Got Nature? Blog


The Tipping Point Planner project, a joint effort by Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant and Purdue Extension, was recognized in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 2019 Science Report (PDF, 13MB) for its accomplishments last year.

The report, which “provides a snapshot of many of the research accomplishments of NOAA and its academic and industry partners”, was broken down into three main areas: reducing societal impacts from hazardous weather and other environmental phenomena; enabling the sustainable use and stewardship of ocean and coastal resources; and advancing a robust and effective research, development and transition enterprise. The Tipping Point Planner was mentioned in the Sustainable Use and Stewardship of Ocean and Coastal Resources segment.

The Tipping Point Planner was created to assist community leaders throughout the Great Lakes Basin in making long-term management decisions that affect environmental health of local resources and a community’s quality of life. The program, which includes a web-based decision support system, helps identify the status of watershed health by exploring land use, natural resources and environmental concerns, before determining the impacts of land-use decisions and management practices and, in turn, enables communities keep coastal ecosystems from reaching critical environmental limits, or tipping points, and becoming unstable.

In 2019, the Tipping Point Planner team worked with communities in Au Gres, Michigan; and Perrysburg, Ohio, to create action plans regarding conservation and ecological resource management. All told, more than 100 people in these areas utilized the Tipping Point Planner and collaborated in making the community decisions.

“This project challenges the research community because we have had to completely reorient the way that we analyze our data,” said Dr. Bryan Pijanowski, professor of landscape and soundscape ecology. “We have had to be more creative and imaginative than ever before. It challenges the way we think about our long-held theories in science, too. And this is only possible if research, university engagement and communities work closely together to solve problems. I’m convinced that high impact solutions can come from close partnerships like this.”

Pijanowski; Kara Salazar, assistant program leader and extension specialist for sustainable communities; Lydia Utley, data analyst; and Daniel Walker, community planning extension specialist, are the project leaders for the Tipping Point Planner. View the full Tipping Point Planning team.

The featured segment on the Tipping Point Planning program from the NOAA annual science report is below.


The Tipping Point Planner project
With GIS, Communities See How Land-Use Changes May Affect Local Water Quality, Environmental Systems Research Institute
Tipping Point Planner curriculum, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Urban Best Management & Low Impact Development Practices, The Education Store
Agricultural Best Management Practices, The Education Store

Kara Salazar, Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Invasive Asian bush honeysuckle species in spring


Invasive Asian bush honeysuckle species in spring

The longer daylight period and the warming weather are bringing new life to woodlands. We have a community of native plants, called spring ephemerals, that grow, bloom, and produce seed quickly before the tree leaves emerge and the forest understory is wrapped in shade. Several of my favorite wildflowers are in this group, including hepaticas, trilliums, bloodroot, squirrel-corn, and trout lily.

Some unwelcome invaders also emerge early in the spring, producing early foliage and an unnatural shade competing with our native plants. Several woody invasive plants have moved into our woodlands from ornamental and other plantings and now compete aggressively with our natives. These include Asian bush honeysuckles, privets, winged burning bush, and multiflora rose. These plants tend to produce foliage faster than most of our native trees and shrubs, proving them with a competitive advantage through a longer growing season. This early leaf emergence also provides us with an opportunity to identify these invaders in our woodlands. When walking out to observe the wildflowers or hunt for morels, keep your eyes open for the invasive plants. Small specimens can be pulled when soils are moist. Larger specimens may be cut and the stump treated with a herbicide to prevent sprouting. An easy and effective herbicide to access for landowners is glyphosate concentrate products mixed at a 50% ratio with water. Apply this mixture to the cut stump immediately after cutting. Read the herbicide label to understand the protective gear and application instructions required to apply safely.

If you have a large infestation that is beyond your capacity to control, consider contacting a local forester or other natural resources professional for advice on how best to deal with your invasive plant problem. You may contact the Indiana DNR Division of Forestry for advice from the District Forester.  Private-sector foresters and environmental groups and contractors may also be able to help you manage invasive species on your property. To find a private-sector forester visit You can find environmental groups and contractors, and additional information on invasives at the Indiana Invasive Species Council website. Purdue Extension has many invasive species resource publications and videos that can help with identification and management.

Controlling invasive plants can bring a sense of satisfaction, knowing you are doing something to promote the health and sustainability of your property.

