Sea Lions in Astoria, Oregon

By Neva Knott

Sea Lions resting on the docks in Astoria, Oregon. Most, if not all, of these are male California Sea Lions, distinguishable by their darker color and dog-like bark, according to Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This is a charismatic species; these lounging and napping sea creatures draw an audience when they’re in town. And, they cause an uproar with Astoria’s citizens who use these docks–the sea lions are noisy, smelly, cause damage to the docks, and take up prime mooring space.

As a naturalist, I’m on the side of the sea lions. They come in for the smelt run and stay for the salmon run. What people don’t understand is this: when we take up wildlife habitat, they will “invade” our habitat.

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Whale Bones Memorial, Newport, Oregon

By Neva Knott

For me, this memorial is a visual connective element between humans and the circle of life. The enormity of the whale reminds that we are not the primary species on the planet.

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Trees and Trash, Zihuatanejo, Mexico

By Neva Knott

Easter, 2011. I traveled to Zihuatanejo to spend nine days by myself on a beach. I wanted to hear another language. I wanted to feel a different culture. I was in graduate school and bartending and burned out. I stayed at a little place called Treetops in a little palapa of a cabin. I spent most of my days on a beach chair under a palm-front umbrella, reading and napping and watching the ocean roll along.

Every few days while in Zihuatanejo, I walked this mile-long dirt road from my beach cabin at TreeTops to get to the highway and bus-stop to go into town. The trash dumps under every tree stood in sharp contrast to the lush beauty of the flora. As with the tide-line trash I depicted in my previous post, this problem is not unique to Mexico.

This is my first sketch of an environmental photo story.

Tide-line and Trash, Zihuatanejo, Mexico

By Neva Knott

Easter, 2011. I traveled to Zihuatanejo to spend nine days by myself on a beach. I wanted to hear another language. I wanted to feel a different culture. I was in graduate school and bartending and burned out. I stayed at a little place called Treetops in a little palapa of a cabin. I spent most of my days on a beach chair under a palm-front umbrella, reading and napping and watching the ocean roll along.

Evenings, I walked the beach. One such evening, I followed the trash trail left by the last high tide and photographed it. The next morning the beach was clean again, the trash having been dragged into the sea. This problem is problem is not unique to Mexico–I found the same along the banks of the River Lee in Ireland when I ran there evenings in the summer of 2014.

“Ocean Soul”…Listening to Brian Skerry at National Geographic Live

The Ecotone Exchange

By Neva Knott

I’ve always lived near water. The home I was born into sat on the shore of a lake in a town surrounded by the Puget Sound. As my world expanded, I learned rivers and the ocean’s shore. When I was six, my father moved my family to Saipan, a small island in the South Pacific. Small, as in 14 miles long and five miles wide. It was there I fell in love with the ocean. I learned to swim and snorkel there, was stung by many man-o-war jelly fish. My father was an ecologist, so it wasn’t enough to witness the fish in the coral habitat; I learned their ways.

The ever-morphing boundary of earth and sea, that line that changes each day, minutely, as the water crashes on the sand and ebbs outward is fascinating. Power and grace.

As an adult, I lived on Maui for…

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Sandy River Delta Pond Across the Seasons

By Neva Knott

I walked the same area of the Thousand Acres dog park on the Sandy River Delta and took photos of the wetlands ponds once a month for a year to show how wetlands shift and cannot be seen as static elements of the landscape. Wetlands are considered the kidneys of the planet. They filter sediment and toxins out of water before it becomes part of a river. The provide nutrients to soil and serve as habitat for wildlife. Wetlands are an important part of the earth’s hydro cycle, climate, and heat regulatory systems.

Too often, wetlands are filled by developers. When this happens, the full range of the ecosystem services provided by wetlands is not considered, nor is the flux of the wetlands system on a landscape.

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The Frogs’ Melodies Tonight

By Neva Knott

Full moon. That majestic golden orb shines through the still-bare boughs of the maple tree just at the edge of my yard. This morning, even, while I was walking the dog at dawn, I saw it in the sky, too full yet to move on to the other side of the world. Since, it has made its rotation, and brightens my night.

My dog Josh is on the deck, listening to the frog orchestra that began a week or two ago. The field below our house floods in the spring rain, bringing these amphibians that, night after star-bright night, vocalize their passionate search for a mate and signal the change in temperature as the world shifts toward spring.

Each spring evening I’ve heard the frog-song, I’ve thought of my father, of a particular memory of him. When I was a very little girl, three or four, we lived on the shores of Chambers Lake, on the other side of town. Across the lake, coyotes roamed along the railroad tracks. They howled, and on those nights, my father would awaken me, wrap me in a blanket, and carry me to the porch to listen, to nature, to the universe. This memory has become emblematic of the legacy my father left me. He died when I was fifteen, but before passing, instilled in me a deep understanding of the connection between humans and the natural world.

In the 1970s my father worked as a zoologist for the United Nations in Bangkok, Thailand, where I attended seventh grade at the International School. He gave a lecture to my class, “Man and the Natural Environment.” I have his notes, dated September 17, 1973, in front of me this evening:

The natural environment surrounds us with geography–mountain vistas, high plateaus, low hills used for farming, river valley deltas made into rice paddies, the land itself. The natural environment includes seasons and sunlight and the rainy season and typhoons and all of it culminates in soil quality.

Humans need the soil to grow food. Without good soil, there is no rice, no fruit. Work animals–yak, buffalo, horse, and elephant–live off the land, too.

Humans influence the natural environment. We make our mark by building houses, planting crops, keeping livestock, and using resources to make clothes, travel, and build cities.

Humans need nature, the good environment–clean air, clean water, green scenery, and wildlife. The bad environment is dirty air, dirty water, no green, no wildlife but rats. The bad environment is caused by too many people, ignorance, and the desire for wealth now.

The warning bells are loss of wildlife, loss of green across the landscape.

His endnote reads, “If they can’t live–can man????” On this part of the note page, it is clear my dad pressed his pencil hard into the paper.

As I read these notes I realize my dad’s schema of “Man and the Natural Environment” is the same as the ecologists’ schema today. If they can’t live–can man???? is the still the biggest environmental question.

These are the notes of the man who instilled in me my love of nature. Even though the last decade of my life has been rife with crises, I live as a dreamer who walks often along the river, listening to the muted splash and caress of water on rocks. I listen to the softly ensconced echo of the world’s sounds as the trees pull sound down and drop it into the river’s flow. I take these walks with Josh, who also lives to walk along streams, to find himself tangled in long grass along the banks, and then goes splashing with a distinct surge into the river’s tumult and flow.

Nature allows me to I survive.

I return my father’s notes to his desk. The moon illuminates my thoughts and I realize the frogs’ melodies tonight are the beating of my father’s heart as he held me close, listening to the coyotes.