Please travel with me to Nova Scotia to study Mammals and Climate Change!

Monday, April 26, 2010


This trip would not have been possible without the generosity of HSBC bank. I want to say thank you to them for giving me and my students an incredible experience!

The requirements of this fellowship include the design and implementation of a community action project with my students. I will soon be sharing this with visitors here and at my education blog, Teach Dirty More photos from this journey can be found here.

Thank you for joining me on this adventure!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Day 13

Today, we got to see what our camera traps took pictures of. As a team with 6 traps, we photographed raccoons, a red fox, and at least two porcupines. Pretty cool! My partner and I did not get any pictures. Our batteries died the sane day we set the trap! Here is a picture of a racoon from one of the traps:

This afternoon, we went back to Kejimkujik National Park, to tour the seaside adjunct. It was a decent day for it.

We saw harbor seals swimming in the ocean and we stalked two porcupines eating in the bushes. As usual, Sue got some amazing shots. I will try to get some to share soon. When I do, you'll see how adorable they are. It breaks my heart that people here are hunting them just to kill them. Many people here believe the porcupines are over-populated, meaning there are lots and lots of them around. The truth, though, is that no one has ever done a study to see how many there really are. The scientists
I am working with don't believe there are very many because unlike snowshoe hares, porcupines can only have one baby a year, just like humans. They can have twins, but it doesn't happen very often.

The Scientists are working on figuring out ways to help tree farmers keep their trees safe from porcupines without farmers hunting and killing the porcupines. It turns out, porcupines really love to chew birch bark. Birch trees are really only used for firewood and they grow
everywhere. The Scientists wonder if farmers would plant birch trees all around the trees they need to make into lumber or sell as Christmas trees or save for the fruit they grow, if porcupines would leave the other trees alone since they would eat the birch bark instead. They can't be sure this would work, but it is one idea they have.

This evening, after dinner, we went on a bat hunt with a cool bat detector. I showed it to my class during our last videoconference. The bat detector turns bat squeaks into sounds we can hear. Most bat squeaks are too high pitched for us to hear. The vibrations of their sounds are just too fast for the human ear. Sadly, we did not find any on our hunt. Dr. Newman thinks it is still too cold for them to hunt for insects to eat, so they are still hibernating. Did you know that even in the summer, insect eating bats hibernate every day? They wake up at night to hunt for insects. In the winter, when it is too cold for insects, they hibernate for months without waking up. Their body almist completely stops working so they will stay asleep. This way, they save their energy and live longer.

Tomorrow, we are leaving. I am sad about this because I am going to miss my new friends. I'm happy though, too, because I have missed my old friends and my students a lot.

Room5, please add 2 harbor seals and 2 porcupines to the data you are collecting. I can't wait to see what it looks like when I get back on Tuesday!! Don't forget to check the comments from the last post to see what the answer was!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Day Twelve

Beavers, Ants and Survival Skills

Watching the beavers last night was awesome.  My friend Sue has an amazing camera that zoomed right in to the beavers.  Click on the picture she took to see it big.  I got a fantastic view thanks to my amazing binoculars! It was cold sitting on the bank of the water being as silent as we could be, but it was worth it.  I saw three beavers and one muskrat swimming and eating and grooming themselves.  The beavers were big and really cute! One beaver was watching us, trying to figure out what we were.  He kept swimming laps in front of us and he wouldn't take his eyes off of us. The beaver lodge they lived in was a really nice one.  I didn't have a super zoom camera like Sue's, but I did my best taking a picture of it.
The opening to the lodge is on the right.  The island on the left is the area where they would swim to and eat some twigs.  It's the same one the beaver is sitting on in the picture Sue took.  I really wish there were beavers in Green Lake so I could take my students to watch beavers.  A couple of times, the beavers would get worried about us and slap their tails on the water.  It was so loud, the first time it scared me and I almost dropped my binoculars!

Today, we learned some survival skills in case we might ever get lost in the middle of nowhere. We learned how to make fire and how to catch an animal for food using sticks and twine.  I took two videos.  The first one shows Dr. Newman trying to make fire and the second shows Emma volunteering to be the trapped animal in our animal trap.  She was a good sport.  I think she had fun!