Indiana DNR Division of Forestry
Indiana Invasive Species Council
Report Invasive, Purdue Extension
Invasive Plant Series: Winged Burning Bush, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Burning Bush Video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
What Nurseries Need to Know About the Invasive Species Regulation, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Invasive plants: impact on environment and people, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center

Lenny Farlee, Sustaining Hardwood Extension Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on March 20th, 2020 in Forestry, How To, Plants, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »

manage woods for white-tailed deer cover

Many woodland landowners are interested in improving their properties for one of Indiana’s most abundant game animals, white-tailed deer. This publication titled Managing Your Woods for White-Tailed Deer outlines different options landowners have to enhance white-tailed deer habitat in their woodlands. Learn the pros and cons of mature forests vs. young forest stands along with finding answers to these and other questions you may have:

  • Can mature forests cause less forage?
  • What does lacking oak trees mean for managing deer?
  • Which plants do deer eat?

This 16-page publication filled with plants and forest photos is a free download from the Purdue Extension resource center, The Education Store. View other deer publications and video resources as you place keywords in the search field located on The Education Store website.

Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: A Land Manager’s Guide, The Education Store, Purdue University
Bovine Tuberculosis in Wild White-tailed Deer, The Education Store
How to Score Your White-tailed Deer, Video, The Education Store
How to Build a Plastic Mesh Deer Exclusion Fence, The Education Store
Frost Seeding to Establish Wildlife Food Plots and Native Grass and Forb Plantings, Video, The Education Store

Jarred Brooke, Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on March 19th, 2020 in Forestry, Forests and Street Trees, How To | No Comments »

Purdue Landscape Report: We all have heard about dormancy and the restful time of woody plants in our landscapes. That “chill-out” time is nearing the end and it’s time to think about tree maintenance. Trees and shrubs have actually been growing for quite some time, we just can’t see it… yet. Woody plants begin growth after the chilling requirements have been filled. These requirements are different for every plant. Chilling units are hours of time spent above freezing. The number of hours required for chilling varies for different plants from less than 500 to 1,500 hours or more. Many people think the plant is tracking hours below freezing, but in actuality, hours below freezing has no effect on chilling but does increase cold hardiness. Our mild winter and early spring arrival is playing a role in this process.


Figure 1. These oak tree buds may look dormant but have completed their chilling requirement and are ready to break. Source

An important maintenance task is supplemental fertilization during early spring weather, especially if there wasn’t any type of fall fertilization. Let’s take a look at how a tree uses and gains energy during the year to understand why and when trees need good nutrition. After the leaves have fallen there is no way to generate food because without leaves, there is no photosynthesis. There are huge demands on the carbohydrate reserves due to increased metabolic functions to support new leaves, flowers and fruit. Supplemental nutrition can help if storage levels are low or depleted until the new photosynthates are available. That’s a huge demand on its reserves! The tree must rely on stored carbohydrate reserves in its woody parts such as stems and branches to grow. Hopefully, the tree was healthy and developing those reserves going into fall or supplemental nutrition was offered with fall fertilization. If not, then the tree exhausts much of its energy and is in need of new resources.  In some situations, it may be considered safer for the tree to apply fertilizer in the spring. Fall applications, if applied too early in the fall season, can create the risk of forcing the plant into becoming metabolically active right when cold weather hits, creating growth susceptible to freeze damage.

Many woody plants begin the new year’s growth with stored food from the year before. An application of fertilizer in the spring gives an additional boost to this new growth. It is important to note that not all trees and shrubs need fertilization, however, most can benefit from this application, especially the younger actively growing trees. In forests, soils have an abundance of nutrients, but in our landscapes and urban forest areas, that’s not often the case.  As we sweep away leaves, twigs and fallen bark, we’re removing potential recycling of nutrients for the soil. Additionally, the grass around our trees is unnatural and often outcompetes trees for available nutrients and water. That’s why we need to fertilize our trees, spring or fall. Look for signs that your tree is lacking nutrients in the soil. If you see these signs, fertilization may be necessary.


Figure 2. The graph shows the starch loss or energy used during various growing stages for the tree during the year. Most energy is depleted after leaf emergence and then regained as leaves begin photosynthesizing new resources. Source

  • Shorter than normal annual twig growth
  • Undersized leaves that are fewer in number
  • Dead branches and branch tips
  • Leaf veins darker than leaf margins
  • Leaves any other color than dark green, such as yellow or red

However, never fertilize without getting a soil test. If your trees are experiencing any of the above symptoms, have your local arborist inspect the tree to determine the best treatment. Also, Review Consumer Horticulture: Fertilizing Woody Plants (pdf) for more details on fertilizer application techniques and rates.

