Got Nature? Blog

Purdue University has teamed up with four zoos to protect hellbenders. This effort is a worldwide collaboration as zoos, government agencies, and other conservation groups, implement much-needed conservation initiatives. This recently published publication titled How Our Zoos Help Hellbenders shares the current zoos in Indiana that are collaborating with Purdue in this conservation effort. Zoos are conservation and research organizations that play critical roles both in protecting wildlife and their habitats and in educating the public. Thus, with hellbenders experiencing declines over the past several decades, teaming up with zoos in order to preserve and protect the hellbender species is ideal. The zoos that are currently partners with Purdue University in this effort are: Mesker Park Zoo in Evansville, Indiana; Columbian Park Zoo in Lafayette, Indiana; Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo in Fort Wayne, Indiana; and Nashville Zoo in Nashville, Tennessee.

Three videos have been released showing how the zoos are working with Purdue University to help protect hellbenders. You can check them out below!

Resources:
Conservation Efforts, Mesker Park Zoo
Hellbender Research Participation Spotlight, Columbian Park Zoo
Conservation, Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo
Hellbender Conservation, Nashville Zoo
Purdue Partners with Indiana Zoos for Hellbender Conservation – Purdue Newsroom
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension-FNR
Nature of Teaching, Purdue Extension-FNR
I found this in my barn. Is it a Hellbender? – Purdue FNR Extension, Got Nature

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Purdue zipTrips are virtual electronic field trips provided by Purdue for students to get a glimpse into what makes Purdue one of the leading universities in the nation. Students engage with Purdue faculty and scientists through a live webcast, while traveling on a “virtual electronic field trip” of labs, greenhouses, and other interesting Purdue facilities. After each live event, the webcast is archived and can be viewed online. ZipTrips covers a variety of topics, including genetics, nutrition, diseases, climate change, plants, veterinary and more. Purdue FNR Dr. Jeff Dukes and Dr. Mike Jenkins are featured in the video above for zipTrips. Other members of Purdue FNR’s staff that have appeared on Purdue zipTrips are Dr. Rod Williams, Brian MacGowan and Dr. Marisol Sepulveda.

Classrooms all over the world have enjoyed zipTrips. Rated as one of their favorite episodes is the “We’re All Animals” showing a Purdue Veterinary Medicine equine lab with the horse “Whitey” exercising on the large treadmill. Sign up for zipTrips to have access to future trips, past trips and online resources.

Past zipTrips featuring FNR Faculty:
Plant Science: The Green Machine – Youtube, Purdue Agriculture
“It’s a Gene Thing!” – Youtube, Purdue Agriculture
A Week of Scientists – Youtube, Purdue Agriculture

Other Resources:
Past zipTrips Playlist – Youtube, Purdue Agriculture
Boiler Bytes – Purdue
Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources’ Playlist – Youtube, Purdue Agriculture

Purdue Agriculture

 


Students in Forestry and Natural Resources (FNR) continue to volunteer for Hands of the Future, Inc., a non-profit program whose mission is to help educate children about the outdoors and natural resources. As this program continues to grow, one of their dreams has been to find woods to create a children’s forest. To have a natural site that has been embellished upon with children’s needs in mind and to encourage outdoor play and adventures.

The students plan on transforming 18.8 acres of idle woods into Zonda’s Children’s Forest. The children’s forest will be composed of six main areas:

  1. A children’s garden, equipped with a greenhouse and kitchen, thHands of the Futureat’ll allow children to learn how to properly grow and cook food.
  2. An enclosed area dedicated to allowing children having fun and safe adventures.
  3. A viewing area for butterflies, birds and other organisms of the wild, allowing children to easily enjoy the life of the forest.
  4. A maze designed by sunflowers, where children can have fun and do problem-solving, while close to nature.
  5. A walk dedicated to viewing the owls and other organisms composing the forest.
  6. Another enclosed area of the woods for adventures; However, it’ll also contain tree houses, bridges and other fun additions for the children.

Donations:
Donations to help make Zonda’s Children’s Forest a reality can be made here. They have six months to raise $235,000 in order to purchase the woods.

Volunteers & Interns:
Older students and adults can apply to be a volunteer. Volunteers are always appreciated, no past experience necessary. If you love nature and kids you will enjoy this program. Internships are available for college students, contact Zonda Bryant.

