Hello my name is Mr. MacDonald Please join me as I travel to Nova Scotia to study mammals!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Day 11

Today was a great day! Even though the temperature did not climb above 50, and the wind was strong, and it did snow, and raccoons ransacked all but 4 of our 100 traps, it was a great day! After we completed the final trap check, we gathered and cleaned all 100, and completed our East Port Medway small mammals study. We did see a Porkypine climbing in a tree, which was very cool! We also gathered the camera traps, which unfortunately caught zero images.
After lunch, we built bat boxes, which was a lot more fun than I expected. I think I'm going to incorporate a bat building project into our curriculum. After hanging the bat boxes into local trees around the scientist's home, we took a 2 mile transect looking for coyote scat, and managed to find 4-5 droppings; clear evidence that large coyotes are in the area.
We had a lovely dinner of burgers and sausages- bbq style, and now we're getting ready to pack up. I leave very early Saturday morning, so tomorrow is the last day. I'm looking forward to our last day together, and will post my final blog tomorrow night.

Extra Credit Opportunity:
Post to this blog your favorite picture that I've shared since the beginning of my trip!
Enjoy the pics from today, and make sure you complete all of the assignments!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Day 10

The weather up here as definitely taken the seasonal direction. The rain has just barely stopped, and strong north winds began to howl today, as the temperatures dipped to the high 40's, making it feel every bit as raw, damp, cold as one could imagine. It was barely tolerable in the field, where we conducted our trap counts, deer/hare quadrants, and animal transects. We just finished a nice dinner of chicken curry, which tasted great after a long cold day in the woods. Our evening presentation is on geology and the history of the planet; a topic I've been looking forward to all week!
As for pictures from today, unfortunately, there are none due to the cold wet weather. These pics were taken from our hike in the Kejimkujik National Park (and they are of the natural succession, hint hint, that is occurring there).
However, please respond to the final assignment, Part 1 as a blog response, and Part 2 in your journals:

Part 1: According to Wikipedia, Succession is the phenomenon or process by which a community progressively transforms itself until a stable community is formed. Think about the land around where you live and where school is. Imagine what it looked like 10 years ago, 50 years ago, 125 years ago, 500 years ago. Was it always full of the same trees? Was it ever grassy grazing land for cows and farms? Was the Merrimack River higher or lower, and therefore, was the school's location underwater? Was there ice and large boulders instead of fields and forest?
Choose a time at least 100 years ago or longer, and do a little research (use google, ask parents, grandparents, elders) what the land was like in your home area and school. Be as specific as possible using examples of what was there (types of trees, animals, etc). Keep your online blog post to 2 sentences.

Part 2: In your STEM notebooks: expand on part 1 by including a drawing of what it might have looked like back in time (use color, refer to real data that you can research) AND draw a second picture of what it looks like now. Take you time and be creative. Use Mrs. Moore's Art tips if you feel lost or have a hard time getting started.

After I check your notebooks, we will likely be having a continuation on this assignment as a way of better understanding our place in time in West Newbury, Groveland, and Merrimack, as well as the greater Gulf of Maine.

Have fun. This is due by next Tuesday. Make sure all blog response assignments have been completed by next Tuesday as well. See you soon!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Days 8-9

Monday and Tuesday went by very quickly. On Monday, we visited with a local farmer who manages a 600 acre organic Christmas Tree farm. Kevin Vinot is a 4th generation farmer, and he has maintained a highly sustainable and environment friendly practice. His beef cows are organically raised and sold locally, as is the Balsam Fir (Christmas Trees). He also harvests white pine and red spruce trees that have been strategically cut on his property and logged the old fashion way- using horses to skid them out of the forest. He was very keen on this practice, and therefore very aware of the clear cutting techniques (used by many larger operations) that wipe out ecosystems and destroy habitat. I was very impressed by how much he genuinely loves his work, and his enthusiasm reflected his passion for his woods. To quote Henry David Thoreau, "In wilderness is the preservation of the world". Kevin's sustainable approach to making a living emphasizes this quote, and I left inspired to start my own organic Christmas Tree Farm!

