Global Biodiversity Blog

Students are Buzzing about these Mystery Creatures!

October 13, 2021

Drawing of a mosquito
Student drawing of a mosquito larvae

An important skill for young scientists to develop is the ability to record interpretations from direct observations of natural phenomenon.  Seventh grade students in Calvert County, Maryland began the school year with an investigation of “Mystery Creatures”, live aquatic organisms that seemed to undergo change with each passing day.  Students recorded their observations and learned to create scientific drawings to document their findings.  These skills will be applied throughout the year as they encounter new scientific concepts and phenomena.

Thanks to Mr. Kelsey from Northern Middle School for sharing some examples of excellent scientific drawings from his students!

What are these Mystery Creatures?

Students made predictions about these mystery creatures.  Some thought the animals might be Sea Monkeys (which are really brine shrimp).  Others knew that these organisms were in reality, mosquito larvae. Mosquitoes begin their lives as aquatic creatures, spending time as larvae and pupae before emerging from the water as adults. Classes received sets of mosquito chambers or pupators containing larvae. These chambers allow the larvae to develop through their aquatic life cycle and emerge as adults in an enclosed chamber.

Mosquito growing chamber
Mosquito Pupator

There are lessons to be learned from this experience beyond basic scientific process skills.  Throughout the year, students circle back to this early experience with mosquitoes.  For example, students learn that an effective way to combat mosquito populations is to break their life cycle by removing water sources on their property.  Students also raise native Gambusia or “mosquito fish” as a biological control for the larvae.  These methods are a desirable alternative to chemical pesticides which can have impacts on other insects and wildlife.

Student drawing of a mosquito.

What Does Biodiversity Sound Like?

August 26, 2021

All of nature begins to whisper its secrets to us through its sounds. Sounds that were previously incomprehensible to our soul now become the meaningful language of nature.” Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925)

The soundscape of natural areas has been the inspiration of authors and poets for generations. The chorus of songbirds on a spring morning, the nighttime buzz of insects, the croaking of frogs from a nearby pond are the voices of nature that can provide calming relief from the stresses of modern world.

The sounds of nature also reflect the biodiversity of the environment. Eighth grade students in the Calvert County Public Schools (Maryland, USA) are investigating the importance of biodiversity as a measure of environmental health. A grant from the Calvert Environmental Trust for Youth will help these students use the sounds of nature as a measure of biodiversity and to create a digital library of nature sounds. Students will use SongMeter Micro recorders produced by Wildlife Acoustics. The tiny recorders are about the size of a deck of cards and will automatically log nature sounds day and night when deployed on our schoolyards. This data will be shared with the Maryland Biodiversity Project, a group seeking to document the diversity of life across the state.

Toward the end of the last school year, the recorders purchased through the grant were field tested with students at Mill Creek Middle School. The images and sounds below are examples of how the project will be implemented.

Along with the collection of useful scientific data, it is hoped that the participating students begin to hear the “whispered secrets” of the language of nature.

Picture of students outdoors
Students set up the SongMeter Micro Recorder
Photo of recording device
Recording Device
American Crow at Mill Creek Middle School
Great Crested Flycatcher at Mill Creek Middle School
Frog Calls from Mill Creek Middle School (Spring Peeper, American Bullfrog, Northern Green Frog)

Afsara Discovers some Duck Eggs

August 23, 2021

Hi. My name is Afsara Ibnat. I am 14 years old. I read in grade 8 in BAF Shaheen College Dhaka, Bangladesh. 

Picture of the author
Afsara shared an interesting observation of duck eggs!

In March 2020, when lockdown started in Bangladesh due to outbreak of Corona pandemic, I along with my mother and elder sister went to Moulvibazar, a north-eastern district of the country, to stay with my father. My father was the Officer Commanding of Moulvibazar Radar Unit, an Air Force station, during that time.

Map of Bangladesh Air Base
Moulvibazar Radar Unit, Air Force Station

While living there, one day I and my sister were taking a walk and we came across some small eggs around a pond. We took pictures of them and showed to our father. He said that those were the eggs of “Bali Hash” (Lesser Whistling Duck). A flock of these ducks used to roam around this pond quite often so they laid their eggs there.

Duck eggs
Nest of the Lesser Whistling Duck

The Lesser Whistling Duck, also known as Indian Whistling Duck or Lesser Whistling Teal, is a species of Whistling duck that breeds in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. It’s scientific name is Dendrocygna javanica. This brown and long-necked duck has broad wings that are visible in flight and produces a loud two-note wheezy call.

Lesser Whistling Duck (from INaturalist)

Bangladesh Bulbuls!

June 8, 2021

Hello. My name is Zaheen P. I am 9 years old, and I read in grade 2 in BAF Shaheen English Medium College.

Last Friday, I went to my grandparents’ house at Cumilla, Bangladesh.

Picture of the author.
Zaheen P.
Map of Bangladesh.
Map illustrating Bangladesh
Map of Cumilla, Bangladesh.
The Cumilla Cantonement in Bangladesh

On Saturday morning, I went for a walk with my parents and saw these little colorful birds on a tree. With the help of my father, I captured the photo. This bird is called ‘Bulbuli,’ scientific name- Pycnonotus cafer. It is very common in Bangladesh. It is a short-neck bird with a high voice. It is a magnificent bird.

A pair of bulbul birds.
A pair of Bulbuli

The Great Eastern Brood

May 28, 2021

There something magical happening across parts of the eastern United States this spring.  Billions of Periodical Cicadas are emerging from their underground tunnels and burrows where they have lived for the past 17 years.  The Latin name Magicicada, evokes the mysterious nature of these fascinating insects.

picture of a cicada insect
Adult Cicada from the 2021 emergence

Periodical Cicadas are a North American phenomenon with 15 different broods that emerge on 17-year and 13-year cycles.   Most of the populations occur from eastern seaboard states to the mid-west.   The current brood that is emerging in the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan is known as Brood X or the Great Eastern Brood.  These insects last appeared in 2004.

Picture showing boy with cicada in 2004 and 2021.
Same boy with cicadas in 2004 and 2021!

As the insects begin to emerge after their 17 year subterranean journey, they tunnel upward and crawl onto the nearest tree or any vertical structure. Here they shed their skin and take flight.

A cicada skin shed.
The empty shell of a recently emerged cicada.

Insect predators such as birds and reptiles will gorge themselves on this sudden abundance of protein that emerges from beneath the ground.  While copperheads will eat cicadas readily, the emergence doesn’t cause an increase in their population or activity levels.

Picture of a snake eating a cicada.
Copperhead eating a cicada.

Male cicadas congregate in trees and emit a loud buzzing sound that seems other worldly.  The insects themselves are quite unusual in appearance, with bright red eyes and orange-veined wings. The noise can be deafening when there are thousands and thousands of these insects in a single tree.  In some areas, there can be up to 1.5 million cicadas in an acre of land!  That’s a lot of bugs!

Sounds of cicadas from a Maryland forest.

The cicada chorus of the Great Eastern Brood will soon fall quiet. We can look forward to their return in the spring of 2038!

A pair of cicada insects.
Pair of cicadas from the 2021 emergence.
A cicada insect.

Goodbye until 2038!

HAWKS OUTSIDE OUR WINDOW

April 8, 2021

Mrs. Wiles from Plum Point Middle School in Calvert County, Maryland (USA) shared this great video of a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks nesting right outside of her classroom window. It’s interesting to listen to the counterplay of the classroom discussion and the screeching of the two hawks from a nearby tree. It’s a reminder that while we all go about our own business, incredible natural events are happening just outside of our window! Thank you Mrs. Wiles for sharing the view from your window!

Red-shouldered Hawk from ebird.org

Our friend and blog contributor Irum’s school in Pakistan is still in quarantine and unable to contribute to the Global Biodiversity Blog. Irum was kind enough to share a post from her brother, Dr. Ali, a Senior Scientist currently living with his family in Warsaw, Poland. Thanks to Irum and Dr. Ali for this interesting post!

Biodiversity in Poland

March 22, 2021

In a time of quarantine when you need someone to spend time with, Polish birds and animals will not disappoint you. You will be hooked by their friendly nature. What makes them so friendly? No specific reason except having friendly people and a friendly environment around them. The people in Poland always bring something to feed them with. That is why the birds are never scared of coming close to them.

No matter what language you speak, the birds in Poland understand all kinds of languages when you get them to eat out of your hand. You simply place nuts or seeds in the palm of your hand and they will not let you wait for long.

Polish swans (Mute Swans)- large sized waterfowl that add beauty to ponds, marshes and lakes. They are also friendly and you can feed them fresh bread or grains.

Mute Swans, Mallards, and Mew Gulls in a public park in Warsaw.

Warsaw is the capital city of Poland. The most unusual thing here is the friendly nature of squirrels, birds and peacocks. After coming here, you feel a bit closer to nature. You can spend hours relaxing, lying on the grass, and feeding the birds and the squirrels.

Alsu feeding a Red Squirrel.

Blue peacocks are among such big birds who sometimes get noisy but quite friendly in nature when you are ready to feed them. They trust your presence and sense the smell of food in your palms. Even if you are a foreigner, these Polish birds and little animals make you feel at home.

Ali feeding the India Blue peacocks.
Ali shares a treat with a peacock in Warsaw.

When birds bloom: A post lockdown birding in the Western Ghats
​February 2, 2021

Wayanad District of Kerala, India

Bird photographers would always cherish to see birds perched at eye level on the branch of a tree with a shallow depth of field. It gives the photograph a nice bokeh effect. I went to the resort of my friend, holding close the dreams I had the previous night. In the dream, I saw myself looking thorough the view finder of the camera with a big telephoto lens attached.   I was trying to hold my breath so that I could prevent the camera from shaking. I did not remember the photo I took with that imaginary telephoto lens though! When I try to remember any dream later, I normally do not have a very clear idea about it. Most often what remains is a mosaic of visuals and it’s pretty hard to string them together to make some sense out of them.

Flame-throated Bulbul
Hill Mynah
Hill Mynah
Coppersmith Barbet

The resort is situated in the buffer zone of the Western Ghats in the Wayanad district of Kerala State. It has coffee plantations all around the property. The hilly slopes with occasional tall trees and a brook that flows along the plot, make it a haven of birds! Plenty of them. I actually woke to the heavenly note of Malabar whistling thrush….(link to full text of article)

Malabar Whistling Thrush
Gray Jungle Fowl
Blue-throated Blue Flycatcher

Orange Minivet

Scottish Invasion?
​April 1, 2020

A recent review of photos from the CHESPAX Submerged Aquatic Vegetation monitoring program, yielded this as of yet,  unidentified creature.  A quick thinking Ms. Holly Fallica from Calvert Middle School captured a fleeting image of this beast on the Patuxent River during a Fall 2019 CHESPAX field trip.  

A review of literature lead some to speculate that this could be an out of range sighting of Chessie, a legendary sea monster  that may inhabit the middle of the Chesapeake Bay.  Other observers have indicated that it’s probably just a slime covered log.

Mr. Harten from the CHESPAX staff, perhaps made a fateful decision to reconnect with the creature on Friday, March 13, and has not be seen around the office since that date.

​Happy April 1!

A picture of a log sitting in the water, positioned so that it looks like the Loch Ness Monster
Could this be Chessie, the mythical beast of the Chesapeake Bay?

Elephants of Kerala
January 28, 2020

VoiceThread is an interesting communication tool to link schools from different regions for discussions about a range of topics and interests.  Some teachers from Calvert County Schools in Maryland (US) have joined with teacher Sujith S. from Pantheerankave Higher Secondary School in Kozhikode, Kerala (India) on a project to allow students to communicate on global biodiversity.  One of Sujith’s students, Ashiqa, put together an excellent presentation about the role of the elephant in Kerala’s culture and some of the problems for elephants in a captive situation.

Please expand the video below to full screen before starting.

Exploring Xochimilco through EarthWatch
​January 17, 2019

Ms. Fallica from Calvert Middle School was a participant this summer in  an EarthWatch expedition to central Mexico.  During this experience, she had the opportunity to engage as part of a team of educators and interact with local scientists.  Below is Ms. Fallica’s account of her experience.

Picture of a lake
Xochimilco is famous for its floating gardens.

We worked with the REDES team throughout the week. REDES (Restauración Ecológica y Desarrollo A.C.)  is a local non-profit that aims to increase ecosystem health of wetlands in Xochimilco, Mexico by monitoring water quality and local biodiversity, providing research results to policy-makers, and educating local farmers on sustainable agriculture and business strategies.

Picture of people by a like.
EarthWatch expeditions give participants hands-on experiences in science.

They taught myself and 6 other teachers about their efforts and outreach in improving the health of Lake Xochimilco, as well as the ancient farming technique of “Chinampas”.  The practice of Chinampas is a type of  agriculture which used small, rectangular areas of fertile land to grow crops on the shallow lake beds.  There are still some intact Chinampas being used with the same ancient gardening techniques as the Ancient Mayans who once lived in Mexico City.

Picture of people gardening.
Participants learning about the ancient Chinampas farming practices.

We learned throughout the week how imperative it is to not only keep these agricultural traditions alive, but to keep the canals and water clean for the Axolotl. The Axolotl is a Salamander- like amphibian that can regenerate many of it’s own organs and body parts. It is now critically endangered and feared to be almost extinct in the wild. Native species like these amazing creatures and the massive amount of migratory bird species that visit Mexico City is another reason why the health of Xochimilco is so important.

