Blue Aster Studio

Ten science and nature organizations to donate to this Giving Tuesday

Jennie Orr

We try to keep the hardworking people protecting wildlife and habitat in mind all year around, but on Giving Tuesday many corporations will double your gift to nonprofits to encourage charitable giving. So let’s all take advantage of this great time to be generous! Here are some organizations doing good work for science and the environment.

  1. The Alongside Wildlife Foundation

    This organization founded by Dr. David Steen provides critical funding to researchers studying wildlife. The grants the AWF provides help with field research, outreach, and many other aspects of wildlife conservation science. If you’d like to learn more about The Alongside Wildlife Foundation, visit their website

  2. Skype A Scientist

    Have you ever wanted to sit down and have a Q & A with an expert in the field you’re studying? Well, that is exactly what Skype a Scientist offers! Their goal is to connect scientists with classrooms all over the world. While they aren’t a nonprofit, we think they are doing some really great work of making science more accessible for children. You can learn more about them at their website,, and purchase some very cool merch to support their mission.

  3. Nature Conservancy

    The Nature Conservancy does important work to conserve habitat and fight against climate change. They have chapters in every US state, so no matter where you live you’re probably close to one of their beautiful preserves. Find more information at

  4. National Center for Science Education

    If you’re interested in giving children access to the best science education possible, you should definitely check out the National Center for Science Education. They especially focus on teaching evolution and climate change science. The NCSE also monitors and helps communities fight against local policies and state legislative bills threatening accurate science education. If you’re interested in finding out more, you can visit their website

  5. Your Local Wildlife Rehabilitation Center

    Some of the most tireless and dedicated animal lovers we’ve ever met are those who rescue, rehabilitate, and (hopefully) release injured and orphaned wildlife. Animal Help Now located at is a great place to find your local wildlife rehabilitation center. There’s no better way to help the critters in your own neighborhood!

  6. Your Local Land Trust

    Donating to your local land trust is a great way to conserve wilderness close to home. These organizations not only preserve habitat and provide ecosystem services they also provide accessible nature escapes close to home. If you are not sure if you have a land trust near you, you can use to find one!

  7. Xerces Society

    The smallest animals often play the most important roles in an environment and the Xerces Society works to protect them. They help to educate the public and build habitat for pollinators. We love their educational resources! To learn more about the Xerces Society, go to their website

  8. Defenders of Wildlife

    Every wild animal needs a good lawyer! The Defenders of Wildlife take on the courts and work on Capitol Hill to ensure our wildlife has the protection it needs. They work to retain endangered species laws as well as to keep corporations from encroaching on public lands. To learn more about Defenders of Wildlife, go to their website

  9. Outdoor Afro

    This organization promotes outdoor recreation, nature, and conservation for all! Outdoor Afro was founded to help connect the African American community with natural spaces. Encouraging leadership in environmental education and outdoor recreation, they have active networks in 30 US states. To find the network nearest you, go to

  10. Advocates for Snake Preservation

    We love snakes. We’re sure a lot of you love snakes. But let’s face it, snakes don’t have the best PR. Advocates for Snake Preservation works hard to improve public perception of our slithering friends. To help them in their mission, consider adding them to your Giving Tuesday donations. You can visit their website to find out more.

Three Favorite Holiday Season Outings in Southern Indiana

HolidaysJennie Orr

The Canopy of Lights

We love kicking off the holiday season with the lighting of the Bloomington, Indiana downtown at the Canopy of Lights celebration! The whole town comes together to sing Christmas songs and countdown to the lights switching on for the season. It feels like we live in one of those small towns featured in Hallmark movies, even if just for one night.

West Baden Springs Hotel Christmas Tree

If you’re looking for a place to relax and let all the stresses of the season melt away, it is the West Baden Springs hotel atrium. Sit and enjoy the 40-foot Christmas tree in this elegant indoor dome that will make you feel under-dressed. But you probably won’t care as you chill out in their comfy lounge seating. You can indulge with some ice cream or an adult beverage and escape real life for a bit in this magical setting.


If you aren’t ready to give up on Halloween but everyone is telling you to get in the Christmas spirit, then this event is for you! Decide whether you’re going to be naughty or nice with the stickers provided by the organizers and then find a prime spot on the parade line. Then, be delighted by hula-hooping angels, fire breathers and jugglers, and finally the main event: giant Krampus monsters! They terrorize the naughty with their growls, grunts and fistfuls of switches. If you’re really brave you can run the gauntlet of Krampus after the parade. You might even spot one or two rogue beasts around Bloomington later in the evening frightening children into being good!

Blue Aster Studio's 2018 Holiday Sale!

Shop AnnouncementsDavid Orr

The holiday season has rolled around once again. If you have hikers, birders, bug collectors, and other breeds of nature lovers on your list, we think we’ve got some gifts that will fit the bill.

From now until Christmas Eve, everything in our shop is 10% off, with all orders over $25 eligible for free domestic shipping. Head over to Etsy to browse the selection!

