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Late Bloomers at the Schrader Center

SunflowerphotoThe long awaited blooming of summer’s last flowers is here; the tall and mighty sunflower! All summer long Ms. Robin heard reports from various children from this past spring’s Preschool Days program, “Four Fingers and a Thumb”, where we learned about a plant‘s life cycle, made recycled pots and planted sunflower seeds in class. Reports included how tall their plantings were, “up to here” or “bigger than me”, often coupled with gestures to show height. Then, exciting news came in – they bloomed!

Four-year-old Allison beamed as she handed me a picture of her blooming sunflower when Preschool Days classes resumed last week. She also told me proudly that she now goes to preschool and nature preschool.  Allison has been attending Preschool Days programs at the Schrader Center with her grandmother, aunt or mother since she was just 2-years-old, and before words.

There are still openings in the Fall Preschool Days program, but look for a change in the name this winter.  Starting in January, the Preschool Days program (2- to 4-year-olds with an adult”) will be called “Roots and Shoots”.  “Roots” better reflects the often multi-generational participants (grandparents, grandchildren, parents and caregivers) in the program.  And “Shoots” captures the growth and transition of our smallest nature learners from no words to an understanding and interest in the natural world around them.

The “Budding Naturalists” program for transitional kindergartners without an adult will keep its name. Both programs will retain their high quality, interactive programming and educational outdoor components.  Check out our programs online, or call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 to register. —By Robin Lee, Education Program Coordinator

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OI Hosts “LEXICON OF SUSTAINABILITY” Pop Up Art Show at Farm to Table Event

csaGuests at the 3rd Annual Farm to Table Culinary Tasting Event set for Sunday, August 18 at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Arts Center will have an opportunity to view a beautiful and educational photographic exhibit highlighting the language of sustainable food.

The Lexicon of Sustainability Pop Up Art Show includes large format “information art” photo collages and educates, engages and activates people to pay closer attention to how they eat, what they buy and where their responsibility begins for creating a healthier, safer food system in America.

Designed to educate the fast-growing group of people who want to eat better but aren’t quite sure how, this groundbreaking exhibit illuminates concepts, terms and definitions of sustainable agriculture and is based on a simple premise – people can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t understand the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability.

Dr. Vishakha Maskey, an associate professor of management at the Gary E. West College of Business at West Liberty University, is the curator for the August 18 show at the Farm to Table event. She has hosted previous shows in places such as the Children’s Museum of the Ohio Valley and the Ohio Valley Farmers’ Market.

The Lexicon of Sustainability Pop-Up Art Show is included with the Farm to Table admission fee.

farm_to_table eatingThe Farm to Table Culinary Tasting Event includes a variety of farm-fresh dishes prepared onsite by some of the area’s top chefs. Guests will enjoy a diverse menu of seasonally fresh produce, lamb, chicken and beef, cooking demonstrations, a farmers’ market, organic wine and live music on the lawn of the Stifel Fine Arts Center.

For more information or to register, visit www.OIonline.com/farmtotable.

Dispelling the Daddy Long Legs Myth

“Daddy Long Legs are one of the most poisonous spiders, but their fangs are too short to bite humans. But if they could, they would be deadly.”

daddylonglegsHave you heard this common myth?  This creature has long held on to this untrue legacy. While the Daddy Long Legs or Harvestman is in the Order of arachnids, having eight legs, so do scorpions, mites and ticks. True spiders have two segments or body parts; the cephalothorax (Greek for head-body) and the abdomen or gut. The abdomen of true spiders also has spinnerets for producing silk for web making.  Daddy Long Legs (of the Order Opiliones) have a fused cephalothorax and abdomen, or a single body part, and do not possess spinnerets. They do not produce silk and webs.  If you see one in a web it has probably fallen victim to a true spider.  Other differences are that Opiliones have no venom glands in their chelicerae (mouth parts), where true spiders have both fangs and venom.

