Hello! My name is Mrs. Clark. Please join me as I travel to study the mammals of Nova Scotia!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Westward Ho!


As I look back on the Earthwatch Mammal Expedition I cannot even put into words the experience it has been in Nova Scotia. The entire time I was surrounded by wonderful smart people, the housing, weather, and food were awesome. My mind is full of a multitude of new information and I know with stick with me forever. Much of this information was on the blog but there is yet more. Spending time outside while contributing to the research of Dr. Neumann and Dr. Buesching's data was very enjoyable. I had no major technology failure and kept in good contact with my students and community while on expedition. I would highly suggest to anyone who saw themselves in my shoes for any or all of my Earthwatch expedition to have as many conversations with me as they want when I am back. This is because until you experience Earthwatch Expeditions you cannot put your mind around what it has to offer you.

New Lingo and BIG Mammals Seen

Our PI(Principal Investigators) Dr. Chris Neumann and Dr. Christina Buesching are from England and Germany. Often our Earthwatch team was somewhat confused by what they had said or asked us to do and they were speaking english and the foreign country was only Canada. Here are some of the new words we had to learn:
Sticking plaster
Wellingtons/wellies
Head Torch
Rubbish bag
Blunderbus
Cooker
Kitchen roll
Beaker
Car park
Tube

For example: Mrs. Clark take a piece of the kitchen roll on the cooker and dry the beaker.
Translation: Mrs Clark use a piece of paper towel from on the stove to dry the cup.

Here are the other ones in order from the list above: band aid, rubber boots, head lamp, gun, stove, paper towel, cup, parking lot, and subway.

At the Seaside Adjunct of Keji we hiked 5 miles along the coast and saw our largest mammals yet! Take a look at the seal, this one was posing for the picture most of the rest were swimming in the Atlantic. Additionally, 2 porcpines were seen! Very few on the team had ever seen a wild porcupine so it was very exciting.

Friday, April 8, 2011

You can do this too!

If you could travel to anywhere to conduct environmental research where would you go and what would you start research on?
Students go to http://www.earthwatch.org/expedition/teenteam and learn about the Earthwatch expeditions YOU as a student can take part in called the Earthwatch teen team.

Of all the students in your class who should be nominated for an Earthwatch expedition by me? Explain why.
Who is the next Suring teacher who should apply for an expedition like I am on? Explain why.


Teachers take a look too for the educator section on Live From the Field program at http://www.earthwatch.org/aboutus/education/edopp/lff/. Start preparing now for the next application deadline which is September.
Several new posts are up for yesterday and today. Make sure to read them all and learn.

Animals in Action


When researchers want to see animals in action we might use a trail camera instead of sitting and waiting for hours when the animals may never show up until dark and our eyes cannot even see the animal well. Let’s say we found a badger burrow called a sett. We can follow the pathway in and out of the sett and place a camera where the badgers go underground.
Researcher's or hunter's check the time and go back at the proper time to have a chance to see or trap the animal. Here are some of the trail camera pictures we got. What are the advantages and disadvantages cameras for research?

Thursday, April 7, 2011

End of Trapping

The Cooks Lake small mammal research is completed for our team. Due to rain and the snow melt we were moved to the control site not the previously logged site
as I had said we were going before. The control site has never been logged since the research began. The site habitat is mostly conifer species(spruce the dominant one)the forest floor is covered with bright green moss on small mounds, fallen trees, and still water covered in many spots. The dominant species here are voles, chipmunk, lemmings and sometimes mice. We also put another grid of traps out in an open meadow for jumping mice to determine the earliest date/temperatures they come out of hibernation. This species is only one that does hibernate and not wake up during the winter or erratic spring temps. To describe them: a super long tail that is twice as long as its body, and super large back feet. This allows them to hop very far compared to thier body size. When a farmer is cutting a hay field the meadow jumping mice can be seen hopping in front of the tractor like miniature kangroos. Since we did not trap any I do not have any pictures they were still hibernating. Today was 41 and we had no animal sightings.
At Cooks Lake we caught 1 bog lemming, 2 red backd voles, and recaputured the same vole on the second day. So go back and use the Lincoln-Peterson Index to determine the population density. What can you conclude from your answer about this site in relation for the population?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Generalist & Specialist Answers

The generalists on the list were: deer, raccoon, coyote. These animals are found in many different habitats, reproduce very easily,often and at a very early age and more then once a year, or don't mind living near people, and can eat lots of different food.