Resources:
Hands of the Future, Inc.
Junior Nature Club

Zonda Bryant, Director
765.366.9126
director@hands-future.org

 


Posted on June 9th, 2017 in Got Nature for Kids, How To, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Outdoor Hands On Workshop GroupExtension Educators Lindsey Pedigo, Molly Hunt and Tami Mosier are teaming up with Wildlife Extension Specialist Rod Williams in order to put on 4 professional workshops this summer. During this workshop, participants will receive a resource binder contain 15-20 lesson plans and lunch, as well as engage in hands-on outdoor activities. Participants will learn of many ways to connect their students or children with nature.

Locations:
June 28, 2017: Blackford County – Double R Ranch, Hartford City, IN
July 19, 2017: Howard County – Kokomo Public Library, Kokomo, IN
July 21, 2017: Tippecanoe County – John S. Wright Forestry Center, West Lafayette, IN
September 23, 2017: Steuben County – Pokagon State Park Nature Center, Angola, IN

Agenda:
9:00 AM – Welcome/Introductions
9:15 AM – Nature and Health PPT
10:00 AM – TNH Lesson 2
10:30 AM – TNH Lesson 3
11:00 AM – TNH Lesson 4
11:30 AM – Lunch Break
12:00 PM – Scent Station Prep Lecture
12:30 PM – School Garden PPT
1:00 PM – School garden lesson
1:30 PM – Physical Activity PPT
2:00 PM – Physical activity lesson
2:30 PM – Nature Hike
3:00 PM – Scent Station Check
4:00 PM – Grade level collaboration
5:00 PM – Depart

For more information view the Workshop’s page.

Resources:
Publication: Benefits of Connecting with Nature – Got Nature, Purdue Extension-FNR
The Nature of Teaching – Purdue Extension
Got Nature – Podcast, The Education Store

Tami Mosier, Extension Educator, Steuben County
Purdue University Extension Health and Human Sciences

Katie Zuber, Extension Educator, Lawrence, Jackson, Monroe and Brown County
Purdue University Extension Health and Human Sciences

Lindsey Pedigo, Extension Educator, Howard County
Purdue University Extension Health and Human Sciences

Rod N Williams, Associate Head of Extension & Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Check out the new publication entitled Benefits of Connecting with Nature now available in The Education Store!Benefits of Connecting with Nature, FNR-539-W

Times are constantly changing with the growth and integration of technology within society. As we become more and more reliant on technology for information and entertainment, we seem to be detached from many vital aspects of our world. People, especially children, are losing their touch with the outdoors. Recent reports show that children ages 6–11 spend an average of 28 hours per week watching television. The average amount of time children spent using mobile devices tripled between 2011–2013.

Natural environments have positive impacts on people’s mental health and well-being. Studies consistently show that natural settings link to much stronger developmental benefits for children.

This unit will help teachers explore student’s relationship between nature and mental health. It contains four 30-40 minutes activities: Emotion Vocabulary Exploration, Guided Imagery, Creative Writing and Exploring Nature with your Senses.

Resources:
The Nature of Teaching – Purdue Extension
Got Nature – Podcast, The Education Store
Appreciating Reptiles and Amphibians in Nature –The Education Store
Frogs and Toads of Indiana – The Education Store

Molly Hunt, Extension Educator, Delaware County
Purdue University Extension Health and Human Sciences

Katie Zuber, Extension Educator, Lawrence, Jackson, Monroe and Brown County
Purdue University Extension Health and Human Sciences

Lindsey Pedigo, Extension Educator, Howard County
Purdue University Extension Health and Human Sciences

Rod N Williams, Associate Head of Extension & Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

 


Spotted salamander.

The Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) is a common species of mole salamander. Photo credit: T. Travis Brown.

I have been asked some variation of this question multiple times over the past several years. Sometimes the “hellbender” is found in a barn, on a basement floor, crawling across a driveway, or occasionally in a pond. The common denominator is always that someone has found a salamander, and they are concerned it is an Eastern Hellbender that needs help.

I appreciate this concern. I am glad to see that people have become more aware of the existence of the Eastern Hellbender and that it is something worth helping. The Eastern Hellbender is an endangered species in Indiana, and we always welcome reports from concerned citizens. However, the Eastern Hellbender is a very rare species in Indiana and is uncommon throughout most of its range in the eastern United States. The species has been declining in Indiana over the past several decades and is now known only from the Blue River in Washington, Harrison, and Crawford Counties. For this reason alone, it is unlikely that anyone would find a Hellbender on their property.