Picture of a salamander.
The Axolotl is an unusual species of salamander that retains its juvenile form.

We went on a trajinera (colorful boat) with REDES through the canals of Xochimilco that day to count the various bird species and have lunch in the Chinampas. I think we saw over 17 different kids of birds just within a few hours! It wasn’t even migration season yet.

Picture of a teacher by a lake.
Ms. Fallica rides on the trajinera.
Picture of a sign.
Lake Xochimilco is home to a variety of bird species.

I learned so much working with the team of scientists from REDES and the public university of Mexico City and made so many connections between their efforts in conservation and what we have been working on here in Maryland. The water quality testing and biodiversity studies that we do together with CHESPAX is very similar to what this Earthwatch expedition was all about in Mexico. 

Picture of a teacher doing an experiment.
Ms. Fallica conducts a macroinvertebrate study to measure water quality.


Picture of a teacher doing an expriment.
Ms. Fallica conducts water quality tests from Lake Xochimilco.

​I felt like I was the only teacher who attended this expedition who could make similar connections between the science field work and the classroom because of all the research that we do here in Maryland with the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.
The pictures above show us collecting water samples from the canals, as well as Macroinvertebrate samples. Based on the macroinvertebrate diversity and sensitivity to pollution, we were able to gain an understanding of the canals’ health. It was a tedious job, but the data that we were able to collect really helped us gain a better understanding of the health of this ecosystem and factors that could be impacting the native species, like the critically endangered Axolotl only found in Mexico city. This science work is helping Mexico to better understand the past, present, and future ecological impacts of this ancient land.​

Picture of people outdoors.
Expedition team discusses the results of their studies.

For more information, please refer to our Earthwatch Expedition Blog. Each of us worked on the blog to keep track of what we did and learned each day while in Mexico. The link is below:

https://teachearthmexico2019.school.blog/

Mill Creek Middle School Investigates Stream Health
January 6, 2020

Students from Mrs. Gallihugh’s 8th grade science classes at Mill Creek Middle School reflected on their recent stream survey experience with the CHESPAX staff.

Nathan describes:
The stream score we received indicated pollution, but the species present tell a different story. In science class, we examined bags of leaves from Battle Creek and Flag Ponds. We used bags of leaves because they collect Benthic Macroinvertebrates (BMIs) when left in the water. We found many different species from both streams. We did this because the varieties of BMIs can indicate the health of a stream because they vary species that are sensitive, such as Caddisflies and Stoneflies, to species that are tolerant to pollution, such as Leeches and Lunged Snails. We found that while there were some sensitive species in both areas, such as Mayflies and Caddisflies, we scored fair. This strange because Mayflies and Caddisflies cannot survive in the presence of pollution, but we only scored fair. It indicates that there’s another issue separate to pollution present. 

Picture of students in science lab.
Students hard at work catching stream insects.

Abbey explains:

Our class sampled Benthic Macro-Invertebrates (BMI) in two local streams. Since the streams are close geographically, we expected them to be similar with water quality and the insects we find. Some similar insects we found were mayflies, netspinner caddisflies, scud and aquatic worms. The crane flies, net spinner caddisflies and scud in Battle Creek show the medium tolerance rate. In Flag Ponds we found sow bugs, crayfish and damselflies. These BMI also show a less sensitive tolerance rate. These insects both contribute to the fair biotic index of 5.67 for Flag Ponds and 5.51 for Battle Creek.  
   There are also many differences that can be found between the 2 streams, things like different (Percent EPT is short for the total number of Ephemeroptera (mayflies), Plecoptera (stoneflies), and Trichoptera (caddisflies)). EPT and individuals per bag.  The EPT at flag ponds %13.5, The EPT at Battle Creek is %16.3. The individuals per bag in flag ponds is 14.9 while in battle creek its 22, with this information we can determine that battle creek is a healthier stream than flag ponds. Battle Creek has more bugs than Flag Ponds with a total number of species coming in at 15 species, Flag Ponds only has 11 species in total. All things considered Battle Creek is a healthier stream, it has more species, higher EPT, and the individuals per bag is greater. Flag Ponds has lower EPT, lower individuals per bag, and less species. If you want a place to test to find a variety of species, go to Battle Creek. 

Picture of an insect.
Mayflies indicate good water quality.


Devin observes:
Our class surveyed two different streams for Benthic macroinvertebrates. Since the two streams were so close, we predicted to find similar data from each of the streams. And this was exactly what we ended up finding. We surveyed Battle Creek and Flag ponds. We found a lot of scuds in both ponds. Scuds indicate somewhat good water quality because scuds breathe by absorbing dissolved oxygen through their gills, they can’t live in severely polluted or stagnant waters that contain no oxygen. ​

Picture aquatic animal.
Scuds are less sensitive to water pollution.


Laura shares:
Scientists use stream surveys to investigate whether ecosystem streams are healthy or not. In science class we surveyed two different streams in our county to see if they are healthy or not.  CHESPAX had placed bags full of leaves in the streams. When the leaves are in the streams they collect the benthic macroinvertebrates (BMI). The leaves provide food and shelter for them. BMI’s are also collected within the leaves. CHESPAX had taken them out of the water and brought them to MCMS so us students can investigate them. We collected the BMI’s from the leaves to investigate whether the local streams were healthy or not. Some of the species like stoneflies and mayflies tolerate very little pollution. Species like crayfish and scuds tolerate some pollution. And leeches and lunged snails tolerate lots of pollution. Investigating the leaves helped us tell whether the streams are healthy or not. ​

Picture of a crayfish.
Crayfish are an exciting catch!

Robbie adds:

The two separate streams we sampled were streams in Calvert County. We sampled Battle Creek and St. Leonard Creek at Flag Ponds. We tested each of them to see what the differences of each of them are. The health of the ecosystem around the stream can indicate that the stream is healthy. We collected benthic macro invertebrates and we found that each stream a biotic index grade level of fair. Both streams had a similar EPT% with Battle Creek having a 16.3% EPT and Flag Ponds having a 13.5% EPT. Both streams had similar BMI’s also they both had mayflies, netspinners, scud, midges, caddisflies, and aquatic worms. A couple unique to the Battle creek stream were gilled snails, lunged snails, stoneflies, planarians, leeches, craneflies, beetles, and helgramites. Some unique to the Flag pond stream were sowbugs, crayfish, riffle beetles, and damseflies. Overall both of these streams would probably look the same because of how many things they had that were similar like there Biotic Index and there EPT%

Picture of an aquatic insect.
Hellgrammites are an amazing find in the stream survey.



Lily focuses on the Gilled Snails that she observed and provides some excellent background information!:
Gilled snails were found in Mill Creek Middle School’s (MCMS) eighth-grade class stream surveys. Gilled snails tolerates little to no pollution in the creeks. Having the snails in the creek means that the stream is healthy. If a stream has lots of pollution it is not healthy, and all of the animals could possibly die. Gilled snails are a good indicator of a healthy stream because they can’t tolerate a lot of pollution. Having a lot of gilled snails in a stream is a good sign, the snails eat decaying plants or algae growing on rocks. This helps the stream because if there is too much algae the stream could become unhealthy and polluted, the snails eating the decaying leaves help also, if the leaves do not decay then the stream will become unhealthy because the leaves will pile up and leave no room for animals to hide and no place for the fish to swim around.  

Gilled snails fall under the category of operculate snails.  They can grow to be about 70mm as adults.  Gilled snails have a fleshy body with no jointed legs or hard mouthparts. The parts of their bodies are the head, visceral mass, mantle, and foot. The visceral mass is what holds the snail’s organs, the mantel is a thin layer of soft tissue on the outside of the body and the foot is for movement. They use this t to move by gliding on a thin film of mucus secreted from the underside of the foot. The snails have a singular shell.  The opening is on the right of the shell, this is what differentiates it from lunged snails. The shell opening has an operculum, which is a door that closes over the opening to protect the snail. Gilled snails have a set of eyes and two tentacles on their heads. Inside the mouth, there are lots of tiny teeth which are used by dragging them along food to eat, this is called the radula.   

A snail’s diets consist mainly of algae, decaying underwater plants and occasionally, a snail will consume a very small aquatic animal, although it’s uncommon.  

​These snails are very flexible and can be found in most freshwater habitat due to how easily they adapt, although they are sensitive to pollution. They are less common in fast or turbulent waters and live for about one year. The snails let water enter their shells and use their gills to obtain dissolved oxygen from the water. ​

Picture of a snail.
A Gilled Snail explores its temporary home in an ice cube tray.

Allison reports:
Eighth grade students of Mill Creek Middle School took survey of two streams, Battle Creek, and Flag Ponds. The data we acquired from this helped us determine the health of the two ecosystems. Finding the health of an ecosystem is important, so we can ensure that the stream can continue to survive. We first surveyed Flag Ponds and concluded that the biotic index was 5.67. We then found the biotic index of Battle Creek, which was 5.51. The biotic index indicates the health of an environment by indicating the types of organisms found in it. Both of the streams are fairly healthy, though they could be healthier.  ​

Picture of an insect.
Keeping our streams healthy protects animals like this mayfly!


Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes solms) in Vietnam
​December 3, 2019

This is an article and video shared from Students Huy at 11A4 class of Mrs Linh Truong at Binh Thuy High School in Vietnam about Eichhornia crassipes solms when it is sunset.

The western part of Vietnam is associated with water.  Here, plant life is very diverse and is the favored environment for Eichhoriaceae crassipes solms or Water Hyacinth of the Pontederiaceae species.

,They appear idyllic in association with the countryside in Vietnam, with light purple flowers growing in clusters at the top of the plant in the summer.  The base of the hyacinth is ribbed in the shape of a bow and sprouts into an asterisk shape.  The petiole bulges into a buoy-shape, resembling a jar.  Stems and roots form large mats to help the plants float on the water.

​Leaves grow fast so it is easy to clog lakes and canals. Often,  Eichhoriaceae crassipes solms is used as organic fertilizer. Additionally,  flowers are used as animal food, composting mushrooms, and for fertilizing.
Eichhoriaceae crassipes solms is very helpful for the environment, but the whole plant is poisonous.

Birds of The Himalayan Foothills
October 8, 2019

The diversity of birdlife across India is truly astonishing.  Sattal is one of the famous locations to see an incredible array of birdlife in the lower region of the Himalayan mountains.  Our friend Sujith S., traveled to Sattal after a Fulbright educator conference in Delhi.  He was kind enough to share some of his photos which provide us a glimpse of the diversity of birds found in Sattal.

Picture

Squirrels in Russia
​September 5, 2019

A few months ago, we requested that schools share their squirrels with the Biodiversity Blog.  Squirrels are often fairly common, easy to observe species, yet they display an amazing diversity in their form and behaviors.  We appreciate the recent post from the students at the Roshchinski State School in the Lipetsk region of Russia.  Their teacher, Ms. Irina Azarova, shared their article on the squirrel species found near their school and across much of Russia.  We appreciate this article very much and look forward to learning more about the biodiversity across our globe!

Picture

The Eurasian Red Squirrel is the largest subspecies of the common squirrel with very thick fur. Winter fur is very light, silver-gray with grayish ripples; the tail is pale gray with an admixture of blackish and yellowish-rusty tones.  Red Squirrels are smart, beautiful and friendly. These animals belonging to the rodent family and they are very mobile and graceful.
They only have two broods a year, but in each litter, there are from 3 to 10 squirrels. The first brood is usually in March, the second is in the middle of summer.
Despite the good ability to reproduce, the number of Red Squirrels is small. In addition to the Crimean peninsula, these squirrels live on the territory of western Siberia and Kamchatka; they have recently been acclimatized in the Caucasus.

At home, Red Squirrels live in dry pine forests along the upper reaches of the Ob, Irtysh, Middle Yenisei and their tributaries. First, they were released for acclimatization in the forests of the Crimean region, as well as to improve the quality of local ordinary squirrel fur in the forests of the Kremen district of the Voroshilovgrad region and the Korosten district of the Zhytomyr region. But Red Squirrels found the most favorable climatic and natural conditions for life only in the Crimea. Here the location of the Red Squirrel is associated with a high yield of the main food of these animals – nuts; that is why squirrels live in forest plantations with dense thickets of hazel.

In spring and summer, Red Squirrels live mainly in the valleys of mountain rivers.

Late in autumn and winter, when snow falls in the mountains, they migrate to the watersheds in pine and beech forests or closer to orchards and vineyards. The nests in which they live and give birth to babies, are arranged in most types deciduous and coniferous trees. The first offspring they have is very early – at the end of April. After about 40 days of pregnancy, the female gives birth to three to five babies. The rates of its reproduction in the Crimean forests vividly testify to the successful acclimatization of Red Squirrels.

​In our small-town zoo, there is a Eurasian Red Squirrel. It has been living there for already 5 years. A lot of children come to the zoo to see this beautiful animal. Our students work as volunteers to take care of the squirrel and other animals.

Backyard Birds in Punjab Province
​August 14, 2019

Our friend and teacher, Irum Butt, visited her sister who lives near the desert regions in Rahim Yar Khan in Punjab province of Pakistan.  Her sister’s family provides food and water for local wildlife and enjoy interacting with these visitors.  See some of the photos and videos that she captured during the visit.  Thanks Irum for sharing your observations!

Picture

This first video shows a pair of Black-rumped Flameback Woodpeckers as they drink from the water source in this backyard habitat.

