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

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?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


Kejimkujik means Land of Spirits in the Mi'kmaw language - these are the indigenous people of the area. We visited this national park today. It is an old growth Hemlock forest, so it supports a different group of animals then the forest we were previously working in, which was a Secondary growth forest. First we took a hike to Mills Falls, then a second hike to see the Hemlock tree forest - which look like gigantic fur trees. The forest floor was covered with moss and dead trees called Nurse Logs - these provide an area for growth of many things like lichen, moss, and trees.

After our two hikes we surveyed some deer quadrats. On the way to the area we saw two deer, but they were too quick, so I wasn't able to get any pictures. The deer quadrats were much easier then the hare ones we did last week. First we didn't have to pick up individual pieces of scat. Also we weren't crawling through brambles and only had to count the piles of the scat, so it was much easier!! Tomorrow we'll be looking at the data from our quadrats and I'll let you know what we find out.

Tomorrow we will be starting research at a new site - Cook's Lake!



Had our last day of trapping on Friday in the Forested area. We had 4 animals total, 2 recaptures - Bert and Brit, 1 new vole - Bear, and a deer mouse - Mighty. Check out the photo of Mighty - what do you notice different about its eyes and ears? Mice are omnivores and need the larger ears and eyes to locate their food.

After trapping, we took a horse and cart ride at an organic Christmas tree farm. All the trees are grown without any chemicals or pesticides. They have to trim the trees each year to make sure that they have the Christmas tree shape and it takes between 10-15 years to get a tree to be the right size to sell. The farm also raises cows and chickens as well as products to sell at a local market.

Yesterday, we drove into Halifax for a research free day. We got a chance to explore the city and went to the Citadel - a fort that was constructed by the British in the 1700s for protection against the French. We also went to the Maritime museum to learn about the rich boating history of the area. There was an exhibit about the Halifax Explosion. Your challenge is to find out what this was, when it took place and how it happened. Ask Jason and Jodi to help with this as it is related to Social Studies!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

More trapping

Today we checked our traps twice. We had all the same voles as yesterday - so we named them, Bert, Brit, Gimpy (who has health issues, and Babe. Brit is the female and she is actually pregnant. We also had a chipmunk in one of the traps. This doesn't happen too often, as chipmunks often go in and get the food, or will break apart the trap to get the food. They also weigh about 4 times as much as the voles. We named this guy Flash, as he ran away as fast as possible after he was out of the trap.

We continued with the porcupine damage surveys in the afternoon and then after lunch we did hare scat quadrats. We had to count the number of hare droppings in a 100 square meter area and this will then be used to determine how many hares there are in that area. This can be used to tell how healthy the ecosystem is by knowing how many animals of a species there are.

Challenge: To come up with a question you can ask me about my expedition that relates to mammals or climate change.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Seven Vole Day

Super busy day. Yes, small mammals are important as they are a major food source for many of the larger prey.

Spent the morning checking our traps. We had three Red-backed Voles this morning! 2 males and a female. Once we get an animal in a trap we have to take it out, weigh it, check the sex, adult or juvenile, sexually active, species, if it had been captured before and where we caught it. Once this is all recorded, we had to take the animal back to where we found it.

After finishing the traps, we conducted a porcupine damage survey of the area around the scientist's house. Porcupines are considered a pest species in Nova Scotia as they destroy much of the forest area. People in Nova Scotia frequently kill the animals or they often get run over by cars and could become endangered in the near future. Dr. Buesching and Dr. Newman are trying to come up with a solution or how people can live with the porcupines without killing them. They need to determine what type of trees they eat most, where they are and how much they eat.

Next with did a field sign transect where we walked a mile trail and looked for signs of animals. We saw quite a few signs of beavers - lots of trees gnawed and 2 beaver lodges, lots of coyote scat - these had small animal bones and animal fur in them, hare scat, squirrel nests, and porcupine scat. I've included a picture of one of the trees the beaver has gnawed on.

Finally we rechecked our traps and had 4 more voles. 2 were ones that we had captured this morning and 2 new ones. So 7 for the day.

Challenge for the day: What is the difference between a mouse and a vole and why are they both important in the ecosystem (hint: what do they both eat)? Extra credit: What percent of the Voles were recaptured and what percent were new captures?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

In the Field

Thanks everyone for commenting. The scat (poop) was from a raccoon - they are easy to tell as they often eat a variety of things and also by the shape. And for those that were concerned with my holding it - this is actually Dr. Buesching in the photo.

