Cayuga Bioregional Map

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The Cayuga Basin Bioregion Map was created in 2002 by artist Sandra Wold and depicts the Lake Owasca watershed in New York. This beautiful map pays homage to the precious waters flowing through the Cayuga Lake watershed in the Finger Lakes region of Central New York. From the artists website:

“Our water not only sustains us, but it also sustains a huge variety of wildlife, including 290+ species of native and migratory birds and endemic endangered orchids… adding to the remarkable beauty of this region. We are incredibly fortunate to live here.“

It was inspired by the bioregional (deep ecology) movement of the 1970s, the bioregion maps from the Salish Sea Project, and a love for the beauty of the Finger Lakes. Sandy Wold envisioned the project while working on her thesis on sustainability education. This project was originally sponsored by the Center for Environmental Sustainability (CES), along with an anonymous matching grant, a fundraiser, and a $200 grant from the Alternatives Federal Credit Union. It includes beautiful artwork from Camille Doucet, and residents around the basin who helped give a “voice to the land.”

Learn more and purchase a Cayuga Bioregion Map from the artist at:

Emerson Park in Cayuga, New York: Photo credit to Lida Park in Cayuga, New York: Photo credit to Lida

Emerson Park in Cayuga, New York: Photo credit to Lida

The boundaries of the Cayuga basin watershed were chosen:

  • to make a feasible nine-month project

  • to delineate a human-scale sized region residents could feel a connection (one can bicycle or drive around the lake in one day)

  • to increase local awareness and appreciation for local wildlife and to inspire a desire to protect the habitats of wildlife.

  • to highlight interesting aspects of year-round, neotropical (migratory), and arctic (migratory) populations of birds and their relationship to habitat

To artist decided finally on the boundaries based on:

“When this project was first visualized, there was only one person writing about bioregionalism in Ithaca, and he referred to it as the “Finger Lakes bioregion.” While it is true that the Cayuga basin shares similar geologic formations, natural history, food systems, and seasonal cycles of the other lakes in the Finger Lakes, what makes the Cayuga Basin unique from the other lakes is its endemic flowers (orchids), amphibians, and reptiles. To go with a bigger Finger Lakes watershed boundary (aka Owasco Watershed), we would have lost the ability to focus on the endemics which are usually threatened and in need of protection. Limiting the boundaries also allows for unique history (e.g. indigenous people of the Cayuga Nation, the Underground Railroad, the Women’s Suffrage Movement, and the universities) to emerge.”

Using the Bioregional Map:

The artist recommends that to properly use the map –

  1. To protect the map, you can glue it on scrap plywood and coat it with varnish. If you don’t have varnish, ask friends if they have any lying around in their basement.

  2. Begin a nature journal to record daily experiences and history of your neighborhood or subwatershed. Note the specific location, time of day, weather conditions, sounds, what the animal was doing or eating. Draw and color illustrations to bring the journal to life.

  3. Map your back yard. Map places that feel special to you, and write why the places feel special. Map places that you have seen animals, their burrows, native plants, geologic formations, and historic information about your house or neighborhood.

  4. Leave the journal and map for the next owner/renter. This is passing on wisdom so that new people do not have to start over.

  5. Make a seasonal wheel, a circle bisected by twelve angles (one of each month of the year). Record the cycles of plants, animals, weather, and cultural events within and around the circle.

  6. Note the date or week when a bird began building a nest near your house, when the babies hatched, and when they fledged. Note the date that your favorite flowers emerged, blossomed, and went to seed. The wheel enables us to monitor trends over time.

  7. Make a nature nook for your neighborhood to see and contribute to. Post pictures of the animals that go with the nutshells or nests they leave behind and note where it was found.

  8. Put your subwatershed and/or bioregion name on your address labels and checks.

How was the map made?


The map reflects a compilation of fifteen years of the author’s outdoor experience hiking and gardening in the Cayuga Basin, plus reports from the community (e.g local birders, farmers, and state park officials).

FALL 2000: The author sketched the first draft of the bioregion map after writing a thesis on sustainability and reading about the deep ecology movement of the 1970s and about the Salish Sea Mapping Project (1999).

FALL 2001: Called Briony Penn, artist and project manager of the Salish Sea Bioregion Mapping Project, to ask for tips. Discussion with advisor Wally Woods how a bioregion map could serve the mission of the Center for Environmental Sustainability (501c3). Contract negotiated with artist Camille Doucet. Collected information around Cayuga Lake: from environmental organizations, local old-timers, farmers, hunters, fishermen, wildlife professionals, Cayuga Bird Club, and historians around Cayuga Lake.

OCTOBER 2001: Artist began painting; author and artist met daily for about a month to clarify and strategize, then weekly. $200 grant obtained from Alternatives Federal Credit Union and an anonymous donor for first printing plus $5000 in fundraising for publication of the first edition.

EARTH DAY 2002: Painting completed. Scanned and printed by Cayuga Press Printing. First edition printed, 2002; second edition printed 2010. The artist took about six months to sketch and paint. The map took about nine months from start to finish.

MANY THANKS to Wally Woods for supporting the project through the former non-profit, Center for Environmental Sustainability. Thanks to Elan Shapiro who shared his passion and library of books on deep ecology and bioregionalism and to Camille Doucet for her talent, skill, patience, and devotion to painting nature.

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