Friday, March 30, 2012

Thank you

Thank you to Mr. Stack's homeroom and Mrs. Deaton's homeroom for Skyping with me today. I really appreciate it. Thank you to Mr. Stack for making this possible! Thank you to everyone following my blog and making comments. It's great!

Lemming and Laundry

After not being able to check our traps yesterday due to the snow, we went into the forest today to collect our traps. My trap collected a lemming and another caught a red-backed vole. This evening, we are going to the laundromat and trust me, it is needed! Our clothes are so dirty after the mud, snow, water, and simply crawling through the forest. I hopefully will post a picture of the lemming soon since another teacher took it for me with her camera.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

March 29, 2012
Thank you to Mrs. Lawson’s class, as well as others, for Skyping with me today! I truly appreciate it. Mrs. Lawson’s class is a kindergarten class at Gray’s Creek Elementary in North Carolina. The students asked about the mouse traps we use here during our expedition, the types of animals we have seen, and they wanted to know specifically about beavers and snakes. We also talked about the importance of animal poop! While this may seem strange, animal poop can actually tell scientists a lot about the animals in the area. The students even asked about Canadian currency. It was great to Skype with them and let them actually see Nova Scotia.                                                                  Thank you to Mrs. Lawson, her students, and the other teachers for making this possible.
I would also like to thank the funder who made this trip possible for me. A huge thank you goes to the Henry Greenwalt Earthwatch Educator Fellowship for funding this expedition. I would not have been able to participate without this, nor could I bring exciting and valuable information to the students at my school, as well as the community.
As the Lorax says, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Please help us help the environment.

First Snow Day Ever for Mammals of Nova Scotia Volunteers

It snowed here last night! We woke up to snow everywhere! We are having the first snow day that Earthwatch volunteers have had for Mammals of Nova Scotia. We can't go out now
because there is too much snow. For the Californians here, it's their first snow day
ever to miss "work" so that's pretty neat. This is also a good opportunity to share that there are 7 volunteers, including myself. Here's where they're from:
  • 2 people are from San Francisco
  • 1 person is from Chicago
  • 1 person is from DC
  • 1 person is from Minnesota (Not sure which city)
  • 1 person is from Brooklyn, New York
  • I'm from North Carolina!
  • Chris and Christina lived in England before moving to Nova Scotia but Christina is originally from Germany.
    This is the "Green House" that we are staying in. If we had more volunteers, there is also a "Yellow House" that is used. The bedroom I'm staying in is on the bottom floor and the window is right by the truck.
    It's snowing more inland, which is one reason we can't go out now.
    More snow....It's pretty!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Voles, Trees, and Climate Change....

Checking a mouse trap

Checking a mouse trap....

Setting a camera to try and get pictures of deer~or anything else.

This is Kenta wishing he was in Costa Rica where it is warm.

This was the red-backed vole caught in my trap. (D6a was the trap #.) It was a boy and he peed here and pooped on the way to release him. To be honest, I didn't like this part very much. My vole was so cute but he was really scared.

Christina holding my vole.
Today was a long day. We checked our mouse traps and learned how to safely look for animals in the traps. We caught a shrew but, unfortunately, it did not live. They have to eat very frequently and it was in the trap too long. They die very easily and can have heart attacks easily also. We caught 2 voles today and released them. Another thing we did was to help pile tree limbs and small trees that had fallen in the woods. This created paths for animals, as well as created areas for various animals to create a home. We also listened to Chris talk to us about climate change.

About to set off....

We are getting ready to go check our mouse traps and set up cameras. We're also supposed to learn about climate change today so I hope to share more information about that.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

More info for today....

