This is a Lophospira oweni. Though some probably frown upon the practice, I've taken to giving these fossils common names. When I work with kids their eyes glaze over if I use scientific names. I call this one Owen's Ridge Spiral which is essentially what the scientific name means. This way, I'm teaching a little Latin too. As you can see it is about 20mm wide. I had to do a lot of work on this one to free it from the surrounding matrix.
This is a Hormotoma sp. I believe it is Hormotoma gracilis.
More to come.
The areas outlined in red represent a Tornado Watch area that was just issued by the national weather service. The area covers portions of five midwest states. Tornadoes, 80 mile per hour winds and up to three inch hail possible in the Twin Cities.
According to the NWS:
THUNDERSTORMS ARE EXPECTED TO RAPIDLY INTENSIFY THISKeep your eyes open. This could get interesting.
AFTERNOON OVER EXTREME EASTERN SD/EASTERN NEB AND TRACK EASTWARD
INTO PARTS OF MN/IA. SHEAR PROFILES ARE FAVORABLE FOR SUPERCELLS
CAPABLE OF VERY LARGE HAIL...DAMAGING WINDS...AND A FEW TORNADOES.
STORMS ARE EXPECTED TO EVENTUALLY ORGANIZE INTO A SQUALL LINE AND
SPREAD ACROSS THE WATCH AREA THIS EVENING.
1.Infrared Tripwire Camera:
There's nothing quite as cool as covert surveillance. I was tempted to put night vision goggles on this list and by all means if you have the money go for it but good quality night vision is very expensive. A much cheaper alternative is a game trail camera. Just a few years ago even a basic camera cost $250 or more and they all used film. The film cost money to buy and to develop and was often a waste if you discover you had the camera set up wrong. Now with digital camera technology so cheap, a quality camera can be bought for far less and aside from batteries the cameras cost nothing to operate. This is the model we use at work. It can even be set to shoot short videos. This one has laser aiming as well which is a really nice feature.
2. Quality Binoculars:
For the price ($275), the Nikon Monarch 8x42 binoculars are some of the best I've looked through. They offer incredible crispness that you often have to pay far more to obtain. If dad likes to watch birds or other wildlife, he'll be blown away when he puts these up to his eyes. That $25 pair of binoculars won't ever be picked up again. They work great for sporting events as well.
3. Berlese Funnel:
Here's a real budget conscious idea. A Berlese Funnel is for studying animals that live in leaf litter. One can be made with the extra large funnel pictured to the left. Leaf litter from the forest floor is placed into the funnels and then a very bright light is placed above the funnel top. The bottom of the funnel is placed in a collecting jar of some kind. Often the jar is filled with alcohol to kill the insects that fall inside. Insects move away from the light and heat of the lamp. They also move down as the leaf litter dries out. Ideally, the funnel should be lined with hardware cloth to keep debris other than insects from falling down into the jar. It may take several days for the contents of the funnel to completely dry out and all of the critters to fall into the jar. Museums use a 70% ethanol solution to preserve specimens.
4. Sonic Super Ear:
Hear more in the woods! This can especially be useful as our hearing becomes less sensitive as we age. Kids may hear sounds adults do not. Learning bird calls is one of the best ways to locate them in the wild. With a little help, you can hear even more in the woods. This device even attaches to many binoculars. With a recording device it can even be used to record animal calls you don't know so you can bring them back home to analyze. If you add a parabolic dish you can hear even more. A simple (albeit a bit heavy) dish can be made by converting a small old Satellite TV dish.
5. Live Nest Cam:
If you are into birds you can watch what happens in their nests from inside your home. Cornell runs an entire website devoted to nest cams people have set up around the country. You can live stream video to your computer from hundreds of nests. If you're really ambitious, you can set up your own nest camera with home surveillance equipment. The SONY CCTV camera pictured to the left is similar to what we use at the nature center where I work. It comes with Infrared LEDs that light up the nest at night so you can see inside even in the dark. This package even comes with the power cord and the cables so it is a good value. This will get the signal to a TV. Streaming the signal online is a completely different matter and will be the subject of a future post.
