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Ask the Naturalist

A bird? A bug? Something strange in the natural world nearby? Ask us and we’ll find the answer! And check here for answers to great questions you didn’t even know you had. Top questions find their way to top naturalist Michael Ellis, who writes a column for our print magazine.

How Much Should You Worry About Mountain Lion Attacks in Bay Area Parks?

June 13, 2018 by Ali Haynes

Or should the mountain lions worry about us?

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Why Did So Many Jellyfish Wash Onto Bay Beaches This Spring?

May 29, 2018 by Eve Minkin

Why are so many jellyfish washing up in the San Francisco Bay this spring?

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When a Plant Dies, Where Do the Nutrients in its Cells Go?

May 15, 2018 by Constance Taylor

Plants make all other life on Earth possible. But most animals don't eat dead plants -- so how do the nutrients plants create get into the environment when the plant dies?

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Are Baby Rattlesnakes the Most Dangerous Biters?

May 01, 2018 by Tony Iwane

People often say baby rattlesnake bites are more dangerous than adult rattlesnake bites. Is the conventional wisdom correct?


Are There Any Plants That Do Not Photosynthesize?

April 17, 2018 by Trent Pearce

Can a plant live without photosynthesizing?

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What’s New With Jupiter’s Great Red Spot?

March 30, 2018 by Michael Ellis

New research yields new insight into the nature of the planet Jupiter.

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Are There More Crows and Ravens in the Bay Area These Days?

March 27, 2018 by Adrian Cotter

Corvids move noisily into new areas. Are they arriving, or returning?


If I Pull Invasive Ivy Down from Trees, Does it Hurt the Ecosystem?

March 13, 2018 by Cat Chang

A reader wonders: should I pull out creeping ivy, or has it created its own ecosystem with plants and animals that rely on it?


How Do You Identify Small Brown Moths?

February 27, 2018 by Tony Iwane

A reader finds a small brown moth, the type you regularly see under porchlights. Where do you begin to identify it?

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Ask the Naturalist: What Are These Mysterious Tiny “Eggs”?

February 14, 2018 by Angela Pai

A reader finds what looks like pomegranate seeds at the base of her maple tree. Are they eggs? Galls? Or something else?


Bay Nature