Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Earthwatch in South Dakota!!!

What a small world!  While I was on vacation with my family this summer, I ran into fellow Earthwatch Volunteers!!  This was at the Mammoth Site located near Hot Springs, South Dakota.


This is an awesome discovery of the Great Plains past.  My family and I had an awesome time in South Dakota!!  There is some much to see and do!!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Day 8: Saturday, March 30, 2013

View an article below about my expedition to Nova Scotia in the Daily Pilot, Sunday, April 7, 2013. Thank you Jeremiah Dobruck of the Daily Pilot.

Good Bye Nova Scotia!!  I will miss you!!

Weather report:  High: 6C,  Low: 3C, Skies: partly cloudy.

Capture, Mark, and Recapture!!
As you already know, you can’t catch them all, but only 2!!  Overall, Team 1a only had 4 official door closings on our Longworth traps.  One red-backed vole was caught once; the other was caught 3 times.  So for the whole week, only 2 voles per 100 traps.  Is this good or bad?   For me, it was still a great experience!  The important thing is that we collected data; therefore, this was good information for the study.  Does this data make sense?  Yes, it does.  It’s the weather that determines the population of mice or voles.  Spring hasn’t really sprung in Nova Scotia as of March 30th, so it was expected that the numbers would be low.

During my stay in Nova Scotia, Dr. Chris presented two excellent discussions about climate and ecology.

During our discussion on climate, Dr. Chris shared data and evidence for the different climatic changes that have occurred on earth.  We learned that the climate changes because of the variation in position of the continents (Plate Tectonics), Earth’s orbits (Milankovitch Cycles), volcanism, photosynthesis uptake, and human uses (Anthropogenic Potential). 

Nova Scotia has a lot of biodiversity; therefore, it is a good place to study climate change effects on small mammals because we can get a large sample size.  We also know that small rodents are susceptible to change.  In the long-term, the climate is changing, has changed in the past, and will continue to do so.  It is inevitable.  The problem with climate change is how humans have restricted mammal’s freedom to change.  We have fragmented, destroyed, or exploited their habitats.  This prevents them from responding to the change.  Therefore, it’s the mammals that are “generalist”, rather than “specialist”, who have the best shot at survival.

In our discussion on ecology, Dr. Chris told us how it is a study of abundance and distribution.  We want to know how many there are, and where they are!  The scientists are doing an excellent study of ecology.  They are looking at the interactions of the climate, mammals, and their habitat.  

We talked about the data we collected.  We used the Lincoln-Petersen Index to determine the population of mice or voles at the research site. 

The Lincoln–Petersen method[3] (also known as the Lincoln index) can be used to estimate population size if only two visits are made to the study area. This method assumes that the study population is "closed." In other words, the two visits to the study area are close enough in time so that no individuals die, are born, move into the study area (immigrate) or move out of the study area (emigrate) between visits. The model also assumes that no marks fall off animals between visits to the field site by the researcher, and that the researcher correctly records all marks.
Given those conditions, estimated population size is:

N = Estimate of total population size
M = Total number of animals captured and marked on the first visit
C = Total number of animals captured on the second visit
R = Number of animals captured on the first visit that were then recaptured on the second visit




Sample calculation

A biologist wants to estimate the size of a population of turtles in a lake. She captures 10 turtles on her first visit to the lake, and marks their backs with paint. A week later she returns to the lake and captures 15 turtles. Five of these 15 turtles have paint on their backs, indicating that they are recaptured animals.

In this example, the Lincoln–Petersen method estimates that there are 30 turtles in the lake.

I’m sure there calculations are a little more complicated than this, but I think I get the picture.  Using our capture, mark, and recapture numbers from the research site, we have a population of 2 voles per 0.5 hectare.

The following video is of Dr. Chris Newman sharing his thoughts on science, his interest in animals, especially mammals, and Lycos!   Thank you Brian for sharing this video.

I want to send a special thanks to Dr. Christina Buesching and Dr. Chris Newman for sharing their research and knowledge of mammals.  This week has given me greater insight for teaching science and also a greater appreciation of mammals.

Dr. Christina Buesching and Dr. Chris Newman

Team 1a: Mammals of Nova Scotia March/April 2013
I also want to thank everyone on Team 1a.  All of you made this an unforgettable week and look forward to reading your blogs of Week #2!!!

Click links below to follow all of the teachers participating in Mammals of Nova Scotia March-April 2013.

http://reginaldmammalsofnovascotia.blogspot.ca/        Shoba

Halifax, NS, airport Between flights.

A fisherman's hut, Nova Scotia.

This is Lycos. He's a good dog and proud owner of Dr. Christina and Dr. Chris.