The specialists are the panda, lynx, salamander, flying squirrel, and the pine marten. Why do you think these species are specialists? Give specific answers for each animal.
Here I am exploring a porcupine den which we collected quills from and marked the location with GPS so the researchers can continue to monitor the den's use. The weather today was 41 and we caught 2 vole, we had signs of 4 deer, 7 snow shoe hare, 2 red squirrels, 2 porcupine.

Some interesting things:

1. Mammals are the only group to have a diaphragm which separates the lungs from the guts. This allows mammals to either run after or away from a predator/prey without their guts moving up into their lungs choking them.
2. Shrews(which is pictured) are often NOT eaten by predators because of the ammonia in their bodies from the insects they eat makes them taste really bad.
3. Small rodents never drink water because they get enough from the seeds, insects, or dew on grasses they eat.
4. If you find a small rodent tooth in scat or owl pellet and it has many roots like a human tooth it’s a mouse and if it has one root it’s from a vole.
5. It is not snow melt or snowfall that causes a snowshoe hare or arctic foxes to change fur color but the length of light in the day called photoperiod.

6. If you catch a female in a trap there is a higher percentage that the next animal caught in the trap will be a male.
7. That European badgers look way different from Wisconsin badgers. Can you tell which is which? Weird looking foreign badger.
8. The Nova Scotia porcupines sometimes eat seaweed for the salt which helps to counteract with the high amount bark they eat.
.9. From a lecture on climate change I learned that cement mining/manufacturing is one of the biggest contributors to global climate change.
10. The shrew is the animal which bats evolved from.
11. The more variety of mosses, fungi, and lichens you find in an area means a cleaner air quality.
12. Birch trees can regrow their bark after a porcupine or beaver chew on it to prevent the pest from girdling the tree and killing it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Generalists vs Specialists

Generalists are those species adapted to a wide range of environmental circumstances and food sources, while specialist species are really good at one narrow thing they do or require a specific habitat or food in order to survive. An example of a generalist would be mice, which can adapt to practically any environment and consume a variety of seeds, grains, and nuts. This includes the animals we have been trapping. However, when I visited Kejimkujik National Park(Keji for short) the old growth hemlock forest did not offer a lot of biodiversity of animals or food sources. So actually more specialist species, often endangered plant and animals species are found in this rare habitat. An example of specialist animals would be the koala, which lives in eucalyptus trees and only eats eucalyptus leaves.
How would you classify these animals as Generalist or Specialists?
Panda
Raccoon
Flying Squirrel
Coyote
Lynx
Salamander
Pine Marten
Deer

Today it was 50 rainy, wet and muddy. In our traps we caught 2 voles, 1 bog lemming(From my trap and it was much bigger. It was a lactating female the first so far that had given birth!) we also had evidence of 1 porcupine, 5 deer, 1 bobcat, 2 fisher, 5 snowshoe hare.

Poop Quiz Answers

Imagine you are a national geographic movie maker looking for Nova Scotia mammal’s for your latest TV show. Don’t those shows make it look very easy to find wild animals? Actually, seeing animals in the wild is much more difficult. Mammals, in particular, tend to be shy and many come out only at night. How do you know (or avoid) the animals are in the wild?
Using those indirect observations! By following clues the animals leave behind like scat here is the list you came up with from your comments- tracks, nests, meal leftovers, bird poop/owl pellets, wood peckers holes, chews marks, burrow/ tunnels, urine marks, claw sharpening, crushed leaves, buck rubs, trails, bedding sites. Those are all visual things. Also remember hearing them, or smelling them.

