Meet Your Neighbors

Ignite your curiosity about the wild animals, plants, and fungi with whom we share our home.

Anna’s Hummingbirds visit the author’s home daily. Photo by Tracy Jad Sawan, shot on iPhone SE camera held up to Pentax Papilio II binoculars.

This is the first article in the “Meet Your Neighbors” series. Each article in this series highlights a different animal, plant, or fungus in Washington. While the series focuses on Washington, the aim is to spark the curiosity of anyone, anywhere about their local wildlife.

Did you know that more than 2,500 plant species and 1,700 animal species live in Washington?

The beauty of our state lies in its diverse ecosystems and rich biodiversity. The abundance of Douglas fir, hemlock, spruce, cedar, and ponderosa pine forests earned Washington the nickname “the evergreen state”.

And there’s more good news. You don’t have to drive all the way to national parks or buy expensive gear to get to know your wild neighbors. All you have to do is go outside. Urban and suburban areas can support remarkable biodiversity. On walks in my own Seattle neighborhood, I have encountered 29 species of wild birds, five species of wild mammals, and countless insects and plants. With time, a little mindfulness, and many Google searches, I have come to recognize them.

Raccoons can be frequently spotted in Washington’s residential neighborhoods. Photo by Tracy Jad Sawan, shot on iPhone SE.

People protect what they love, they love what they understand, and they understand what they are taught. Jacques Cousteau, oceanographer

Unfortunately, hundreds of plants and animals in Washington face extinction. The loss of this biodiversity would harm human and environmental health. Biodiversity:

  • helps protect us from natural disasters and disease,
  • ensures our access to food, fresh water, and medicine,
  • purifies our air and water,
  • contributes to individual and collective physical and mental health,
  • and is our strongest natural defense against climate change, which affects us all, but disproportionately impacts the world’s most vulnerable communities.

By understanding the importance of biodiversity and taking action to protect it, we make sure that we all thrive and that future generations continue to experience Washington’s beauty.

Cousteau was right. We have to be curious about our home and the fellow beings who inhabit it. Get outside, wherever you are, and engage however you are able to. It’s time to get to know our neighbors—the wild ones.

Wild mushrooms can be found all over Washington, including residential neighborhoods. Photo by Tracy Jad Sawan, shot on iPhone SE.

PacSci Exhibits

  • Indigenous knowledge has been historically excluded from, and remains underrepresented in, STEM. Our newest exhibit, Pollinator Path, highlights Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). The outdoor exhibit encourages us all to reflect on the relationship between plants, pollinators, and humans. PacSci worked closely with Owen Oliver (Quinault / Isleta Pueblo) of Headwater People to create this exhibit with a Native-led interpretive approach.
  • Our signature exhibit, Salt Water Tide Pool, is also a great place to learn about wild species native to the Puget Sound, from starfish to sea urchins.
  • Dinosaurs may have disappeared, but not all of them became extinct. Some of them evolved. Did you know that birds descended from a group of two-legged dinosaurs known as theropods? Visit our Dinosaurs exhibit to journey through time and learn about dinosaurs from the Mesozoic Era (that’s 252 to 66 million years ago!). Think about that the next time you encounter one of Seattle’s iconic crows!

All three exhibits are included with General Admission tickets.

Additional Resources

There are many resources available to help us learn about our wild neighbors, online and off. Here are a couple by local Washingtonian scientists:

Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife book

Welcome to Subirdia: Sharing Our Neighborhoods with Wrens, Robins, Woodpeckers, and Other Wildlife

Written by Dr. John Marzluff, Professor of Wildlife Science at the University of Washington (UW), this book presents a surprising discovery: the suburbs of many large cities support incredible biological diversity.

Communities of a great variety of birds, as well as other creatures, are adapting to the conditions of our increasingly developed world. In this optimistic book, Marzluff reveals how our own actions affect the animals that live in our cities and towns, and he provides ten strategies everyone can use to make human environments friendlier for our natural neighbors.

Brown bear with "The Wild with Chris Morgan" NPR Network/KUOW

The Wild with Chris Morgan

Seattle-based podcast, The Wild with Chris Morgan (KUOW/NPR), explores how nature survives and thrives alongside (and often despite) humans. Taking listeners across the Pacific Northwest, host Chris Morgan explores wildlife and the complex web of ecosystems they inhabit.

Morgan is a Washington-based ecologist and conservationist.