Category Archives: In the Field

Saving Marine Mammals

Over Thanksgiving, we journeyed out to the San Fransico area to visit some friends and get out into the field to learn more about marine life at the ocean. We are so close to Lake Michigan that it was fun to see the differences between salt and fresh water and of course the size difference of 2 bodies of water.

Introducing: The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, California. A place where they rescue, rehabilitate and have a positive affect on conservation of oceans and marine life through research and education.

When we first came through the doors we saw a fun little exhibit full of skins, little skeletons and… garbage. Not because the people that come in are messy, but because that’s what they’ve collected from the animals that they save. We were surprised at how large a full sized elephant seal sculpture was. I hadn’t considered how terrifying it would be to see a live group of these tremendous mammals. They are HUGE!

We quietly walked up some stairs to see the rehabilitation center. There were only about 12 seals there then, but we could only see 2 from the observation platform. April is their (sadly) busy season and they have had up to 300+ seals and other marine animals in their care at one time! It takes a TON of work and loads of fish to feed and rehabilitate these little friends.  We saw the kitchen where they prepare all the food, a research lab, and my Mom went to check out the autopsy area, where they research animals after they have died. Thankfully, there was nothing there to see at that time!! WHEW!

After leaving the center, we walked down to Rodeo Beach and spent time looking at the most INCREDIBLE pebble beach and hoards of surfers. We spent much of our time looking for small, red, translucent stones that Native American folklore says if buried along with a wish it will bring you good luck! We did find a few and they are very special. They are HARD to find, but we think we are pretty lucky anyway.

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Bitter Sweet, Honey…

A trip out to our hive in late October to feed our bees resulted in an unexpected surprise… Stillness.  The bees were gone.

Unfortunately, we don’t exactly know what happened or why they absconded so late in the season. No sign of mold, or mites. Healthy duroung our last check 3 weeks before with our bee mentor, Sam, but sappily (sad+happy) they left us a yummy treat for the first time since beekeeping… honey! On the far side of the hive there were a few frames of perfectly capped honey. LET PRODUCTION BEGIN!!!

We began our low level harvest by sourcing lots of towels, trays, clips, cheese cloth and bowls from the kitchen of wonder. Before we began extracting the honey, mum thought it was a grand idea to weigh the frames before and after the honey was harvested and most of them were a whopping 7+ pounds each! Now the tricky part – By balancing the frame in a bowl and using a sharp knife to take off the caps on the honey ( which took 4 people and a dog to do) we managed to get clear the frames of both honey and comb. Had we had a full super of honey, we have a centrifuge that would have extracted only the honey and left the comb for the next year, but because we had only a small amount to get, this was the next best way. After separating the wax from the honey using a overnight process called patience and a cheescloth lined bowl, we weighed only the honey and found we had about 17 lbs! Sounds like a lot, but we use our neighor’s land for the hives in exchange for honey that we have never gotten so far with all the hive issues we have encountered over the past 2 seasons. After sharing some with them and a few friends and family, we have a small stash to enjoy through the winter.

We let the honey sit for a few days for the bubbles to setttle out and in that time, Mom made a label for the jars we soon filled. So much fun and hard to ‘bee’lieve all the work that the bees put into making that sweet and sticky substance we love so much!

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In this frame you can see uncapped honey that we did NOT harvest with 2 worker bees frozen in time.
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This was another frame. You can see baby brood (bees) have partially chewed their way out. This is the stillness we mentioned. Everything looks fine, but all the bees are dead.
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This is one of the frames we harvested the honey from. No brood and freshly capped honey.

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Perfectly wax-capped honey.
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Wax comb and honey taken from the frame. This is what we filtered through the cheesecloth.

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Freshly bottled honey. A bitter sweet harvest for sure!

 

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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