Now for just a little about tree pruning. All of that new tree growth is going to prompt the pruning activities… be patient!  Once trees start budding and blooming in the spring hold off until after the flush.  Pruning in the spring can limit bloom potential and remove newly expanding leaves that will be needed to produce new food products for energy.

Generally, the best time to prune is several weeks after the spring flush or during the summer months. Early spring pruning should focus primarily on pruning for safety to remove any dead, dying or decayed branches. Aesthetic or structural pruning can be completed much later and when the tree is better prepared to seal those pruning wounds with energy reserves.  For more information refer to the publication Tree Pruning Essentials from the Education Store on pruning topics.

Consumer Horticulture: Fertilizing Woody Plants, The Education Store, Purdue University
Tree Planting Part 1: Choosing a Tree, Video, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store
Tree Pruning Essentials, Video, The Education Store
Corrective Pruning for Deciduous Trees, The Education Store
Tree Pruning: What Do Trees Think?, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Purdue Landscape Report: Yes, we need trees and here’s why…

Trees have presented as more than just a pretty face as research has indicated that trees are even more valuable for their function as much as their form. Currently, more than 50 percent of the world’s population now lives in towns and cities. In the Hoosier state, the last census indicated that 72% of our population lives in an urban area and this statistic is increasing annually.

benefits of trees in downtown area

Properly planted trees improve living conditions in downtown and suburban areas. Sources

For the most part, the rapid expansion of cities takes place with little consideration to land use planning strategy. The resulting human pressure has highly damaging effects on our urban trees and green spaces. The environmental impacts of climate change are intensified by urbanization such as increased pollution, increased temperatures, and larger demands on infrastructure such as stormwater systems.

Urban trees can help to mitigate some of the negative impacts and social consequences of urban sprawl and make cities more resilient to these changes. These important functions are called ecosystem services. This is the way urban foresters measure the benefits that trees provide other than just their beauty. Ecosystems services are the many benefits that trees and plants provide to the community. They improve our quality of life by providing food, cleaner air and water, regulating temperatures, supporting pollination and providing recreational, health and spiritual benefits.

trees benefit health1

People will stay longer and enjoy urban economy more with tree-lined streets. Sources

trees benefit health2

Trees are proven to reduce length of hospital stays and improve birth outcomes. Sources

trees benefits health3

Recreational areas are critical to community well-being. Sources

Here are some easy ways in which urban trees and woodlots contribute to making cities more environmentally sustainable and livable:

  • Trees can contribute to the increase of local food and nutrition security, providing food such as fruits and nuts for wildlife and human consumption.
  • Trees play an important role in increasing urban biodiversity, providing plants and animals with a proper habitat, food and protection.
  • A mature tree can absorb up to 350 lbs. of CO2 per year. As a result, trees play an important role in climate change mitigation. In cities with high levels of pollution, trees can improve air quality making cities healthier places to live in.
  • Strategic placement of trees in cities can help to cool the air between 30-40o F, thus reducing the urban “heat island” effect, helping reduce extreme heat conditions in summer weather.
  • Large trees are great biological filters for urban pollutants and particulate pollution. They absorb pollutant gases (such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, ozone and Sulphur oxides) and filter fine particulates such as dust, dirt, or smoke out of the air by trapping them on leaves and bark.
  • Research shows that living in close proximity of urban green spaces and having access to them, can improve physical and mental health, for example by decreasing high blood pressure and stress. Also, research indicates greatly improved neo-natal health as well. This, in turn, contributes to the well-being of urban communities.
  • Mature trees regulate water flow and play a key role in preventing floods and reducing the risk of sewer overflow. Stormwater management is a crucial city infrastructure issue and trees help. A mature tree, for instance, can intercept more than 5,000 gallons of water per year and without trees, every rain would contribute floods.
  • Trees also help to reduce carbon emissions by helping to conserve energy. For example, the correct placement of trees around buildings can reduce the need for air conditioning by 30 percent and reduce winter heating bills by 20-50 percent.
  • Planning urban landscapes with trees can increase property value, by up to 15 percent, and attract tourism and business.