Please excuse the typo about being hypothermia. I think I started to say "being too cold" so excuse the error. To let you know what we'll be doing the rest of the week so you can think of some questions, I will give you a little of our schedule.
  • We have breakfast at the house each morning. Lunch is typically wherever we are out in the field. Dinner is back at the house. Chris or Christina cook and we clean.
  • Throughout this week, we will frequently be checking the mouse traps. I'm not exactly sure yet what we'll do with what we find but I'll fill you in as I learn.
  • We are supposed to continue to look for poop. I believe we are going to try to look for snowshoe hare poop and deer poop. Some volunteers saw beer poop today but it was old. Hopefully, they are still hibernating. Climate changes sometimes confuse them. I hope to share more about this later.
  • We are supposed to set up camera traps so we can see what goes in when we aren't around.
  • Beaver watching is on the agenda.
  • Toward the end of the week, we will have to collect all the mouse traps. I sure hope I find all of mine. They are expensive!
  • On Sunday, we are scheduled to go to Kejimkujik National Park (I have no idea how to say that).
I forgot to tell you something interesting that you may not know. Some people here speak English and French. The leaders here are from England so they have an accent. The other volunteers say I sound very Southern. I don't think that's a bad thing!
I hope there are more questions soon!

Crawling on the forest floor, mouse traps, and more....

Wow! Today was a lot of work but it was a lot of fun. We started out early in the cold! It was snowing when we set out on our trek through the woods of Nova Scotia. The terrain was somewhat rocky and wet in some places. We walked through the woods until we got to a small wooden building named "Robin's Nest" that previous Earthwatch volunteers built. We then had to gather a bunch of grass (not like the grass we're used to) and put it all in a pile. We then had lunch in the small building that does not have a door so we were exposed to the cold all day. It was okay, though, because we laughed and talked a lot. We then set out to do the main job of the day: set mouse traps. These are not the mouse traps we know of. They are humane. They do not hurt the mice. The purpose is not to catch and keep mice. It is to study the small mammals in the area, how many there are, etc. The traps can catch other animals that are small but the purpose is to try to catch mice. We were in 5 teams and were split into grid sections to make the data were are trying to collect valid, as well as to be able to find the traps. They can't just be placed anywhere. There's a system. We each had to fill metal mouse traps (that cost $100 each) with the grass we collected and some grain for food. We then split up into grid areas in the forest. The middle person, Kenta, was the leader and had to make sure we were each staying in line with each other as we moved along the grid. We started in a line with each other and placed the first mouse trap in the forest. We had to make sure it was stable and we had to cover it with grass. The purpose is for the mouse to smell the food and go in. Once they do, the trap door closes and the mice can't get out. They have to have the grass in the trap so they do not get too cold. If they do, they can get hypothermia and die. Remember, we want them to live and release them. Once we placed a trap in the correct way, we had to tag nearby trees with bright pink and orange tape so we can find the traps as we go out each day. Every time we set a trap, Kenta would make sure everyone was ready and we'd have to move 10 yards in front of us to set another trap. Keep in mind, though, that we were in the forest. This meant to move the next 10 yards, we had to battle trees, branches, water, etc. We often had to literally crawl on the forest floor to get to the next area. We had to try to stay in as straight a line as possible. I hope I'm making this make sense but it's kind of difficult to explain. Every 12 hours the traps have to be checked. If not, the mice that we may catch could die from being hypothermia or from not having enough to eat. We have to go back tomorrow morning to check the traps.

All of this research helps the scientists learn about habitats, ecosystems, climate change, and more. Because there are only 2 leaders, they need help. We set 100 traps today. When they do not have volunteers here, they have to do all the work by themselves! It was hard work for the 7 of us so I'm sure it's hard work for 2 people.

Here are some questions you may want to think about:
Would you crawl on the ground in the forest?
Would you pick up a mouse?
Would you touch animal poop?
Would you think it's interesting to learn about animals and how they really live?

This is Cook's Lake. We talked a lot about beavers while we were here. We learned that they are very territorial and that beaver dams are built in flowing water but beaver lodges are built in water that is not flowing. There is no reason to build a dam in water that is not flowing. A lodge is smaller. Beavers sometimes fight for their territory. Males fight males and females will fight females. They only do this when they feel it is absolutely necessary for protection.

This is me picking grass for the mouse trap. It was cold!

This is what I was crawling through! You can see the pink tape tied to the tree. If you look at the bottom of the tree, you can see the mouse trap. The grass covering it helps to hide it and insulate it so the mice do not get too cold.

This is me filling my mouse trap with grass. I have to admit something I learned today. While there are many things I am not good at, I am good at this! There were some mouse traps that had a broken metal flap. I became the expert on fixing these with a small stick! I never knew I was good at something like this. This is one reason we should always try new things~you never know what you may do well.  For me, setting mouse traps is apparently an area of expertise for me! :)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Taking a hike over rocky terrain....

