Follow my blog as I explore the mammals of Nova Scotia!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thank you

I have been back for over a week now. Students have been working on projects on climate change and a field guide of animal signs based on the information on learned while in Nova Scotia.

Thank you so much to the Henry Greenwalt Foundation for making this trip possible and to all the others on my trip - Dr. Buesching and Dr. Newman were fantastic. They had great stories and taught us so much. And to my other team members - Anne, Amanda, Angela, Melissa, Claire, Diana and Kim. You guys were what made this trip not just great, but incredible!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Final Day!

So sad that this is my final day!! It really went fast - Today we went to Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct. Just gorgeous as we hiked along a trail overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. One of the reasons we went was to look for Porcupine as there is a large population living there. What a surprise to come across three of them!! They were right on the trail - the one in the tree above had tried to hide from us by going up into the tree. It was such an amazing experience to see them right there in the wild!

The animals that we saw while here were: Porcupine, beaver, snow-shoe hare, red-backed vole, meadow vole, deer mouse, mink, harbor seal, white-tailed deer, chipmunk, red squirrel, and raccoon.

Today we also looked at the camera traps we had set earlier in the week. They had a lot of pictures of them and we did capture a few animals. They take pictures when they register movement, so most of the pictures we got were trees moving or from shadows. But we did get pictures of: raccoons, fox, porcupines, snow-shoe hare, red squirrel and crows. I posted a picture above of a a porcupine that was captured at the camera trap that Anne and I set down by the water.

We finished up looking at the data from Cook's Lake and from our scat counts it was found that 16 deers are at the lake. We only had one meadow vole at the lake, which was very interesting scientifically. Last fall 20 individual jumping mice were trapped there. This could mean that they were still hibernating or the population has seriously declined.

I will see you all on Monday!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beaver Visit

Nice job on the challenge question from yesterday. We haven't seen some of the mammals because of hibernation, but more so because they want to hide from predators and humans. Or if they are a predator, they will lie in wait for their prey - which are not humans. Also many of the mammals are nocturnal and will only come out at night - such as the beavers and porcupines.

So last night we went to go beaver watching and we really got a show!! We got there right at dusk when they start to become active. We had to be very quiet and sit very still to watch them. Beavers use their large tails to warn each other of danger and will slap it on the water when danger is near - it sounds like a gunshot.

Within about 5 minutes we could see something swimming in the water. It wasn't a beaver, but a muskrat - which are about half the size of beavers. Soon though, we did see one swim over to a near-by island and start gnawing on a branch. You can tell the beaver from the muskrat because a beaver has a v-shaped wave and a muskrat has a zig-zag wave in the water. You can see him in the picture right above. If you look really closely, you can see another beaver swimming behind him. We continued to watch and then he started swimming right in front of us!! He swam back and forth - like he was swimming laps. We were told that he was keeping watch on us.

Challenge: How do beavers go in and out of their lodges? Where is the entrance of the lodge located and why?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Beavers and Ticks

Today was warmer than yesterday and so way more ticks. Dr. Buesching states that this is the most ticks she has ever seen. In fact they weren't even in this area 8 years ago, but because of a big influx of deer so came the ticks. The ones we are finding are called Wood Ticks and don't carry disease. The really bad ones are the size of a pencil tip and carry Lyme Disease - luckily have not had any of these. I must have pulled off more than 30 today!

We haven't seen many live animals, except the ones that we have been trapping. We've seen lots of signs of animals and know that they are in the area, but it is very difficult to view them. We are going tonight to try to see the beaver. We have to go at night because they are most active at dusk and come out of their dens.

Challenge: What are some reasons why we haven't seen many animals? What is celelbrated on Thursday?

Sorry this is so short - very busy day and am off to see the Beavers. Tomorrow I'll be Skyping with you.

Beaver watching was very cool. Saw three beavers and they swam right in front of us. I'll have more on it tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No Rain, but ticks!

Today was so much better than yesterday - no rain and not so cold! In fact the sun was out for most of the day. However, because it was so much warmer we had lots of ticks to deal with!! They seem to like to jump onto your clothes and then hide until you find them later on your neck, arm or leg! We always have to do tick checks when we're done in the field to make sure they aren't taking a ride home with us. Do you know what ticks are?

With our trappings today we only caught one Meadow Vole - Spunky! Meadow Voles are larger and quicker than the Red-Backed Voles. They live out in the grasslands and don't have as many hiding spots, so have to be quicker and need the extra body fat to keep warm. Well be going out tomorrow again, so hopefully will have a few more to look at.

We did some more snow-shoe hare quadrats and found over 2000 scat in our plots. Then we did some deer and field transects to see what other animals are in the Cook's lake area and found bobcat, coyote, porcupine, deer, fox, and marmet. The picture above shows how we plot out the area for a quadrat.

So why are we trapping small mammals and looking at scat? One of the reasons is to get an idea of what animals live in this area. Then scientists have to systematically monitor the populations for long periods of time to find out how abundant the animals are. They can estimate population size using mathematics. They actually know how much scat a specific animal produces in an area and then through mathematical formulas can figure out how many animals are living there. This is important information in knowing how animal populations are changing - are they getting bigger, smaller, migrating, etc.

Tomorrow - Beaver watching in the evening!!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Wow - fantastic job on the Halifax Explosion question!!! It was actually the largest man-made explosion prior to Hiroshima!

Today was really, really cold and rainy! We went to our new location at Cook's Lake. This area is owned by Dr. Buesching's family. It is used as a research site and animal sanctuary. Today the high temperature was 8"C (37ºF) with wind at 48 km/hour (30 mi/hr)and we also had rain! However, we still had to be out in the field! We even had to wear our Wellies today (rain boots)!

Today we put out new traps in two areas. One was an open field to trap for Short-Tailed Shrews who are insectivores. The other area was in a hard-wood brush area to trap for Jumping Mice (they look like small Kangaroo Rats).

Dr. Buesching and Dr. Newman are Conservation Biologists. They work on finding solutions for wildlife conservation in various areas. They try to work with the community to raise awareness of what is happening and come up with solutions that the community can benefit from.

Challenge: What issues could Conservation Biologists help with in Arizona?