These are just a few examples of the functional benefits that trees provide to our everyday life. A community or neighborhood with well-planned and well-managed green infrastructure becomesmore resilient, sustainable and equitable in terms of livelihood improvement, climate change mitigation and adaptation, disaster risk reduction and ecosystems conservation. Throughout their lifetime, trees can thus provide a benefit package worth two to three times more than the investment made in planting and caring for them. Trees aren’t the answer, but they are part of the equation. Planting trees is important, but their maintenance is as equally important.

Trees make life better.

Trees make life better. Sources

For more information on urban tree care, visit the Purdue Education Store for tree care tips and suggestions.

Tree Appraisal and the Value of Trees, The Education Store, Purdue Extension’s resource center
Tree Pruning Essentials, Publication & Video, The Education Store
Tree Installation: Process and Practices, The Education Store
Tree Selection for the “Un-natural” Environment, The Education Store
The Nature of Teaching: Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Rainscaping, planting to help with water runoff.

The Purdue Extension and Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant Rainscaping Education Program was highlighted in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Education Accomplishments Report (pdf) for fiscal year 2019.

This report highlighted all of NOAA’s greatest accomplishments related to education in five main goal areas: science informed society, conservation and stewardship, safety and preparedness, future workforce and organizational excellence.

The Rainscaping Education Program was featured in the Conservation and Stewardship section of the report. The Purdue Rainscaping Education Program offers state-wide training for Purdue Master Gardeners, conservation agencies and organizations, stormwater professionals and landscape companies and consultants. Through two-day workshop sessions, the program provides an introduction to rainscaping and rain gardens, including segments on site selection, plant selection, garden design, installation, maintenance and community engagement.

“It is wonderful to have the innovative and collaborative work of the Purdue Rainscaping Education Team recognized for its efforts,” Kara Salazar, assistant program leader and extension specialist for sustainable communities said. “The team has been working together since 2013 to develop and implement the interdisciplinary program addressing the need for community education on sustainable landscape practices to prevent polluted runoff.”

Salazar and John Orick, Purdue Master Gardener State Coordinator, are co-leads on the project. View  the full Rainscaping Team.

The featured segment on the Rainscaping program from the NOAA annual report is below.
2019 NOAA annual report highlighting Purdue Extension Rainscaping.

What is Rainscaping? Purdue Rainscaping Education Program Video, Purdue Extension
Q&A About Drainage Water Recycling for the Midwest,  The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Become a Purdue Master Gardener, The Education Store
Climate Change: How will you manage stormwater runoff?, The Education Store
Plan Today For Tomorrow’s Flood, The Education Store

Kara Salazar, Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

TreeTrees provide many benefits and value to property owners in functional, aesthetic, social, environmental, and even economic ways. Functional benefits include mitigating climate change by storing carbon, removing pollution from the atmosphere, managing stormwater runoff, and improving air quality. Trees provide oxygen and many other benefits – such as shade, which can impact home cooling costs.

The collective value of trees makes a difference in people’s health and quality of life in cities and towns everywhere. This updated Purdue Extension publication Tree Appraisal and the Value of Trees describes methods used to appraise trees and landscapes that can determine their value and worth, reasons why a tree should be appraised, the factors that go into tree appraisal, what appraisal ratings mean, and sample scenarios.

The Nature of Teaching: Trees of the Midwest, The Education Store, Purdue Education Resource Center
Corrective Pruning for Deciduous Trees, The Education Store
Resources and Assistance Available for Planting Hardwood Seedlings, The Education Store
Tree Support Systems, The Education Store

Lindsey Purcell, Urban Forestry Specialist
Purdue University, Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Posted on February 14th, 2020 in How To, Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

Extension publication, No Room at the Inn: Suburban Backyards and Migratory BirdsBird migration is one of the greatest phenomena of the natural world. Birds depend on suitable habitats to rest and refuel. In this free download publication titled No Room at the Inn: Suburban Backyards and Migratory Birds, a Purdue researcher describes ways to manage your backyard to attract birds of all types, for your enjoyment and their survival. Including a list of common migratory birds in Indiana, this publication also provides a list of other suggested resources to learn more about birds and how to identify them.