6. Go Dipnetting
Not everything has to be expensive. Another budget friendly idea is a dip net. Dipnetting is looking for aquatic macroinvertebrates under water. There are some incredible creatures luring along the edges of ponds and lakes if you're willing to look. Professional dip nets are fairly expensive at around $90. We've found that a Bait Well net such as the one on the left is a very affordable alternative. You'll be amazed to discover dragonfly nymphs, predacious diving beetles, fairy shrimp and more.
7. Underwater Video Camera
Dads who fish will especially like this high tech wildlife espionage gadget. We use a similar unit where I work and people are always amazed to see all of the fish that are hiding just under the surface of the water. These units are especially fun to lower down into a frozen lake. The black and white camera comes with 60 feet of cable and it lights up underwater so it can even be used at night or in the dark depths of a lake. The unit comes with the video monitor and battery.
8. Radio Telemetry
At the nature center where I work, we use special professional grade equipment to teach kids about radio telemetry. We track rare Blandings turtles as they move around the property. You can try out a similar technology at home without the very high start-up costs involved in professional equipment. Loc8tor makes this starter kit that is supposed to be used to find things like your car keys. Have fun playing wildlife researcher by attaching it to you child's stuffed wolf and hiding it. This is the ultimate high tech hide and seek game. When you're done playing, attach it to your keys and never lose them again.
9. Wingscapes Camera
Similar to the game trail camera above, the wingscapes camera is specially designed to capture birds. It can take both still images and video. These are especially fun as you can see who'e visiting your feeder when you aren't home.
10. Bat Detector
The Bat Detector, available for Acorn Naturalists is one of the coolest little devices I've come across. It detects ultrasonic frequency sound waves and lowers them into the range of human hearing. The device is a little on the pricey side. Each unit is hand made, not mass produced which accounts for some of the cost. Those handy with electronics can find directions online to make your own.
A similar experiment began in Michigan in 2007 and Indiana in 2008. Cliff Sadof, Purdue professor of entomology was quoted in 2008 as saying, "In China, these wasp species reduced EAB populations by 74 percent in ash trees that are native to North America." Not quite as impressive as the 90% figure thrown out there by Friisoe but a huge step in the right direction none the less.
The wasps can sense the beetle larve under the bark of the ash trees and they lay their eggs inside the beetle larve or inside the eggs which kills them.
When will the wasps be introduced? According to Minnesota Agriculture Department spokesman Michael Schommer there's no timetable for introduction. Wasps have already been released in Michigan and as noted above, Indiana, but it is too early to say how effective they will be. In all cases, no one is sure if our cold winters will kill the wasps. That would be a huge problem since the Emerald Ash Borer doesn't seem to mind the cold.
There isn't much information available as to what species are being used for these experiments. I was able to dig up a study published in The Great Lakes Entomologist, titled, "Exploratory Survey For the Emerald Ash Borer, Agrilus Planipennis (Coleoptera: Buprestidae), and its Natural Enemies in China." Two of the possible parasites for Emerald Ash Borers are Spathius sp. and Tetrastichus nov. sp. Spathius wasp larve feed on Emerald Ash Borer larve and kill them. They fed by inserting their mouth hooks through the body wall of the Emerald Ash Borer's abdomen. Several larve may attack each borer larve. The adult wasps are 3.5 to 4.5 mm long. Tetrastichus larva, by contrast, actually kill the borer larve from the the inside out. The Tetrastichus adults are also tiny, only 2.5 to 5 mm long.
It will be interesting to see if this biological control pans out in the long run. The ash borers certainly aren't going anywhere soon.
(Emerald Ash Borer photo credit: US Forest Service)
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On the show this month our special guest is Bonnie Sample of Audubon Minnesota. Bonnie talked with us about the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas.
Event mentioned on the Community Calendar:
• Technology in Interpretation Workshop, June 14
~Kirk & Paul
Technology in Interpretation
Monday, June 14, 2010
Lowry Nature Center in Carver Park Reserve, Victoria
RSVP to: Lowry Nature Center
8:30-9:00 - Registration and Refreshments
9:00-10:00 – Introduction to the topic – Large Group Discussion/Sharing – Show and Tell*
What exactly is “technology in interpretation”? Can technology make enhance our interpretive efforts? How much technology is enough; how much is too much? When is it effective?
