Hello! My name is Mr. Greenslate. Please join me as I travel to Nova Scotia to study mammal populations!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Teaching from Nova Scotia w/ Earthwatch: Conclusion

After spending two weeks at the Cook's Lake research site in Nova Scotia looking at how climate change is impacting small mammal populations I have a profound new understanding of this issue, but also several new insights about how field research is conducted and the questions that scientists wrestle with as they work to understand the natural world.

The last two days we collected all of our traps, went over the results from our data, and looked for field signs at Thomas Raddall Provincial Park, and ended with a barbeque in the rain. After things cleared up we went bat detecting, but unfortunately the conditions weren't ideal for hearing the bats in the area.

Saturday I made my way back home to San Diego, and 14 hours later I landed here in California, exhausted, informed, and inspired. Beyond the training that we received as volunteer researchers, one of the most valuable aspects of this expedition was the wonderful people that I had the opportunity to meet and work with. It's easy to just focus on the work at hand, but connecting with the people around you is always what makes any type of work rewarding.

I want to thank Earthwatch for giving me this opportunity to teach "Live from the Field", Charlene Parsons for doing double duty back home with our team, Nikki Hinostro for having the vision to allow me to go on this adventure, and most of all I would like to thank all of the students on our team who followed along, posted comments, and asked questions during the video conference; you're the best.

See you in class!

Last question: If you could go anywhere and do scientific research in the field, where would you want to go, and what would you want to study?

- Mr. Greenslate

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Teaching from Nova Scotia w/ Earthwatch: Searching for Field Signs

While the last few days have been spent doing many of the same tasks: setting and checking traps, deer scat counts, and working on the research station, today I took my first walk to look for field signs. My partner Jenny and I walked through the area on assigned trails, and recorded any indications of small mammal life.

As amateur researchers we found this task particularly difficult. Walking around looking for the signs of these animals is kind of like trying to find a penny in an overflowing dumpster. However, we did find several things: deer tracks in the mud, marks on tress from deer trying to shed the velvet off of their antlers, porcupine damage on trees, a chipmunk den, a squirrel on a log, etc. The foliage on the forest floor made it difficult to look for scat, and our worries about being on the right path distracted us from focusing as well as we could have.

Today's question: Why do deer try to shed the velvet from their antlers?

Challenge option: Go outside with a notepad and a pen, pick an area that you will work through, and write down any signs of animals life that you can find; then post what you found.

- Mr. Greenslate

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Teaching from Nova Scotia w/ Earthwatch: Camera Traps and Deer Poop

Today we continued with our morning and afternoon trapping, working on building the research station, and searching for deer scat.

We'll continue to monitor the small mammals surrounding Cook's Lake in this way for the remainder of the trip, but we'll also will be learning about the geology of the area tomorrow, and then surveying for bats on Thursday night.

Today's question: What type of environmental research project do you think we should do when I return? (Earthwatch expects us to do something as a result of our work in Nova Scotia)

- Mr. Greenslate

Monday, October 4, 2010

Teaching from Nova Scotia w/ Earthwatch: New traps, Staining, Data Analysis

Today we moved our trapping site within the Cook’s Lake area, and found ourselves hacking through pretty rough terrain. We reset our traps, measured the area and placed them in different quadrants. Because of the difficult shrubs and trees (standing and felled) it took far longer than before.

After lunch we split into teams. Some of the Earthwatch volunteers went to record field signs of animals: Tracks, Scat, Burrows/Dens/Nests, Damage, Feeding remains, Calls/vocalizations, Hair/bits such as antlers. While others, including myself, continued working on the research station.

Before leaving the site we checked and reset our traps, recorded data and released the animals. Today none of my traps were successful in capturing any mammals.

In the evening, Dr. Chris Newman explained the methodology of our research, and taught us the mathematical models that are used to calculate population density. By using the data we collected last week, and plugging it in to the Schnabel Model (1930), we are able to see what the population of the areas are. After a researcher has collected data on several different days she can use the Schnabel model below to calculate how many small mammals are present. The model looks like this:

New + Recaptured
------------------------- x Marked = Population

We found the following for each area:
Hardwood Bush = 25 animals per hectare
Forest = 53 animals per hectare

By comparing our data to the last team that was here we can see that the populations of animals in these areas has decreased, and what is most surprising is that we found no jumping mice. This is interesting because the last team found quite a large number of them. The question that remains for the principal investigators here in Nova Scotia is: What happened to these jumping mice?

Today’s question: What factors could contribute to the population fluctuations ofsmall mammals?
Challenge question: What factors would be specific only to Nova Scotia?

- Mr. Greenslate

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Kejimkujik National Park

Today we visited Kejimkujik National Park and were able to hike around one of Canada's wonderful national parks. From babbling brooks to the dead silence of an old growth forest, it was a sublime place to learn about the ecology specific to this region of Nova Scotia.

During the afternoon, principal investigator Dr. Chris Newman from the University of Oxford trained us to do scat surveys. We scoured several quadrants looking for deer poop, and then he recorded the data. This information allows us to see what the population density of the area is for the white-tailed deer.

Today's mission: Find something that you believe to be interesting or unique about Kejimkujik National Park and post it as a comment. If someone else posts it, you will have to find something new!

- Mr. Greenslate

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Teaching from Nova Scotia w/ Earthwatch: Lunenburg Visit

On our day off from research we took a visit to the town of Lunenburg, a World Heritage site. In addition to enjoying the quaint atmosphere of the this cozy harbor village, we also visited the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic, and went sailing to experience the maritime tradition of Nova Scotia.

Since there was no research today, the questions will be about things you'll see in the video, choose one, or do both as a challenge option:

How does a place gain the World Heritage distinction?
Why has the ship the Farley Mowat been impounded by the Canadian Government?

