Friday, April 6, 2012

Keji and holidays in Canada

After our data session and lunch we headed off to Keji again to do the seaside trail and hopefully see some porcupines. Dr. Newman was confident we would see some, but as you can see, I did not get either pictures or even a glimpse of one. We did see some seals out on the rocks. The beach at Keji looks almost tropical from a distance, but it was cold and windy! I took some pictures of the seals but it was so cold and my hands were shaking so much holding the camera, they look fuzzy.
On our way back, Dr. Newman had promised the group he'd stop at the dollar store for them--but the mall and everything else was completely closed. In Canada they take their holidays seriously and stores don't stay open. I actually think that is a great idea so that retail employees can spend time with their families on holidays. What do you think?

camera traps

These are some pictures from the camera traps.

5th graders: I've got your answer!

When we were skyping Wednesday, you asked me a great question that I could not answer but I promised to asked the scientists. You asked if the climate change was affecting plant life. Chris tell me that yes, it does affect plant life. As the climate warms, the deciduous tress (hardwood trees like oak , maples,etc) would be advantage over the conifers (pines, balsam, furs). However, people are intervening to keep planting the conifers. do you know why? It has to do with economics. Those quick growing conifers are sold for lumber, pulp, etc., and generate dollars faster than the hardwoods.


Today we are spending the morning looking at data! Scientists use mathematics to interpret data--in fact I've heard math referred to as the language of science! I am always surprised at how useful math can be to tell us about our daily lives. When you think about it you're using math and estimating almost constantly as you estimate how much time it will take to get from the computer lab to your locker and then to class in the morning (without being tardy!). Math also helps (a lot!) when you are trying to buy something at the best price. But if you're going to be a scientist, math is a must and not just adding and subtracting, but algebra, too! I don't think anyone would ever say algebra is useless if they could see how if helps create formulas to understand animal distribution and make predictions. Today we'll find out how to figure out abundance and distribution over time of the animal population.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Survival Skills

I certainly hope none of us ever get lost, stranded or have to try to survive on our own. Minnesotans are usually pretty savvy about being prepared with adequate clothing and never setting out without letting someone know your destination and ETA (estimated time of arrival). However, I thought you might want to see some of the survival skills Chris showed us--here he is setting a trap to catch a small animal--this time for dinner not research.

This evening we went to a pond near Chris and Christina's home and sat on cushions, at the edge of the pond, watching for beaver.

taking in the traps--and one last mouse!

Today we took in the traps--whew! That meant up and down the hills several times, then we spent an hour building habitat piles. Our traps were productive--here I am holding a mouse, and the video shows the process of carefully removing a vole from the trap. After lunch Chris taught us some survival skills. He told us to remember "PLAN": Protection, Location, Acquisition and Navigation. That is what you need to consider if you get lost or stranded (of course if you have a cell phone, and you can get a signal, you'll probably be fine).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

fun skyping with you today--I am very proud of you!

It was great to skype with you today and you guys totally rock!! I often hear that Americans don't know anything about geography but you knew where I am, where Nova Scotia is and could even tell me what surrounds Nova Scotia! Awesome!
I was also so impressed with how many of you are concerned about the environment and climate change and your proactive approach. The conservation measures you are taking do make a difference. It is going to be important to share your ideas with the entire school community. I just read Mr. Schollmeier's latest comment and as usual he is right on and ahead of the curve! The frac sand controversy in our area is a great (an unfortunate) example of resource depletion and the cost of trying to secure cheap energy.

What we can expect from climate change

I think it is very natural to wonder what we can expect from climate change. Maybe you are wondering if our southern Minnesota climate will change so much that we can look forward to tropical winters! We won't see that in our lifetime--or even several hundred lifetimes most likely--but what we will see from climate change is more energy in the atmosphere, and that means more extreme weather and weather events like tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. We have broken weather record after weather record in the last decade and seen more occurances of random weather events.

Small mammals and climate change

I really appreciated Mr. Schollmeier's comments form Mar. 29:

Voles! Something so small telling us about what's happening with the whole planet. Why not a reptile, bird, or some marine life? I'm guessing access and ease of observation, on our own "turf" so to speak. Could it be that mammals, who survived the great dinosaur extinction, have gone through multiple evolutionary changes during each of the preceding warmings? Is it possible to identify a warming associated with human evolution? Then could we say that either extinction or evolution are the next phase for human life?

He is "right on" with his comments and observations! The small mammals succeeded (avoided extinction) and the dinosaurs didn't because the small mammals breed so quickly and prolifically that their offspring had a chance to adapt to the changing climate. As the climate changed, those babies better suited survived , reproduced and passed on the successful traits. The dinos had fewer offspring and a longer gestation period. Their offspring just did not have a chance to adapt.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

4/3/2012 Back in the field

Today was another day of checking traps and building habitat piles of the dead branches in the forest. By stacking up tree limbs and smaller brush, we create shelters for small mammals.
Our traps were not particularly productive, but we did trap a white footed mouse and a red backed vole. Here I am weighing the vole.

Climate change--what influences public opinion?

Has the recent "hot spell" in the middle of our usual snowy Minnesota Spring made you think about climate change? I was reading a recent article in Science Scope (March 2012)about how much public concern about climate change has varied over the years. For instance, in 2004, 26% of the public said they were "worried a great deal". By 2007, that figure had risen to 41%. But in 2010, it had dropped to 28%. Why?
A study was done to examine five factors which might influence U.S. public concern about climate change. These factors were: extreme weather conditions/events, public access to accurate scientific information, media coverage, advocacy groups, and economic factors. The study found that media coverage does exert an important influence, but it in itself is largely a function of advocacy group cues and economic factors. Weather extremely (like the one we're having in Minnesota!) have no effect on public opinion, and providing accurate scientific information to the public on climate change has minimal effect. The political mobilization by advocacy groups (like Sierra Club) seems to have the most influence overall.
All of this reminded me of how critical it is to make sure you are getting information from a reliable source. Just like the sixth graders in Mrs. Penrod's class were discovering, not everything on the internet is reliable or true!

Monday, April 2, 2012

The managed forest

Today we visited a managed forest used by Kevin. He has really diversified his operation, incorporating a Christmas tree far, beef cattle and lumbering, all using sustainable farming practices. We learned that the difference between the old growth forest of Hemlocks we visited and the secondary growth (after clear cutting) on Cooks Farm (where we have been setting the small mammal traps) compared with the managed forest is that there is planned regeneration and sustainability.
Later we returned to Cooks Farm to set out 100 more small mammal traps.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Kejimkujik National Park - April 1, 2012

Today we visited Kejimkujik National Park. Here are some of the pictures. Above is the trail into the forest area, and a dramatic scene of rushing water. There was still snow on the ground.
How many of you have heard of the Hemlock tree? There is a quite a large forest of Hemlock trees in the Kejimkujik National Park. In the upper left had corner you can see me holding a piece of the Hemlock. The boardwalk we were walking on is made of Hemlock. It tends to be resistant to rot and insects. The boardwalk is not built for the convenience of hikers but to protect the Hemlock tree roots from further erosion.

Kejimkujik National Park

Today we are going to Kejimkujik National Park. The weather is sunny. did you recall the title of the famous novel about pirates? It's Treasure Island. There are at least two movies made from the novel and several versions of the story. We have copies of it in our WMS library.