Forest Birds, Video, Purdue Extension
Birds and Residential Window Strikes: Tips for Prevention, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Managing Woodlands for Birds, The Education Store
Climate Change + Birds, Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Jessica Outcalt, Graduate Research Assistant
Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, Purdue University

Posted on February 13th, 2020 in Forestry, How To, Land Use, Wildlife | No Comments »

Just because the winter days are cold and dreary doesn’t mean the work to improve wildlife habitat on your property has to stop. In fact, now is a perfect time for a wide range of habitat projects. One such project is frost seeding native grasses and forbs. Here’s why you should brave the cold and consider sowing your seeds this winter.


Picture 3. Smaller fields can be established with just a hand seed spreader (left), whereas an ATV or tractor-mounted spreader is better for larger fields (right).


Picture 2. When broadcasting native seed, it should be mixed with a carrier (pelletized lime here) to help the seed flow through the spreader.


Picture 1. After frost seeding, the native grass and forb seed is visible on the ground, but the freezing and thawing of the soil will ensure good seed-to-soil contact.

Its natural
If you think about how a native prairie works, many of the seeds ripen in the late summer and early fall and drop to the ground throughout the fall and winter. So, sowing seeds from January through March or frost seeding is mimicking what would have occurred naturally. By doing such, you are taking advantage of the freezing and thawing cycles of the soil. The helps with a couple things.

First, many native plant seeds – forbs (wildflowers) especially – need that natural freezing and thawing cycles to break their dormancy. Thus, frost seeding can help increase the germination of many of these species. Second, the freezing and thawing of the soil helps to work the seed into the soil, which can improve seed-to-soil contact, an important factor in planting success (picture 1).

Less time to waste
Dormant seeding or seeding once the soil dips below a certain temperature (as early as November) is another viable option to establish a native grass and forb stand. But with frost seeding, the seed remains on the soil for less time before germination. Which may reduce the seeds’ exposure to soil pathogens, rodents, birds, or other critters that may eat the seed or reduce germination.

Frost seeding native grasses and forbs can be done will minimal equipment. All you need to frost seed is a hand or mechanical seed spreader, the seed, and a carrier (picture 2). Using a hand seed spreader works great for small fields, but you may consider using an ATV or tractor-mounted mechanical spreader for larger fields (picture 3).

Another option is to use a no-till seed drill. Of course, this will require more specialized equipment, but many Soil and Water Conservation Districts or Pheasants and Quail Forever Chapters have no-till drills that you can borrow or rent to help complete your project.

When it comes to establishing native grasses and forbs, there is more than one way to plant a field. But, frost seeding might be the option that is best suited for you and your site.

For a How-To on frost seeding, check out our Frost Seeding Video below:

Frost Seeding to Establish Wildlife Food Plots & Native Grass and Forb Plantings, video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Calibrating a No-Till Drill for Conservation Plantings and Wildlife Food Plots, video, The Education Store
Renovating native warm-season grass stands for wildlife: a land manager’s guide(pdf), The Education Store
Purdue Extension Pond and Wildlife Management Website, Purdue Extension

Jarred Brooke, Wildlife Extension Specialist
Department of Forestry & Natural Resource, Purdue University

Ag BMPAgricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) are intended to protect or improve water quality without significantly impacting production.  This resource titled Tipping Point Planner Stormwater Definitions, Agricultural Best Management Practices, helps communities plan for a sustainable future. Authored by Ben Wegleitner, social science outreach associate, Daniel Walker, community planning extension specialist, Kara A Salazar, assistant program leader and extension specialist for sustainable communities, and Lydia Utley, data analyst, you will find references and get an overview of how the Tipping Point Planner program guides you through best management practices.

In this Long-Term Hydrologic Impact Assessment (L-THIA) model and the Tipping Point Planner program you will find the following BMPs: no-till practices, buffer strips, grassed waterway, nutrient management, grade stabilization structure and blind inlet.

With help from trained facilitators, the Tipping Point Planner program enables professional and citizen participation in the land use planning and management process.

Tipping Point Planner, Sustainable communities, Purdue University
Urban Best Management & Low Impact Development Practices, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
Bioindicators of Water Quality: Quick Reference Guide, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality by Protecting Sinkholes on Your Property, video, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality At Your Livestock Operation, video, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality Around Your Farm, video, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store

Kara A Salazar, Assistant Program Leader and Extension Specialist for Sustainable Communities
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Got Nature?