After leaving the farm, we made our way to the new trapping sight at East Port Meadway (EPM). The land here is remnants of the last ice age, with large, medium, and small boulders strewn about, also known as a glacial moraine field. These boulders are home to a healthy young forest succession of moss (very slippery!!!), paper birch, red spruce, white pine, and very dense sweet fern and english bramber. And pretty cool animals (can you name the little guy I found in the picture above?). The walking and route finding is very difficult, so setting our 100 traps required patience, a lot of red flagging (to mark our paths), and a hardened physical effort to scramble, bushwhack, slip, and slide around the slick boulders and rough ground. We managed to get our traps set for the evening, and then hiked out to our van, where we were shuttled to a local beaver pond for the sundown activity…

Beaver Watching!!!

Now growing up in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, I'm pretty familiar with beavers. I've seen them building their lodges, swimming in ponds, damning up small streams, and I've even seen them from my paddleboard when I go on the Exeter River. But in the company of the other volunteers (3 Brits, 1 Californian, 2 Iowans) who have not seen many beavers before, they were very excited to sit (very still and silently) among the reed grass and mosquitos for a glimpse of the beaver action. Two hours and countless mosquito bites later, the sun set and we finally saw 1 beaver swim out from under the lodge. I guess they know how to keep us upright bipeds waiting! Needless to say, I was happy to get back into the van for the drive home and late dinner.

This morning, we headed back to EPM, where we did the morning trap check. Out of 100 traps, about 7 of them contained meadow voles and 1 wood mouse. After resetting the traps and eating lunch, we started out on a deer transect, when the sky absolutely opened up, dropping at least 2+ inches of water in about 30 minutes. Everyone got soaked, and that kind of made the rest of the day even more adventurous. We still managed to complete 3 hare transects, and then recheck the afternoon traps. The afternoon trap check yielded 3 more small mammals- 2 red backed voles and one shrew. After releasing the animals, we all made it back to the van for the ride home, where I'm comfortably warming and drying up waiting for dinner- Shepard's Pie! So, due to the rain, I don't have many pictures from today, but enjoy the pics from the new trapping site. I'll be posting the final assignment tomorrow or Thursday, so keep on following the posts. If you have not completed all of the assignments yet (4 so far), please get going so you don't have too much to do before I get back on Tuesday of next week when it is all due!
See ya soon.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Days 5-7

It's Sunday night, my 7th night here in Nova Scotia, and I've had an amazing time since I got up here over a week ago. After Skyping with my classes on Friday morning, I joined back up with the group and we analyzed all of the data that we collected last week at Cooks Lake. On Saturday, we had a no-research day, and visited the scenic town of Lunenburg, and had a chance to take in the sights and tastes of Canada's first major maritime community. Today, we visited the Kejimkujik National Park (Keji for short), and got back into the research with some deer quadrants and a 3.5 mile hike through an old growth hemlock forest. Unfortunately it has been raining non stop since Friday night, but we're trying to make the best of it.

To summarize what we found with our trapping efforts last week, it appears that the small mammal population is pretty healthy. A hectare is a 100meter by 100 meter, or 1000 square meter area. We trapped in 2 different half-hectares: a scrub slope (small bush, small pines, bramber, grasses), and a forest (moss-covered deadfall, rocks, medium size pine trees, intermittent ponds). In the scrub area, we found meadow voles, pine voles, deer mouse, asked shrew, short tailed shrew, and chipmunk, and he estimated total number of these is roughly 22 per hectare. In the forest, we found red backed vole, white footed mouse, bog lemming, and short tailed shrew, and the estimated total was 104 per hectare.

Using a MATH formula, known as the Schubel Index, we were able to get a solid estimate of the overall number of these animals. Three variables (N, R, and M) where N is the number of new animals found, R is the number of recaptured animals, and M is the number of marked (previously captured) animals except for the last day's results, the formula looks like this:
(N+R/R) x M
This formula gave us a total of about 51 small mammals per hectare for the two areas we looked at. There are strong connections between math (specifically algebra) and the field science that I've been experiencing. It's helpful to have strong logical reasoning skills and the ability to interpret many different sets of data in order to fully understand how the active trapping method works.

This week, we'll be trapping at a new area, called East Port Medway, and we'll also continue with daily deer quadrants. Enjoy the pictures from the last few days, and keep your comments coming!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Day 4

Good job to everyone who has written a comment to my Blog response earlier this week. I've seen your comment, IF YOU'VE WRITTEN ONE, even though you may not see it published on the blog page. I can't post everyone's, but will read it and grade you accordingly! Keep the good constructive comments coming!

