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Schrader Center Junior Naturalists Make an Interesting Discovery!

As Schrader Center Junior Naturalists, this is our fifth weak of volunteering this summer and our first blog post.  Within the last five weeks, we have found a lot of cool discoveries, and we can’t believe it has been this long!  Today, we decided to share the experience we had with a cicada we found while clearing out wood from an archery course.  While moving a log, one of our Junior Naturalists, Amelia, found a strange looking creature lurking in the ground.  After digging it out, and placing it lightly on a glove, she called over our instructor, Erica, who confirmed that it was a cicada!  After snapping a photo, we headed back to our office to find more information.  Using a new thing called the internet (you’ve probably never heard of it), we discovered that it was an “annual cicada”. These are different than the periodical cicadas. Periodical cicadas spend the first 17 years of their lives underground and emerge all at the same time in large swarms.Nymph4-29-07A

We scavenged some insect and wildlife books from around the building, and pulled out our nature journals to take notes.  We gathered tons of interesting facts!  For example, did you know that adult male cicadas only live for about a week?  Imagoes, another word for adult cicadas, look for mates by spending their time in trees and singing. When a male sings, females respond, which in turn triggers mating, and the cycle of life begins. Cicadas make their trademark mechanical buzz with an organ called a tymbal. The tymbal is made up of a thick membrane set in the chamber of the insect’s thorax. As the membrane vibrates, the sound resonates and amplifies, creating the cicada’s song. As you can see, we have a lot of fun, and make tons of new discoveries every day!

See you soon,

The Junior Naturalists

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What Makes Objects Float?

This week, the Junior Rangers teach team helped out with Nature Day Camp by teaching a lesson about water. H2O was this week’s theme and our team had prepared a lesson about buoyancy, surface tension and cohesion – aka what makes certain objects float. Buoyancy is defined as the upward force exerted by a liquid that opposes the weight of an immersed object. Each member of our team was responsible for teaching a section of the material. Junior Ranger Luke Knollinger introduced the topic by showing campers how to calculate the density of an object. If an object is denser than the water, it will sink. We also talked about animals that use surface tension to float, like the Water Striders (Gerridae). This group of true bugs distributes its weight to make it less dense and allow it to glide on the surface of the water.
During the lesson, the campers treated us to a rousing chorus of The Water Cycle Song – a song about how water is recycled through evaporation, condensation and precipitation. It was great! After we explained why things float, we needed to test out this new knowledge. The campers broke up into teams and constructed their own boats, using what they had learned to make them buoyant and fast. Once the boats were built, campers were able to race them against the other teams. Even though the power went out shortly after we left the building, we all still had a blast. ~Jr. Rangers Teach Team

Jr. Rangers Awarded Grant to Replant Native Species in Oglebay Park

For those of you who haven’t been following the process of our junior ranger grant project, we have been awarded $100 to pull out invasive plant species and replant native ones in the area.  We started replanting trees by digging holes for arrowwood viburnum seeds.  Then we took tree cuttings from box elder, red osier dogwood, and arrowwood viburnum and dipped them in rooting compound and put them in pots.  Today we dug holes to plant our native species of trees in.  While digging we noticed that 4 native species (wingstem, poke weed, White Ash, and box elder) were starting to grow where we cleared privet.

Poke Weed

Phytolacca americana is the scientific name for Pokeweed, which is native to North America. It is a herbaceous perennial plant. Pokeweed can grow up to ten feet in height. This plant is highly toxic to livestock and humans, that’s why deer probably won’t eat it. Pokeweed plants are usually found in edge habitats, meaning they are on the edge of forests where there is lots of sun and disturbed areas. That is why pokeweed is growing in the area we pulled privet.

White Ash

Acer negundo commonly known as Box Elder, is a species of tree that is part of the maple family.  It grows from 10 to 25 meters tall and stays less than 1 meter in diameter.  The Box Elder is fully dioecious, meaning separate male and female trees are required for reproduction.  It grows across the United States and Canada, even as far south as Guatemala.  It is generally a bottom land tree, meaning it grows on heavy wet soils, and requires full sun to partial shade.

White Ash (Fraxinus americana) is native to the Eastern North America from Nova Scotia to Florida, and west to Texas.  It grows up to 25 meters tall and grows very rapidly in hardwood forest gaps.  It readily grows in high light and well drained areas.

Wingstem

The fourth plant we found, Wingstem (Verbesina alternifolia), is a very tall perennial herbaceous plant that can reach up to 3 meters tall and has bright yellow flowers.  It prefers pasture, field and roadside habitats with high light, and is found from the East Coast to Texas.  Some people consider it weedy, but we consider any native plant an upgrade from privet.