This second video demonstrates the vocalizations of the Asian Koel, a member of the Cuckoo family.  These birds are widely distributed across southeast Asia.  Like most cuckoos, the Koel lays its eggs in the nests of other birds.  The young koel are raised by these “foster parents”.  This type of behavior is known as brood parasitism. 

Picture of squirrels.
Palm squirrels enjoying food and water in Rahim Yar Khan.
Picture of birds.
A pair of Laughing Doves visit the feeding station.
Picture of birds.
A pair of Asian Koel. The female is on the left and the male is on the right.

Red Squirrels and Global Education!
July 22, 2019

Picture of a squirrel
Red squirrels feed largely on nuts and pine cones.

​Back in February, we had put out a request for posts about squirrels.  These animals can be found over much of the planet, varying to a degree from region to region around the world.  Some nice images of some Red Squirrels were sent in by frequent contributor, Lizoon Nahar.   Lizoon is a teacher at the BAF Shaheen English Medium School in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  

Picture of a squirrel.
Red squirrels are excellent climbers!

​Red squirrels range over much of the northern tier of the United States and into Canada.  Their populations dip southward along the Appalachian and Rocky Mountain ranges.   The squirrels thrive at these higher elevations where there is an abundance of conifers (pines, spruce, firs, and hemlocks) which provide the cones that make up much of the squirrels’ diet.  Red squirrels are also known as predators of young birds and eggs.  Red squirrels are excellent climbers, allowing them to reach their food sources and to escape from predators.

Picture of squirrels.
Red squirrels are also known as “pine squirrels” or “chickarees”.

What makes these images remarkable is that they were taken in Indiana, Pennsylvania by Lizoon’s friends Cindy and Gloria Vatavuk.   This friendship was developed during Lizoon’s International Leadership in Education (ILEP) exchange program experience at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.  This exchange and several others are sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and administered by IREX.  Some of the values of these global exchanges are the long-term friendships and the collegial relationships that form after these face-to-face experiences. 

​While Pennsylvania is a neighboring state to Maryland (where this post is being written), the images came through to the blog from literally the other side of the world!  This underscores the value of global education as a connecting point for teachers and students around the planet.  We have a shared interest in learning about and protecting our global biodiversity!

Picture
Lizoon (right) with Cindy (photographer) in Pennsylvania during the ILEP exchange.
Picture
Lizoon (left) with Gloria during the ILEP exchange.

​Thank you Lizoon, Cindy, and Gloria for sharing these images and for participating in our global biodiversity forum!

Keeping an Eye Out for Dolphins!
​July 11, 2019

Picture of dolphins.
Bottlenose Dolphins (photo from NOAA Fisheries)

Most people around the Chesapeake Bay typically think of blue crabs, oysters, and rockfish as the iconic species of the region.  In recent years,  scientists from the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science have been urging the public to keep an eye out for a new visitor to the bay, Bottlenose dolphins!   As sightings around the bay have increased, scientists are working to understand why these marine mammals are making inroads into the Chesapeake and its tributaries.

To facilitate the collection of data, a Chesapeake DolphinWatch app has been developed to help the public to share their sightings of dolphins in the region.  To read more about the application and how to become involved in the project, click on the button below.

Schoolyard Wildlife and the Maryland Biodiversity Project
​June 6, 2019

Students from Mrs. Ward’s class at Calvert Country School have been researching the wildlife that they have been finding on their school property.  Data collected is shared with the Maryland Biodiversity Project, an effort to document the distribution of living things across the state.  Through stream surveys and the use of trail cameras, the students have made a valuable contribution to our knowledge of wildlife distribution in our county and the state of Maryland!  The students wrote up some background information on their findings.

Picture of a salamander
Two-lined Salamander

From Jonathan:  A common amphibian found in Calvert County is the Northern Two-lined Salamander. This salamander can be described as having greenish-yellowish or orange-blackish skin. It is 2 ½ to 3 3/34 inches long. It has a yellow belly. The Salamander lives in a wet habitat. The habitat has wetlands, streams, and rocks. The salamander’s diet consists of worms, bugs and other salamanders. This salamander sheds its skin. They tease their predator with their tail because it is detachable and will grow back. Salamanders are unable to hear sound. They use their tongue to smell and taste.

Picture of a raccoon
Raccoon

From Jonathan: One common mammal found in Calvert County and your school’s backyard is the raccoon. The raccoon can be described as having a robber mask for a face, a striped tail. It has short front legs and long back legs. They weigh about 10-35 pounds. The Raccoon lives in a wet marshy habitat. This habitat has swamps and marshes. Sometimes they live in suburbs because there is trash to get into. This mammal’s diet consists of fish, plums, crayfish, and berries.  The raccoon is usually nocturnal and solitary. It is more active during the spring and fall.  This mammal, at times, can be considered a pest. The public can call 877-463-6497 or visit the MD DNR website.
Interesting Info:

  • Raccoons have thumbs
  • Responsible for 60% of rabies
  • They look like robbers
  • Can transmit canine distemper to dogs
Picture of a River Otter
This River Otter at Calvert Country School was the first ever recorded on a Calvert County school yard!

From Lucie: One common mammal found in Calvert County and your school’s backyard is the North American River Otter. The river otter can be described as having a long slender body covered in grown, waterproof fur. They range from 36 to 60 inches long from head to tail. They have sharp claws on their feet to catch prey. The river otter lives in a wet habitat. This habitat has streams, rivers, lakes, and fresh and saltwater marshes. This mammal’s diet consists of fish, frogs, crayfish, shellfish, and sometimes aquatic insects, snakes, turtles, salamanders, earth worms, small birds, and small mammals. The river otter is managed as a fur-bearing animal. The public can learn more about the fur-bearing management by visiting https://dnr.maryland.gov.
Interesting Info

  • They are the largest member of the weasel family.
  • They live in a variety of habitats.
  • They use dens made by beavers.
  • They are primarily carnivorous. 
Picture of an opossum
Virginia Opossum

From Khari: One common animal found in Calvert County and your school’s backyard is the Opossum.  The scientific name is Didelphis Virginiana. The opossum can be described as having a long tail and a pouch to carry their young. The opossum lives in a woody habitat. This habitat includes dens in a hollow tree or under stumps and roots. This mammal’s diet consists of insects, frogs, worms, birds, fruits, nuts and carrion (dead animals). The opossum is usually nomadic, and they rarely establish their own territory. They are mostly nocturnal and wander throughout areas in the night to search for food. Opossum’s fake an illness to avoid predators. They also freeze to avoid predators. This mammal, at times, can be considered a pest. The public can call the furbearers hotline: 877-620-8DNR (8367) or visit the website: dnr.Maryland.gov/wildlife/pages/plants_wildlife/opossum.aspx. 

Picture of a squirrel
Eastern Gray Squirrel

From Khari:  ​Another common mammal found is the Eastern Gray Squirrel. The Eastern Gray Squirrel is described as having gray fur and a bushy tail. They weigh from 14 to 16 ounces and are 9 to 12 inches. Their habitat range could be up to 40 acres of land. They construct their dens on bare or hollow branches. They also use abandoned bird nests for shelter. Since they’re predominantly a nut-eating species, they are found in many Oak and Hickory forests in North America. Their den (or drey) reduces heat loss. These squirrels feed on bark, seeds, walnuts, acorns and other kinds of nuts. They also eat beech nuts, pine seeds, maple samaras, wild grapes, and American holly berries. The Eastern Gray Squirrel will sometimes eat dog wood, black cherries, bird eggs and amphibians. They are alert, aggressive and inquisitive. They dig through snow to retrieve buried nuts. If there are any problems managing this animal please visit this website: www.animalspot.net/eastern-gray-squirrel.html or call the Nuisance wildlife hotline at: 1-877-463-6497.

Deep Sea Food Chains
Science in Action
June 3, 2019

Dr. Blaire Umhau is a former Calvert County Public Schools student who went on to study Marine Biology.  She shares below some fascinating experiences conducting research deep in the Pacific Ocean.  Thank you Dr. Umhau, for sharing your experience with us!

Exploration of the Deep Sea Food Chain
Dr. Blaire P. Umhau

In May, I went on an expedition with a team of scientists working to better understand the deep-sea food web.  Scientists believe that animals living on the sea floor in deep (~4000 m) water need more food to survive than scientists estimate sinks to the depths from the surface waters.  The food from the surface is in the form of tiny particles of organic material containing nutrients like carbon and nitrogen that these animals need to survive.  Our goal was to determine what other food may be available and what the organisms are actually consuming. To do this, we used pumps to filter water and collect the particles that sink to the seafloor that deep sea animals will eat. We also collected organisms from the seafloor using the submersible Alvin.  Alvin is a small submarine capable of diving to a depth of 4,500 m on dives that last up to 10 hours. 

Picture of a ship.
We boarded the research vessel Atlantis in San Diego, CA and steamed to our sampling site, over 200 kilometers off the coast in water 4000 meters deep. (Photo by Eric Tappa)
Picture of a pump used in research.
One of the pumps we put in the water to collect particles. The red tape marks the top of the stack of filters on which the particles are collected. Pumps are lowered to a specific depth and run water through the filters for 5 hours to collect enough material.
Picture of a scientist.
Dr. Claudia Benitez-Nelson prepares to deploy a pump. We deployed the pumps at night most of the time because people were busy with Alvin operations during the daytime. At sea, research happens 24/7.
Picture of filters.
Filters coated in particles that make up the base of the food chain. Different colors indicate different types particle material. Approximately 1,800 liters of water have passed through these filters.
Picture of a submersible.
A view of the submersible Alvin from the front. Milk crates in the foreground contain sampling equipment. The blue discs cover the viewports (windows) and protect them from scratches.
Picture of a submersible.
To enter the submersible, scientists ascend a narrow set of stairs and climb through a hatch in the top just prior to launch. The submersible is then lifted off the ship’s deck and lowered into the water. (Photo by Eric Tappa)
Picture of a scientist.
The passenger compartment of the submersible is a two-meter diameter titanium sphere with room for a pilot and 2 scientific observers. Here I am holding the controls for the cameras that show the view outside of the submersible.
Picture of submersible under the sea.
Alvin’s robotic arm collecting a coral stalk that is home to a bright red brittle star and a tunicate, as well as numerous barnacles.
Picture of a deep sea view.
Another tool used to collect samples is the slurp gun, which acts similarly to the extension arm of a vacuum cleaner. A curious rattail fish is hanging out in the background.
Picture of the deep sea environment.
The view from one of the viewports of one of the robotic arms and the tools used to collect samples.
Picture of the deep sea environment.
The pilot uses the robotic arm to collect a sediment sample using a tool called an Ekman core. This sample hopefully contains small worms and other organisms that live in the mud.
Picture of the ship.
When it is time to bring Alvin back onboard R/V Atlantis at the end of the dive, two divers swim out to the submersible and attach the lines used to hoist Alvin back onto the ship.
Picture of a starfish.
Brittle star. Because all red light is absorbed by the water, the bright red color looks black in the deep ocean and acts as camouflage. (Photo by Eric Tappa)
Picture of a sea urchin.
Sea Urchin
Picture of a crab.
A type of benthic (bottom dwelling) crab. (Photo by Eric Tappa)
Picture of a starfish.
A type of sea star collected from the seafloor.
Picture of a sea cucumber.
A sea cucumber collected from the sea floor 4000 m below the surface.

​The specimens we collected have been taken back to labs on land to be analyzed.  Hopefully, they will help us better understand how the deep-sea food chain works.

More from the American Chestnut Land Trust
​May 7, 2019

Cooper shared: My favorite part of the field trip to the American Chestnut Land Trust in Calvert County was when our group got to work in the farm there. Half of our group was working on a technique of farming called hugelkulture. This is where you dig a hole, put in horse manure, old wood, mulch, compost, then mound dirt on the top of it all. The other half of the group were mainly weeding. I was in the group that was weeding. We had to weed a whole row of plants full of weeds to help the Daisy Girl Scouts that were planting sweet potatoes in that area. All the food planted there goes straight to food pantries to people aren’t as fortunate to get fresh food. The volunteers at the ACLT will harvest the plants, wash them, and put them straight on a truck to get them shipped, so they could be as fresh as possible. ACLT donates about 3,000 pounds of vegetables from this. I think this is a great thing especially since most of the workers are volunteers. One thing I wonder though, is what do they plant in these farms and give to the pantries. Going to the ACLT was a fun field trip and we helped to do a great cause.

Picture of a greenhouse.
This is a picture of the designated area for the horse manure for filling the holes. It is also where we put the weeds we picked and in the background is the high tunnel, where the ACLT plants during the cold season.
Picture of a bird house.
This is what they call at the ACLT as a bird hotel where they can have many birds stay to eat food and to hatch their eggs inside. In the background is a smaller birdhouse for birds to also eat food and hatch their eggs, but since it is closer to the ground, it has a cone to keep out snakes and raccoons from eating the eggs.
Picture of a flower.
While on our hike, we found and talked about many different plants in and around the area. This is one is called the Virginia Waterleaf. The Virginia Waterleaf will stick it’s seeds to someone or something walking by to spread it’s seeds which usually happens in the early to mid-spring.

Lillian reports: ​Our science class went on a field trip to the American Chestnut Land Trust, where we did farm work, searched for insects, and went on a hike. My favorite part of the trip was the hiking. I was fun to stop and look around as the guide told us things about plants and animals in the area. There were many difficult hills where everyone’s legs were hurting but we saw so many awesome things on the way. For instance, we saw a huge box turtle that our guide says was the biggest he had ever seen. We also saw a salamander chilling on a fallen log. It was also a great experience to work in the garden. I helped with preparing a section for sweet
potatoes to be grown. We had to clear weeds then put horse poop over top to put nutrients into the soil. Overall one of the best fiend trips from all of middle school.