Today we learned a great deal about mammals from Christina during a talk after breakfast. We laughed a lot at all the things we didn't (and probably should) know about mammals. We then took a four mile hike around the coast over some rocky terrain. I had to be really careful because I'm extremely clumsy. (Anyone who knows me well knows that.) We saw lots of poop! We were actually looking for it because poop tells you a lot about the animals that are in the area, what they've been eating, and more. I even correctly identified bobcat poop! To use alliteration, I can say I was pretty proud about poop! :) We saw a tree that porcupines had been feasting on and even saw a deer leg! Yes, just one leg. Some poor deer is hobbling around with only 3 legs. hahahahaha Seriously, the deer could have simply died of natural causes but Chris, one of the leaders, said it very well could have been a coyote. Chris and Christina's dog, Lycos, really wanted it as is evidenced in the picture. Check out the pictures and thank you to those of you who are posting! I look forward to reading more from you!


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nova Scotia

Hello, everyone! I am happy to say that I made it safely to Nova Scotia after a series of flights. I left Fayetteville and flew to Buffalo. I then took a 30 minute (and expensive) taxi drive to Niagara Falls. After getting completely soaked and seeing the beautiful falls, I started the next portion of my trek at 3:00 this morning. The taxi picked me back up at 4:30am (another expensive ride!) and I made it back to Buffalo at 5:00am. I flew from Buffalo to Philadelphia and from Philly to Nova Scotia. It took about an hour-hour and half to get to where we are staying. There are 7 team members and 2 team leaders. For those of you I hope to Skype with, we'll be Skyping from the house we are staying in. It is actually snowing and sleeting a little here now but this past week was in the 80's. Please post questions and I will reply to them. Tomorrow is a day that we'll get familiar with the area but will stay around the house for half of the day.We'll start more of our "science" experience the next day. I'll talk with you soon!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Niagara Falls

It was beautiful. I was told it was nice and sunny for the past 5 days. Today was cold and wet. I was soaked to the bone and my clothes are still hanging up trying to dry.

Today began pretty early. I haven't had much sleep for the past couple nights trying to get ready but it was great to finally get to see Niagara Falls today. I went to the Canadian side as well. It was my first time in Canada. After 2 flights, missing my mama, and a rainy day, I'm going to try to get some rest and meet the Earthwatch folks tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

3 Days Before Departure

I have shared the blog with all of my students and colleagues and I sincerely hope it is beneficial to you. We will learn about many different mammals, climate change, and more while in Nova Scotia. I am looking forward to posting pictures and reading your comments and questions. The next post will most likely be from Niagara Falls!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Less than 1 week to go....

It's hard to believe that I'll be in Nova Scotia at this time next week. I'm looking forward to seeing Niagara Falls and learning a lot while there. Please leave comments on the blog because I would love to hear from my family, friends, and coworkers. Also, if you are having your students follow the blog, please post questions. I would love for us to dialogue while there. Hopefully, we can help spark an interest in future scientists! I checked the weather out and it looks like it's going to be chilly and for a cold natured person, that's not the best news but I'll pack some hand/toe warmers like I did in Yellowstone and hopefully I'll be okay! More to come soon! :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

Less than 2 weeks to go....

One of the things I am excited about is the possibility of going whale watching. It has been a dream of mine for a long time to see a whale swimming in its natural habitat. Oh, I've seen them at Sea World
but it's not quite the same. For our 5th graders, when you go to the aquarium at Ft. Fisher, you'll see one of my favorite things ever. There is a replica of a whale hanging from the ceiling. I've been fascinated by it since I was little. My family has always vacationed at Kure Beach so I love the area and love the aquarium. I hope you enjoy the whale as much as I do! I hope that I am able to see a whale swimming freely while I visit Nova Scotia. They are amazing animals and I am very hopeful!

Friday, March 9, 2012

First stop: Niagara Falls

My plans are to fly from Fayetteville, NC to Buffalo, New York on March 24th so I can see Niagara Falls before beginning our expedition in Nova Scotia. My students have talked with me about Niagara Falls before but they know I've never been there. I can't wait to share with you the beauty of the falls and my experiences there.