The discovery of these plants is good news, because it shows that native plants are growing back where we removed an invasive species.  Even though we plan to plant some tree in the area, these native pioneers will help stop privet from re-invading the area before our planted trees get large! ~Jr. Ranger Trail Team

Jr Rangers Working to Remove Privet

In the past few weeks, we’ve been working on a grant application to replace the invasive privet we have pulled among the native trees and plants around the Schrader Center. To start our project today, we took a walk with Jake Francis, our trusty Jr. Ranger leader, who taught us how to properly take cuttings from Arrow-wood Viburnum and Box Elder. After doing some research, we learned Arrow-wood Viburnum was one of the native plants that would grow best from a cutting. To take a cutting, we needed to make sure we had cutting tools that were sharp and sterilized to prevent the spread of plant diseases and fungi. After the plants had been cut, we learned our next step would be to put the cuttings into a rooting compound (Indole-3 butyric Acid, a chemical that helps roots to grow from cut plants).

We did not take the cuttings today, but we were able to pick some of the ripe berries from the Arrow-wood Viburnum. We planted the berries in moistened soil and marked their location so we can follow their progress.  We will keep you updated on our restoration efforts over the rest of the summer! ~Jr. Ranger Trail Team

Lady bug…wait…Butterfly…no, wait…Lightning bug!

To begin our day we worked on saving our newly planted trees by adding blue tubes to the top of their protective coverings to stop deer from eating them. We covered up Red Oaks, American Beeches, and Sugar Maples; we didn’t have to cover up the cherries because the deer leave them alone due to the cyanide that is produced in that family of trees.

During our hike we found a lightning bug, which we were unable to identify. We used www.discoverlife.org to find out it was in the genus Photuris. The Photuris lightning bug was consuming another lightning bug likely of the genus Photinus. Female Photuris lightning bugs are able to mimic the blinking patterns of other female lightning bug species to lure in males and consume their faces (and the rest of their bodies). A quick fact is that you can tell different species of lightning bugs apart by the flashing pattern of their abdomen.

After we identified the lightning bug, we went farther down the trail. Walking down the creek, we discovered a mole… a disoriented mole… a “rolly” mole.  The mole was rolling around in the road and was almost hit by two cars.  Brave and courageous Erica walked into the street and saved the mole by putting it in her shoe and transferring it to a safer location.

Our hike ended with a visit to the waterbot located in Waddel’s Run, you can see the data we collected at www.waterbot.org, select the waterbot labeled 0015.

On our way back to the Schrader Center we discovered that our rolly mole had rolled away. ~Jr Rangers Trail Team

The Trials & Tribulations of Teaching!

You will never believe the adventurous time we had yesterday!  The day started off gloomy and wet after a long night of cold rain. The Junior Ranger team was cut short this week; due to losing Luke, one of our most experienced rangers.  However, we still had a great time.

Ebony Jewel Wings

The first exciting thing we did today was go on a nature hike.  Some of the things we saw were male and female cardinals, walnuts, ebony jewel wings, house sparrows, and barn swallows.  Aninteresting thing about house sparrows is that they invade and steal nests from other native birds.

Cardinal

The next thing we did was have lunch. After this we led the Nature Day Camp Explorers on a geocaching expedition.  Some problems and difficulties were the heat, technical challenges, and some of the kids wanted to have their own GPS units. However, they did enjoy getting to find the clues and tear through the brush and weeds to accomplish their task. Afterward, we did basically the same activity with the Nature Day Camp Investigators. In this version, we used a map instead of a GPS.  Some challenges were that the kids were having too much fun, there was not enough introduction of the activity, and the kids may have gotten a little frustrated. In the future, we may need to have a discussion on GPS use beforehand. Finally, we celebrated with popsicles. We sure did have a great day!  ~Junior Ranger Teach Team

Killing Garlic Mustard & Dropping Eggs at the Schrader Center!

June 8, 2012 — Working at the Schrader Center is really fun! In just two days’ time we taught younger campers about the fundamentals of flight, ran a paper airplane competition, did an egg drop, hid geocaches, and helped with the weekly bioblitz (a scavenger hunt ).  We concluded our week helping with the Nature Day Camp cook out!

Luke and Brendan’s favorite part of the week was helping the Nature Day Campers with the egg drop because it made the campers’ day if their egg capsule succeeded.  On the other hand, Jared says, “Killing every last piece of Garlic Mustard in Oglebay Park is my duty to the earth itself!”

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive exotic species that wipes out other plants in its area.  Although it was a tiring week, the enjoyment of working, teaching, and seeing your friends again was really worth it! ~Jr Rangers Teach Team