A good friend of mine, Dan Anderson, who is a wildlife photographer from Eagle River, Wisconsin, recently sent me this photograph of a Spruce grouse. He commented about the Spruce grouse in his email with the attached photos. He said, “Wisconsin is at the extreme southern edge of their range, and the biologists are watching them pretty closely to see if climate change will impact their presence here.”
The Spruce grouse is an example of an indicator species. Indicator species are used by biologists to help them understand the overall health of a particular environment. The presence or absence (or population increase or decrease) of an indicator species may have something important to suggest about the environment. Indicator species can be more sensitive to subtle changes in their environment.
Spruce grouse reside in the North American boreal zone (or taiga), which is characterized by coniferous forests. When a species like the Spruce grouse, which lives only in this zone, expands or shrinks in its range, it can be an indication that something is amiss. On the other hand, species will at times, expand or shrink in their range as a natural pattern of distribution. Here is where science can be so vital. Good science can help to ascertain such distinctions.
Biologists are monitoring the plant life of the boreal forests to watch for any decrease in conifer species. Since the Spruce grouse is so dependent on these trees, if some species of conifers decline due to climate change, there is fear that the grouse population will decrease also. Hence, the Spruce grouse as an indicator species.
I have seen Spruce grouse while on wilderness canoe trips in Northern Minnesota and Southern Ontario. I have also seen them while on hikes when I lived in Northwestern Montana. I have not seen one in the wilds for a number of years, so I was thrilled to get these recent photos of the grouse from my friend.
It is not uncommon to get quite close to a Spruce grouse if you do get the privilege of seeing one, since they very much rely on camouflage and stillness as a way of protection from predators. This behavior has earned them the just nickname of “fool hen.” (Though to come across one while in the forest is not so common due to their preference for dense forest.)
As a psychologist who practices psychotherapy, thinking about the Spruce grouse, climate change, and the expansion or reduction of a species’ range, started me thinking about how the psyche has such a profound effect on our range of behaviors as individuals. Jungian psychotherapy in particular, inherently helps people to expand upon their own range of behaviors.
Inherent in Jungian theory is typology. Typology helps to explain how we relate to the environment and the people around us. Many people have been exposed to some of the concepts of typology. Thinking and feeling function types and extravert and introvert attitude types, are just some of the terms that fall within the domain of typology inherent in Jung’s psychology. Everyone has a dominant type that is not necessarily static, but can change with time.
The important thing that I want to emphasize is that although we all seem to be born with a dominant attitude type (introversion or extraversion), working with our less dominant type can lead to personal growth and an increase in consciousness. These ideas are contained within the process of Jungian psychotherapy. For the extravert, their energy flows outward, toward the object. In the case of the introvert, they are drawn inward.
An introverted, intuitive type, was guided by her dreams to work with sculpting clay to develop her sensation function. Working with opposites, such as in typology, and holding the tension of this work, is one of the goals of Jungian psychotherapy and individuation.
Exploring and learning about your unconscious typologies, your opposites, can help to expand your range. There is much more to say about typology, but for the purpose of this article, the point is that the psyche will produce imagery through dreams and day to day life, that will invite us to explore these other parts of our personalities. This exploration and the willingness to experiment with these less dominant types can be a place of excitement and meaning.
Similar to an indicator species like the Spruce grouse, we are all capable of being sensitive to our interior symbolic “climate changes.” The more that we can be attuned to our inner landscape, and our psyche’s gentle (and sometimes not so gentle) invitations toward growth and change, as discussed above with the examples of typology, the more that we will be attuned to our outer environment, such as with the literal climate change patterns occurring there.
If we pay attention, our inner world is reflected in our outer environment. Becoming more conscious of both, seems to be part of our psyche’s goal for us as individuals. We become less one-sided this way, and more accepting of others who are different from us. Starting from such a place of acceptance has the potential to help with real change, both with our internal “climates” and external climate change problems. Science and government both need an accepting attitude of differences, if they are to have a chance together of helping to both instill and carry out policy in ways that can make a difference for the plants and animals, including humans, who all need to learn to live on this earth together. It is the responsibility of humans, in spite of our differences, to solve the pressing environmental and ecological problems impacting our planet.
I remember as a teenager and young adult, watching two bird species, the wood duck and the cattle egret, slowly expand their range into the territory and habitat that I was exploring at that time. This was exciting to me and somehow seemed to point toward new possibilities. There is potential to find similar feelings and hope when we explore our opposites, seek a kind of balance in that space, and continue to be open to expanding our range, because new possibilities are more likely to be discovered there.