://www.wnps.org/content/documents/plants/gardening/native-plant-seed-sources_2-28-2020.pdf
- Native Plant Garden Designers
- Sacred Nature Designs: Anna Thurston is a great resource in Tacoma for designing and installing gardens, landscapes, and restoration projects. https://turningorb.com/about-snd/
- Woodbrook Native Plant Nursery in Gig Harbor has a list of people who design and install native plant gardens. They ask that you read reviews before working with folks on the list. http://woodbrooknativeplantnursery.com/communications/designers_installers/
IV. Get Involved with Organizations Working to Conserve Native Plant Habitats for Wildlife.
- Metro Parks Tacoma has a list of volunteer restoration park projects in the Tacoma Metro area. https://www.metroparkstacoma.org/volunteers/chip-in/park-volunteer-groups/
- Washington Native Plant Society https://www.wnps.org/ Its mission is to promote the appreciation and conservation of Washington’s native plants and their habitats through study, education, and advocacy. The website is full of great resources. The South Sound Chapter of the WNPS has a list of opportunities to learn and help. http://www.southsoundchapterwnps.org/index.htm
- Local Watershed Education Programs
- Pierce County Conservation District offers educational programs and habitat restoration projects. https://piercecd.org/180/Habitat-Improvement
- Nisqually River Education Project focuses on connecting kids to nature in the Nisqually Watershed through a variety of activities including field trips, native plant restoration, salmon tossing, and water quality monitoring. http://nrep.nisquallyriver.org/
- South Sound Green focuses on watershed education and restoration in Thurston County. https://southsoundgreen.org/
- Chehalis Basin Education Consortium focuses on river education and restoration in the Chehalis River Watershed. https://fortress.wa.gov/ecy/publications/documents/0810057.pdf
- The Audubon Society is dedicated to birds and the places they need. Our local chapter is Tahoma Audubon http://Tahomaaudubon.org Other local Chapters can be found here: https://www.audubon.org/about/audubon-near-you
- The Washington Butterfly Association is dedicated to the appreciation, understanding, and conservation of butterflies and other pollinators and their ecology. https://wabutterflyassoc.org/
- Puget Creek Restoration Society protects, enhances, and restores the Puget Creek Watershed in Tacoma and other streams, wetlands, and green spaces. http://pugetcreek.org/
- Land Trusts acquire and manage critical lands to permanently benefit the water, wildlife, and people. You can assist them by donating money, land and participating in volunteer habitat restoration activities.
V. Join Citizen Science Efforts
- Nisqually Stream Stewards Program is a program offered by the Nisqually Indian Tribe and Nisqually River Council, who recognize that long-lasting restoration and stewardship will only come about through community-based efforts. http://nisquallyriver.org/stream-stewards/
- Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology offers citizen science programs to help birds. https://www.birds.cornell.edu/citizenscience/about-the-projects/