Daddy Long Legs or Harvestman are opportunistic, and may eat other small insects but their primary diet is that of a decomposer, eating dead plants and fungi and sometimes dead animal material. That is why you will find them under dead logs and in other dead forest and garden debris. Since they lack venom glands, fangs or any other mechanism for chemically subduing their food, they do not have poison and, by the powers of logic, cannot be poisonous from venom.

How do Daddy Long Legs defend themselves from their predators? There are two ways besides outrunning them. First, in their limited arsenal of self-defense is the art of distraction.  If a leg is lost (some species may have the ability to throw off their legs) the separated leg will twitch for a few minutes. Some species’ legs have been recorded to twitch for up to an hour. The twitching is an adaptation designed to hold the attention of the predator while the Daddy Long Legs escapes to safety. A final defense found in some types of Daddy Long Legs is their ability to secrete a substance with a strong odor from their abdomen to discourage the predator. This secretion may be poisonous if eaten.  I could not find any studies on how many or much of this substance a mammal would have to consume to be affected.

In summary, you are safe to capture and observe Daddy Long Legs to your heart’s content and should not suffer any negative consequences, as long as you do not eat them!  –By Robin Lee, Education Programming Coordinator

Earth Day Volunteering at the Schrader Center — April 20, 2013

IMG_1225Like the outdoors? Want to spend a little time helping improve the exterior grounds at the local nature center?

Schrader Center staff will host a volunteer work event in honor of Earth Day on Saturday, April 20 from 10:00 am – 3:00 pm at the Schrader Center. We’ll be pulling privet, and other invasive species, planting trees and clearing walkways, cleaning up around the butterfly garden, and more! We encourage volunteers all of ages to participate for any amount of time! Volunteers should wear long sleeves, work pants and boots. Work gloves will be provided, but volunteers may bring their own. Coffee, tea and snacks will be complimentary.

Bird Walk — We’ll start the day out with a morning bird walk hosted by Brooks Bird member and Bethany College Professor of Biology, Jay Buckelew, from 9:00 -10:00 am. Meet in the lower parking lot of the Schrader Center near the trail head a few minutes before 9:00 am.

observatoryatoglebay

Astronomy Day Activities — Other activities include Oglebay Astronomy Club’s Astronomy Day program with two sessions. The daytime session will be held from 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the Speidel Observatory and includes solar viewing (weather permitting– many sunspots are currently visible), meteorite display, space science demonstrations and activities, and Speidel Observatory tours. The nighttime session will be held from 8:00 to 11:00 pm, also at the Speidel Observatory, and will include telescope astronomy (weather permitting–Jupiter is spectacular now!), night sky tour of the constellations and special Speidel Observatory tours.

Call the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855 for more information.

Sap is Flowing at the Schrader Center!

GmodrillingstationBy Erica McGrath–The sap season has begun at the Schrader Center and naturalists have been hard at work preparing for our upcoming harvest of maple syrup. During the warmer months, maple trees produce starches, which they store in their roots throughout the winter. As spring approaches the tree converts these starches to sugars which are carried to the rest of the tree in a fluid called sap. Sap flows through a portion of the outer trunk called the sapwood which is pressurized during the spring when temperatures rise above freezing during the day and drop below freezing at night. These fluctuations cause the sap to rise and allow us to safely collect sap without damaging the tree.

This sap, when collected and processed becomes the maple syrup we all enjoy. Here at the Schrader Center, we are putting the finishing touches on this year’s first batch of maple syrup. Sap was collected from our local stand of Sugar Maples (Acer saccharum) and processed by boiling the sap in a metal boiling machine called an evaporator. The evaporator boils away the water from the sap and leaves behind sticky, sweet syrup. It takes about forty gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup. In the video below, naturalist Greg Park discusses the final steps of producing a batch of syrup:    To learn more about maple syrup production and its history, and to enjoy a hot pancake breakfast, be sure to come out to our Maple Sugaring Day on Saturday March 23. The event is held at Camp Russel in Oglebay Park and runs from 9am to 1pm. Admission: $7/$6 OI members. Call 304-242-6855 to book a one-hour tour.