Picture of ferns.
This is a Christmas tree fern. You can tell that it is a Christmas tree fern because the leaves look like stockings. That’s where it gets its nickname from.
Picture of a snake.
This is a worm snake that was found in a compost pile.
Picture of a beetle.
This is a bug a found in a rock pile near the edge of the woods. I’m not sure what type of bug it is but I thought it was cool.

Exploring a Local Land Trust
​May 2, 2019

Much of the protected land in the United States is managed by federal, state and local governments. However, there are many natural areas that have been saved from development by forward thinking private citizens that work together to preserve areas of natural significance.  The American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT) in Calvert County, Maryland is one of these private sanctuaries.  Recently, Mrs. Gallihugh brought her eighth grade classes to the ACLT to continue their studies of biodiversity in our region.  Below are some of the reflections of her students.

https://voicethread.com/myvoice/thread/13349269/80891517/75057405

Jasmin reports: My favorite thing that we did on the trip is going on the hike. We walked on one of their trails and went down to the creek. The guide spoke in depth about many of the different plants and birds that we saw and heard along the trail. It was fun being with friends and learning about nature. One of my favorite plants are the Christmas ferns, and I saw many of them along the trail. On one of the trees we found this leaf that gives off a scent when you crumble it up, and it didn’t smell that good. Down in the creek there is this old beaver dam. There were still some of the dam there but most of it had broken down over time. It was calming being in the woods; hearing the natural sounds of the animals in the woods. I did also like shoveling mulch when we got back from the hike. It was fun and I liked helping them out. I had spoken to the lady who was helping us out in the garden and told her how we do this stuff at our green team. She used to be the leader of the green team at her school when she went. I thought that was cool.

Picture of a fern
We found this beautiful Christmas fern, pretty right?

Taisiya observes:  On April 29th, my class went to ACLT for a field trip. We went on a mile-long hike, farmed, and observed leaves. My favorite part of the field trip was going on the mile-long hike. We stopped every few steps to look at the different things in nature. Our tour guide told us that we could have seen snakes, beaver, plants, and many more animals. My group got see this leaf that smelled like spices, plants, a dead snake, and bugs. While we were on our hike, we went on this bridge that took us over leaves and water. Our tour guide told us facts and then we went back where we came from. When coming back from the hike it didn’t feel like it did when we started the hike.  When I left I wondered: How long does it take for banana peels to compost?

Picture

Lindsay wrote: On April 29, 2019 I went to ACLT (American Chestnut Land Trust) for a field trip. My favorite part of the trip was the hike. I liked that we went hiking through the woods and we got to see many different things in nature such as learning about new plants, trees, and flowers and we also got to see a beaver dam. I learned that Mrs. Gallihugh’s favorite plant is the “Jack in the Pulpit”.

Picture of a tree chewed by a beaver.
Students saw a beaver dam and plenty of signs of beaver activity.

Kyleigh shared:  My favorite part of the field trip was the hike where one of the workers told us about the different types of plants found along the trial. When we first got there, we were split up into 3 different groups. My group went to their garden space to dig holes so they could plant their crops for the summer. Then my group went over to the barn and picked bugs out of water from the streams and recorded how many we found. The last thing my group did was walk on the trails while the worker explained what types of plant were on the trail.

Picture of aquatic insects.
A variety of stream insects were found.

Alexis observed: On April 29, 2019 my science class and I went on a field trip to the American Chestnut Land Trust and did many things involving the biodiversity in our ecosystem. The things we did consisted  of searching through leaf bags filled with many different insects of many species, going on a hike on a trail and looking at the many different plants and/or native plants, animals, and just our ecosystem. We also conducted a type of farming called hugelkulture it was something I’ve never done or heard before so it was interesting to do. Hugelkulture is when you dig a hole in our case it was a 4x2x2 foot hole, and once you dig the hole you put horse manure, wood chunks, mulch, and dirt in it and wait for it all to
decompose. Once decomposed it turns into a very rich soil superior for farming. Overall I think it is great what the American Chestnut Land Trust (ACLT) is doing for our economy and I for one had a fun time experiencing it.

Picture of students working on a farm.
Working on the ACLT farm!

Ryleigh observed: On April 29 we went to ACLT. We did many things on this trip. My group started off searching through the leaf bags trying to find bugs. At first this wasn’t very interesting but once we started find different bugs and watched them it was very fun. Then after that we went on a hike for about an hour. We stopped every few feet to look at the scenery and our tour guide taught us about the plants and animals around us. After that we worked on the farm. This was my favorite part of the trip. I used the wheel barrel to bring the mulch and then my classmates spread it around the flowers. After we had finished that a classmate and I weeded out the gardens getting ready for the potatoes to be planted. At the end the leader told my friends and I that we would be terrific “flower girls.” It was very fun and I’m glad that we could help the ACLT while having fun and learning about our Earth.

Picture of aquatic insects.
Some large crane fly larvae were found.

Chase tells us:  It was a cold day in late April. My class went on a field trip to ACLT. We did many things on this trip, such as, going on a hike, digging a hole to make richer soil, and trying to find different species in water. In my opinion, the best part was probably the hike. This is because it was very cool to see all the different types of plants. On the hike, we saw poison ivy, Christmas ferns, and much more. The Christmas ferns were probably the coolest plant. This is because it’s a fern that has leaves that look almost like stockings from Christmas. This is why its called the “Christmas fern”.  This type of fern doesn’t harm you or start a rash like a poison Ivy plant does.

Picture of ferns.
Christmas ferns were common on the ACLT trails.

From Griffin: ​For our field trip to the American Chestnut Land Trust we had activities to do like for example, working with mulch by moving it from a pile. My favorite part of the trip was when we observed leaf packs to find aquatic bugs in water. This was my favorite part because I got to see what we could find and it was enjoyable. The bugs also got to show us the quality of the water because of the kind of bug that is in the water, for example if Stoneflies and Mayflies were in the water then the quality would be good. For my group we found Caddisflies, Stoneflies, and Mayflies and some Scuds were in the water too, meaning the water was high quality.

Picture of students.
Students enjoyed conducting the stream surveys.

Bio-Blitzing for a Purpose!
​April 26, 2019 

We encourage students to learn about the world around them.  Students enjoy the opportunity to get out of the classroom and explore the natural environment surrounding their school buildings.  These adventures are not only great learning experiences, but also can yield some valuable data for larger scientific studies.  Students in Mrs. Gallihugh’s classes at Mill Creek Middle School recently conducted a “Bio-Blitz”, recording all of the living things encountered during their outdoor survey.  This data is being shared with the Maryland Biodiversity Project, an effort to document living things across the state of Maryland.   Below you can find some student writing samples about their work and some images captured during the bio-blitz.

Veronica shares: After visiting the Maryland Biodiversity Project website, we realized there weren’t many species of wildlife and plants observed in the Solomon’s Island quad. Because our school is in said quad, we went outside in hopes of discovering and observing species to fill in the gaps of data between our quad and the surrounding quads. Students were equipped with cell phone cameras, so that the variety of species found at Mill Creek could be documented.  One of the species of wildlife found was a worm snake. The worm snake was found after turning over a few rocks in a drainage ditch. We hypothesize the worm snake was found under a rock because that is where it’s main source of food could be found. We also came to this conclusion because a variety of bugs (mostly ants) came rushing out upon the rock being turned over. This leads us to believe that worm snakes prefer ants over other types of foods.

From Beau: In science class, we were exploring biodiversity in our ecosystem. To do this, we went on the Maryland Biodiversity Project website. Once we went on to this website, we located our quadrant, the Solomon’s island quadrant, and looked at what data was missing. Once we did this, we tried to fix that by going outside and searching for the missing animals in our quadrant. Some of the animals we found consisted of…

Picture of salamander eggs.
This is a spotted salamander egg that we found in a small body of water nearby our school.
Picture of a snake.
This is a worm snake. We found it when we were searching underneath rocks in the woods behind our school.

Savannah writes: My science class went outside to find different species in our school ecosystem. Our class then uploaded the pictures we took of species and saved them in an MCMS album on Schoology.  We then decided to identify some of the species we found using apps like Seek and iNaturalist. This is one of the species we found in Mill Creek Middle School in Solomons, MD.

Chase reported: It was a sunny day in April. My science class decided togo outside and look for any types of species found in the back of our school. Before this, we had visited MarylandBiodiversityProject.com and found that not many species are recorded in our quadrant, which is the Solomon’s Island quad. We went into the woods and we found many different types of species such as, worms, snakes, and different types of trees and plants. While outside, we found a worm snake. This snake was found under a rock which we picked up. The snake was slippery and very tiny, it also seemed very calm when we picked it up and had no problem with us taking it out of his home.

American Holly found at Mill Creek Middle School
This is American Holly. We found this on a tree fairly close from Mill Creek Middle School.
A violet flower found in the dirt
This is a violet which has been found outside in dirt surrounded by other sticks and plants.

Jamie wrote: In my science class we went on a bio-blitz through the woods at our school. The woods that we searched through was in the Solomons quadrant. A bio-blitz is an activity where you go into the woods to explore for animals and other living things. Prior to going outdoors to find animals in our quadrant we visited the Maryland Biodiversity Project website to see how many species are reported in our quad. There are only a few species reported in our quad. In our quadrant we have animals such as salamanders, salamander eggs, snakes, spiders and deer.

A dandelion grows at Mill Creek Middle School.
A dandelion grows at Mill Creek Middle School.

Hunter said: On April 12, 2019 our class went outside to conduct a BioBlitz experiment on the school grounds. During the previous class (April 10) we set up a frog recorder to help us gather sound to determine which frogs live in the area. However, we weren’t here to examine the sound data. A BioBlitz is when you go outside to collect as much data as you can in a limited amount of time, then examine it. An example of plant life that we found was a Wild Violet. A Violet is a “lawn weed” with beautiful purple petals. Another lawn weed is the dandelion.  A dandelion is a weed with yellow petals.

Biodiversity Soundscapes
​April 15, 2019

The sounds of nature reflect the health of our local biodiversity.  Through a generous grant from the U.S. Department of State, we were able to purchase some equipment to help gather sounds illustrating the biodiversity from a partner school located in Calicut, India.   Teacher Sujith S. set up the Song Meter 4 recorder at the Aralam Wildlife Sanctuary located in Kerala in the southwestern part of India.  This recorder captures one minute sound samples every half hour.  The collected sounds help to document the biodiversity of the area.  Students in Calvert County, Maryland (US) will share sounds collected through their own biodiversity studies.  These sounds will also be posted on the Global Biodiversity Blog as a way to celebrate the richness of the soundscape of our Planet Earth!  Stay tuned.

“This project was made possible by an award sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA), with funding provided by the U.S. Government and administered by IREX. The views and information presented are the grantee’s own and do not represent the U.S. Department of State, or IREX.”  

Small Green Bee-eater and Black-rumped Flameback

In this recording you will first hear the call of the Small Green Bee-eater.   At :17, listen for the Black-rumped Flameback or Lesser Golden-backed Woodpecker to make a loud call as it flies past the recorder.  The sound made by members of the woodpecker family is similar around the world! 

Racket-tailed Drongo, Jerdon’s Nightjar, and Srilankan Frogmouth

In this pre-dawn recording, listen for the Racket Tailed Drongo to call throughout the segment.   Turn your volume up a bit and try to hear the Jerdon’s Nightjar at :05 and  :08 seconds.  The call is a distant and short “cough” like sound.  
See if you can pick out the Srilankan Frogmouth call at :30 and :49.   These last two birds are related to the Whip-poor-Whill and Chuck-Will’s Widow that can be found in the United States.

Blooming Deserts
​April 12, 2019

Many of us think of deserts as barren wastelands colored only in shades of brown or gray.  The desert comes alive following winter rains and there can be a burst of color and activity as desert flowers begin to bloom.  This year in southern California, a so-called ‘Super Bloom’ followed a rainy winter season.   These blooms are followed by the mass emergence of many butterflies and caterpillars that feed on this profusion of plant growth.

Our friend, Rick Froehbrodt, a fifth grade teacher at the Franklin Elementary STEAM Magnet School in San Diego, shared some images of a recent trip into Anza Borrego State Park.   His student, Kayla N., wrote up a nice description of the park to accompany Rick’s images.  Thanks Rick and Kayla for a great post!

The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is the largest state park in California. It is 25 miles east to west and 50 miles north to south. It was named after a Spanish explorer, Juan Bautista de Anza and Borrego, the Spanish word for sheep. It’s located in the Colorado desert of southern California. In the summer the temperature can reach 110 degrees or more.  In the winter it decreased by 40%. Many visitors come to the Anza-Borrego for their beautiful wildflowers such as the verbena and lilies.

                                                                                                                                    -Kayla N.

White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar gorging itself on the desert bloom.
White-lined Sphinx Moth caterpillar gorging itself on the desert bloom.
Painted Lady Butterfly feeding upon the Desert Dandelion.
Painted Lady Butterfly feeding upon the Desert Dandelion.
A Painted Lady Butterfly on the ground
Painted Lady Butterflies are one of the most abundant species in the California desert.
Painted Lady caterpillars feeding upon the desert bloom.
Painted Lady caterpillars feeding upon the desert bloom.
Two White-Lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillars
Different stages of White-lined Sphinx Moth Caterpillar
A size comparison of a caterpillar and a finger
These caterpillars are huge!