However, another equally important reason that it is unlikely a Hellbender involves the species biology. The Eastern Hellbender is fully aquatic and lives exclusively in rivers and streams. Unlike most amphibians, its primary means of respiration is by absorbing oxygen directly from the water through its skin. One adaptation Hellbenders have evolved to help with oxygen absorption is the development of wavy skin-folds along the sides of their bodies. These skin-folds provide greater surface area for oxygen absorption. Hellbenders have lungs, but they do not function well enough to allow them to survive extended periods of time on land. Hellbenders have been found on land immediately next to rivers and streams, but this is rare and is generally considered an anomaly.

Hellbender vs. mudpuppy

Top: Hellbender, Bottom: Common Mudpuppy.

While this rules out finding them on land away from rivers and streams, what about ponds and lakes? Hellbenders typically prefer clean, cool, swift flowing rivers and streams with a high oxygen content. These conditions are not typically found in ponds and lakes, and would make it unlikely that hellbenders would willingly reside in them. Moreover, these water bodies are usually landlocked with no close access from rivers and streams, and since hellbenders do not like to travel overland, they will likely never encounter a pond or lake.

There are two unlikely possibilities that might result in a Hellbender being found in a pond or lake. The first would be if someone captured a hellbender and moved it there. The second would be a pond or lake owner that lives in the floodplain of a river containing Hellbenders. Hellbenders do occasionally get dislodged by flooding and washed downstream. A large flood has the potential, however unlikely, to wash a Hellbender into a nearby pond. I am unaware of this ever happening, but it is a possibility.

So if you haven’t found a Hellbender, what have you found? If you found your salamander on land, it is very likely one of a group of salamanders known as mole salamanders. Mole salamanders are common throughout most of Indiana. They typically breed in ponds in the spring and then hide under logs or bury themselves underground. They are commonly found during spring breeding migrations and are frequently seen in large numbers. They often times find themselves wandering onto our properties and getting stuck in window wells or hiding themselves under rocks, firewood, or in our barns.

If you found your salamander in the water then it could be either the aforementioned mole salamander or a Common Mudpuppy. Mudpuppies are commonly confused with hellbenders and do live in ponds, wetlands, and creeks. Like the Hellbender, they are fully aquatic and don’t go on land except in very rare circumstances. Mudpuppies have large, fluffy gills behind their heads, which Hellbenders do not have. Mudpuppies also lack the skins folds along the sides of their bodies.

While most people will go their entire lives without ever seeing a Hellbender, if you live in the right areas it is a possibility. If you think you have seen a Hellbender, then please take a photo and let us know by visiting our Hellbender Reporting Webpage below. We are always happy to help.

Resources:
Hellbender ID – video, The Education Store, Purdue Extension resource center
HelptheHellbender.org, Purdue Extension
Help the Hellbender: North America’s Giant Salamander, The Education Store
Salamanders of Indiana, The Education Store
Appreciating Reptiles and Amphibians, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Indiana Amphibian and Reptile ID PackageIf you or someone you know loves to learn about wildlife, especially reptiles and amphibians, then you will be interested in our new special offer package. We are offering our complete collection of reptile and amphibian field guides (4 softcover books) for 10% of the price of each individual book. These books cover all of the reptiles and amphibians that are found in the state of Indiana. They include detailed physical descriptions, distribution maps, and interesting information about the ecology of each species. All of the included books have been peer-reviewed by experts in the field of herpetology.

The Indiana Amphibian and Reptile ID Package can be purchased from the Purdue Education Store for $36.00.

Additional Resources, The Education Store, Purdue Extension:
Frogs and Toads of Indiana
Salamanders of Indiana
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana
Turtles of Indiana

More Resources Available:
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension
The Nature of Teaching, Lesson Plans K-12, Purdue Extension

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Frogs and Toads of Indiana, FNR-516Frogs and Toads of Indiana is the latest and final addition to Purdue Extension’s line of field guides focused on the reptiles and amphibians of Indiana. Readers of this guide will not only learn how to ID the Anuran species of Indiana but will also learn about their distribution throughout the state along with their habits and behaviors. The guide is richly illustrated, filled with interesting facts, and has been peer-reviewed by expert herpetologists.

As many herpetologists and recreational herpers can attest, seeing what you are hearing is not always possible. With this in mind, we developed a website The Frogs and Toads of Indiana for users that wish to learn the calls of Indiana Anuran species.

The Frogs and Toads of Indiana, FNR-516, can be purchased from the The Education Store for $10.00.

