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.