Urban Owls
​April 3, 2019

While we think of owls as inhabitants of deep dark forest landscapes, there are some species that can be found in close proximity to human activity.  In fact, there are some species that thrive in the heart of the city!  Our friend, Lizoon Nahar from BAF Shaheen English Medium School in Dhaka, Bangladeshshared some student work about an owl observation in an urban setting.

A Spotted Owlet in a tree
A Spotted Owlet

Spotted Owlets:
This small and stocky Spotted Owlet, binomially named ‘Athene brama’, is from the Animalia Kingdom and Chordata Phylum. They can be found near human habitation because of the increased availability of rodents over there to feed the young. They breed in Tropical Asia between November and April, and perch in quite small groups in the dent of trees or in the holes of rocks or buildings. A variety of insects, for example, small invertebrates, scorpions, molluscs etc. are hunted by them.

A map of the surveyed area

In spite of being nocturnal, meaning that they are active at night, these owlets can sometimes be seen during the day. A fascinating behavior of them is that, if anyone disturbs them from their daytime place, they jerk their heads and simply stare at the intruders.

​Spotted Owlets are very familiar to people, mostly because of their call which is a loud and harsh churring and chuckling chirrur-chirrur-chirrur ending with a chirwak-chirwak. Many people have linked them with bad omen too.

A Spotted Owlet in a tree
A Spotted Owlet in a tree

Article was written by: Mayeesha Nawar Reza, Class- Std. VIII,  Section- Kingfisher,Roll- 02
BAF Shaheen English Medium School, Dhaka, Bangladesh.

 
The photos were taken by Zaheen Binte Parvez of BAFWA Golden Eagle Nursery School from the Pakshi Resort area in Kushtia district of Bangladesh.

Bio-Blitz!!
​March 20, 2019

A Bio-Blitz is a wide ranging survey of biodiversity in a given area.  All living things that can be documented are recorded and shared using a variety of different apps that support this effort.  Mr. Cook from Plum Point Middle School located in Calvert County, Maryland (U.S.A.), shared his students’ experience with a Bio-Blitz.

Back in December, students in Mr. Cook’s 8th grade Science class participated in a BioBlitz using the apps Seek and iNaturalist. Here is what some of the students had to say about the experience.

A group of students by the woods
PPMS students conduct a December Bio-Blitz.

​“Do you think the ecosystem is diverse at PPMS?  My first period class went outside on the cold Tuesday morning to find out, we went out and looked for organisms to find to determine if our school’s environment was diverse depending on how many different organisms we found. We found a total of 15 organisms in our school’s ecosystem just in our middle school’s backyard!  After we identified some organisms, the next day we went into groups and discussed all the organisms the classes had found. We attempted to identify some of the unknown organisms, but we did not have much luck. We did find something interesting, someone had found a worm and an ant.  We were mainly shocked by the worm because when we were out, we could not find any animals, especially a worm because of how cold it was. We did think the ant was a possibility that we just did not find because of how small ants are. One other observation that was cool and interesting was the mountain laurel which is a kind of flower, I only found this strange because there were three identifications of those, but I have never seen the flowers growing so it will be interesting to see them growing in spring. The ecosystem at PPMS is diverse according to the observations because all the things found seemed balanced and none were taking over, and none were dying out. So, to think about how 99% of the things we found were only in 6 hula hoops out of the whole back yard of our school, PPMS is a diverse ecosystem.”  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 Bailee H.

A student taking a picture of a Hula-Hoop on the ground.
Hula-Hoops make great transects for a Bio-Blitz.

​“Have you ever wondered what the ecosystem of your school was like?  On Tuesday, Dec 4, Mr. Cook’s 2nd period went outside to observe the different species living in the schoolyard.  The day was very overcast, windy, and cold.  The students got into groups of 7 to walk around and discover the different species living around them.
As my group went to the first hoop, we found many types of mosses and leaves and recorded them on the papers given to us.  Moving to different hoops, we began to find more of a variety of plants and animals living in the schoolyard.  There were different trees and bushes all around the school that we were able to identify using the Seek and iNaturalist apps.  In some hoops, there were small insects that were discovered when looking closely at the plants in that area.  Most of the insects that were found were small, like ants, but some worms were also discovered in the ground.  Something interesting about observing the plants and animals was that we could see specifically what species live around us every day.  It was very difficult to find a lot of different organisms because of the current season.  Because it is almost winter, most of the species have left to find warmer areas or have died from the temperatures.”
                                                                                                            Emily C.

A green leafy plant called a Japanese Aucuba at Plum Point Middle School
A Japanese Aucuba at Plum Point Middle School.

“Have you ever looked out your window to see plants? Of course, you have! But, have you ever studied the plants closely? Recently, my science class and I went outside to observe different plants and organisms. We found a wide range of plant species. One observation that we made was we found an Eastern Redcedar, it is a small tree. It has long pointy leaves and many branches. Another observation is a Japanese aucuba. This bush is very large compared to the Eastern Redcedar. It has dark and light-colored leaves and is very pretty.  Also, we found it shocking that we were able to find so many plants in one area and many different types of plants! We also found a Japanese Honeysuckle, a little plant with four large leaves or stems. We found many more. We used the app “Seek” to identify the different specific species. I learned so much about my local ecosystem and the organisms living in it. I am very happy to say my local ecosystem has very good biodiversity. Having positive biodiversity means that when a natural disaster or any life-threatening issue occurs, there is more room for animals to change and cope with their new ecosystem, or with the loss of an organism within their food chain or ecosystem. I encourage you to go and study your local ecosystem and see whether it has a good biodiversity or a bad one. #Study your local Ecosystem! #BeOnewithyourBackyard”
                                                                                                                   Caroline G.

An earthworm on the ground
An earthworm documented during the Bio-Blitz.

“…Then the next day we stayed inside in order to identify all the species that we took pictures of. We identified the moss as a fern moss and the fungi as black knot. Then we identified the worm as a common earthworm.  We have found that the biodiversity in your backyard may not be the best but there are still many important living factors in your very own backyard. This shows us that the health of our ecosystem is not good because there’s not much biodiversity.”
                                                                                                            Fisher B.

Three students writing on a sheet of paper
Students recording data for the Bio-Blitz.

“In class the next day, we set out to identify all the species that we could from the previous day. Out of all the species posted on the app, 15 were successfully identified. There were still many unidentified species and work to be done. It was sometimes difficult to identify the organisms in the photos because there were often many species that’s appearances matched the photos. Using the iNaturalist app, we were able to get feedback on the photos from different people. Some were specialists in the organisms, while others just knew what the species were by looking at them. It was interesting to see the different species of plants that we often just group together as “trees” or “bushes”.
By going through the process of identifying various organisms in the schoolyard, I can conclude that there is a wide diversity of plants, but a low variety of animal species. Biodiversity is important because, by seeing the animals that live there and what conditions they need to survive, you can define the current conditions of the ecosystem. I’ve discovered that you can learn a lot about the ecosystems around you by spending time looking at the different organisms that live there. In using the iNaturalist and Seek apps, we could easily and quickly get access to feedback on the species that we took pictures of.”
                                                                                                                         Laura J.     

Crape Myrtle Tree
Crape Myrtle tree at Plum Point Middle School.

“I found It very interesting and slightly exhilarating when I identified a species. I felt proud and like a true scientist which was fun. On the other hand, it was very cool to look around the environment that I am surrounded with and pass daily. My only wish is that we had had more time for the identifying part of the activity.
It is important to consider the biodiversity of an ecosystem because one ecosystem could affect other systems around the world. Biodiversity helps humans in ways I would’ve never imagined. I never realized the impact that ecosystems have on medicine and the life of humans on this earth. One small species going extinct from a natural disaster- for example- could end up being catastrophic. One species dying affects an ecosystem’s food chain, affecting which species live and die, potentially leading to the destruction of an ecosystem. Also, if this isn’t enough, one ecosystem’s deceasing could affect the others. All of this leads back to the way that humans are affected. Without biodiversity the entire world is at risk and is not stable. We need biodiversity for the well-being of this planet and the development of our society.”  
                                                                                                                                Anna I.

An ant on someone's fingertip
Ant species observed during the December Bio-Blitz!

“The next day, we used iNaturalist and Seek to identify organisms. We compared the pictures we took with the pictures of other already identified organisms suggested by iNaturalist. We identified a few of the same organisms and had about 10 different species that we identified. I found doing that very interesting. Overall, it was a very interesting experience to search for then identify organisms around my school. If there is ever a BioBlitz near you, I recommend trying it out. There is a very interesting connection between the biodiversity and the health of the ecosystem and what it provides for us through that.”
                                                                                                                                       Alex R.

The students that participated had mixed success in finding species in the beginning of the winter months, however they did gain a better understanding of biodiversity’s important role in our school yard ecosystem. We’re looking forward to repeating this activity in the spring and are anticipating even better results!

                                                                                                                                         Mr. Cook

Pied Mynahs in Bangladesh
​March 11, 2019

A pair of Pied Mynahs
A pair of Pied Mynahs in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Photo by Zaheen Binte Parvez of BAFWA Golden Eagle Nursery School

This article was written by a student of Lizoon Nahar of the BAF Shaheen English Medium School in Dhaka, Bangladesh.  

The lovely flowers of every garden start their wonderful day with the sweet music of the enchanted bird: the Pied Mynah.  In Bangladesh they are known as Shalik .  It is an open woodland bird which has adapted itself to the urban environment. The Pied Mynah is identified by the brown body including white stripes, black head consisting bare yellow patches behind the eyes, yellow beaks and brown legs. These birds feed on small insects, earthworms, seeds, grain, fruits etc. The Pied Mynah loves staying in artificial nests or nests built in wall holes. If you leave a shoebox on your roof, within a few days you may find small birds peeping from within it.  It has been recorded that these birds are quarrelsome at times but still, they are able to take a fond place in people’s mind.  

Name: Atqiya Labiba Maisha
Class: VIII
Section: Nightingale
School: BAF Shaheen English Medium School.

Birding with Children
​March 8, 2019

Children are born observers.  They are fascinated with the natural world around them and animals are often a particular focus of their interest.  Our friend and teacher Sujith S. from Kerala, India, took his own children out for a Saturday afternoon bird walk.  In addition to watching birds, they spent some time conducting some field sketches of their observations.  This is a great skill for students to develop!

A white-cheeked barbet in a tree
White-cheeked Barbet emerging from nest hole.
Two children writing on paper
Young children are natural born observers!
A children's drawing of birds
A work of art!
Two Greater Cocuals in a tree
Greater Cocual have beautiful voices!
A Yellow-Billed Babbler
A Yellow-billed Babbler.
Red-whiskered Bulbul.
Red-whiskered Bulbul.
Bronzed Drongo.
Bronzed Drongo.
A Cattle Egret in a field
Cattle Egrets are distributed in many parts of the world.

Show us Your Squirrels!
February 26, 2019

Squirrels are a diverse and widely distributed group of animals.  Since they often live in close proximity to humans, they are easily studied and a provide a great example for us to look at ways in which a closely related family of mammals varies from place to place.  We invite ALL of our participants and readers to submit posts about your schoolyard squirrels.  It will be interesting to see the diversity of these creatures across our globe!

​Thanks to our friends at BAF Shaheen English Medium School in Dhaka, Bangladesh and their teacher Lizoon Nahar for submitting the first post in our recurring “squirrel series”!

Picture of a squirrel.
Three-striped Palm Squirrel.
Picture of a squirrel.
These squirrels are excellent climbers!

Squirrels in Bangladesh
Among the lush greenery of Bangladesh dwell nimble, bushy-tailed rodents, called squirrels. They are members of the Sciuridae family and can be divided into about two hundred species. However, only about nine of them can commonly be encountered in this country including three-striped squirrels, five-striped squirrels, black giant squirrels, Irrawaddy squirrel and orange-bellied squirrel.
Three-striped squirrels are the most common species, living in Bangladesh. They are mostly found in the hilly territories of the country with some of them living east of the Jamuna river. This gray-brown coloured squirrel has a creamy white-coloured belly and three stripes that run from their head to tail. Three-striped squirrels are majorly frugivorous but also feed on nuts.  They are quite noisy and make a “chip chip chip” sound when they sense danger. They are carpetbaggers in urban areas, and can be easily curbed and tutored to accept food from humans. These rodents aid pollination and dispersion of fruits and seeds, thus contributing to the ecosystem and preserving the country’s greenery.
However, forests and trees are gradually being cut off to accommodate the rapidly growing population of the country. As a result, the squirrel population is decreasing as they die due to a lack of food and shelter. If this continues, squirrels in Bangladesh will soon be lead to extinction which will affect the country’s whole ecosystem. So, ensuring a safe natural habitat for these squirrels has become almost obligatory.
Nur-E Nusaibah
Std- VIII (Nightingale)
Roll- 01
BAF Shaheen English Medium School

A Schoolyard Biodiversity Survey in Pakistan
February 15, 2019

​In the second week of February 2019, the fourth graders of OPF Girls College in the capital city of Pakistan were given a project to observe their environment and study different creatures by their English language teacher Ms. Irum for whom the activity was a part of CLIL i.e. Content and Language Integrated Learning. Here the content was related to the science field. The students came out of their classrooms in the form of groups. Their writing skill in the second language was supported by such tactile and kinesthetic way of learning. The groups chose a specific area for their study.