The answers to the scat quiz-
1. Coyote(which in Nova Scotia are interbreeding with wolves are are larger then those back home in WI.) Often full of deer hair and crushed bones and connected in links becasue of the hair.
2.Snowshoe hare (EVeryone got that one correct)
3. Porcupine (oval shape about the size of a jelly bean, found in large numbers under a feeding tree or in a den)
4. Owl pellet (Everyone got that correct) bones are found hole and will have hair around it) This was from a shorteared owl.Tricky one since it is vomit and not poop at all.
5. Raccoon- not like raccoon back home since this one was eating a diet of crabs and shore critters on the beach.
6. Red Fox- full of rabbit fur and bone much smaller in size then coyote.
7. Deer- (Everyone got this correct) darker black color with a small point on one end found in piles.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Poop Quiz

The direct observation of an animal in the wild is very difficult. It would be easier if I was here to survey trees-they don’t run away, come out only at night, smell me coming(yes I have been showering), ect. So in addition, we have been using indirect methods of observation. Like when I hiked along the shore we have spent time on the Centennial Trail, and additional sites to look for signs that an animal is using the habitat but not actually seeing it. We are using the scat lessons we learned on the shorewalk all the time. They are all similar in size, so they have similar size waste. Being able to identify droppings will help us locate and hopefully sight one of the many mammals here, and add our population data to the climate change study. Today it was 46 and since saw 1 snowshoe hare, 1 deer. Got the traps set again and will check them twice tomorrow.
Now is your turn to try….post your answers in the comments.
**ALSO** include other indirect observations of animals besides scat.
#7 through #1 and remember you can click on the picture to make it bigger.Look closely for clues.Each is a different species.





Sunday, April 3, 2011

Poop Counts…what for?

Well, by counting all different types of poop(scat) from deer, rabbit, porcupine,coyote, skunks etc., we can find out how many different types of mammals are in the area. The way we do this is to place a red marking pole into the ground and radiate 90-degree angles from this point and back again for a distance of 10 meters square. Next step bend over to slowly inspect the ground to find if there are droppings from any mammals in the square we have marked out. We did several survey's just for snowshoe hare droppings, another today for deer at Kejimkujik NAtional Park for deer, and one for any mammals possible in the area.
Today the weather was 37 and we saw 9 deer and one mink. Make sure to continue scrolling to check out my entries for over the weekend.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Meet the Earthwatch Mammal Team

Check out the people on expedition with me. From the left: Mr. Richards, Mr. Coppelli, Ms. Davis, Mrs. Clark, Christina, Ed, and Mrs. Roberts.

Mrs. Roberts is a 3rd grade language arts and reading teacher at an all girls school in Dallas Texas, she is my roommate and always have very creative ideas for her students as she blogs and Skype’s back to them. She enjoys walking with me in the morning before breakfast and we are roommates in the house.
Ms. Davis is a 5-6 grade science teacher at an all girl’s school in San Francisco, California. When she is not teaching science she loves rock climbing and traveling. She however doesn’t like the cold weather here and even in the house uses a down sleeping bag. I would be too hot.
Mr. Richards is a high school AP environmental science teacher from San Francisco California. When he is not teaching he is preparing for another marathon or DJ’ing. He also was a Packer fan during the super bowl time.
Mr. Coppelli just found out 2 days before the expedition that he would be filling in for a teacher at his school that could not come. He is a high school math teacher is very enthusiastic about learning lots about mammals. In his spare time he enjoys running and playing many sports.
Christina is retired from the human resources worked from the hotel industry from London England. She takes 1 Earthwatch expedition a year to travel yet volunteer by doing something and give back. She loves to try new things and is roommates with Ms. Davis.
Edward is a retired pharmacist who is the oldest person in the group but the most experienced. He is from San Jose California. He takes 4 Earthwatch expeditions each YEAR and has been on well over 44 different trips through this organization. He says he likes watching the teachers talk back to their students on the trip and learns a lot from what they report back too.