- Mr. Greenslate

Friday, October 1, 2010

Releasing Mice & Sustainable Forestry

This morning we collected all of our traps, recorded data and released the animals.

This afternoon we visited an award-winning woodlot, where the owner produces FSC certified timber products, and grows organic Christmas trees. His family has managed their 500 acre plot for seven generations, and as a result his insight into the process of selective cutting, and his clear understanding of the importance of biodiversity made it a pleasure to learn from his experience.

For the next couple days we won't be doing research, but I plan to post video content and give you questions related to my expedition here in Nova Scotia with Earthwatch.

Today's question: What does FSC certification mean, and what are the standards for gaining such certification?

- Mr. Greenslate

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Video Conference Follow-up & Lemming Release

Thanks for a great video-conference today!

Because of the travel time between the research site and the cottage in Cherry Hill, I was really only able to check our traps, release the animals, reset the traps before having to come back for our talk.

I hope that you learned something new from myself and from Principal Investigator Dr. Chris Newman from the University of Oxford.

Last night we had a very informative lecture from Dr. Newman about how climate change is impacting small mammals and what that means for us as well as the animals. It was both nuanced and engaging. Tonight we're heading to do some beaver watching (weather permitting), so look for a new post tomorrow!

Today's Question: What are some of the characteristics of the Souther Bog Lemming that I released today?

- Mr. Greenslate

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Checking Traps, Placing Cameras, Building!

We awoke this morning and headed back to the Cook's Lake research site where the first order of business was to check the small mammal traps we set yesterday. We climbed down the hill and into the forest checking our traps as we went along. Our first set of ten had not been triggered, but five of our traps in the woods seemed to have animals inside; two more were still set, and the other three had been ripped apart, most likely by a raccoon.

After we brought our traps back to the meet-up site we learned the correct method for removing and handling the animals. Principal Investigator Dr. Buesching took great care to make sure that we understood how to work with the animals so that they would not feel an inordinate amount of discomfort or stress, and then we each took turns removing the animals from the traps. In the video you'll see me releasing a red-backed vole; I named him Francis.

As we removed each small mammal, Dr. Buesching weighed them and recorded other pertinent information: species, sex, age, reproductive ability, etc., and then we were sent to release them back where they had been captured. Once all the traps had been checked for animals we reset them and went on to placing infrared camera traps around the research site in hopes of getting photos of animals at different locations.

We ended today by splitting in to two teams. Some of us used GPS tools to map trails and topography of the site, while myself and others picked up saws and hammers and helped build a small research station. Afterwards we re-checked our traps, recorded data, released the animals, reset the traps, and then headed for the cottage in Cherry Hill. All in all an exhausting day.

Today's question: What small mammals, besides the red-backed vole, are native to the south shore of Nova Scotia where I am assisting in this research?

- Mr. Greenslate

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Placing Traps

After learning some of the history about the area where the research site is located, Dr. Buesching taught us how to setup and place Longworth traps so that we can collect data about the mouse and vole populations here in Nova Scotia.

These traps are filled with warm bedding and enough food to last the mouse for far longer than the evening they could potentially stay locked inside. In the morning we will visit our traps to see if any small mammals have been caught and if so we'll learn how the animals are doing, and by continuous trapping and recording we'll start to see some evidence about the population density.

Tomorrow we'll learn from Dr. Chris Newman about how climate change is impacting these animals, and other small mammals in Nova Scotia.

My legs are sore and I'm pretty tired after an afternoon of trekking through unbridled forest area in order to set out our traps, but I'm excited to see what tomorrow will bring.

For today's question, I'm wondering what small mammal species reside around High Tech High North County? How do you know this?

Challenge question: What research has been done in our area about how human activity impacts these mammal populations?

Until tomorrow,
Mr. Greenslate

Monday, September 27, 2010

Teaching from Nova Scotia w/ Earthwatch: Getting Oriented

Having spent about eight hours getting to Nova Scotia I was pretty tired by the time I met the Earthwatch team at the Halifax airport, and with the research site about two hours from the airport I was more than tired when I arrived here in Cherry Hill. After a brief view of our itinerary for the next two weeks we had dinner and introduced
ourselves, and then it was off to bed.

Today we spent the morning learning from Dr. Christina Buesching about Mammal Monitoring Science and why the studying of small mammals in this area is important environmental research. Additionally, we learned about her work with the Wildlife Conservation Unit at the University of Oxford (United Kingdom), in what is currently the longest running study of medium-sized carnivores (badgers) on earth.

We discussed the specific features of mammals, some of the techniques we'll use in the field to calculate their population density, and what some of the scat (poop) looks like for mammals such as porcupines, deer, hares, and black bears. We also learned about why there are only 600 moose left in Nova Scotia, and what is killing them.

Later in the day we took a three hour hike from Broad Cove to Green Bay and started identifying signs of mammals (bones, scat, footprints, fur, etc.).

Today I would like you to share with me what is it that defines a mammal.

Challenge question: What is killing the mainland moose, and how is it doing so?

- Mr. Greenslate

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Getting Ready for Research

As we wrap up the "Geography of We" and move into the "EarthSpeak" project, I will be heading to Nova Scotia to see how climate change is impacting mammal populations. While I'm gone I will be posting here daily so that you can see what I'm up to, as well as giving you questions to answer. Make sure you check each day and post your responses to the topics!

I will do my best to post video footage while I'm on the expedition, as I want to bring you as close to the action as possible.

The first assignment for while I'm gone is just to post a comment on this blog so that I can verify that you've checked in and that all is functioning correctly. So, the first question for this trial is:

What is one thing that is interesting about Nova Scotia?
(You must write something that hasn't already been posted by one of your peers!)

I look forward to your replies!

- Mr. Greenslate

Thursday, August 12, 2010