Picture of students outside.
OPF Girl’s College students conducting a schoolyard biodiversity survey.

One of the groups said in their observations that they really liked touching different plants. It was mentioned in their writing that they saw plants with big leaves, found snail shells and baby termites. They need fertile soil to grow. They claimed that some leaves were thorny, hairy and simple. Some flowers were grown in a vehicle’s tires.

Picture of a moth.
Coffee Bean Clearwing Hawk Moth.

One of their first observations was a Coffee Bee Clearwing, a type of Hawk Moth.  These insects will hover in front of flowers as they feed on nectar.

Picture of a termite nest.
Termite nest.

They mentioned that the whole group was amazed by tiny creatures which looked like termites. It had holes all over its place. It was not only one. It was the whole colony of it. The soil was wet which proved that it liked damp places to live in.

Picture of a termite.
A “soldier” termite.

They called it a ‘rare insect’. In its description they wrote: It is as small as an ant. It had orange head with white transparent body. It had one black eye and two black antennas. It had difficulty in moving which showed that they were newly born babies. At times, it rolled upside down so its movement stopped.  This is likely a “soldier” termite, a defender of the termite colony!

Picture of students outside.
Taking notes during the survey.

​Another group had their findings near a tall tree.

Picture of an insect.
An unidentified beetle.

They discovered a bug. They called it a ‘black bug’. They claimed that it was changing its head’s color, it had six legs and there were three lines on it.

Picture of a caterpillar.
Caterpillar

The second discovery of the same group was a caterpillar found at the same place. They called it a slug which they thought as slimy, flexible and had no bones.

Picture of students outside.
Students hard at work during the survey.

​Another group was found working on the bushes. They tried to find things in depth. They even drew what they saw. 

Picture of bushes.
The bushes were home to a variety of species.
Picture of student notebook.
Student notes from biodiversity survey.
Picture of an insect.
A Green Stinkbug,

Their most important discovery was the ‘green potato bug’ with sticky legs and red eyes. They mentioned in their writing that the bug was in green color because it was on green plant. It was camouflaging itself from big creatures.
​A few groups worked on snail shells which were found in abundance. 

Picture of students in garden.
Students investigate schoolyard gardens for signs of life.
Picture of students outside.
Students took careful notes.

They found a family of snail shells at different places. Some were sleeping in the mud and some were sleeping on the green plants. One of the snail shells was of red color which looked different from the others. The students relate a shell’s body structure with a ‘hypnotizing machine’. They had a spiral shape.   These appear to be specimens of a group of land mollusks known as “tramp snails”.

Looking for an Environmental Research Project?  Try a Stream Survey!
​February 11, 2019

A few weeks ago, we described the results from Mill Creek Middle School’s eighth grade stream survey.  This is a project that could be replicated anywhere in the world that has flowing streams.  This is a great way to engage students in an authentic assessment of environmental health.  Jonathan, a student at Calvert Country School, was kind enough to put together some step by step directions for a leaf pack project. 

 How Can we Determine if a Stream or Creek is Healthy?
By Jonathan
One way to determine if a stream or creek is healthy is by conducting a leaf pack experiment.  This experiment uses tree leaves and aquatic insects to evaluate the health of a stream or creek.  Before starting the experiment, you will need a stream and some materials.  

First, find a location along the stream that has good water flow and is deep enough for the leaf packs.  If the stream flows too fast, some organisms cannot hold on to the leaves.
Second, gather the materials needed. 

  • Mesh bags
  • Nylon string
  • Flagging tape
  • Scale
  • Zip ties
  • Leaves
  • Plastic totes
  • Ice cube trays
  • Spoons
  • Hand lenses
​Next, prepare the leaf packs.  To prepare the leaf packs, collect fallen dried leaves from the ground.  Use the scale to weigh 30 grams of leaves for each mesh bag.  Tie 3 bags together with zip ties.  Take a long piece of nylon string and tie it into the mesh bags.  

​Once the leaf packs are ready, tie the leaf packs to rocks or roots.  Make sure all leaf packs are under water and secure.  

​After several weeks, retrieve and process the leaf packs.  *Before retrieving the leaves, collect stream water or tap water (allow tap water to sit for 3 days)*.

Picture of leaf packs in stream.
Leaf packs after several weeks in stream.

​Pick up the leaf packs quickly and place into a large plastic tote.  Bring the leaf packs inside to process.  Place the leaf packs into a bucket of the stream or tap water.  

Picture of student removing leaf packs from stream.
Retrieving leaf packs from stream.

​Shake small handfuls of leaves in the bucket to get the macroinvertebrates off the leaves.  Pour the water from the bucket into a strainer to catch any insects.  

Picture of student in classroom.
Ready to do an analysis of the stream macro-invertebrates.

​Put a small amount of water into the ice cube tray and use a spoon to catch and place a macroinvertebrate into each section.

Picture of ice cube tray with insects.
Sorting macro-invertebrates.

​As a final step, identify each macroinvertebrate found and record on a datasheet.  Study the data to figure out if the stream is in poor, fair, or good health.

Nature Spotting Contest Winners!
​February 6, 2019

Some sharp-eyed students and teachers were able to spot the hidden animal in the photo from the January 30 blog post.  The animal is a raccoon, a fairly common species throughout much of North America.  Raccoons have also been introduced in Europe and Asia an may be quite common in some areas.
Congratulations to Cameron, Michael, Asa-Marie, Amiya, and Olivia from Mrs. Gallihugh’s class at Mill Creek Middle School for submitting their observations.  Thanks also to students from OPF Girl’s College in Islamabad, Pakistan for submitting the photo below!

Look for more biodiversity related contests in future posts!

Picture of a raccoon.
A raccoon at King’s Landing Park in Huntingtown, MD USA

Nature Spotting Contest
​January 30, 2019

We are surrounded by biodiversity.  The plants and animals that make up our local ecology can be seen as soon as we step outside our doors.  Animals can sometimes be trickier to spot, as they often would prefer not to be seen and blend in with their surroundings. 

For this contest, we are asking classes to look at the photo below and spot the hidden animal lurking in the picture.
The first class to send in a screen shot with the animal circled and identified, will win a certificate for the “Eagle Eye” award and recognition on the Global Biodiversity Blog!  Send your screenshot to: Eagle Eye Award.  Good luck!

Picture of hidden animal.
Spot the hidden animal!

Great Apes!
January 24, 2019

Our friend Rob C. recently traveled to Uganda on an expedition to study the reptiles and amphibians of this East African nation.  The group took a side excursion to look for Mountain Gorillas in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.  The trip did not disappoint as several of these magnificent apes were observed by the team.  

The Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  These are places of natural or cultural significance that have been identified by the United Nations are places that are important resources that need protection for the good of all humanity.

Mountain Gorillas are critically endangered.  This means that without protection, it is very likely that the species would go extinct.  There are approximately 1,000 Mountain Gorillas remaining in the wild.  This is actually an increase over the past 30 years and it is hoped that this population increase can be sustained.

Picture
Picture of sign
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Picture of gorillas
Adult male gorilla feeding on ferns.
Picture of gorillas.
Gorilla family group.
Picture of baby gorilla.
Baby Gorilla.

The Pine Tree: Ordinary-Extraordinary Beauty 
​January 16, 2019

The students from Ms. Irina Azarova’s class of the Roshchinski State School in the Lipetsk region of Russia submitted an excellent article about their study of pine trees.  

Picture
Lipetsk region of Russia.
Picture

​We study at Roshchinsky school, it was built in 2001 and immediately the question arose about its landscaping. Near the school, flowerbed, lawns, an orchard appeared, and then they decided to plant several pines. One was planted directly opposite the entrance to the school.

Picture

  A pine is the oldest tree on earth. A pine was a symbol of life among the northern peoples, a symbol of fertility and immortality – in Asia, eternity and longevity – especially in Japan.

An ordinary pine is found everywhere. It can grow like a ten-storied house. Pine’s resin was used not only for medical purposes, but also for gluing household items, arrowheads and spears.
In Russia, the resin was used as glue, people burned it to illuminate the streets. Currently, products derived from pine are used in 70 industries, without them it is impossible to manufacture paints, plastics, paper, photographic films. In Russia, pine’s sap was chewed to strengthen the gums, teeth, and also to disinfect the mouth and throat. Pine phytoncides disinfected the air in the forest, which became almost sterile and was used to house various kinds of health centers and sanatoriums.
   The nature of our land is rich and beautiful. We are very interested to learn about it something new. When we are in the forest, we are surrounded by various trees, especially pine trees look majestic and mighty. Glades around pines strewn with cones. We wanted to learn more about the pine tree, what role it plays in nature and human life.

​1.1 Pine is a common widespread tree of Eurasia, starting from Spain and the United Kingdom and reaches the Amur River in Eastern Siberia. In the north, pine grows up to Lapland, in the south it is found in Mongolia and China. It forms clean plantations and grows with spruce, birch, aspen, oak. It is undemanding to soil and ground conditions, and often occupies areas unsuitable for other types: sands, swamps. Pine is adapted to different temperature conditions. It is distinguished by its love of light. In the north of the range rises to a height of 1000 m above sea level, in the south to 1200-2500 m above sea level.

​The tree is 25–40 m high and with a trunk diameter of 0.5–1.2 m. The tallest trees (up to 45–50 m) grow on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea. They live up to 150-200 years, sometimes up to 400 years. Pine ordinary grows rather slowly, so it will take more than one decade until it reaches 20-40 m. This is the height that an adult plant reaches. Young pines have a cone-shaped or rounded crown, with wide branches. In old trees, the crown becomes umbrella-shaped.

​  1.2 Bark
The trunk is straight, below with dark brown bark, above – with red-brown and golden bark. The bark in the lower part of the trunk is thick, scaly, gray-brown, with deep cracks. In the upper part of the trunk and on the branches the bark is thin, in the form of flakes (flakes), orange-red.

Picture

1.3 Leaves
Leaves are in the form of needles. The needles are smooth, sharp, rigid, fastened in pairs, retained on the branches for 2–3 years, 4–6 cm long, 1.5–2 mm thick. Gray or bluish-green, as a rule, slightly curved, the edges are finely toothed, live 2-6 (-9) years. In young trees, needles are longer (5–9 cm). Old needles are shorter (2.5-5).

Picture

1.4 Cones
Pine, like all coniferous plants, has no flowers. Male cones are 8-12 mm, yellow or pink. Female cones are 3–6 cm long. Cone-shaped, symmetrical or almost symmetrical, single or 2-3 pieces. When ripe, dull cones from gray-light brown to gray-green. Ripen in November – December, 20 months after pollination; open from February to April and soon fall. The scales of the cones are almost rhombic, flat or slightly convex with a small navel, rarely hooked, with a pointed tip. The seeds are black, 4-5 mm, with a 12-20-mm membranous wing. 

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1.5 Meaning
Pine is the source of many substances and products widely used by man. Essential oils, turpentine, rosin, varnishes, solvents, adhesives and other products are obtained from the resin. The amount of tar and turpentine depends on the age of the trees, the nature of the soil and climatic conditions. Rosin obtained in the processing of resin, is used in soap-making, paper, rubber and paint industry. It is also used for rubbing bows and strings of musical instruments. In addition to the benefits that these trees bring, the pines look majestically and greatly decorate the landscape. They are often planted near dispensaries and sanatoriums, administrative buildings, used for landscaping parks, country estates. 

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1.6 Healing properties
In addition, the plant has a healing effect, since it releases into the atmosphere a large number of useful substances that suppress many pathogens.
Therefore, walks through the coniferous forest are useful to everyone without exception. Curative conifer air favorably affects the nervous, immune systems, respiratory tract. In the treatment of many diseases, young, fresh needles, cones, buds, shoots, bark and resin of the tree are used. In particular, young needles are actively used in the treatment of colds, flu, respiratory diseases.
In Siberia, curative tea for colds is prepared according to this recipe: you need to pour 100 g of fresh pine needles and young shoots with a liter of boiling water, boil again, immediately remove from heat. Wrap the pan warmer and insist until it cools (turns warm). Then filter the drink, mixed with honey and take 100 ml, several times a day.
In China, pine is considered a tree that brings happiness. Therefore, it is often planted near private houses, as a symbol of well-being, good health and longevity.
 
In Russian, there is an expression: “Lost in three pines”. This means not being able to find a way out of a fairly easy situation. 

Conclusion

 Our pine tree gives an aesthetic appearance near the school, it is beautiful and stately, as it has enough light and nutrients, its crown is wide. But the pine was planted not only to decorate the schoolyard, but also so that we would decorate our green tree on New Year’s holidays and learn more about this tree.

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​The students of Roshchinski State School
Lipetsk region
Russia

Some Rwandan Monkeys
​January 10, 2019

Monkeys are an interesting part of our global biodiversity.    Our friend and educator Robin Shaffer recently traveled to Rwanda and spent some time in Nyungwe Forest National Park, where he observed four  different species of monkeys.  

Thanks Robin for sharing these awesome photos!

Picture

Baboons are relatively large monkeys, some of them reaching a weight of over 70 pounds (32 kilograms).   Baboons are omnivores, meaning that they eat both meat and plant material.  Baboons live in complex social groups or troops that may include dozens of members.

Picture
Baboon
Picture of a baboon family
Baboons
Picture of baboons.
Baboons

Vervet Monkeys range over much of east Africa.  These are smaller monkeys, typically weighing less than 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms).  These are long lived monkeys, often with a life span of 30 years.  In many areas, Vervet monkeys are considered pests as they will steal food and raid crops from farms.

