Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Second Day in Nova Scotia!!!



Howdy Folks!  I'm settling into my second day of volunteering in Nova Scotia and I've already adopted my very own Maple-Leaf Mammalian - Lycos!!  Lycos means "wolf" in Greek and he's a half-Huskie, half-German Shepard mix.

He really belongs to the leaders of this research project, Dr. Christina D Buesching http://www.wildcru.org/members/member-detail/?member_id=95%20 and Dr. Chris Newman http://www.wildcru.org/members/member-detail/?member_id=37 who met the entire group of volunteers on Sunday in Halifax - the largest city in the provine of Nova Scotia - for a two-hour drive south to our home base in a little town called Cherry Hill.

The area in Nova Scotia where I'm staying is on the map between Liverpool and Lunenburg on the Southeastern coast of the peninsula.


There are seven volunteers in total.  We'll be specifically focusing on how climate change affects small mammals such as voles, raccoons, deer, porcupines, coyotes, bobcats, minks, and squirrels.

Most of the volunteers are teachers and they come from all over the United States, including New York City, Chicago, and smaller cities in Minnesota and North Carolina.  You can see the entire group in the photo below.  We took a hike past some fishermen's cottages during our orientation on Monday:


For extra credit, please post comments!  In particular, I'm looking for questions you have about Nova Scotia, the small mammals I mentioned above, and any questions you might have for our scientists: Dr. Christina D Buesching and Dr. Chris Newman.

32 comments:

  1. Hey Elahi,
    You seem like you're having so much fun!
    I love the doggie, super cute. What do you plan to get out of this trip? I know you were telling me it had something to do with like science, being that you're not one, what do you expect to be out there? Does it give you any ideas for projects you could either share with other teachers or even use for yoour own class? Well, i know you're having fun and are going to be busy so I will cut it short.
    Love ya,
    -Noemi Rivera(your fave advisie)

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    1. Hey Noemi!!!

      I am having an AMAZING time! Your question about what I hope to get out of the trip is a great one. You are SO right: I am not a scientist, and yet here I am on a scientific expedition! I actually think it's important for all of us to step out of our comfort zones. I'm very comfortable with reading literature, as well as writing and talking about my ideas. However, doing scientific research puts my brain in a whole new place. I have to challenge myself to think in different ways and learn new content.

      For example, I never knew that mammals were "indicator species" for climate change. This means that by studying mammals and their habitats, we can better understand how humans affect the planet AND we can hopefully make the changes needed so that all living beings can thrive. As the wise folks say: knowledge is POWER!

      In terms of ideas for projects, I think I'm collecting a lot of great content. I'm hoping that I can collaborate with Magnussen this year for a small "mini-project" before we get too deep into CSP. My next blog post will include A LOT of what I've learned so far. Stay tuned!!

      Best,
      ~Ms. Elahi

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  2. You adopted a wolf? I love wolves. So can you take him home or those he have to stay over there?

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    1. Hi Jonatan!

      I WISH I could adopt a wolf! Lycos is actually a Huskie-German Shepard mix. He's probably the closest I'll ever come to actually petting a wolf, though.

      Also, Lycos REALLY belongs to the two scientists who run this small mammal research project: Dr. Christina Buesching and Dr. Chris Newman. Dr. Bueschling is originally from Germany and Dr. Newman is English. Now, they divide their time between living in Nova Scotia and living in England. How cool is that?

      I AM going to try to adopt a dog when I get back to San Francisco, though!

      Best,
      ~Ms. Elahi

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  4. What are you guys trying to prove? What are you researching? The lycos research? Is there more information for this research?

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    1. Hey Koko!

      Sorry it takes awhile for the comments to show up on the blog! It usually takes me a day to see that you've commented and then post the comment (and my reply).

      All your questions are fantastic!

      I WISH Lycos was part of my research. He's just an awesome guy to have around. Also, he's a dog - not a native mammal to Nova Scotia. There are bigger mammals here - like bears and wolves. However, we are actually researching smaller mammals than Lycos: including squirrels, raccoons, mice, and voles. I'll get a little more specific in the next blog post.

      What we are trying to prove is that animals (especially small mammals that are low on the food chain) are really affected by changes in the climate. The way we test for this is to count HOW MANY small mammals we can find and WHERE they are located. We then compare our numbers to the data they've collected in previous years. The scientists in charge of this project have been researching for over a decade, so there is lots of data! What this shows us is that - as the climate is changing - the numbers of small mammals are changing too. I'll say even more about this in my next blog post. Stay tuned!