Dr. Chris Neumann-on of the lead researchers originally from England he is now a resident of Nova Scotia. He has lots of experience studying mammals especially badgers back in England since 1991. He works on many international collaborative efforts on mammals and climate change research. He also knows a lot about geology and enjoys building his new house and or fixing anything broken in his spare time.
Dr. Christina Buesching-wife of Dr. Chris Neumann is a behavior ecologist with a focus on how do animals modify their behavior based on climate change. She has lots of field research projects under her belt and owns 2 horses she enjoys spending her spare time with. These two are VERY smart and I am learning alot from them.

What role do you think we(the volunteers) play in in the small mammal research for Dr's Neumann and Buesching?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Data Recorded


The trapping at the East Port Medway site is completed. Today we had 2 mice and 3 voles. We collected traps. Just in time as today the weather was 34 with sleet in the morning. MUCH different, there are wind and rain warnings associated with a big nor’easter weather system from the Atlantic. Here are some pictures of the ocean before the storm and during. There are gusts of 40-60mph or more. This picks up some of the cobblestone along the shore and tosses it many feet onto shore. Its impressive yet destructive to any houses built too close to the ocean.
Let’s get back to the research. The final totals for our 3 days of research were 12 voles and 6 mice. We were taught to use the Lincoln Peterson Index: N1 X N2/ R
N1= Number of New Rodents Day 1
N2= Number of Rodents Day 2
R= Total number of recaptured rodents
Using this equation we got 21.6(or 22 animals) Last year the data for the same time of year was only 10. Remember our expedition is important to set the base line data for how many small mammals made it through the winter at each site. So it is expect to be fairly low and rise as they start breeding and peak in Sept/Oct at 80-100. We will move the traps to a site further inland that has been logged to see how mammal numbers might be affected. How do you think the population after winter will be be at the logged site? Explain your answer.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Data Collection

Once a trap is found in the grid with the door closed I carried it back to a central location to collect data. I recorded the trap ID (Row letter and number), next I place the entire trap inside a large clear plastic bag. I made sure to pull up my sleeve(that way the rodent doesn't use my sleeve as a tunnel to escape) and held the plastic bag closed at the top. Next, I took apart the nesting chamber from the tunnel and removed the nesting material from inside until the rodent came out. I then cornered the rodent and held it there to remove the trap and hay to leave just the rodent alone in the bag.
I identified the rodent type, next scruffed the animal and took it out of the bag to determine the gender and reproductive status(male ready to breed, female pregnant or non) and its health. Next, the researcher verified the gender and marked the animal as “Caught” by clipping some guard hairs off its thigh leaving behind a different colored hair.
That way we know if it gets caught again. Next I placed the rodent back into the bag and it was weighed.
I took the rodents in a plastic bag and the same trap was reset and with a partner the rodent and a maze was taken back to the marked site the trap was from on the grid. The rodent was placed in the maze and timed for how long it took to get out, which released it back into the wild. If the rodent took longer than 10 minutes we took the lid off the maze and let it go. What is the purpose of the maze?

Mammals today: 2 red squirrels, 3 white tail deer, 1 muskrat, 3 raccoon, 3 beaver, 2 porcupine, 2 mice and 5 voles. Weather was 40 today but windy.
Also I will be skyping with many of you Friday April 1st What are you still wondering about what I am doing here?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Word of the Day

So I set my traps Tuesday afternoon “thinking like a mouse” and did not have to worry about putting it by food because we put grain inside the traps but more importantly was thinking about where a mouse/vole/shrew/squirrel might want to run, hide or find a mate. From a comment posted by my veterinary sister lets all learn the Word of the Day: Thigmotactic- rodents are, and because of this traps should be placed where they would be running along things they are touching(feet,whiskers). Its a security feeling to them. Example if you dead end a trap at the end of a log, they will go right into it.