Picture of a monkey.
Vervet Monkey

L’Hoest’s Monkeys are beautifully marked with black and white fur.  These monkeys spend most of the time on the ground, where they live in small groups consisting of a single male and 10-15 females and offspring.  The are primarily plants eaters although they will consume some insects and other invertebrates.

Picture of a monkey.
L’Hoest’s Monkey

The Colobus Monkey is another beautiful species of east Africa.  While the adults are covered in long black and white fur, newborns are completely white.   Colobus have an unusually tiny thumb, which is essentially a stump.  The other four fingers are extra long however, enabling them to easily swing through the branches of trees.   These monkeys are the most arboreal (live in trees) of any African primate.   Colobus are important to the ecosystem for seed dispersal as they are reported to be “sloppy” eaters, scattering the seeds from the fruits that they eat throughout the forest ecosystem.

Picture of a monkey.
Colobus monkey
Picture of a monkey.
Colobus Monkey

Every Stream has a Story to Tell
​January 7, 2019

The small streams that flow through our backyards and communities can reveal a lot about water quality and environmental disturbance.  CHESPAX staff visited eighth grade classrooms in the late fall of 2018 to conduct stream surveys using aquatic insects as indicators of stream health.  Here are some reflections of students from Mill Creek Middle School on their findings and their impressions of the experience during the investigation.   We will be adding more blog entries from Mill Creek over the coming weeks!

Alaura writes: We did a stream survey with CHESPAX who provided the materials. My class and I pulled dirty, muddy leaves with critters in them and put them in a container of water. We then searched for the critters we could find in the mucky water and when we did, we set them into ice cube platters. We found bugs like scuds, mayflies, stoneflies, crane flies, and hellgrammites. We recorded our data on a chart and determined our score.   

Picture of students
Students conduct classroom stream survey.

From Alexis: There are little streams all around you though you may not notice them.  There are little organisms that live in those streams. When it rains and the environment is polluted the runoff goes into the streams affecting the little organisms (Benthic Macro-Invertebrates ‘BMI’). IN my science class we wanted to know how healthy our local streams are, so we did an experiment. Some bugs tell us the water quality is healthy/good. While other (BMI) tells us the water quality is polluted and poor. We pulled some leaves in bags out of the stream and studied the water. We found many (BMI) leading us to know how our environment Is affecting our local streams.

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This Benthic Macro-invertebrate is scud. Scud are less sensitive to a polluted environment because they breath the dissolved oxygen through their gills.

Kara adds: In my class we were looking for bugs, more specifically macro-invertebrates. We were looking for these to see the variety of macroinvertebrates that we have living in our own stream (St. Leonard creek at Flag Ponds and Mill Creek.) One thing we discovered was a gilled snail.  A gilled snail is a good sign as these are sensitive to pollution. If you find a gilled snail in your stream that means that it is healthy. It’s also a good thing to have variety in macroinvertebrates that you have living in your own lake stream. We also took some pictures of the insects that we found in the leaves.

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This is an adult Riffle Beetle these creatures they can be only found in healthy water because they are sensitive to pollution. They are a great way to determine aquatic health. From Chrystan.

Autumn observed: The St. Leonard Creek at Flag Ponds is a healthy creek. When we took a look at the data that the stream provided us, we found many different kinds of benthic macro-invertebrates that told us a lot about it’s great biodiversity. This biodiversity proved the good health of the creek based on the variation of these macro-invertebrates. 

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This is a dragonfly that was found in the creek. This benthic macro-invertebrate would only be there if it had prey to eat. The prey it eats is more sensitive to dirty water, so if the dragonfly is in the stream, it proves the health of the bay because it shows that its sensitive prey is still there.

Beau learned: One Insect that we found while researching was a Hellgrammite. The Hellgrammite is a predator of macro-invertebrates that can resist moderate pollution. The Hellgrammite shows that the ecosystem is flourishing because if there is no prey, the predators will leave as well. So if there is a predator, there is prey to go with it. 

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Hellgrammite found by Mill Creek eighth grade students.

Catrina found out: On December 11th, CHESPAX brought mesh bags filled with leaves to our school. Those bags of leaves had been sitting in St. Leonard’s Creek in Lusby, Maryland for a month before they brought them here. They dumped the leaves into buckets with water, gave us tools, and had us search for bugs who had made their home in the leaves. The groups of kids found many bugs, and even a salamander, throughout the leaves. Through this we determined the heath of the creek from our findings. For the St. Leonard’s Creek, the creek heath was 22 which is “good”. These are some of the bugs, or benthic macroinvertebrates, that our classes found.

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This is a caddisfly larva. It lives in the leave by “gluing” itself to them. It is a sensitive macro-invertebrate.
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This is what the caddisfly looks like when it is fully grown. It no longer lives in the stream then.
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Aquatic Salamander While this is no benthic macro-invertebrate, its sensitivity to pollution shows us that the water it lives in has little or no pollution. From Ryan R.

​Adapting to a Changing Climate: How can we support our backyard birds?
​January 2, 2019

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Climate change is impacting wildlife  around the world.  Arctic species are finding that the year-round sea ice to which they’ve adapted over thousands of years, is no longer present.  Intense storms batter coastal areas and alter the landscape, impacting critical habitat.   

In Khamgaon, India, a town in in the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra state,  the intense heat in April and May, coupled with a lack of rainfall has created a dire situation for wildlife species.  Large cats such as leopards will sometimes venture from forested areas into villages in search of water or food.    Teacher Rajesh Patil has worked to create an oasis for birds in his yard through creative plantings and by providing water sources for some of the birds local to his region.   Along with Gerard Francis and Sreedharan Gopalsamy, Mr. Patil wrote an excellent article describing his project in a recent issue of Nature Watch magazine

As we work at adapting to a changing climate, it is worth considering our wild neighbors and to help provide them with a means of survival in an altered landscape.

To read Mr. Patil’s article, click on the link below.

Creature Feature: Bougainvillea glabra
​December 21, 2018

This post is from Students Ngan at 11A5 classof Mrs Linh Truong at Binh Thuy High School in Vietnam.
Bougainvillea glabra is flower in the Nyctaginaceae family. They are a beautiful flower, which is native to South America, but now they are grown in Vietnam. The plants bloom in all seasons. If we know how to care for it, this flower will bloom very beautifully. On the other hand, it is a climbing plant. People usually grow it on a gate or fence, so it is very beautiful in all seasons.

The plant originates from Central America and South America. It is grown often at offices, cafes or in the park and at homes in urban areas. This is a healthy, beautiful and easy to maintain  species valued by both artisans and any people.

The stem is over 500 centimeters. Bougainvillea glabra are creeping plants with many branches. Flowers are single, oval or elongated at the top, round at the root.  The leaf stems have thorns in the leaf axil, which are straight and pointed.

​Blooms grow with a cluster of three flowers, each attached on a white or pink leaf which is very beautiful.
The growth rate of flowers is fast and they grow towards light, demonstrating positive phototropism. Bougainvillea will develop in good drainage conditions, with adequate nutrients. 

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Bougainvillea glabra

Creature Feature: Domestic Dog (Canis lupus familaris)
​December 21, 2018

Domestic dogs are associated with humans all around the world.  Mrs. Linh Truong shared some insights about the local dogs in Vietnam.  
Canis lupus familiaris (Little Canini)  is a species of Canis lupus in Caninea  familiy. It is a species of  Phu Quoc island. Canis lupus familiaris have tiger bridle, fire gold, transfer ink with the fur is darker in back, ears upright and slim waist. Additionally, they grow with a size of average 55 centimeters, a weight of 18 kilograms.
They have great hunting ability. Canis lupus familiaris can hunt big game, such as deer,  wild boars and snakes. They have risked their lives to save the owner anytime when they are danger.
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utstandingly aggressive compared to the other dogs, they fought and did not falter in despite of their larger rivals and it often won. It can track the prey even when they has passed long ago.  They often back even when they are lost a few days.

Whenever they discover prey, they send prey to the same line, and bark up to call the master. They do not let go until the master signals to “stop”.

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Canis lupus familiaris
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Domestic Dog from Vietnam

Creature Feature: Armand Pine or Chinese White Pine (Pinus armandii)
December 21, 2018

This post is from  Mrs Linh, who is a Biology teacher at Binh Thuy High School in Vietnam
Pinus armandii  is a species of Pine in the Pinaceae family. It was discovered from Xuan Nha Nature Reserve in Vietnam.
Pinus armandii  grows on vertical cliffs of 1,000-1,500 meters in height above sea-level. These trees grow to a height of  20-35 meters and a  diameter of .4- 1 meter.  A cluster of needle have five leaves, which reach a length of about 15-20 centimeters.  The pine cones are egg-shaped, that can be solitary or centered with 2-6 cones in the cluster. The cones grow  to a length of 8-11 centimeters with a diameter of 5-7 centimeters.

These photos below were taken at Xuan Nha Nature Reserve, Son La province in Vietnam.  The reserve is protecting these plants and many other species.


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Kerala Morning
December 18, 2018

We all enjoy the beautiful sounds of nature.  The dawn chorus of birds has been the subject of authors from around the world and throughout history.  While the sounds may differ from place to place, they are a welcome greeting to a new day.  Our colleague Sujith S., shared some of the beautiful sounds collected outside of his home in Kerala, India, as he began his day.  We would welcome similar recordings from our participating students and teachers from around the world.  Thanks for sharing a part of your world Sujith!

Bird Feeder: Kerala Style!
December 18, 2018

Our colleague, Sujith S. from Kerala, India intentionally let a papaya in his yard get overripe to see what might come to feed on the fruit.  His efforts did not disappoint, as he captured photographs of two beautiful birds at his backyard “bird feeder”!  The pictured birds are the Asian Koel and the White-cheeked Barbet.  Thanks for sharing these images Sujith!

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An Asian Koel is one of the beautiful birds of India.
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An Asian Koel feeding on a ripe papaya.
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The White-cheeked Barbet is uncommon in Kerala.
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White-cheeked Barbet finishing off the papaya!

Creature Feature: Egretta garzetta (Little Egret) in Vietnam
December 12, 2018

This post is from students of Mrs. Linh Truong from Binh Thuy High School in Vietnam.
The Egretta garzetta (Little Egret)  is a species of bird in the Ardeidae  familiy. It is nearly identical with Egretta thula (Snowy Egret), that  is the national bird from the countries of Lithuania and Belarus.   The Little Egret lives at lakes, tidal marshes, mangrove forests, mangroves and rice fields in North, Central, and Southern Highlands in Vietnam.

Egretta garzetta have white plumage, black beaks, slender and striking yellow toes, and grow to a size of 61 centimeters. During the breeding season these egrets have two narrow plumes of feathers on top of the head. 

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Egretta garzetta, a native species in the rice fields in Vietnam (December 1 , 2018)
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Egretta garzetta at Tram Chim National Park in Vietnam (June 7,2018)
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Egretta garzetta on the river.(December 4, 2018)

Creature Feature: Grus antigone (Sarus Crane)
​December 12, 2018

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Student Khang of Mrs. Linh Truong at Binh Thuy High School in Vietnam shared this observation.

Grus Antigone is a species of bird in the Gruidae family or Cranes.

They are  about 150 – 180 centimeters in height, with a wingspan from 220 – 250 centimeters and a weight of 8 – 10 kilograms.  Additionally, they have gray feathers, gray beak, yellow eyes, black and white wings and a red head.

​These birds breed only once during the rainy  season each  year. They usually have two eggs per reproduction and only one egg usually hatches.

See below some Grus antigone that we observed.   We are at Tram Chim National Park, Dong Thap province in Vietnam.
This is a rare bird species  being preserved at Tram Chim National Park, Dong Thap province in Vietnam.

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Sarus Crane
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A pair of Grus antigone at Tram Chim National Park in Vietnam.

Some Wildlife of Rwanda
​November 7, 2018

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Our friend and educator, Robin Shaffer, recently traveled to Rwanda in south central Africa and spent some time in Akegara National Park. He spotted some beautiful birds and got some great looks at Vervet Monkeys!  Check out these amazing animals.

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A Vervet Monkey family.
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Vervet Monkey feeding on plant material.
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Blue-eared Starling
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Woodland Kingfisher
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White-browed Coucal
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African Wattled Lapwing

Pelicans
November 5, 2018

A student from Ms. Webster’s fifth grade class at St. Eugene School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin made a neat observation of pelicans from a lake near her home.  She wrote the accompanying text and shared this photograph. Thanks!

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These pelican are found all over the lake that my Island is on. They love smallmouth bass. They fly all over our island. They come on our land. They are white and their beaks are orange. They get their food from the lake. They sometimes hide in the tall weeds.They use their long beaks to catch the fish. Sometimes they don’t catch the fish and fully go under water. It is very funny! You would see them in lakes swimming. They just go down in the water and scoop up a fish.

Bees are Important Pollinators
​October 10, 2018

Students from Ms. Webster’s fifth grade class at St. Eugene School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin have been studying the biodiversity around their schoolyard.  The student shared this photograph and wrote the accompanying text.  Thanks for sharing your observations!

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This Bumble-Bee is pollinating some flowers. Bumble-bees are very common in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and all over Wisconsin (Wisconsin is found in the northern part of United States of America or USA). This is due from the variety of wildflowers native to the state. Also, Wisconsin has very nice soil, so lots of different plants can grow there. Bumble-bees pollinate flowers and plants and help our plants grow. They help support the ecosystem, by pollinating our food. Apart from making delicious natural sweeteners called honey, the also help farmers with crops that start out from flowers like potatoes, apples, etc. Bumble-bees are very important in Wisconsin. Bumble-bees may just be annoying but they support life and help us all. They also make  HONEY! Yum!

