The Naturalist’s Guide to Penn’s Campus

Stretching from the industrialized banks of the Schuylkill to the rolling hills west of 42nd, Penn’s campus serves as a little oasis in the midst of a bustling metropolitan city. Home to a wide array of flora and fauna, researchers and nature zealots alike have flocked here for centuries to marvel at the stunning array of biodiversity just outside our doorstep. Whether you be a seasoned naturalist or just someone who likes to get outside, Penn’s campus has it all and will surely delight even the most novice of animal and plant enthusiasts.

The wide variety of sickened and dying trees around these parts is impressive. Even just walking around from one end of campus to another, you’re likely to see a whole array of scraggly and pockmarked trees sprouting crookedly from concrete: maple, oak, dogwood, sycamore, and even cherry trees! What is perhaps most exciting for local arborists is the autumnal season, when Penn’s trees turn magnificent shades of yellow, orange and red for approximately six days and then fall off, forming great clumps of brown soggy leaves that you’ll surely slip on if you’re not paying attention. It’s really a treat.

Though trees offer a stunning spectacle and magnificent backdrop for hundreds of thousands of Instagram photos, the bounty of animal life here is certainly not to be ignored. On a daily basis, you’re likely to run across a huge number of squirrels in varying stages of health. Their ubiquitous mange will make it difficult to distinguish male from female, but their constant and unfettered activity all hours of the day and night makes for some exciting observation. Additionally, the enormous flocks of identical black birds that sometimes perch on local telephone poles like all-seeing angels of darkness allow for some wonderful opportunities to bird-watch. If you tend towards nocturnalism, you’re in luck because Penn’s community of hungry possums and raccoons that prowl the night never fail to impress.

From the cool waters of the Biopond, to the great heaps of garbage and waste that sometimes pile up on street corners, Penn’s campus offers a relaxing change of pace from the hustle and bustle of the greater Philadelphia area. Be sure to grab a pair of binoculars, some sunscreen, and a notebook to jot down your findings because in terms of nature, Penn really has it all.

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