Sunday, May 4, 2014

Outdoor Classroom 

I took my students out to our outdoor classroom last week.  Our mission was to look for, and identify, animal tracks.  It was a beautiful spring morning and the weather was perfect.  We had had rains the day before so it made conditions perfect for looking for animal tracks. 

We founds several different tracks.  We found deer, red fox, squirrel, field mouse, raccoon, opossum, and rabbit tracks. 


This activity was a wonderful learning experience for my students.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Stability and Change

Today's mission, go out and find examples of changes that will occur in an ecosystem in one day, one season, one year, and in 20 or more years.  

Changes in a day: 

My first choice (mostly because I thought it looked so interesting) is a milkweed seed pod releasing its seeds.  I chose this because the wind was slowly pulling it apart and sending its contents sailing into the air.  I stood for a long time watching this pod.  I loved the way it was moving and blowing in the wind.  I had photographed these earlier in the season and they were covered with milkweed bugs. 

I also found this nut that had been eaten and decided that it was also a good example of something that changed in a day. 
Photos taken at Bray Conservation Area on November 9, 2013

Changes in a season:  

My example for this category is a seed pod from a Purple Coneflower.  The seeds will start the growth process all over again and next year there will be beautiful flowers to photograph and for the bees and other insects to visit.  (Photo taken on November 9th)

I took the photos of the Purple Coneflowers at the Runge Conservation Center in Jefferson City, MO on July 14, 2013

Changes in a year: 

While I was outside with my camera this morning I saw this Painted Lady butterfly visiting one of my few surviving flowers.  The flowers sit on my porch and are sheltered from the frost and wind so they are still blooming.  Seeing this butterfly made me think of the life-cycle of Missouri's insects, plants, and animals.  If conditions are favorable, the life-cycle will continue.
Photo taken in my own yard November 9, 2013

Changes in twenty years or more:  

My final photo is a photo of a small pond in our outdoor classroom.   I chose to use this photo as an example of succession because I have seen many changes in this pond over the seven years that I have worked at Truman. 
     One change I have seen is that there were fish in it when I first saw it.  There were very few other aquatic organisms living in the pond because of the fish.  The decision was made to remove the fish, and now we have frogs, crayfish, and other organisms living in the pond. 
     Another change I have observed over the years were changes due to the climate.  This small pond was almost completely dry a couple of years ago as we had very little rain and extreme heat that summer.  It was near overflowing at one point this year due to a lot of rainfall.
     The final change I would like to mention is the removal of debris.  Gravel runs into the pond when it rains heavily.  It also is surrounded by trees, so leaves are a problem that must be dealt with yearly.  It would not take many years for this small and shallow pond to fill in completely with debris.
Photo taken on October 26, 2013

I hope you are getting outside to enjoy the beautiful fall weather.  I am certainly enjoying it while I can.  Thank you for visiting Sandy's Samplings.


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ecosystem Interactions

The assignment, head outdoors with your camera to take photographs that capture examples of interactions in nature. This assignment led me to our outdoor classroom and then once again to Bray Conservation area.

First on my list is an example of mutualism.  Mutualism is where both species benefit from the interaction.  I was not sure what I would find on this cool fall day but I ran across our resident groundhog just outside our outdoor classroom fence.  I managed to get a picture of it (sadly, not a great one) before it scurried away into the brush. 

Not far from where I saw the groundhog is a persimmon tree with ripe fruit on it.
I have watched the groundhog sit under the persimmon tree before and then sit up on its hind legs and eat the fruit. I decided that this would be a good example of mutualism as the groundhog gets the benefit of the yummy fruit and then it spreads seeds to other places to start new trees growing.

My next example is of parasitism.  Parasitism is when one organism benefits and the other is harmed.  I had recently taken a picture of Virginia Creeper at Bray so I did some research and discovered that it is considered a parasite and if left alone it will eventually kill it's host tree or shrub.