I put some along rocks where they might run, under a fallen log or also on top of a log it might run along, near holes or tunnels and under lots of thick brush. I did well and my traps caught the most today in the grid! Check my next post for what was inside.

What was Inside?

Mammal trapping was like opening presents at Christmas today.Let’s talk about the different species while we show off what we caught today:
Mice-have huge eyes, and big mickey mouse ears and long tails, they love to climb up fallen logs or rocks and are nocturnal(come out at night). They are omnivores. We caught 2 deer mice today. Here is one I got to handle and take data on.
Voles-have short stubby tails, small ears and small eyes so they come out only during the day they look to always be under brush and cover to avoid predators rather then run, because they cannot hear or see them as good as mice since their eyes and ears are small and herbivores and are diurnal(active during the day). We caught 4 red backed voles today.
Shrews-they are smaller and also have short stubby tail, small ears but bigger eyes. They however are insectivores with a diet where they must eat almost constantly and will starve in 3 hours without bugs to eat. So our traps have a shrew hole about the size of a dime from which they can escape. We had 1 shrew today(How come I don’t have a picture?)
Red Squirrels-larger size, long fluffy tail, big eyes, sharp claws for climbing will be both up trees and on forest floor, they are diurnal herbivores. We saw 2 today. In a field transect we found 5 porcupine, 3 beaver, 15 snowshoe hare, 1 deer, 10 coyote, 3 raccoon, 1 skeleton of deer mouse. The temp was 43.

We also learned that raccoons are a pest to our research site as they disassembled 4 traps, and shredded the Styrofoam jackets trying to get the seed inside.
What do you think we did with the rodents we caught in the traps? What data was collected?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Think Like a Mouse


Today I was in class today too! We got lots of training on how to set and prepare the small rodent traps. We worked together to first make sure each of the 100 traps had a Styrofoam jacket. Why did the trap need a jacket? The night time temperatures are still freezing so this keeps the mouse, shrew or vole, chipmunk, would freeze in the cold metal trap without it. 40 needed repairs or brand new ones made. You can see me doing this in a picture.
Then we had to learn how to put the two pieces together into a banana shape with a tunnel side and a nest side. Why do you think the ends had to be set higher?
We had to fill the nest end with hay and seeds to bait the rodents in and then open the trap door and attach the tunnel.
This is a very time consuming task and thus a reason why the group of volunteers help is so important.Also today mammals seen were red fox, 2 porcupine, 3 snowshoe hare. Weather was a high of 43. Animal science class add that to the chart.
Each of the 100 trap were labeled a-b-c-d-e and 1-10 a and b. This created a checkerboard grid we then placed in the East Port Medway Research Site. I set 20 traps in row D, ten yards apart and orange tape marked the site of each of my traps. While doing this we all had to think like a mouse to set the traps. If you were a mouse running in the forest where should I have put the trap to catch you?

Shorehike summary


Awesome job posting comments on the blog. Mrs. Morstad’s post with Mr. Jensen’s 8th graders correctly identified the scat which was coyote scat. The items in the picture from my 7 mile shore hike from Broad Cove to Petite Reverie(Look it up on Google maps if you have time since I walked right by Green Bay, Nova Scotia that is. See in my picture how rocky the shore is?) Lobster claw, 2 crab exoskeletons, seaweed which kelp is common, the round white object is a sea urchin skeleton, a snail shell and other small sea shells, he clam like shells are from mussels, there are some crab legs left behind from a seagull or raccoon dinner, and sand and rocks. Click on any of the pictures on my blog to make them bigger for a closer look.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Coastal Hike



I just returned from a 7 mile hike! During the walk we looked for things called indirect methods of mammal surveying. This means finding signs of mammals using a habitat but not actually visually seeing them. So for your first test...look at the picture I have posted with Lycos the dog sniffing it.He is trained to find the poop and them let us identify it. Also look at the kind of rocks were were walking on.

