Earth Day Message

From Nancy A. Sheehan, Program Coordinator, Journey North


To engage an audience across North America in tracking migration and seasonal change to foster scientific understanding, environmental awareness and the land ethic. —Journey North mission statement (February 2020)

Happy Earth Day!

From blooms of Red Emperor tulips and Milkweed to the first arrivals of Monarchs and Hummingbirds, nature provides us with stories of hope and resilience. As a member of the Journey North community, you bear witness to these seasonal changes. With each wildlife migration sighting you submit to Journey North, with each news update you read, you help weave together a story of hope and resilience – a story that includes nature. You indeed become a voice for the plants and wildlife observed in your “patches on the planet.” You are following the land ethic so eloquently articulated by Aldo Leopold in his A Sand County Almanac in 1949. Your phenological and migration observations enlarge the boundaries of our community to include the Monarchs, the Hummingbirds, the Common Loons, the American Robins and the many other species tracked by Journey North.

We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect…The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants and animals, or collectively the land. —Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic, A Sand County Almanac.

At this moment, we need these stories more than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has turned our lives upside down. Yes, we all have the pandemic in common. But, on this Earth Day, as I read through your phenological observations, I am reminded yet again that more importantly we have nature in common. I hope that during these challenging times, while you may feel bereft of members in your human community, you can find solace in and communion with your community in nature.

The earth is what we all have in common. Wendell Berry

I am honored to manage the Journey North Program in service to you, our Journey North community. In November 2018, I took the helm of Journey North upon the retirement of Elizabeth Howard, founder and director of Journey North since 1995. It has been a roller coaster of a ride with much behind the scenes work to make sure all systems continue to function. There have been a few bumps in the road and, recently, with the public health crisis, the bumps have felt more like mountains. Despite these bumps – no matter how high – the Journey North community has not wavered in its commitment to submit migration observations and to subscribe to our migration news updates. For this, I thank every one of you.

During this time, I recognize how hard it has been to find our community. However, while our physical world has constricted to working and socializing at home, our virtual world has expanded – in no small part due to your continued participation. On Earth Day, I invite you to gather together, albeit virtually, by sharing a photo of you and/or of your “patch of the planet” with our community while holding up a sign that reads “I am Journey North”.

You can find instructions here.

We look forward to connecting with you in this way and strengthening our community.

Keep safe and stay healthy.



Nancy A. Sheehan, Journey North-Program Coordinator, University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, Madison, WI