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  5. this is pretty cool Elahi, I wouldnt mind doing something like this one day sounds exciting. -Olivia

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    1. Thanks, Olivia!

      Do you have any questions for me?

      Stay tuned for the next blog post!

      ~M

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  6. hello this is francisco f, and i am asking what is the population of Nova Scotia?

    also what is your main research over there?

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    1. Hey Francisco!

      Good question about Nova Scotia! It is an interesting place.

      The population of Nova Scotia is just under one million. Most residents live in the country or in small towns. There's only one large city: Halifax. Nova Scotia is a cold and remote place, surrounded by ocean and forest, but it's very beautiful. There are many French-speaking people in Canada, but Nova Scotia is largely populated by folks of English and German descent. The main industry used to be fishing and catching lobster, but those natural resources are on the decline.

      I've answered the question about my research above, in my response to Koko. Check it out!

      Best,
      ~Ms. Elahi

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  8. hi it's will what I really wanted to Know is Are you guys sleeping indoor or outdoor? because it looks very chilly out there:(. What have you caught in the live traps so far?

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    1. Hi Will!

      It IS very cold here, but luckily we are staying in a cozy house with heating. However, when we are in the field we have to dress in a lot of layers. I'm not used to such cold weather so it's take some getting used to.

      We've caught a few things in our live-traps. Check out my second blog post (dated Thusday, March 29) for pictures of the trapping process!!!

      Best,
      ~Ms. Elahi

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  9. I like that wolf that was there! really cute :)

    Mammels seem to adapt differently, I want to know what would happen if the food chain changed and would they adapt? lets say a big change in climate effected the majority making it hard for mammels to find food. what would be the other alternative?

    Your hypothesis?

    Thanks, Mimi

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  10. Hi Mimi,

    AWESOME QUESTIONS! I just asked Dr. Chris Newman your questions and he had several answers. Because the mice and voles we are studying are so low on the food chain, they might likely die off if the climate change with too dramatic.

    They are already having a problem reproducing because technically this time of year in Nova Scotia should be warmer. In warmer years, mating season would have already started and lasts longer (therefore more babies and a bigger population) when the weather is more temperate. However, Dr. Newman says that quite often there are more subtle effects (more seeds to eat in the forest and less fruit - like blueberries - or vice versa). In addition, many small mammals are omnivorous and can eat insects, as well. The drawback with insects is that the more small mammals (like mice) eat, the more prone they are to internal parasites.

    So - in conclusion - there are many possibilities and therefore a lot to study! My primary hypothesis is that, because of the harsher weather, the populations of mice and voles will be smaller than in previous years when the weather was warmer. I've got a week to go, and we'll see how my hypothesis plays out!

    All the best,
    ~Ms. Elahi

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  11. My questions are ..
    What are the differences and similarities of Nova Scotia to San Francisco?
    What are the pros and cons of staying at Nova Scotia?
    And, How old is lycos? :) :)

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    1. Good questions, all!

      Nova Scotia and San Francisco are SO different. We could probably write a book about the differences, but I'll try to keep it short and sweet. Remember to ask this question again when I video chat you guys this coming Friday. I can say more then.

      Suffice it to say: the majority of the ground in Nova Scotia is covered in forest and there are very few people in this part of the world. This is actually one of the reasons Dr. Newman and Dr. Buesching decided to do research here. Since there's very little human impact (at least compared to more populated areas of the world) it's a great place to observe how animals interact with their natural environment without much manipulation from humans.

      The biggest con to Nova Scotia is the cold: the temperature range has been between 20 and 50 degrees. One of the pros: it's beautiful here and surrounded by water. Surfers don't have to fight for waves. I saw a guy the other day paddle out with not a soul around: just him and his board, the waves and the trees on shore. Pretty sweet.

      Finally, Lycos is middle-age for a dog: seven years old. He is SO playful and full of energy!

      ~Ms. E

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  12. Hi Ms. Elahi. It's great to see youre having fun on your trip. I was wondering what kind of birds are native to that are? Any that look similar to ducks?

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    2. Hey Leilani!

      We've seen A LOT of birds: woodpeckers, gulls, crows and ducks.

      We even saw an eagle on our first day here, soaring over the ocean.

      Yesterday, I heard an odd, high-pitched bird call right above my head. I scanned the branches in the tree above me, looking for a feathered friend. Finally, I realized it was a squirrel, scolding me for disturbing its breakfast.

      I'll keep an eye out for more birds in the next few days...