Resources, The Education Store-Purdue Extension resource center:
Salamanders of Indiana
Snakes and Lizards of Indiana
Snakes of the Central and Northeastern United States
Turtles of Indiana

Additional resources:
The Nature of Teaching, Lesson Plans K-12, Purdue Extension

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on April 26th, 2017 in Forestry, Got Nature for Kids | No Comments »
Vaporeon

Vaporeon, www.flickr.com

In August of 2016, we posted an article about how the online game Minecraft teaches forest regeneration and helps users understand the pros and cons of various tree species. This year, we bring you information about Pokémon GO a game designed for your smartphone. While the premise of the game is to find cute creatures to befriend and train for battle, this game ultimately teaches additional lessons about nature and conservation.

After being released July 6, 2016, popularity for Pokémon GO exploded around the globe. With more than 500 million downloads in the first two months, this mobile phone game has brought cartoon Pokémon from television to more children and adults than ever before. Virtual Pokémon on your mobile screen appear to be a part of your real-world environment. As you catch, train, and battle your Pokémon, lessons about natural history and conservation are being taught and absorbed without you being aware of it.

Playing Pokémon GO is akin to bird watching as these creatures exist as “real” animals found outdoors that can be caught and collected. In their efforts to catch rare species, more people are venturing outdoors and visiting parks and conservation areas. With the new interest in visiting the outdoors, interactions with ‘real’ animals in nature have also increased. The Twitter hashtag #Pokeblitz is a repository for photos of wildlife species observed during play.

Growlithe beside the street, www.flickr.com.

Growlithe beside the street, www.flickr.com.

Players learn basic concepts such as habitat preferences. For example, ‘Grass Pokémon’ are most often found in parks, forests, or conservation areas while water-types can be found nearest to water sources. In addition, lessons regarding native regions are also taught as some species can only be found in certain continental regions. The Pokémon ‘Tauros’, a bull with multiple tails, is native to the Americas, ‘Mr Mime’, humanoid fairy, to Western Europe, ‘Farfetch’d’, an aggressive duck-like creature, to Asia, and the marsupial-like ‘Kangaskhan’ to Australasia. The take-away lesson most players learn is that exploration of new areas and continents will yield new species.

Newly published research from scientists at Oxford, Cambridge, UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre, and the University College London (UCL) explored whether the game posed more problems for conservation efforts as gamers focused more on the virtual

Dragonite

Dragonite in Melbourne, Australia, www.flickr.com.

than real animals or solutions to getting more people to explore the outdoors. They list pros and cons and their suggestions below:

The pros:

  1. More people are venturing outside and learning about nature
  2. There is a renewed interest in habitat conservation
  3. All you need is a smartphone

The cons:

  1. The brightly-colored and engaging Pokémon are not a true representation of actual wildlife
  2. Battling Pokémon in the game could encourage exploitation of ‘real’ animals.

Suggestions:

  1. Make the Pokémon more realistic (biology and ecology)
  2. Add real species to the Pokémon GO universe to raise awareness of these species
  3. Place Pokémon in more remote areas to draw people out of the cities
  4. Add a mechanism to catalogue real species to build upon #Pokeblitz
  5. Use Pokémon GO lessons to develop augmented reality (AR) games about real species and conservation efforts where users look for and catalog species for educational purposes.

If there were any doubts about the game’s popularity, hundreds upon hundreds of people converged in Central Park one night last summer in a contest to find the rare Pokémon ˈVaporeonˈ said to be inhabiting the park. A last thought from scientists was that true conservation efforts could wane as finding virtual species outweighs protecting endangered ˈrealˈ species. However, engagement efforts with the public regarding conservation can take notes from the responsive Pokémon as many current efforts are full of scientific terms and tend to be off-putting to a general audience. The popularity of Pokémon GO has implied that the public can be reached but we need other ways of relaying information that encourage additional learning.

Literature Cited:
Dorward LJ, Mittermeier JC, Sandbrook C, Spooner F. 2016. Pokémon Go: Benefits, Costs, and Lessons for the Conservation Movement. Conservation Letters doi: 10.1111/conl.12326.

Resources:
Can online gamin help improve your knowledge of forest trees?, Purdue Extension-FNR Got Nature?

Shaneka Lawson, USDA Forest Service/HTIRC Research Plant Physiologist/Adjunct Assistant Professor
Purdue University Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on February 14th, 2017 in Forestry, Forests and Street Trees, Got Nature for Kids, How To, Wildlife | Comments Off on Frogs and Toads of Indiana

View publication: Frogs and Toads of Indiana, The Education Store, Purdue Extension.


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