Category Archives: In the Field

Would you Be’leaf’ it?

The past 3 weeks we have been learning all about leaves. We took a course at the Outdoor Discovery Center in Holland, Michigan with 2 naturalists to learn more about leaf and tree identification.

The first week we focused on flowers (aster family).

We started a journal y identifying parts of a flower and then headed out to the trails to collect finger size specimens. We found things like golden rod, New England Aster, Queen Ane’s Lace and much, much more! Back in the classroom, we taped the flower samples and added detailed information about their family and locations next to them to catalog everything we found. We also were given a guide booklet of the families of flowers and trees to keep, much to our delight! The next week was… Trees!

This was an interesting day. We learned about leaf types and took our knowledge along with an identification list on a tree scavenger hunt. We learned about the parts of a leaf like the midrib and the veins, alternating and opposite leaf patterns, lobes, teeth and what a whole leaf shape looked like. As a group we paired up to see if we could name the trees on the preserve. That is tricky business!!

The 3rd week, we focused on seeds and dispersal. Once we were out on the trail, we learned about milkweed, witch-hazel, dogweed. Once dogwood dries up, the seeds are projected out of their casing, shooting up to 5 feet in distance! If you are in a really quiet room, you can hear a very distinct popping sound when they erupt! Seeds can disperse via flight (think dandelions), water (think coconuts), poop (think berries) and attachment (think burrs). Often it is one of these methods of transport that aids in non-native plants becoming invasive like, Autumn Olive (aww, poor Olive).

We learned a lot! A funny thing about our particular group – they were obsessed with milkweed seeds and were throwing fistfuls of them everywhere to watch them fly. At least the Monarchs next year will appreciate their enthusiasm! Time for me to ‘leaf’ now. :0)

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Monarch Watch!

Lucky us! Today we joined a local horticulturist, Hannah Nendick-Mason to participate in the University of Kansas’s citizen science program, Project Monarch Watch. You might remember an earlier post where we shared our experience on raising monarchs in our home. If not, check it out here. This made it extra exciting to experience the next level of the monarch journey.

We were quite surprised to see how many Monarchs were at the site where we met! It took some patience and many, many tries before we got the hang of the best way to catch them in the butterfly nets. Once caught, careful handling was in order, a sticker applied to their hind wing and data was collected and recorded. Then, with a good luck wish and blink, they were back on their way, fueling up for their epic flight ahead.

Special thanks to Hannah for having us “tag” along with her on this super fun adventure!

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Espn Radio: 93.5fm

Last week we were invited to tour ESPN’s Tay & J show’s radio station in Champaign, Illinois. It was VERY interesting! We listen to podcasts often and it was cool to see how much work goes into making a show. First, there are the hosts. Then, there are the support people… the people who are answering questions, tweets and getting information for the hosts while they are on the air. Ever wonder how guests on a radio show ‘just happen to be available’ at just the right time? That is the magic of the behind the scenes people! There were several rooms – the main broadcasting room, the support people room (with a connecting window) and an editing room for the segments that are assembled from the live footage. We were surprised that the show was broadcast from a relatively small space. We were also quite surprised that there was a Christmas tree with ornaments in one of the offices – complete with a star on top!

A big thank you to Trevor Vallese and the show’s host, Mike Carpenter for inviting us to come and for showing us around your super cool space!

The Tay and J Show airs weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN Radio 93.5 and streams at www.espncu.com

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Behind the Scenes…

…At the Field Museum! We were so lucky to get the chance to meet with Dr. Corine Vriesendorp who is the director of their Andes-Amazon program. She is a field biologist and a plant ecologist…. and may we say – super FUN! She had just returned from a research trip in Columbia so we were extra excited that the timing worked out for us to go to Chicago (who doesn’t love Chicago!?) and meet with her.

We started our behind the scenes adventure in the Rare Book Room. We saw the Audubon Ottoman, (well, it had a cover on it, but we were able to see one of the 4 Audubon Double Elephant Folio books), a rare, historical piece that was donated to the Museum in 1969.

From there, we went to the bird specimen area. There we learned about the consistent way nature solves problems, how species are collected and how huge the Field Museum’s collection of birds is. We loved seeing all the tiny hummingbirds and the birds of paradise. They are so dramatic!!!

We also revisited the beetle room. The room where hard, detailed, and wildly smelly work gets done by flesh eating beetles, who, for a place to stay, will eat birds and mammals to the bone, ready for organizing and storing by the most patient people on earth! They sort the freshly cleaned bones, some tinier than we could believe existed, tagged them and placed them in boxes to add to their massive collection.

After our tour was complete, we experienced the Specimens exhibit and the rest of the museum, including, meeting another scientist who is an entomologist. We held hissing cockroaches, spiders and a giant millipede.

A SUPER inspiring trip to meet some amazing scientists and hear about their work. A special thank you to Corine for taking us behind the scenes of her workplace!!! IMG_3532FullSizeRenderIMG_3533IMG_3540IMG_3544IMG_3548IMG_3549IMG_3550IMG_3551IMG_3559IMG_3557IMG_3555IMG_3560IMG_3552

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Move It!

