Knowing Your Bioregion: A First Step to Stewardship

Lake Erie SunsetAsk me where I am from, and more than likely, I will say Lake Erie. Or the Great Lakes. I love Pennsylvania, for sure, but I feel I have more in common with someone from Toronto or Chicago than someone from Philadelphia (though I love that city and lived there many years of my youth).

I also love central Pennsylvania, being a Penn State girl.  But the hills and valleys feel somehow wrong to me. My eyes crave the flat land, as it reaches toward a low and long horizon.

And I truly feel starved for the horizon that is a Great Lake. For those of you who have never seen a Great Lake, it is no simple lake. It would look like the ocean to you. No land in sight. Rolling waves.

Lake Erie is one of the most treacherous places you can sail because of how shallow and large it is.  Quick changes in the weather can be life-threatening.

I also love knowing that this chair I am sitting in, this house sitting behind me, all of it used to be under water. The lake came up to here so many thousands of years ago.  It's shore was very close to my front street. Evidence of this lies in my soil.  Pieces of shell, fossils, certain rocks -- it all tells a deep and long story.

Every place is this unique. You just have to dig a bit.

And digging can lead to roots which can give you a sense of grounding that can be easily lost in this world that can seem precariously virtual, too fast, and too transient.

Getting to know your bioregion can lead to a feeling of ownership and then to good stewardship.  A worthy quest, indeed.

So here's a list of questions and suggestions and actions to get you going on this quest:

1.  Point north from where you are reading this.

2.  From which directions do storms come in each season?

3.  Name 3 native, edible plants and when they are able to be harvested.

4.  What native people originally lived in your area?

5.  Name 5 resident and 5 migratory birds.

6.  Can you recognize the calls of three resident birds?

7.  What are the earliest and latest times for the sunrise and the sunset over the course of the year?

8.  In which watershed do you reside?  What about your sub-watershed?

9.  How many days until the next full moon?  (Bonus points if you know what one of the names for this full moon is.)

10.  Name five trees in your neighborhood.  Which of them are native?

11.  What primary geological events or processes shaped the land upon which you live?

12.  Were the stars out last night?

13.  What are the names of your human neighbors?

14.  What immigrant populations are currently predominant in your area?

15.  What languages other than English might you hear at the local grocery store?

16.  When are strawberries and peaches available to you locally?

17.  When was the last time you bought a locally produced product other than food?

18.  Where does your electricity come from and how is it generated?

19.  When did you last pick a fresh pea or tomato from your own yard or a neighbor's yard?

20.  How far do you commute to work? If over ten miles, why don't you live closer to your job?

21.  How old is your neighborhood?

22.  When did you last use a form of public transportation?

23.  If you could only "vacation" within a thirty mile radius, what would you do with your time off?

24.  How many times have you moved in the last five years?  The last ten?

25.  When did you last attend a locally produced art/music/theatre/dance event?

26.  Name one local published author.  (Trust me, there are more.)

Let me know if you find out anything startling, interesting, mind-boggling.

And do something with this information:  absorb it and live it and share it.

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Christine Reed
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Guest Tom Christoffel

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Hi - Google’s Blog alert sent me to this post because of the term “bioregion.†This article should be useful to the subscribers of Regional Community Development News, so I will include a link to it in the August 27 issue. It can be found at Please visit, check the tools and consider a link. Tom

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