Several weeks ago, a colleague introduced me to iNaturalist. It’s an online naturalist community that links your images to scientific data repositories. You get to find out what that bug actually is and discuss your findings with others in the community. The information you provide for the pictures help scientists study migration patterns and biodiversity which in turn provides other scientists with information on how climate change is affecting migration and biodiversity. iNaturalist is associated with the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. All of this is the reason why you’ve been seeing so many bug pictures in my Instagram feed lately.
This is way better than that time I had to collect real live insects for my insect collection at Biology camp (yeah, I went to biology camp as a teenager and I loved every minute of it because science is fun and I don’t care how nerdy you think I am). I have not become as obsessed with this as my friend Amy has, but I try to put something new up every day. The result is that on every outside walk, I end up chasing butterflies and moths. Read that last part again slowely. I end up chasing butterflies and moths. When I write that out, it makes me think of a toddler making her wobbly way through the grass while reaching out for that illusive butterfly with her fat little fingers. The sunlight sparkles through the dewy grass and the toddler’s giggles sounds like wind chimes.
It is not a bad image to picture.
I am walking outside. I am engaging in my environment and all of this has very real benefits. There are scores of studies that shows that walking boosts brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). BDNF is responsible for new cell growth in the brain and it has been found that there are lower levels of BDFN in people with depression, Alzheimers, dementia, and really most brain disorders. There are scores of scientific papers out there about this but the take away is, GET OUTSIDE AND WALK. While you’re at it, take some pictures of the nature around you. There are so many good things about the internet, though it may be difficult to see that sometimes with all the hatefulness people type up. One of the best things about the internet, and this has been since day one, is its ability to bring people together and connect in positive ways. iNaturalist is an excellent example of this.
I am thankful for each and every one of those bug pictures. I am thankful for how it makes me look around and even search for the interesting and unique things in my environment. I step out for a short walk, not with the intention of just getting some exercise, but with the intention of discovery.
And this brings me joy.