Yesterday, we went to a STEAM exhibit at the Saugatuck Center for the Arts. It showcases some of the work by Sarah and Jon Vanderbeek of Sweet Spot Studio.  In the room there were many dinosaur toys, cars and airplanes, and many work-in-progress toys. The intent of the exhibit was to show the development process and how Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) work together to bring products to life. In the middle of the room, stood a giant word, STEAM and on it was a obstical course for a large orange ball, which once you turned a wheel the ball traveled down a ramp, through a loopy loop, up another ramp, around a large M, down through a large tube and using air under high pressure, rolling across a trigger which made a small foam rocket shoot to the ceiling! Finally, the ball rolled back where it originally started. We did this several times yipping and jumping up and down every single time! It was SO fun!!

Although fun, we only saw gender specific toys, so we would’ve appreciated just a touch of diversity! As you might know from our blog posts, we love science and building and art and math, so this was the perfect exhibition for us!

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And the Mycelium Runs…

IMG_2319This week we have been learning more about fungus and mushrooms, how the work and how to find them in your own backyard, or anywhere for that matter! Did you know that the mushroom is actually called the ‘fruit body’? It is like an apple is to the tree it grows from. The mushroom is actually the fruit!

One of the first things we investigated was the anatomy of a mushroom: the stem, the skirt, the cap, the roots and the stuff under the cap, otherwise known as tubes, spines, ridges and gills! You can tell them apart by their names and shapes. Tubes are well…. little tubes that are not attached to the stem, but ridges are actually part of the underside of the cap! Cool! Spines are a type of tube but they aren’t hollow. And finally, the most dangerous and certainly the one you should NEVER harvest in the wild (unless you are a seasoned mushroom hunter) are the ones with gills. Usually, the mushrooms with gills are poisonous so don’t touch one if you happen to find a patch.

After learning about the fruit body anatomy, we went on a hike into the Saugatuck Dunes, through the forest looking all around for mushrooms of any kind. We had recently listened to a podcast by Radio Lab about fungus, mycelium and their inter-connectedness and interdependence on trees so we went looking with the keen awareness of how everything is connected by their proximity in the forest. If you have a chance, you should listen to that podcast – we LOVE Radio Lab!!

Check out some pictures of the mushrooms and fungus we found. It was tougher than we thought it would be! Sneaky little fungi :0)

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Just to make things more interesting, we made mushrooms out of paper. We think they came out pretty cool! You can make them too – check out the DIY video here.

 

If you still want another mushroom craft, check this post on our blog from a few years back.

So! There you have it! We are starting to grow our own mushrooms in the next few weeks, so be sure to check back to see how it went!

 

NOTE: Featured Image was courtesy of: 4/bp.blogspot.com

Tide Pools in Northern California!

A couple of weeks back,  we went to California (just a couple hours north of San Fransisco)!!!! We had a lot of adventures including our fun at the tide pools! We studied the tides before we left as well as what to expect at the pools, but were unprepared for the great fluctuation in low tides would be day to day!

As you may know, tide pools are created with the rise and fall of the tides which changes every day. For example, the first day low tide was about 6:30am. Two days later, low tide was around 9:00am – so we realized how important it was to look up the actual time of low tide in the exact location we would be visiting.

The first beach we went to was called Goat Rock, which had no goats, but nearby there are a TON of cows. Thankfully, it didn’t smell like anything other than salty ocean. At that tide pool it was super rocky. The algae on the rocks made it slippery and often difficult to walk on. Plus we had to be extra careful not to step on the sea creatures attached to the rocks. A lot to look out for! We saw many different types of shells {we now have an official collection of shells and stones!} and we even saw a pod of dolphins doing their iconic arcs in the waves. We were so excited to see so many sea animals like mussels, clams, barnicals, sea snails, sea anemones and starfish. Unlike what they show on YouTube, turns out those creatures have a SUPER strong grip and they are HUGE… it makes sense of course, since the waves are crashing onto them twice every day… holding on tight would be an important way of life! It was a BEAUTIFUL beach and because low tide was early evening, we were lucky enough to catch the sunset!

Goat Rock Beach – 6:45 PM

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Biggest starfish at Goat Rock Beach!
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A lovely sea anemone!

 

A few days later on our pursuit for cool sea animals, we ended up at Dillon Beach. Now we thought that tide pools could only occur on rocky beaches but it turns out you can find them in the sand! I know what you are thinking right now, MIND BLOWN!!!!! Anyway, there were small rock caves and gigantic rocky cliffs and large boulders which around it held pools of water at low tide which contained incredible amounts of CRABS! SEA ANEMONES! FISH! SHELLS! GIGANTIC STARFISH!!!!

It was so much easier to traverse the pools on sand compared to the slippery rocks. The day was sunny and warm, the water relatively calm and FREEZING! It didn’t stop us form walking barefoot and we stayed as the tide started to rise. It happens faster than you might think!

When we got back home to school we checked out many of the stones and shells we found (including the body of a crab!) under the microscope. Stay tuned for the “Tide Pools Up Close” post, coming soon!

If you are ever near an ocean, your visit isn’t complete without heading to the beach at low tide to check out the incredible underwater life forms – it’s a visit we will never forget!

Dillon Beach: 9:25 am

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more starfish!
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Gigantic crabs everywhere we looked

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Sea Kelp

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a crab shell in lovely condition.