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