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Opt Outside Black Friday

Get OutsideJennie Orr

Looking to get outside and avoid the shopping crowds on Black Friday? There are some wonderful free hiking opportunities being offered in our great state of Indiana! Besides, the sales have now expanded beyond Black Friday itself so you won’t even be missing any deals. Let’s take a look at some of the parks providing extra incentives to opt outside!

Eye of the dune

If you’re in the Northern part of the state, you head on over to the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore for some expert-led hikes. The good people at Save the Dunes will offer two hikes: one through the dunes at West Beach and one in Miller Woods. You can find more information about these hikes at the National Park Service website.

Snowy Brown County State Park, Trail 1

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is also offering free admission at all Indiana State Parks this Black Friday. So, no matter where the holiday takes you, you are close to a great hiking experience! You can also share your pictures with the Indiana DNR using #OptOutsideIN for a chance to win a 2019 state park pass as well as other prizes. Whether you’re near Pokagon or Clifty Falls, Turkey Run or Mounds, be sure to get outside and enjoy Indiana! You can find more information on the Opt Outside Black Friday events on the Indiana DNR website.


If you’re not in Indiana this holiday or want to find hikes outside the state, you can go to the REI Opt Outside website to find great hiking opportunities near you! And for those of you who aren’t able to get out this Black Friday, you can always follow along with #optoutside on social media to enjoy the outdoors!

Take a hike with Brown County State Park!

Get OutsideJennie Orr

When we aren’t working on Blue Aster products or commissions, we love to get outside and hike as much as possible. And we love sharing pictures of our hikes and nature finds both big and small! Follow along here to see where we’ve hit the trail!

We took a short hike around Strahl Lake at Brown County State Park. This is one of our favorite short hikes at this park. You can get to it by parking at the visitors center and taking the connecting trail (trail 6) down the hill or you can drive right down by the lake and park. The trail takes you right along the water in many spots but also has a few stairs, decks, and walkways. Two of our favorite spots on this trail are the walkway surrounded by jewelweed (which attracts hummingbirds!) and the pines on the southeastern portion of the lake (they smell wonderful!)

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Five tips for raising monarch butterflies

Monarchs and MilkweedJennie Orr

This year we had the chance to collect a few monarch caterpillars to raise on our porch. In years past we hadn’t had the opportunity, probably because we didn’t have enough milkweed. So we were very excited to be raising our first monarchs. We wanted to share a few tips we learned both from doing this ourselves and talking and reading about others who have also decided to raise monarchs from their pollinator gardens.

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1. Make sure you have a good spot to keep them

A small butterfly raising net cage works great for amateur monarch enthusiasts. We had a very large fish bowl that we used. It was large enough to house one monarch caterpillar at a time. We kept our caterpillars on our screened porch so that they were safe but also had the benefit of being outdoors. The other benefit our large fish bowl had was the ability to disinfect it easily between our caterpillar guests. Cleanliness is important because there are parasites that can harm the monarch population. You want to be sure you’re not helping to spread disease in the monarch population.

2. Make sure you have enough milkweed to feed them

Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed, so you want to be sure you have a large enough supply to keep your caterpillars well fed until they pupate. You will need to refresh the milkweed in your caterpillar’s home every one to two days. If you don’t have a lot of milkweed growing in your garden, you might want to consider scouting out some additional food for your monarch caterpillars. You might have a neighbor or a local park with a little milkweed to spare. Or you can also check in with your local native plant groups to see where you might be able to purchase more milkweed plants.

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3. Don’t take on more than you can handle

An important thing to remember is to not take on more than you can handle when raising monarchs. If you have a lot of other responsibilities, don’t add feeding and cleaning up after caterpillars to your list! Just enjoy watching them utilizing your garden! Your caterpillars will need at least a daily check-in (change out milkweed, clean out the container of poo, etc). The monarch population has enough of an uphill battle without us trapping and neglecting them.


4. Find good (reputable) resources for help

Before you start on the journey of raising a monarch caterpillar, do some research with some reputable organizations. Some of our favorites are the Xerces Society, Monarch, The Monarch Joint Venture, or state departments of natural resources. There are also many entomologists on Twitter that are great resources for information and are usually happy to point you in the right direction for more info.

5. Remember that nature can sometimes be cruel

One thing to remember if you’re bringing in a monarch caterpillar to raise to show your children is that sometimes, nature can be cruel. Not every monarch caterpillar’s story will end in a release of a beautiful monarch butterfly. There can be some complications along the way and you might have to have some tough conversations if things don’t go well. While this can all be part of the lesson, it was very sad even for us (two adults) when our caterpillar failed to thrive or didn’t pupate fully.


Take a hike with us... at Amy Weingartner Branigin Peninsula Preserve!

Get OutsideJennie Orr

When we aren’t working on Blue Aster products or commissions, we love to get outside and hike as much as possible. And we love sharing pictures of our hikes and nature finds both big and small! Follow along here to see where we’ve hit the trail!

If you live near Monroe County Indiana, this is a must hike trail! It takes you right out to Lake Monroe for a perfect panorama view anytime of the year! This Sycamore Land Trust site is pretty popular and you may have a difficult time finding a parking spot during peak hiking season or on weekends. (You cannot park anywhere but the parking lot.) We prefer to hike this trail on a weekday.

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