*Do you have a cool tech toy that you are using at your site? Bring it to show and share or bring photos if it is too big to bring!
10:00-11:00 - Concurrent Sessions
A) Video and Audio tours: A “how to” session with Allison Neaton, Supervisor Lowry Nature Center
B) Social Media Panel Discussion led by Tom Moffatt, Supervisor Silverwood Park
11:00-12:00 –Concurrent Sessions A or B repeated
11:30-12:30- Lunch, Networking
Optional hiking on trails on your own after lunch (map and suggestions provided)
Directions/confirmation will be sent to those who RSVP.
Sessions will be both indoors and outdoors. If weather is inclement, all sessions will be indoors. Indoor space available for lunch.
This year's Minnesota BioBlitz is at the Vermillion Highlands Research, Recreation and Wildlife Management Area (WMA) and Vermillion River (WMA) and the event takes place this weekend! The event runs from 5 p.m. Friday, June 11th to 5 p.m. Saturday, June 12th.
I took part in the Bioblitz a few years ago when it was at the Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center where I work as a naturalist. We cataloged about 1,200 species in just 24 hours.
A BioBlitz is an intensive 24-hour survey to find all the plants and animals at a specific location. The public helps scientists find the species and you don't have to be an expert on identification to take part.
The main check-in and base camp this year will be at the UMore Park Administration Building at 1605 160th Street W., Rosemount, MN 55068.
View Larger Map
Every year Minnesota BioBlitz attracts hundreds of families and scientists from around the state who use both good old observation skills as well as high tech gadgets to tally and record an area's floral and fauna. Volunteers of all ages work alongside biologists to collect plants and insects and live-trap animals, which are identified before being released back into the wild. Collection stations and inventory "leader boards" will be set up inside at the UMore Park Administration Building.
According the the organizers. "The event aims to increase the public's awareness of an area's biological diversity, offers a chance for citizens to work with scientists, and provides an environmental benchmark for natural resources managers of Minnesota parks." Minnesota.
If you are thinking about attending, here's what you need to know. This year's BioBlitz will take place over an area of about four miles and will require driving from the check-in point to various parking and staging area. Participants should check in the UMore Park Administration Building for a map to the activity sites. There will also be limited shuttled service from the main building throughout the day.
The site has no paved trails so be prepared to walk on uneven surfaces. Participants should bring their own sunscreen, insect repellant and drinking water and wear clothese and shoes that are comfortable for walking in tall grass. If you plan to participate in aquatic activities, wear clothing (or a swimsuit) and shoes that can get wet. For safety reasons, we cannot allow bare feet.
Minnesota BioBlitz 2010 Schedule of Events
All events are free of charge and open to the public. Participants should check-in at the main building at UMore Park.
Friday, June 11
8:30 to 10 p.m.
Nocturnal Animal Survey - Owls and Bats
9:30 to 11 p.m.
Night Insect Collecting
Saturday, June 12
6 to 8 a.m.
8 to 11 a.m.
8 to 9 a.m.
9 to 10 a.m.
10 to 11 a.m.
Morning Mushroom Survey
11 a.m.to noon
Aquatics - Insects and Invertebrates
Noon to 1 p.m.
Insect Sweep Netting
1 to 2 p.m.
Afternoon Mushroom Survey
1 to 3 p.m.
Aquatics - Fish Survey
Here's a photo of the very similar looking nest of the Plumbeus Vireo that lives in the western United States.
What struck me about the nest is that it is nearly a pendulous nest like that of the Baltimore Oriole. While any nest building is mind boggling, the Baltimore Oriole weaves a nest that is a basket that hangs from a tree branch. I wondered if a nest such as that of a vireo is an intermediate between a cup nest sitting on top of branches and that of the pendulous nests that completely hang freely. Scientists called this intermediary style where a nest is held by the edges a pensile nest (though some people also call pendulous nests pensile as they technically are still held up by the edges). If we had a time machine and visited the nests of Baltimore Orioles ten-thousand years ago would they look more like a vireo nest? Are pensile nests an evolutionary middle ground between cup nests and hanging pendulous nests? It seems fairly logical that those birds with deeper nest may have had better hidden nests and thus the genetic code for progressively deeper and deeper nests was passed on more than the genetic code for less well hidden nests.