Creature Feature: River Otter
​September 25, 2018

Everyone loves otters!  Their playful nature and endearing appearance make them a favorite of animal lovers around the world.  Otters are fairly global in distribution with different species found on every continent except for Australia and Antarctica.  
Here in the U.S. we have two species of otters.  The Sea Otter is found in the chilly waters of the Pacific Northwest, where it feeds largely on shellfish and sea urchins.  The River Otter is more widely distributed and can be found in freshwater river systems across most of the continent.
Recently, a young River Otter paid a visit to the CHESPAX environmental education center located in southern Maryland, USA.  The otter explored the office surroundings for several minutes before returning to the nearby creek.  Mr. Wagner from the CHESPAX staff captured some images and a video clip of this aquatic visitor!

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River Otter explores the CHESPAX office.
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Otters are related to weasels, mink, and skunks.
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An unusual sighting in that otters are rarely found far from the water.

Beautiful Biodiversity from Kerala!
​September 17, 2018

Our colleague Sujith S. from Kerala, India shared some incredible videos from his home region.  Like the current situation in the southeast US, Kerala experienced some dramatic flooding last month.  Such events impact not only human activity, but wildlife as well.  In the first video, two Indian Cobras took refuge on a ceiling fan of a deserted home during the high water.  The second video is of the beautiful Oak Leaf butterfly.  The butterfly contrasts camouflage and flamboyance with the flapping of its wings.  Thank you Sujith for sharing these awesome videos!

Featuring Foxes!
​September 7, 2018

Foxes are a species of mammal that are truly global in their distribution.  They can be found on every continent, except for Antarctica.  Humans have helped in expanding the distribution of foxes, introducing them into new areas for their fur and for sport hunting.  Foxes are considered a nuisance in Australia where they were introduced in the 1830s.  ​The red fox is native to the U.S., but there are reports of early settlers bringing the red fox from Europe for release by landowners for hunting with hounds.

Foxes are omnivores, meaning that they will eat both plants and animals.  Small mammals such as mice, rabbits, and squirrels are common prey for foxes.

​The CHESPAX program has placed trail cameras on middle school properties around southern Maryland.  The cameras capture images of wildlife species as they move about the schoolyard.  Below are a few images of foxes captured by the cameras.​

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A mother fox grooms her baby.
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A baby fox on the run!
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Red fox carrying a squirrel. Predator-prey interaction.
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Red fox on the hunt.
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An Arctic Fox from St. Paul Island, Alaska. These foxes feed mainly on seabirds and their eggs.

More European Species
​August 31, 2018

Fifth grade teacher Rick Froehbrodt from Franklin STEAM Magnet School in San Diego spent a part of his summer traveling around Spain and Portugal.  Rick always has his camera ready to capture some interesting images and shared these photos taken near the end of his journey.

​The two jellyfish photographs were taken in Lisbon, Portugal where the Tagus River became a bay and entered the Atlantic Ocean.   The Eurasian Magpie was observed in northern Spain.  Magpies are relatives of crows and jays and are noisy, but very inquisitive birds.    Thanks Rick, for sharing a bit of your adventure with us! 

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Eurasian Magpie from Northern Spain.

Butterflies from Ukraine
​August 15, 2018

Our backyards and schoolyards often host a great diversity of insect species.  The Lepidoptera, or butterflies and moths, are among the most beautiful of these species and can be found throughout most of the world.  A student of Svitlana L. from the Polatava region of Ukraine shared images of the Southern Festoon buttefly (Zerynthia polyxena) and the Small Magpie moth (Anania hortulata).  These butterflies are widespread through much of Europe into Central Asia.

Svitlana teaches English for grades 1-11 in the Poltava region of Ukraine. It’s the largest rural school within the district with approximately 300 students enrolled. The school encompasses 3 groups defined by grade level. Specifically, elementary ( grades 1-4), middle(grades 5-8), and high school( 9-11) . Svitlana involves her students in numerous collaborative projects.  Thank you for sharing these images and we look forward to seeing more biodiversity from your region!

Many thanks to Lepidopterist, Eugene Karolinskiy from Ukraine,  for his assistance in identifying these insects for us!

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The Small Magpie (Anania hortulata) is widespread throughout Europe. The host plants for its caterpillars are mints and nettles.
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The Southern Festoon (Zerynthia polyxena) is a common butterfly in Europe and Central Asia.

Indian Elephants
​July 31, 2018

One of the iconic wildlife species of India is the Indian Elephant.  Wild elephants still roam the grasslands and forests of India.  Elephant populations are in decline across Asia due to habitat loss.  Elephants sometimes come into conflict with humans as they sometimes will trample crops in agricultural areas.  Elephants may consume up to 150 kilograms or 330 pounds of vegetation each day.

​During his Teachers for Global Classrooms field experience, teacher Matthew Kuehl accompanied host teacher Sujith S. to the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka and captured this awesome video of wild elephants!  

Spanish Storks and other sightings
​July 27, 2018

Fifth grade teacher Rick Froehbrodt from Franklin STEAM Magnet School in San Diego is spending a part of his summer traveling around Spain.  Rick is a keen observer of nature and shared some images and a video clip of of his sightings.  Of particular interest are the Black Storks. These large birds have a wingspan of up to five feet across.  They often nest around human habitation such as buildings and rooftops.  Local people will provide structure and support for the nests of these birds which can weigh up to 1,000 kilograms  or over 2,000 pounds!  These birds will breed in Europe and spend the winter months in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Thanks Rick for sharing your fantastic observations!

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Black Stork nests on a church in Avila, Spain.
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Common Wood Pigeons were very shy of humans.
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White-tailed Bees were common in Spain.

Summer Butterflies in Maryland
​July 25, 2018

 Mr. Harten from CHESPAX was inspired by Sujith’s post on May 27.  While school is out in Calvert County, he did a quick survey of butterflies in his backyard.  Butterflies are an important element of the ecosystems in which they live.  Choosing  plants for the garden that are attractive to butterflies are a great way to support local biodiversity.

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Horace’s Duskywing
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Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
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Red Admiral

Schoolyard Biodiversity from Bangladesh
​July 16, 2018

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Rhesus Macaque Monkeys (Macaca mulatta).
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Rhesus Macaque Monkeys (Macaca mulatta).
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Bengali name: Kanchan Dwarf White, Orchid Tree (Bauhinia acuminate)
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Bokul ful (Mimusops elengi)
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Crhisnochura (Delonix regia)

Megafauna from the Western Ghats!
July 10, 2018

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Sujith S., a teacher from Calicut in Kerala, India submitted some beautiful photographs of local butterflies from his schoolyard on May 27.  Sujith will be hosting educators from the Teachers for Global Classrooms program very soon and was conducting some field visits to prepare for the exchange. 

Sujith visited the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve as a potential site to bring the U.S. teachers, a place he sometimes brings his students on field experiences.   Despite numerous trips to the reserve, Sujith had never observed a tiger or a leopard, the two top predators at this location.  This visit paid off as he observed both species as well as other iconic creatures of the Indian forest, the Chital deer and the Indian Peacock. 

Thanks Sujith for sharing your amazing observations!  

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Tiger at Mudumalai Tiger Reserve in the Western Ghats.

Backyard Dragonflies!
​June 8, 2018

These Common Whitetail dragonflies were found in Prince Frederick, MD. The male has the beautiful white tail!

Black Widow!
​June 8, 2018

The Black Widow Spider is one of the two species of spiders that are potentially harmful to humans.  The Black Widow is fairly common in Maryland, usually found under cover.  These spiders generally avoid contact and will only bite when threatened.  These animals feed on small insects which become caught in their sticky webs.

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Black Widow Spider

Dragonfly days!

With the warmer days of spring comes a variety of life! This beautiful swamp darner is fairly common in the Eastern United States and Canada, and is the largest dragonfly found in Maryland!

It’s a Worm, It’s a Snake, It’s a Worm Snake!

The smallest snake in Calvert County, Maryland (USA) is the Eastern Worm Snake.  This snake is fairly common to our area, often found while digging in a garden.  These snakes feed on worms and small insects.   These snakes do look like worms, but the scales and pink belly are a good field mark to identify them as a worm snake. 

Maryland Butterfly
​June 6, 2018

This Eastern Tiger Swallowtail was found in Prince Frederick, MD. This beautiful butterfly was posing for its photo op so we could not resist it’s charm!

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Right in our backyard
​June 5, 2018

This copperhead snake was found cruising through a backyard in Prince Frederick, MD early one night. During the hot, humid months, copperhead snakes are said to be more nocturnal, searching for food when it is dark outside. Copperhead snakes are one of two venomous snakes found in Maryland, and the only one found in Calvert County!

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Mrs. Popernack’s (from CHESPAX) back steps May 29, 2018

Sounds of the Indian Forest
​June 3, 2018

Around the world, springtime forests are filled with the sounds of the species native to that region.  In Maharashtra, India the sounds of the Koyal, a type of cuckoo are heard in the video below.  Like some other cuckoo species, the Koyal will deposit its eggs in the nests of other birds and allow these hosts to raise their offspring.  This behavior is known as brood parasitism. The call of the Koyal is quite beautiful! Thanks to Dr. Sanjyot Chhajed, of ​ Ahmednagar, Maharashtra, India for sharing her video!

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​Students in Calicut, Kerala, India Survey Schoolyard Butterflies
​May 27, 2018

Mr. Sujith S., is a Secondary School English Teacher with a passion for environmental study.  Sujith lives about an hour ride from the Western Ghats. This region is one of the eight hot-spots of biological diversity in the world. Butterfly photography is a hobby of Sujith’s and last year, he engaged members of the Eco club from his school in a butterfly survey in and around the campus. They were surprised to see there were about 26 species in the campus itself! See below the beautiful butterflies found during their survey!

Students Help Propagate Endangered Orchid
​May 21, 2018 

Here is a great example of students taking action for biodiversity.  Agricultural high school students from Okinawa Prefectural Comprehensive Center used biotechnology tools to raise the Nagoran, an endangered species of orchid native to Japan.  Many thanks to Mr. Jin Yakabi, the Educational Supervisor of the center for sharing this beautiful photo.  Mr. Yakabi was a participant in the Japan U.S. Teacher Exchange for Education for Sustainable Development.

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Nagoran, a native species of Orchid in Okinawa, Japan.

Some Southern US Snakes!
​May 18, 2018

Rattlesnakes are unique to the Americas.  The largest venomous snake in the US is the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.  Mr. Harten from CHESPAX spotted this beautiful reptile on a trip to the Everglades.  

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Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake

The Burmese Python is a snake that is native to Southeast Asia that has become established in South Florida.  Mr. Harten found one of these big snakes during a Florida camping trip.  Our interconnected world sometimes results in non-native species becoming established in ecosystems where they don’t belong.

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West Coast Monarchs!
​May 15, 2018

During the fall season, millions of Monarchs migrate along the east coast of the United States to their wintering grounds in the mountains of Michoacán in central Mexico. 

West of the Rocky Mountains, most of the Monarch population migrates to southern California to spend the winter season.  In spring, these Monarchs begin to move north, laying eggs on milkweed plants.  The successive generations over the next few months will disperse northward and eastward until late summer.  The generation that hatches in August and early September will begin the long distance journey back to sunny, Southern California.

​Our friend, Rick Froehbrodt, a fifth grade teacher at Franklin Elementary STEAM Magnet School, located in San Diego, sent these images of  Monarch caterpillars feeding on the milkweed on their schoolyard butterfly garden yesterday afternoon.  See also below some adult Monarchs feeding on red sunflower.  Where will these little insects travel over the next few weeks??

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Butterfly on sunflower

Frog Chorus from Kazakhstan!
​May 14, 2018

Map of Kazakhstan


Our friend Robin Shaffer sent us this great video clip of frog calls from his time spent in the city of Astana in Kazakhstan. The country is located in Central Asia.  We are still trying to identify the species calling on the clip.  The sound is very similar to our North American Wood Frogs.  Perhaps they are a related species!

Frogs from the Land of the Pharoahs!
​May 2, 2018

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One of the goals of this blog site is to foster discussion between students from around the world about the importance of biodiversity.  We have several global partners that are encouraging their students to collect audio, video, and images of their local species to share on this forum.  

​Our first submission comes from Mr. Youssef Mourard Reyard, a teacher at the Narmer American College in Egypt (Middle and High School).  Mr. Youssef collected this sound file of an Egyptian frog species near the Narmer campus.
​To learn more about the Narmer American College please visit their website: http://www.nacegypt.com/site/category/About

​Thanks for sending our first file Mr. Youssef!​

Calling all citizen scientists!

Scientist holding tile with marine life

Click the above picture to check out this article on how the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center is using citizen scientists just like you to look at biodiversity and invasive species in the San Francisco Bay! 

Needing a pollution solution

Picture of deformed frog linking to article on pollution

Pollution is a real issue that is affecting species in dramatic ways. Click the above picture to see how pollution may affecting frog biodiversity.

Tying it all together…

Picture of scuba divers looking at SAV

This article helps tie together what students learn about SAV in 7th grade with what they are learning about Biodiversity in 8th grade. Loss of SAV beds is a global problem, and part of the solution may be found with species biodiversity. Check out the above link from ScienceDaily!