The Best of Nature Online (when you can't go out!)

Oh yes, the weather outside is frightful and this year (here in Ottawa at least) it seems so unpredictable also - rain, sub zero temps, wind chills and freezing all adds up to the desire to hibernate!  How has winter been for you in your area?  Spring still feels like a long way off.  If you are wondering yourself, when you will be able to get out again, don't despair, you can still get the positive effects of nature even at home!  Studies suggest that looking at green flora or other green scenes and watching nature tv programming can still provide benefits.  The immersion of both the visual and auditory senses in this way provides the same experience as if you were actually outside.  You could even give yourself an extra boost if you add a natural scent like pine or spruce.  Watching birds outside can also be a great mini-nature dose.

Here are some online places to go when you want a dose of nature but can't go out.  Some are educational and others provide the realism you may be craving.  Other more artistic links may not give you the same exact reality immersion, but connecting to delightful, peaceful images that provide interaction, immersion and the feeling of connection along with a sense of awe, whimsy or fun is another type of boost that many may need during these darker, colder months.  So check out the list below and see what awakens a sense of curiosity or draws you for some online pursuits!

In the Tallgrass (vimeo video) 

This is a delightful three and a half minute artistic video by Erin Anfinson showcasing the flora and fauna that you can find in tallgrass prairies.  The beautiful animation follows the path of insects, flying around beautiful flowers and also other many legged bugs that climb up stalks and visit the variety of blooms.  It also provides a condensed experience of a full day to highlight both day and night visuals.  It's a charming creation that allows you to experience the sensations of walking in a meadow ecosystem in full summer.  Just what we need while we are immersed in the depths of winter!

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Nature 365 

This YouTube channel (link) has been providing its viewers short glimpses of nature (some wilder than others!) for a full year. While it seems that the project is completed, the 365 mini videos are still available online.  Some are set to relaxing music, others provide crisp, clear natural sounds, that make you feel like you are right there!  Viewers are able to experience small moments of contemplation whether up close on a feather or tracking birds through the sky and also take in the more visceral active experiences of survival in the wild.  You'll get to see not only a large variety of flora and fauna but also different weather, seasons and natural phenomenon.

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Aniscense (online app)

This delightfully designed interactive educational game is a joy to view and makes learning familiar flora and fauna species names fun and appealing for all ages!  It's main character, Little Mouse, can be directed to different terrain and those playing can explore what she sees with the available magnifying glass.  It does have a U.K. focus - so not all species identified will be familiar to Canadian or American viewers but it's still a lovely way to spend your time during transit or while waiting in line.  It's first version brought visitors underground, through a field and to a pond and now there is the opportunity to explore a forested area!  It's truly a beautiful and serene interactive story that is a delight to play.  You can add this to your smart phone (Android, iphone), tablet or computer.

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Official Canadian Bird Quiz

How about spending a few minutes trying out your birding identification skills with the "Official Canadian Birds Quiz".  While I don't know how "official" it really is, it does provide some great mental stimulation compared to the passive activities that can become prevalent at this time of year.  Written and designed by Bird Protection Quebec, I noticed that this was a very popular quiz with birders when it was released earlier in 2017 and even if you are not a birder, it's fun to go through it and see what you know about your provincial birds.  The website has a few other quizzes also such as the Black Friday Bird Quiz and one to test your Owl IQ.  Large detailed photos and other trivia facts make these quizzes a great way to spend your time online.  Check it out and learn some new bird species - some of which may be very nearby!

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Chirming (graphic design project)

Something a bit more abstract but visually stunning is a incredibly well conceived design project by Sukgo at the Sejong University.  Taking into account the frequency of the bird's singing, the bird's vocal range, foliage density, time of year and layering the various birds vocal mandalas, the end result is something so lovely and textured and colourful that it almost seems alive itself.  Above is just one of a group of visual representations and if you check out the details of the project (on the pdf) you can also understand the logic behind these designs.

If this is the type of stuff that excites you - look through more of the design projects here at Design Awards.

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Never Alone (video game)

Finally, if winter is your thing but you can't always get out, this video game could be a welcome distraction from being indoors.  The video game received much well-deserved press when it was released in 2015 (A friend shared with me the link a few years ago - thanks Carla!) and its main character is a girl!  Here is a quote directly from the website providing inspiring details on how it was developed:
"Never Alone (Kisima Ingitchuna) is the first game developed in collaboration with the Iñupiat, an Alaska Native people. Nearly 40 Alaska Native elders, storytellers and community members contributed to the development of the game. Play as a young Iñupiat girl and an arctic fox as they set out to find the source of the eternal blizzard which threatens the survival of everything they have ever known."
Check out the Never Alone trailer here on Vimeo.

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