Grace Gaard loves to draw, anything from landscapes to animals.

She’s also an aquatic ecology education specialist with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, and science has always been her focus.

So when she and her husband, Alek, were walking their dogs and she spotted a silver maple bud on the ground, an idea for combining both loves popped into her head.

She could contribute illustrations to the online world while sheltering in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

She’s calling it Grace’s Guide to the Outside: Nebraska Edition.

Gaard is posting her nature-themed illustrations on Instagram, where she’s hoping they’ll be shared. She started with a silver maple leaf, followed by a daffodil. Last week, she posted a pelican after seeing one fly over her home in Carter Lake. An earthworm is next.

Each illustration details parts of the subject with interesting facts.

“Everyday things and cool things to know about them,” she said.

Friends like them so much, they’ve suggested she consider a book.

Gaard used to work with kids at Fontenelle Forest. Science can sometimes be intimidating, she said, and the staff was always searching for ways to make it easier to understand.

Looking for things in her illustrations could be a first step on a family walk.

“They can ask questions and just wonder about things, which is a big part of being a scientist,” she said. “Sneaky learning for kids and adults.”

Marjie is a writer for The World-Herald’s special sections and specialty publications, including Inspired Living Omaha, Wedding Essentials and Momaha Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @mduceyOWH. Phone: 402-444-1034.

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