Me with Coach Arena of the LA Galaxy.  Galaxy had a 2-2 match against Toronto on Saturday 3/30.  The team was on my flight to LAX.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Day 7: Friday, March 29, 2013

Weather Report: Hi 45 F, Lo 25 F, Partly cloudy.  What are these temperatures in Celsius?

This was my last day to visit the research site at Cook’s Lake. I have become very fond of this forest and I know I am going to miss it.  It has changed a lot in the  last few days.  When we arrived last Monday, it was covered in a blanket of snow.  Today, most of that snow has melted, and spring is beginning to emerge.  The floor of the forest is covered with a beautiful green blanket of moss and lichens.  The crunch of the snow has now given way to a soft carpet of greenery. 

Question: What is a lichen?  What is moss?  What is the difference between moss and lichens?  Click the link here to learn more: http://www.skyrail.com.au/news/1261-moss-lichen

Is it Lichen, Moss, or Both?

 We also collected our Longworth traps for the last time.  Next, week the Longworth will be placed in a different location at the research site.  Tim and I were hoping to catch one more vole or mouse, however, were unsuccessful.  We brought our traps back to the staging area, cleaned them out, and prepared them for their new location.  Susan and Nola did have a surprise one of their traps.  We they brought it back to the staging area, they allowed me to take the animals out of the trap.  This would be my only opportunity to hand one of these little cuties.  Thanks Susan and Nola!  See the video of me handling the vole and returning it to its habitat area for release. 

This is the subnivean hole the vole ran into.

 Although our team only caught a small amount of mammals this week, it doesn’t mean they are not there.  Remember, these animals have adapted to stay warm during the winter and hide from predators every moment of their lives.  While at the research site, I learned a lot about looking for field signs of animals.  We look signs of feeding, scat, and tracks.  

Deer Scat.  Very recent!

Most likely a Coyote track!

Signs of feeding on bark!

Deer Tracks!

This looks like a cozy little burrow for the winter!

After an quick lunch at the “Robin’s Nest”, a little cabin built on the research site for storage of materials and tools, we learned about the importance of forest conservation.  View my video below about the forest conservation work we did at the research site.  It was very hard work, but also very rewarding!

This evening, I had the opportunity to have a video conference with Mrs. Miller’s 3rd graders and Mrs Walker’s 6th graders at Newport Heights Elementary School.  The students were great listeners and had great questions about mammals in Nova Scotia.  It was also special for me to share what I learned during my trip with my sons, Mitchell and Patrick.  Thank you Mrs. Walker, Mrs. Miller, and Ms. Bisceglia!!

PS: One of the teachers on my Earthwatch team is Brian Bisceglia.  He is a 3rd grade teacher from Boston, MA!
My last visit to the research site.

A habitat pile made by Team 1a!

Look at how many logs we cleared! My arms are tired!

The Robin's nest.  The field research office!

Dr. Christina shares with us the difference between horn and antlers.

 Click on link below to read more about differences between horns and antlers. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/collections/mammal_anatomy/horns_and_antlers/
Looks like spring is finally here in Nova Scotia!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Day 6: March 28, 2013

Thanks for all of your great questions about mammals during the family meeting yesterday.  It was fun being able to see all of you when I’m so far away.   

Photo Credit: Mr. Peters 2013

 Today’s Temperature in Nova Scotia: Cloudy, then clearing.  High=42 F, Low=32.  Snow at the research site is beginning to melt. 

We all returned to the research site at Cook’s Lake to check our traps.  Dr. Christina said we should have more voles on the second day.   We were excited to see more of our fury friends.

However, that was not the case. For the 100 trap set again, we only caught 2 voles, and those 2 were caught the day before!  We can tell they have already been caught because we cut off a little of their “guard” hair. 
Question: Do we have guard hair?  Why is it important for mammals? 

Already given a clip

Recording data!!

Click here to find out more:  (Ms. Leshinsky will approve of this website!)

While we were checking our traps, I took some video of the stream that flows through the research site.  Enjoy!

After lunch we set out some Passive Infrared Camera.  These are the kind of cameras that are activated whenever they detect motion.  They are good for checking the activity of larger animals at the site.

Dr. Christina explaining the use of a camera trap.

This afternoon, we also created nest for Mason Bees.  These bees are very important in forest ecosystems.  We had to cut sections of logs and then drill holes in them in order to allow the bees to make their nests. 

Why did we have to drill the holes in the logs?
Why are Mason Bees different than Honey Bees? 
Where did Honey Bees come from?
A tree log bee box

Mason Bee

Later in the day we drove to another location for the opportunity to view beavers.  Beaver are amazing engineers.  The build their own homes called a lodge.  They are crepuscular (ask you friends in Latin what that means) animals.  It was a very beautiful setting and we had to set very quietly to watch them. But it was chilly!

