As a new season approaches, have you ever asked yourself, “I wonder what’s up with the natural world, at this moment, where I live?”

My name is Roy Jantzen and I am a professor of natural history, environmental interpretation, and stewardship. I live in Riverdale and find eternal excitement in the changes I witness each week while walking the trails around town.

Plants, with a new colour-of-the-week, appear suddenly; migrant birds, along with their distinct sounds and flight patterns, come, go, and come back again, depending on the month. For awhile I’ll, see a mammal such as a fox, coyote, or red squirrel every day, and then, without explanation, I don’t see it for months.

What’s up?

I hold a Masters of Environmental Education and Communication and have a background in outdoor recreation. In addition, I’m naturally curious — in a natural world sort of way.

Given my background, I thought I would explore these changes further. This column, Au Naturel, is the product of that exploration, and an opportunity to share it with you.

For the next year, I plan to research, document, write, and share my observations of local species at the times they are most noticeable — from those at our feet that come into bloom, to others overhead that change colour.

Some migrating animals will have struggled to get here through Arctic water from the Bering Sea, whereas others ride jet streams by the light of the moon.

Here in the Yukon, entire festivals are planned around the arrival of some species — swans, cranes, and sheep; while major technological challenges are surmounted for others, such as the bald eagle web cam on the Millennium Trail.

Current wellness research makes a strong connection between good health – both mental and physical – and access to green space.

This connection applies to everything from a new housing complex’s proximity to parks, trails, and natural spaces, to the greenery and gardens viewable from a hospital window.

It also applies to those who leave the fluorescent lights in their office at lunch and walk next to a river, and to apartment dwellers that spend time in their community garden plot each weekend.

Green space, in the form of local trails is a major part of my wellness regimen. I often find myself with one eye on the trail and one on the sky, the tree, or the burrow in the distance, looking for other life.

My trails are probably your trails — in Riverdale, Hillcrest, Porter Creek, Wolf Creek, Mary Lake, McIntyre, Raven’s Ridge, and Takhini. On these trails, I ask questions, noticing changes, and make predictions — generally walking with a sense of wonder. I would like this column to be a discourse on that wonder.

I’m interested in what’s going on in the natural world in your community and the trails around your home. Email me and I’ll aim to reflect it in this space. It should be exciting.