Today we went out into the field to set Small Mammal traps - small mammals, like voles and mice, are good indicators of climate change as their distribution and abundance are greatly affected by changes in the climate. The traps that we set do not harm the mammals. In fact, we took great care to put in a nice soft bed of hay, some grain to eat and an apple for hydration. We then walked into the forest to place 100 of these traps on a grid along the forest floor. Walking through the forest was not an easy task - lots of brambles, rocks, bushes and ticks!
After setting the traps we headed to the scientists' house to help build a cabin for one of the research areas. This involved hammer together the walls of the structure. I'm sure I'll be a little sore tomorrow!

Tomorrow we go back to check the traps for any small creatures. If we happen to catch any, we'll take them out, check and note their health, clip their hair (so we know if we have caught this animal) and then let it go. These traps are designed by a company in England, called Longworth, and each trap cost $100.

Challenge: Why do you think small mammals, like mice and voles, are so important to the ecosystem?

Also what is the total cost of all the traps we set? You can see the row of all the traps in the photo above.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Coastal Walk and Mammal Talk

Extremely busy day today. Had a talk from Dr. Buesching today on the Mammals of this area. Information learned:
*There are only 100 moose on Nova Scotia. A deer parasite has all but eradicated the moose in this area, so will not see any moose.
*There are black bear here, but very shy. You should never play dead with a bear as they eat carrion (dead animals).
*Small mammals, such as mice, voles, chipmunks, don't drink water - they get all the water they need from their food. They are very vunearable to climate change as they need to keep their litters warm and dry and when it is too wet or cold the babies die.
*Porcupines are nocturnal - feed off grass in summer and barks in winter. People often kill them because think they are nuisances as they can cause a lot of damage to trees. Don't need a very big range and only have one young at a time.

After our talk we took a 6 mile walk on the coast to look for signs of mammals. Came across a lot of footprints and scat. Above is the scat of a creature that has 5 toes and 5 fingers and washes its food in the water. Challenge: What animal do think this is?

As we continued on our walk we came across several signs of a porcupine. First we found its scat - actually almost like a rabbit's, but larger. We also found some trees where the porcupine had stripped the park. Then we found the Porcupine - up in a tree! During the day they sleep up in the trees and then come out at night to feed. He was pretty well hidden, but I was able to get a photo of his face!

After our walk we headed back to the house. Right on the side of the road was a herd of 16 white tail deer!

So today was a busy, but amazing day - tomorrow we get to learn how to set the traps for small mammals!


Got up early this morning to see the sunrise - 6 am! As Nova Scotia is 4 hours ahead of Arizona this was 2 am Az time!! It was quite beautiful - no animals out though! Hope to see some this afternoon!

Sunday, April 11, 2010


Arrived at our research area. A small town called Cherry Hill outside of Halifax. Spent quite a long time in airports and in the air yesterday - left at 8:40 am and arrived at 12pm Nova Scotia time. Nova Scotia is 4 hours ahead, but still quite a long day.

Today got a chance to meet everyone. The scientists have a dog named Lycos and we can see the Atlantic Ocean from here.

Tomorrow will go out and look for signs of mammals along the coast. The mammals we should be seeing while here are: beavers, porcupines, deer, skunk, chipmunks, vole, mice, mink, otter, racoon, seal, and maybe bear. Looks like no Moose!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nova Scotia Here I Come!

Saturday I leave for Nova Scotia.

Students started research on their mammals and climate change from this area.


1. In a new window open:
Look under "Climate Change is Real" at the bottom of the page.

2. Now go below to Comments and list 3 of the Climate Change issues for this area.

3. Then for your mammal, indicate how you think one of these issues will affect it.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Team Website

Remember to check the team website as well for more information on the location and progress of our expedition. You can access it here:

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Only 4 days to go!

Wow, can't believe it's almost here! I leave this Saturday morning. It will be a long plane ride, but worth it. I fly from Phoenix to Denver, then to Chicago and finally land in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

I am very excited to have this opportunity and share it with my classes!

So how far is it from Phoenix to Halifax and what is the temperature difference? Post your answer under comments.