Cupcakes for Volunteers!

Oglebay Falls By Jake Francis, Director of Environmental Education–One thing that sets the Ohio Valley apart from other places I have lived is the intense pride that many of us hold for our natural resources.  It might have something to do with the massive body of water that we use as a reference for almost everything, or perhaps it has something to do with the rich tradition of sportsmanship in this valley. But I believe it has a lot to do with the amazing and unique city parks that are inextricably tied to our city’s identity.

In my two years here, I have met students who are willing to slave in the heat of summer working to conserve our forests, young adults shaping our food landscape and bringing green space to our downtown, and octogenarians who have given their entire life over to the our city parks and Oglebay Institute.  And, as I was trying to write a post about our upcoming volunteer opportunities, all I could think of was how much thanks we owe to you all!

In light of that, I want to share a couple of organized volunteer days we will be having at the Schrader Center which will focus on doing some much-needed maintenance on our trail systemphoto2 and continuing our battle with invasive exotic plant species that are threatening our forests.  We will be holding workdays from 9am-3pm on February 23 and April 20.  We will have all of the tools needed and can provide work gloves, as well as some hot beverages, snacks, and congratulatory cupcakes to thank you all for everything you do.  If you can’t make those days, don’t fret. You can call me at the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855, and I’ll make sure you get a cupcake, but you’ll have to spend some time discussing birding, botany, herpetology, or the like!  I hope you can forgive this departure from my normally scientific blog posts, and that you can come see us in the next couple of months!

What: Volunteer Days at the Schrader Center

When: February 23 & April 20

Where: Schrader Center, Oglebay Park

Time: 9am-3pm

Info: 304-242-6855

 Chocolate_cupcakes

 

Spring Trip to Terra Alta with OI Naturalists

Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander

Oglebay Institute naturalists will be taking a weekend in early spring (between Feb. 16-Mar. 16, 2013–depending on weather) to visit our camp at Terra Alta, WV in search of mole salamanders and wood frogs.

Mole Salamanders, including the spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) and the Jefferson salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonium), spend most of their lives underground, thus relatively little is known about their life histories. These are large-lunged salamanders (4.5-7.5 inches), much larger than the Allegheny dusky salamander common in Oglebay Park. If timed right, you can catch them traveling to temporary seasonal ponds (vernal pools) where they lay their eggs. They make this trip on nights the temperature rises above 50 degrees and rain melts the snow. They emerge from the ground and migrate en mass to the vernal pools. They are especially intolerant of changes in forest cover and only bury themselves in mature forests with vernal pools nearby. Luckily, we have two pools like this in close vicinity to OI’s mountain camp.

Wood frogs, on the other hand, are more visible throughout the year, and they are the first frogs to breed. They use the same pools as the mole salamanders, and are a good indicator of mole salamanders about to emerge. To find the two amphibians, one must hike along in the woods until hearing a sound similar to a duck quacking. That “quack” is actually a wood frog in a vernal pool. If you return at night, and are lucky, you may find many mole salamanders and frogs breeding.

Jefferson Salamander

Jefferson Salamander

The public is welcome to participate in this migration. But be warned — participants must be flexible in scheduling and  “hard core” campers and hikers! It is likely to be snowy, rainy and cold, and the camp will not be opened for the season yet. That means no running water, heat or prepared food. The Lodge at the camp will be open for sleeping, but participants will need to haul in their own water and bring their own food (which can be cooked using our propane range). Necessities for the trip include decent rain gear (jacket, pants, boots); multiple layers; a headlamp; a good sleeping bag; and good spirits!

The dates for this trip are EXTREMELY weather dependent. As such, any interested participants can be added to our email list and will be notified of the trip on the Monday before we leave. The trip is free except for organizing your own transportation and food, and is an uncommon adventure for even the most experienced naturalists. To RSVP, contact Jake Francis (jfrancis@oionline.com) or Greg Park at the Schrader Center at 304-242-6855.