I took one more video when we came upon a very unusual ant hill yesterday.  The ants were all covering the hill instead of just a few running around.  I tried to take a picture, but it didn't look like anything except a black circle.  In the video, if you look carefully, you can see these are ants and you can see them moving around.

Weird, hm?  We have no idea why they weren't inside the ant hill.

This evening, we are having a birthday party for the earth.  My team is also giving gifts to the scientists to thank them.  I brought gifts that have animals on them that live in the Pacific Ocean near my home.  If we have time, we will use bat detectors tonight.  I hope we do.  I'm very excited to see some bats!

Room 5, please add 3 beavers and 1 muskrat to the data you are collecting.  Also, I just realized no one answered my question from the other day: My partner and I set 20 traps total. We set half in the grassland area and half in the woodland area. How many traps did my partner and I set in the grassland area and how many traps did we set in the woodland area? Remember to tell me your strategy and not just the answer! If you haven't done so already, check the comments from the field sign challenge the other day to see what the answers were.

Happy Earth Day!

photo courtesy of NASA

I am so grateful to live on such an AMAZING planet.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Day Eleven

Today we checked our traps and Spunky had climbed into the same trap as yesterday.  Sometime during the night, though, she died in the trap.  We felt very sad to find her that way this morning, but it's normal for a vole to only live a short time. We are pretty sure she was hurt by something like a bird of prey before she went into the trap. She had a big black mark on her back.  We didn't catch anything else today.

In a little while, we are leaving to go see beavers.  I will tell you all about it tomorrow.  I hope to get some good pictures!

Room 5, I am excited to celebrate Earth Day with you!  Think of what you would like to say to the Earth to show your appreciation. Please also add two red squirrels to the data you are collecting. Talk to you soon!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Day Ten

Yesterday, we set another 100 traps- but this time at Cook's Lake. Cook's Lake is a very large lake and it has different kinds of habitat around it. There is a wetlands area, a woodland area and a grassland area. My partner and I set 20 traps total. We set half of them in the woodland area and half in the grassland area. The woodland area is covered in trees. What do you suppose the grassland area is covered in? If you said grass, you're right! The grass in this area isn't like the grass in our yards, though. It's long and a mix of green and yellow. It is bushy and perfect for small mammals to hide in when they run around.  Here is a photo of our traps in the grassland area and another picture to show more of the bushy grass.
 We are hoping to catch woodland jumping mice, meadow voles and small-tailed shrews.  My partner and I are the only ones who caught something today!  We caught a female meadow vole named Spunky.  She was cute!  A meadow vole is different from a red-backed vole because it is brown and just a bit bigger.

We also did a field sign transect today.   We walked the whole area and looked for field signs.  I took pictures of what I could.

Room 5, I am going to challenge you again to tell me what these signs mean.  Remember that field signs help us know how many animals and what kinds are in a certain area. What animals have been or are now at Cook's Lake?

1. What do you think this skull belonged to? I will give you a hint.  This area used to be a farm and this skull did NOT belong to a horse.
2. Here is another field sign that lets me know that a certain small mammal recently had a meal here. It has left two neat piles of acorn shells.  What do you think left them here?
3. In this puddle in the mud lies two sacks of baby eggs.  The second picture shows a close up of one of the sacks.  A mammal obviously did not leave this, you know, since mammals don't lay eggs.  What do you think these eggs will grow up to be? Hint: this kind of animal needs to be in water as a baby and near water as an adult.
4. Here is a track I found.  I thought Lycos had made this footprint, but the fingers are too skinny on this paw.  What could have left it?
5. One picture below is part of a skull. The other picture shows a pair of bones we found from the same animal. They are from the jaw.  See the teeth?  What kind of animal is it?
6. This scat is not a kind I have seen before on my trip.  It belongs to an animal that is smaller than a coyote, but has a similar diet.  What do you think it could be?
7. For your last challenge question, how many traps did my partner and I set in the grassland area and how many traps did we set in the woodland area? My partner and I set 20 traps total, but only half of them in each area.  Remember to tell me your strategy and not just the answer!
Room 5, I have added answers to yesterday's challenge in the comments of yesterday's post. You guys did a GREAT job! Please add one chipmunk and one vole to the data you are collecting on my animal sightings.

Dr. Newman

One of our lead scientists, Dr. Newman, has a special song for you!