Today's events included checking the traps again at the Cooks Lake area. I took a very cool video of what it was like to open a trap, remove the small mammal, take the appropriate measurements, and then release it back into its habitat. Please see the video below (it's about 4 minutes).
http://vimeo.com/29813334 (click on link or copy and paste link)

We also followed a procedure called a Deer and Hare Quadrat, in which teams of 5 searched a 50 meter by 50 meter grid in search of deer and hare signs (scat, prints, eating areas). This data gets compiled to measure an estimated population of deer and hare in the Cooks Lake area, which is also used as an estimate to calculate the overall population within Nova Scotia.

We're all very busy with tramping into these remote areas, carrying the necessary gear (backpack with water, rain gear, food, trapping equipment, notebooks, bugspray, sunscreen, etc), and spending the entire day outdoors. It's been great, but exhausting. In the evening, usually after dinner, the volunteers get together at the dinner table to lengthy discussions on the health of ecosystems, the state of climate condition, global warming, and the human condition. I am the only American from the northeast. There is a senior couple from Iowa, and another teacher from California. In addition, there is one couple and another woman from London. The conversations are very enriching because we all have very different backgrounds, politics, and walks of life. Learning about the education in England reassures me of how lucky we (and you students) have it here in America. Please be grateful for the wonderful learning opportunities that you get, because, according to my new British friends, the teachers over there have a very autocratic, know-it-all style, and do not give the students much opportunity to ask questions, explore things that are interesting to them, or do much hands-on activities.
We do have it good!

So, please respond to Part 1 of assignment 3 as a comment to this blog, and respond to Part 2 of assignment 3 in your STEM notebooks:
Animals have been designed to adapt. For example, a wood mouse has large ears and eyes so it can see and hear very well at night, when it's time to look for food and escape predation. Another example is the snowshoe hare's ability to go from brown hair to white hair during the winter in order to avoid predation, and blend in seamlessly with the environment.

Part 1 is to list 2 different Mammal species and their unique adaptation characteristic. Feel free to do a "google" search if you cannot identify any examples off the top of your head. Post part 1 to the blog site.

Part 2: In your STEM notebooks, design a new mammal that needs to be able to survive in the following conditions (draw, label, identify adaptations, etc): cool climate, seasonal snow, ice, flooding, drought, dryness; rocky, hilly, grassy, treed environment; plants and small mammals are abundant, but YOU are preyed on by large carnivores (bear, wolves, coyotes). You need to survive in this region, so be creative and think how you can adapt to all the changes!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Day 3

We had success in trapping small mammals today! Our group of 7 had set 100 traps in two separate areas near the Cooks Lake area (a 1 mile by .5 mile strip of land owned by the scientists). In area 1, along a hill side overgrown with bramber bush, poplar and small pine trees, we found about 9-10 animals including shrews, wood mice, red back voles, and chipmunks. In area 2, a lush moss covered forest of mid age pine trees, we found about 5-6 more animals including a bog lemming, mice, and voles. When we discovered a tripped trap, we would carefully bring the trap to a designated focal point adjacent to the monitoring area. One by one, we would place the trap in a plastic bag, empty the contents and "scruff" the animal so it could be examined. We learned how to identify the sex, approximate age, physical condition, pregnancy, and weight. Scientist Christina would then snip a "hair marking" on a specific area on the animal so we would can recognize it in the event of a recapture. All of this data was recorded in the field chart and will be used for the project-end summative report.
Along our walk to and from the field sight, we also identified more scat and animal tracks. Check out the pictures of the day including how I "scruffed" a vole:)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Day 2

Day 2 was full of learning about Camera traps and Longworth traps. We set 5 passive infrared camera traps in one location near East Port Medway, and 100 Longworth (have a heart) traps in the Cooks Lake area. We walked approximately 2-3 miles total, and learned how to stuff, set, and place these traps. We'll be checking them and resetting twice a day for the next 4 days, hoping to catch Wood Mice, Shrews, and Voles, and possibly chipmunks.
I'll post more pictures after tomorrow's trip, and will also comment of the beautifully lush carpets of sphagnum littering the forested landscape…
And check out the really cool example of nature's food web: a beautiful dragonfly eating a bee while posed on the one of the Earth Watch volunteer's shirt (and my hand)
See ya