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:

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.
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.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Day 3: March 25, 2013

Temperature today: 1 degree Celsius, cloudy

Today I learned a lot about Ecology and Mammals from Dr. Christina.   Ecology is the study of the abundance and distribution of living things.  In Nova Scotia, we are trying to figure out the abundance and distribution of mammals.  The scientists do this with direct and indirect methods.  A direct way is to count each mammal.  Do you think that’s possible?  The indirect way is to trap the mammals, and then use math to make estimates of how many are really there.  We will collect the data by using quadrants, trapping, and cameras.  I will go into each method in more detail tomorrow.  Keep in mind; none of the animals will be harmed by the methods.

Me listening to Dr. Christina about mammals.
 Dr. Christina also taught the team and I about mammals in great detail.  In addition to what we already know about mammals; have fur, live birth, produce milk, and constant body temperature, there are some new things I learned.  Here they are:
1)   Separate windpipe and esophagus.
2)   Lips
3)   Specialized teeth
4)   Secondary jaw articulation. You know that your jaw can go side- to side.  Reptiles, like alligators cannot do this!  Our primary jaw joint is still with us. It became the 3 bones in your inner ear.  This is what gives mammals sensitive hearing and good balance.
5)   Diaphragm.  Mammals need to eat a lot!  So we need to separate our lungs from our stomach.  Therefore, we could keep running or moving.  Reptiles didn’t have this. So you would have a good chance of out running a T-Rex because their stomach would interfere with their breathing.  Can you identify diaphragm in the body?

6)   We Age.  We live a faster life than other animals.  Our cells make more mistakes and they breakdown.  Reptiles not so much.  This is why turtles live so long.  Have you ever seen a turtle with gray hair?  Have you ever seen a dog with gray hair?  Have you seen a Dad with gray hair? (Sorry Dads!)

After lunch, we took a 5-mile hike along the coast.  We looked for signs of mammals along they way.  Scat (animal poop) is a great way to identify mammals.  Yes, we picked it up, looked at it, and smelled it too!! We also look for their tracks.

Finding scat during our coastal hike.
Looking a Scat!
Tree bark eaten by a porcupine.

Click here for link on mammal scat and tracks.

Abandoned lobster traps along the beach.

An icy pond just behind the beach. There is a lot of fresh water in Nova Scotia.

A Nova Scotia pond near the coast.
That's Atlantic Ocean behind me!!