Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Great Day for Diversity

This morning I headed out on the trail with an enthusiastic group of fifteen 5th graders from Akron Public Schools. Our mission for the day was to discover as much biodiversity in the forest along the Oak Hill Trail as we could! It is important to note that the last time I explored this exact section of forest I found only a ground beetle and a few acorns that squirrels had munched on. Needless to say, I was a bit discouraged as to what we might find.

After a quick run down of expectations, I set the kids loose with their discovery tools which quite basically consisted of their hands and a container. Within the first five minutes I knew I was in luck because I heard a very shrill AHHHHHHH! If you are not familiar with working around children who haven't spent much time exploring in the woods, let me translate for you: "Karie, come quick! I found something really cool!" I rushed over and was surprised at how cool their discovery really was. Take a look for yourself...

That's right, the students found a HUGE Jefferson's salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonianum) under the very first log they rolled over which is extremely rare for this time of year! Normally these amazing creatures are found roaming around after the snow has melted in early spring, definitely not in October. The Ohio Department of Natural Resources even says that they are very illusive, secretive, and rarely seen which made this discovery even more exciting.

That initial discovery most definitely got the kids excited which is so great to see. Before I knew it kids were covered in mud and my collection bucket was full of great finds! To the
right you'll see three of those finds that decided to cuddle together while in their temporary jail cell. On the left of the picture is the Jefferson's salamander that the students affectionately called "Jeff" the rest of the class, in the center is a red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus, and to the right is an American Toad (Bufo americanus). These are just a few of the many, many, great finds that an excited group of 5th graders from Akron Public Schools discovered on a beautiful fall day in the CVNP. If you like what you saw, my suggestion for you is to get out into a forest close to you and turn over as many logs and rocks as you can see. You never know what you'll find!

*All animals were returned to their homes promptly after our discovery session was complete!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Life is Good!

If you ask me, life doesn't get much better than waking up each day knowing you are going to a job where you have the opportunity to do what you love in a beautiful national park! Lucky me!

At this point, I am two months into an internship with the Conservancy for the Cuyahoga Valley National Park where I get to teach environmental education in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park! The CVEEC (Cuyahoga Valley Environmental Education Center) provides both residential and day programming for 5th through 8th graders and it is such amazing place to work.

Here are some great pictures I have captured during my short time at the CVEEC!

This little guy (or girl) was found along a path this September at the EEC. One of the kids actually ran up to me with it on their hand and shoved it in my face asking in an excited voice "What is this? Someone told me you would know!" It's always amazing to see kids who were afraid to go out on a hike at the beginning of the week carrying around creepy crawlies with their bare hands by the end of the week!
Cecropia Moth Caterpillar- Hyalophora cecropia
Fun Fact: This becomes North America's largest native moth after it goes through metamorphosis!
Want more info on the Cecropia Moth?

During our two weeks of training at the EEC, my fellow interns and I discovered this beautiful spider in the narrow leafed cattails along the edge of a pond on campus. Throughout our two weeks we watched her get fatter and fatter as she caught more prey and therefore continuously repaired her web. We affectionately called her "Shelob" from The Lord of the Rings movies because she was so huge! What a great experience it was for kids to see her catch insects and wrap them right before their very eyes!
Common Garden Spider- Argiope aurantia
Fun Fact: The white part on the spider's web is called the stabilimentum. Scientists aren't positive as to what purpose it serves!
Want more info on the Common Garden Spider?

Stay tuned for more stories from the EEC!