Beavers always swim underwater to the middle of the pond, and then come up to breath.  They do this in order to stay away from predators.  I saw a beaver swim out, pop his head above the water, and them swim away.  It was awesome to see this animal in its natural habitat.
Diagram of a beaver lodge.

Signs of beaver taking down trees for their lodges.

Standing near the beaver lodge.

Signs of beaver in the pond.

More signs of beaver in the pond.  You can actually see their teeth marks!

Beavers eat the bark, then use trees for their lodges.

The team and I waiting patiently for the beaver to come out of its lodge.  They do this as dusk.  It was chilly, but beautiful. Krista took this picture of me.  

Tomorrow, we go back to the field site to trap and release more voles or mice.  Then we get to take a fun trip to the town of Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

Day 5: March 27, 2013

Today’s Temperature in Nova Scotia: High = 3 Celsius, Low = 0 Celsius, Mix of snow and drizzle.

The team and I are excited to find out if we trapped mouse or voles. This morning I put on my “Willies”, also known as Wellingtons, in order to keep my feet warm and dry.

We got to the research site, and we immediately went to collect our traps.  Tim and I felt confident that we would trap a small mammal.  We had to check ten of them.  If the trap door was still open, then no animal.  We walked by our traps: C1a, door open, C2a door open, C3a door open, C4a door open, C5a door open, C6a door open, C7a door open, C8a door open, C9a DOOR CLOSED!!!  Obviously, Tim and I were very excited.  We could wait to show it to Dr. Christina.

Question for HDS Latin students: What is subnivian? What does it have to do with small mammals living in the research site?
Here's a clue to the question above.

Homework for 6th grade:  Tim and I caught a Red-backed Vole.  What is the average weight of a Red-backed Vole?

Watch videos of what we trapped:

Dr. Christina showing us how to weigh a vole using a spring scale.
Dr. Chris Newman answering questions with HDS students during Skype conference.
Tim and I trapped a Vole!!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Day 4: Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A little history of Nova Scotia!  Click link below.

Today’s temperature was:  High of 39 degrees Fahrenheit, low of 30 degrees. (So what’s that in Celsius?)

Meet my Earthwatch Team!  In addition to Dr. Christina Buesching and Dr. Chris Newman, there are the following:
Shoba- a 7th grade science teacher from Boston
Krista - a 6th grade teacher from Minneapolis
Susan from Vermont
Caroline from Phoenix
Frank – a science teacher from Washington DC
Nola – from Saskatchewan, Canada (our only Canadian!)
Brian – a 3rd grade teacher from Boston
Tim – a high school environmental studies teacher from San Francisco.

This morning we drove out to Cook’s Lake, our field research location.  There was a lot of snow on the ground cooler.  It was a day for collecting data!  We set out Longwell traps for Mice and Voles.  Dr. Christina showed us the area and began training us on how set up a Longwell trap.  Longwell’s are made out of aluminum and are designed for catching small mammals, such and Mice and Voles. 

What’s the difference between Mice and Voles?
See chart below.

They are both in the same “ORDER”. What is the name of their Order?

Dr. Christina had to teach us how to set the Longworth traps.  
1)   Stuff the large side with lots of hay, but not too much.  They hay keeps the animals warm while they stay in the trap overnight.
2)   Add tablespoon of grain.  This is the bait!!
3)   Connect the trap door part to the larger part.  Make sure its has the “banana shape”. 
4)   Make sure your trap door is open.

Then Dr. Christina told us were to place the traps.  Mice and Voles are prey species.  That means everybody is out to get them for a meal!  Therefore, these little guys know to not to go out in the open were they could get captured.  So we have to put the traps in places were they would go.  In essence, we had to think like a Mouse or a Vole. 

Then Dr. Christina had us place the traps in the forest in a grid pattern, of 5 rows, with 10 traps per row.  The traps were set in 10 meters apart from each other.  We did this in two separate locations.  So, what was the total number of traps we set in the forest today?

We will go back in the morning and check out traps.  Then we will place another set of Longworth traps.

I am excited to see what we trap!!

This is what we are trying to trap!

Hopefully I will be holding one tomorrow!
Hey, get the right amount of hay in the Longworth trap.

Getting one of many traps ready.
Krista checking her trap.
A beautiful stream flowing through the field site.

Organizing the traps to place in the field.
Hey, 4th graders, What do you think this is?

Some Nova Scotia  local flavors.  We had these at lunch!

Placing a traps where I think the mice or voles will be.

Tim and I placing traps in the field. 

ID our sample sites so we can find them tomorrow.