This time of year the Virginia Creeper is a lovely shade of red.  I think this photograph shows how it climbs up the trees very well since it's color contrasts with the surrounding foliage. Virginia Creeper climbs up trees by grabbing on with tendrils.  The tendrils are like little arms that grab the surface.  They also have little adhesive like pads that help them to attach themselves.

Commensalism is a relationship between two organisms where one benefits and the other is neither harmed or helped.

I think that when an animal uses a tree as a shelter/home that the animal benefits but the tree is not harmed, so this would be an example of commensalism.

My next example is of Predation.  This is where one organism eats another. While I was wandering at Bray Conservation Area I scared up a blue heron.  The primary food of a blue heron is small fish, but it will also eat aquatic insects, and other small amphibians, reptiles, mammals, and even small birds. Blue herons locate their food by sight and often will swallow their food whole.

My final interaction are decomposers.  Decomposers play such an important role in nature.  They help break down dead organisms and return nutrients to the soil.  Without decomposers dead matter and waste would build up and the soil would not be able to support plant growth.

I hope you have enjoyed your journey with me as I looked for examples of interactions in nature.  Check back again soon.
Thank you for visiting Sandy's Samplings.

Photographs were taken on October 26, 2013.  Most were taken at Bray Conservation Area.  The photograph of the groundhog and persimmons were taken in Truman's outdoor classroom.  It was a lovely fall day with sunny skies and temperatures in the mid 60's.  They were shot with a Nikon D5100 using a 55-200mm lens.

The Nature of Science Photo

This week's assignment was to go out and photograph some unknown native species. Next, we were to give clues that, along with the photographs, would help to identify the species.  I figured, how difficult could this be?  It proved to be more difficult than I thought since there are so many unknowns to me.  I found that I had a hard time narrowing it down. 

As usual, I headed out to one of my favorite places to take photographs, Bray Conservation Area.  It was a beautiful fall day with temperatures in the mid 60's with a nice breeze and lots of sunshine.  I started at my favorite spot, the lake.  The red dragonflies were really active and I was able to get a couple of pretty good photographs of them.  I continued on my journey and headed down to the small stream that runs through the property.  As I strolled along the stream I spotted this little beauty with the bright red berries. 

 The plant was located on the edge of a wooded area but not too far from the little stream.  

It is approximately 2 meters tall.  (I couldn't get the ruler to stand up next to the plant for the photograph.)  It's leaves are straight across from each other on woody stems. The plant was not bushy and a lot of the stem did not have leaves.

There were clusters of berries where the leaves meet the stem.  The berries are approximately 5mm in diameter.

The leaves are oblong with smooth (entire) leaves that are about 4cm long.  The leaves have pinnate veins and are attached very closely to the stem.

Well, that is all the clues that I have.  Leave me a comment if you know what kind of plant this is.  As always, thank you for stopping by.

Oh, and here is a couple photographs of the dragonflies. They are such fascinating creatures!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Energy Flow In Ecosystems

This week our assignment was to photograph a schoolyard food chain.  Once again I headed to the outdoor classroom to see what I could find on a chilly Saturday afternoon.


I am beginning my food chain with a producer.  Producers capture solar energy and transform it into stored energy in a process called photosynthesis.


Primary Consumer 

My primary consumer is a cricket.  Crickets are omnivores and scavengers feeding on organic materials, as well as decaying plant material, fungi, and seedling plants.


Secondary Consumer 

My secondary consumer is a box turtle. Young box turtles eat mostly earthworms and insects (including crickets), but adults tend to be more vegetarian, eating a variety of plants, berries and mushrooms.

Photographs were taken on October 19, 2013 in Truman’s Outdoor Classroom.  It was a beautiful cool and sunny fall day in the Ozarks. I was a little surprised to find the box turtle out and about.  Finding the cricket was a challenge.  I was turning over pieces of wood when I found the cricket.  I snapped the photo and then gently returned the piece of wood.  I also found a worm and some rolly polly bugs.   

I also created an aquatic food chain.  I will post it another time.  

I hope you enjoy my simple food chain.  Take your camera and get out there to see what you can find.  The colors are beautiful and the weather is fine.

Thanks for stopping by.