We might get some insight into the evolution of oriole nests by looking at the variation in nests that different species of orioles build. I stumbled upon this image of a Eurasian Golden Oriole. Sure enough, the nest looks much more like the pensile vireo nest.
Other orioles such as the Audubon's Oriole also have a similar, less pendulous, nest. I'd love to see a phylogenic tree of orioles or all birds to see if there is a correlation between how closely related the species are and what type of nest they build. A phylogenetic or cladistic tree that correlates nest type to how "old" the species are would also be most telling.
Birds nests are fascinating to study as you can see how different species have taken the concept of a nest in new directions. The evolutionary ancestors to birds, the dinosaurs built nests as well though I wonder if nest building in trees came before or after the advent of flight. We know that species other than birds, notably non-flying mammals, build nests in trees so I don't think flight would necessarily have had to come before arboreal nests.
There seems to be a lot of creationists on the web who love to claim that no one can explain how nests evolved. They claim that no one can explain how it could happen and then when someone very reasonably explains a possible way it can be explained they change the argument and don't want to see how it could have happened, they want proof that it DID happen in that way. I have actually seen someone use the argument, "Well how do you know, YOU weren't there." Not the strongest debate style.
When you point out that nests actually predate birds they reject that fact because they also reject the fact birds evolved from previous species. In their mind, fully formed nests (in all forms) had to suddenly arise in all their complexity. The concept of a cup nest slowly changing to a pensile nest and then to a pendulous nest form over thousands of generations is simply lost on them and they resort to. "How do YOU know, were YOU there?" The whole process of trying to explain it to them is silly as they reject evolution as being real. They essentially say, "Explain how something evolved but, oh, by the way, any answer that involves evolution is wrong." It is sort of like saying, "Prove to me that glass is made of sand but if you take me to a glass factory and show me the process I'll reject that answer as false because glass factories don't exist."
Anyhow, for those of us who find evolution fascinating, nests are a great example of how complexity be slowly built up over generations to produce incredible structures. There's nothing impossible or magical about it but it sure is fascinating.
EurGolden Oriole & Nest - J.M.Garg
Ready to get out there? Find your own bike route though the Twin Cities via Bike Walk Twin Cities.
This morning I snapped these photos on the way out the door. I spent the weekend working in the garden in this exact spot so I know this was not there yesterday. It appeared overnight. This is a classic yellow slime mold and they are one of the most fascinating species on earth.
The term mold implies that it is a fungus but technically this isn't true. While slime molds have a lot in common with true molds and fungi they are classified separate from them. There is still work to be done to correctly classify them all and scientists don't even all agree on the correct classification.
I'm pretty sure this is a Fuligo septica, one of the plasmodial slime molds. It is in the class Myxomycetes. If you're a person who does better with common names than scientific names perhaps you'll prefer the colorful common name, "dog vomit slime mold". Fuligo septica commonly grows on mulch or wood chips. I didn't think this area was very wet but my wife may have watered after I went inside which triggered the growth.
What you actually see in the photos is called an aethalium, it is similar to the fruiting body stage of a mushroom. This growth will eventually darken and release spores which is how slime molds reproduce. Before this stage, the slime mold is a plasmodium. These are truly strange and where slime molds get their name. A plasmodium is comprised of thousands of individual nuclei that are attached together in one large membrane filled with cytoplasm. Collectively they act like an amoeba and actually move in search of food. This is why scientists have had such a hard time classifying them. They act like a fungus and have spores but they can move and act like a simple animal as well. When French botanist Jean Marchant first described the species in 1727 he classified it as a sponge. He clearly didn't see it in the plasmodial stage! Check out this incredible time lapse video of a plasmodial slime mold in action.
If you look around you may find a slime mold near you. They are found pretty much everywhere on earth.