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
Head Torch
Rubbish bag
Kitchen roll
Car park

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?
Flying Squirrel
Pine Marten

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.