Posted on May 24, 2012 by schradercenter
By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education – Recently, while catching my wits on the forest floor after a fall, I noticed an interesting invertebrate moving through the decaying leaves. This organism is closely related to the aquatic planaria that many of our Nature Day Campers and School Groups would recognize by its ‘crossed eyes’ and it ability to regenerate from both ends if cut in half. This turbellarian, known commonly as the hammerhead worm, is in the same order (2 taxanomic levels higher than genus) as the common freshwater planarian in our streams, and shares its ability to regenerate after an injury.
The hammerhead worm (Bipalium adventitium) preys primarily on earthworms,which they locate using chemical sensors along the front of their enlarged head. To eat the worms they exude their pharynx (located in the middle of its body), digests the worm, then absorb the nutritious liquid. Here is a link to a hammerhead worm digesting an earthworm showing the pharynx (large white appendage), but be warned the image of digestion is not for the faint of heart!
This species of flatworm is introduced from Asia, and some scientists believe they pose a threat to north american earthworm populations. For more reading on this interesting beast check out some scientific articles at:
Feeding Behavior of a Terrestrial Turbellarian Bipalium adventitium
Reproductive ecology and evolution in the invasive terrestrial planarian Bipalium adventitium across North America
Observations on Feeding Behavior by the Terrestrial Flatworm Bipalium adventitium (Platyhelminthes: Tricladida: Terricola) from Illinois
Filed under: Environmental Education, Kids Programs, Nature Day Camp, Oglebay Park, Schools, Schrader Center, Streams, Trails, Uncategorized, Wheeling | Tagged: Bipalium adventitium, earthworm, hammerhead worm, invertebrate, oglebay park, streams | Leave a Comment »
Posted on March 26, 2012 by schradercenter
We are just getting preliminary data from the Waterbots we installed in the park last week, but we are already seeing some interesting trends in the data. The above chart is a graph of Conductivity (red line) and Temperature (blue line) over the last week. Conductivity is represented as microsiemens per centimeter (the amount and rate of electricity that can pass through the water), and temperature is represented as 10 times the actual degrees Celsius (to make it graph on the same range as conductivity).
The conductivity fluctuates daily, with temperature, and you can see that on the evenings of the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd, conductivity reached the same low level. Interestingly on the 24th the conductivity dipped slightly less than the previous days. This could be the result of rain on the 24th (a little over a tenth of an inch) that may have washed various inorganic salts into the creek. Keep tuned in to the blog where we will periodically post the data we are collecting in and around the Park.
Filed under: Environmental Education, Mission Ground Truth, Oglebay Park, Streams, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: streams, water bot, water conductivity | 2 Comments »
Posted on March 23, 2012 by schradercenter
By Jake Francis, Director of Education, Schrader Center — As part of the expansion of our Mission Ground Truth:21 program, which gives regional 8th graders a chance to explore the process of inquiry and careers in science while immersing them in nature, we have installed three permanent stream probes in the streams in and around Oglebay Park. We have received six probes, called Waterbots, through our partnership with the Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Education Lab (CREATE) at Carnegie Mellon University, that strives to empower communities through robotic technology.
Permanent stream probes are not a revolutionary new idea; in fact many old dams and weirs served the purpose of measuring stream discharge. What is revolutionary about the CREATE Lab’s Waterbots is their low cost, which increases citizen scientist’s (like our Mission Ground Truthers) access to high quality continuous water quality data sets.
Waterbots measure two stream parameters, conductivity and temperature. Conductivity is a measurement of how quickly electricity passes through water. Conductivity is a good indicator of pollution because any chemical dissolved in the stream (e.g. nitrate fertilizers, ammonia based soaps, oils, etc) will change the conductivity, thus a large
unexpected fluctuation in the conductivity of our streams will indicate that we need to investigate that area a little more closely. Temperature fluctuations affect conductivity measurements, and when both parameters are combined we are able to estimate the Total Dissolved Solutes (TDS) in the stream. The data we collect using our Waterbots will be open to educators and the general public who are concerned about threats to our local water quality.
Filed under: Environmental Education, Mission Ground Truth, Nature, Oglebay Park, Schools, Schrader Center, Streams, Technology, Uncategorized | Tagged: oglebay park, pollution, schrader center, streams, water conductivity, waterbots | 1 Comment »
Posted on January 3, 2012 by schradercenter
Taiji Nelson and Jake Francis in Frick Park, Pittsburgh along Nine Mile Run
Jake Francis, director of education at the Schrader Environmental Education Center, and Taiji Nelson, education program coordinator for Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, are exploring sites within Pittsburgh’s Nine Mile Run Watershed for the installation of a WaterBot that will be used in the expansion and update to Mission Ground Truth:21.
The WaterBot is just one new instrument that MGT:21 scientists and students will be using to measure the health of western Pennsylvania and West Virginia watersheds. Developed by Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab, the WaterBot is a relatively inexpensive, yet accurate, in-stream water-sensing bot that measures temperature and conductivity at frequent intervals and uploads that information wirelessly to allow students to examine longitudinal data and compare their one-time stream samples with a much larger set of statistics.
Francis and Nelson are also researching sites for Pittsburgh students to conduct research in Frick Park as part of MGT:21. The dynamic partnership between Oglebay Institute, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, and Carnegie Mellon University will bring the Mission Ground Truth:21 program to thousands of new students, expand to new public lands (including parks and schools), and link these students together using the latest technology and scientific tools.
MGT:21 was developed in 2000 by a team of regional educators and scientists and funded by the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and Richard King Mellon Foundation to actively engage middle school students in the scientific process. The curriculum consists of an integrated, interdisciplinary and inquiry-based 7th or 8th grade ecosystem assessment program that uses the “living laboratory” and state-of-the-art technologies to determine the ecological health of deciduous forest and freshwater stream ecosystems, as well as the decision-making process to weigh trade-offs between ecosystem values and functions. Annually, over 2,000 students from Ohio, West Virginia, and Pennsylvania conduct research at Oglebay Park and calculate the health of its streams and forests.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tagged: ecosystems, forest, streams, water bot | Leave a Comment »