      Sincerely,
      ~Ms. E

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  13. Hi Ms. Elahi,

    This looks so cool! I think that it is awesome that you are going out and exploring and learning in a field that you are not as comfortable with.

    What has this trip taught you?
    What did you know at the beginning of the trip and how does that compare to what you know now?
    Also, is this trip what you expected it to be?

    -Jessica

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    1. Hey Jessica,

      Congrats on UC Berkeley by the way! I'll let my friend Greg know. He'll be pleased.

      Your questions are deep, and we are four hours ahead of you - we've been out setting traps in the snow all day and I'm tired! I'll try by best to answer thoughtfully.

      The trip has taught me to appreciate wild and desolate places. It's so beautiful here and part of what makes it beautiful is how remote it feels, especially to a city-dweller like myself. I'm learning about a whole new culture here.

      I actually didn't know ANYTHING at the beginning of my trip. I was a blank slate. I think that's a good thing. I came in with no expectations about the other volunteers or the work I'd be doing. Really, the only thing I knew for sure coming in was that I'd need to dress in layers and be prepared for lots of hiking and working outside.

      I love to hike and have been exploring the wilderness since I was a kid, so I felt confident on that end...but the scientific aspect of the project was brand new to me.

      Now, I can talk a little more intelligently about climate change and the small mammals we're studying. I can tell you why this research is important and I can instruct you on how to bait and place live-traps. I'll also be learning to do the math that's needed to come up with solid data based on our findings, but that comes at the end of our trip.

      Hope that answers most of your questions!

      Until later,
      ~Ms. E

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  14. Elahi!

    Trip looks amazing. Great posts.

    What other small mammals besides voles are you guys looking for and/or finding? Does Lycos find voles to be tasty? :)

    I was thinking about how hard it must be to isolate and figure out some of these details about climate change on such a detailed level (ie. specifically about small mammals). It's really interesting. I wonder if there are ways that climate change could actually increase populations of small mammals if their bigger predators were more affected by the climate changes. Hmmm.

    See you in a week!
    Ben

    PS: Someone in one of my classes last week says, "I don't think you can recycle mice, Ben." I was confused at first, and then remembered I had heard one in the recycling bin earlier in the day and I had forgotten about it. Cracked me up. Would much rather be doing your kind of small mammal trapping.

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    1. Hey Rosen!

      Your story about "recycling mice" is funny. Yes. Our classrooms do provide a habitat for field mice. =)

      Your questions are good ones. It IS hard to do this research, which is why Drs Newman and Buesching have been consistently collecting data for twelve years. It takes a while to get a strong data set. I'm not sure whether they've published any preliminary findings. I just know that they see this as a cumulative on-going study with no end point.

      I guess that small mammals could thrive if there was a serious threat to their predators: either from some virus or bacteria, or from over-hunting. I'll ask. That's a great question!

      In terms of Lycos...I don't think he likes voles. Though, he loves ice cream and apple cores. I keep feeding him both. =)

      Have a fun week,
      ~M

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  16. How cold is it up there? How funny are their accents? Also how many critters has Lycos ate?

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    1. Hi Evan,

      It's VERY cold, and one day was actually freezing. It was our first day in the field. That was challenging.

      The Nova Scotian accent is a mix. It sounds a bit English and a bit German. They saw "Soorie" instead of "Sorry" - just like Minnesotans.

      Lycos is a pretty mellow guy. Dogs tend to catch animals, shake them violently until their necks break, and then throw them away or give them to their horrified owner.

      Mostly, Lycos eats our food. He really like ice cream.

      Be good,
      ~Ms. Elahi

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  18. Hey Ms.Elahi,
    It's me Dovanna I was thinking that maybe you could make a habitat for the different animals and make it so were the animals won't die off because of the weather change.

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    1. Hello Dovanna,

      It's interesting that you would suggest making habitats to help encourage the animals. We're doing exactly that! I'll take some photos today to show you on a future post.

      On the land where we are doing the research, there are too many trees (as there are all over Nova Scotia). Because of this, land owners "manage" their forests by cutting down select trees every year that are crowding out other trees, or are diseased, or don't contribute to the biodiversity of the land. Therefore there is LOTS of undergrowth and many fallen or dead trees.

      We drag these through the forest - it's sweaty work! - and make big piles so that the animals can use them as a habitat.

      Best,
      ~Ms. Elahi

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  19. This seem like a nice place to vist how is nova Scotia help your research and why did you have to go so far to get your answer to your research.

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