The scat Lycos is sniffing is from an animal that deposits it high off the ground so the wind can spread its scent to claim territory. Post any answers. I also found porcupine scat, porcupine trails, and tracks and a dead seagull skeleton. For non-mammals there is a collection of sea shore items. See anything you recognize?
So for totals on 3-28-11 are 1 red squirrel, 1 snowshoe hare, 1 deer, 5 coyote, 2 porcupine, and 2 raccoon temperature today was 36.

Day one completed

The group of 9 is all together we learned yesterday about all the safety guidelines and went over the schedule. Looks like Friday this week and next week will be the best skype days with some time early this week too. So ag room keep the skpe online whenever possible.
On the drive here Nova scotia looks a lot like northern WI! Lots of white pine and spruce trees with some decidious trees mixed in. The only mammal I have seen so far is our researchers half husky/german shepard dog named Lycos! He is super friendly you would all want me to bring him into the class every day. I will report back with our first field research from the coast this afternoon!
On a walk this morning we saw 1 red squirrel, 1 snowshoe hare and white tail deer tracks. Please add that to the orange chart on the wall for mammal species seen per day. It had nothing for yesterday.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Arrival



I have arrived in Nova Scotia!!! I landed at Halifax International Airport which is a big city with skyscrapers but it is also a port city on the Atlantic ocean. This what I could have taken a picture of from the plane, but I did not have my camera out. It is of Halifax and the historic citadel.
Nova Scotia is the oldest part of North American continent. Located in extreme NE what US state is the closest to me again?
Nova Scotia is a peninsula not an island. Remember from social studies what that means. Once I was outside of the city I saw massive dikes. What are they and why does Nova Scotia have them?
The dikes are man made walls of soil to hold back the Atlantic ocean because some parts of Nova Scotia is below sea level. With the dikes in place there is valuable farmland. Nova Scotia is known for its high tides, lobster, fish, blueberries, Christmas trees, and apples. I thought the lobster ad in the hotel room was fitting.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Going International

Hey Everyone..I will be starting my international travels to Nova Scotia Saturday and our team will meet face to face and begin learning more about how to contribute to the research Sunday. Remember I will then be 2 hours ahead of you. Look it up on a map if you forgot your Canadian geography....hint I am heading east.
Check in for more info and finally I can post pictures of what I am seeing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Helpful Websites for Teachers

Hey Teachers following me on my trip to Nova Scotia check out these websites for some ready to use worksheets, and some more detailed lesson plans for elementary through middle school and high school ages. Hope this helps.
Elementary worksheet site http://www.gov.ns.ca/natr/education/NREC/kidscorner/ And the lesson plan site is http://www.gov.ns.ca/natr/Education/NREC/lessons/

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Spring Fever

The weather in Wisconsin seems to be similar to where I am headed. I am wondering if the Atlantic Ocean and Lake Michigan both affect the spring weather the same way. The Great Lakes act like a heater in the summer keeping lake cities warmer and serve as an air condtioner in the summer. Some warmer weather in NE Wisconsin even rain is making the snow melt. Anyone know what the weather condtions are like in Nova Scotia right now?

Go to this site and check out the current conditions for Halifax Canada: http://www.blogger.com/www.wunderground.com

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

All the Preparation


Hello everyone!
It only seems like I found out I will be part of a 12 person team to travel to Nova Scotia in late March. YEAH! I am still full of excitment. Yet, I am doing my best to balance all of my school responsiblities, advising, family and get prepared for my expedition. This blog was blocked by my email but now here I am!

So which of the following are MTYH vs FACT about my upcoming research?
1. Learning from researchers how to identify and find signs of mammals in the wild.
2. Setting up live traps and then checking the trap and collecting data on each animal and the weather.
3. Crawling on hands and knees and looking for mammal scat in site plots.
4. Building bat houses or a wood boardwalk to protect sensitive amphibian habitiat.