Got Nature? Blog

Posted on August 30th, 2017 in Got Nature for Kids, How To, Wildlife | No Comments »

Purdue Extension-Nature of Teaching presents workshops focusing on the benefits of connecting children with nature and lessons sharing management of food waste. By attending a workshop, teachers will develop the tools in order to enact this connection within their students. Teachers will also earn eight Professional Growth Plan points, can receive a $150 stipend if they integrate our lessons into their classroom and receive a binder with 15 to 20 lesson plans and participate in hands-on outdoor learning activities.

Register and pay early to guarantee your spot.

Health and Wellness Workshops:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 23
Time: 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Pokagon State Park Nature Center, 450 Lane 100 Lake James, Angola, IN
Register Here
Contact: Tami Mosier – mosier@purdue.edu

Date: Saturday, Sept. 23
Time: 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: John S. Wright Forestry Center, 1007 N. 725 W., West Lafayette, IN
Register Here
Contact: Dr. Rod Williams – rodw@purdue.edu

Date: Saturday, Oct. 28
Time: 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Purdue Extension – Hamilton County office, 2003 Pleasant St., Noblesville, IN
Register Here
Contact: Lindsey Pedigo – simpsonl@purdue.edu

Food Waste Workshops:
Date: Saturday, Sept. 16
Time: 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: Southern Indiana Purdue Ag Center (SIPAC), 11371 East Purdue Farm Road, IN
Register Here
Contact: Rod Williams – rodw@purdue.edu

Date: Saturday, Oct. 7
Time: 8:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Location: John S. Wright Forestry Center, 1007 N. 725 W., West Lafayette, IN
Register Here
Contact: Rod Williams – rodw@purdue.edu

For more information view the Workshop’s page.

The Nature of Teaching IdentityResources:
Publication: Benefits of Connecting with Nature – Got Nature, Purdue Extension-FNR
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

Tami Mosier, Extension Educator, Steuben 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

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


Posted on August 28th, 2017 in Wildlife | No Comments »

Basic Animal Characteristics ChartWhen you look at a photo of basic animal traits, you rarely expect surprises. Our educational background has taught us the answers as children. Researchers in Hong Kong, China have made a discovery that changes how we look at one particular species.

Mangrove Ecology and Evolution Lab scientists from the Swire Institute of Marine Sciences (SWIMS) and School of Biological Sciences, based in Hong Kong have recently discovered a new species of mangrove-climbing micro-crab. These crabs, named Haberma tingkok (Haberma for the genus of mangrove crabs and tingkok for the Ting Kok region where they were found), are less than a centimeter long, predominantly dark brown, with a squarish carapace, very long legs and orange claws. All specimens were found 1.5–1.8 meters (~ 5 to 6 feet) above chart datum (the water level that nautical charts are measured from).

Pseudosesarma patshuniThis new species represents only the first to be described in Hong Kong since Pseudosesarma patshuni, a much larger but non-climbing crab, in 1975. This crap is Hong Kong’s first truly arboreal crab. This small crab lives in mangrove branches and breathes air. Several known relatives have been found in the mangroves of Singapore and Indonesian New Guinea but none can climb trees.

Discovery of a new crab species in Hong Kong shows that more can be learned about crab diversity in Hong Kong. Projects like this one are paramount to the continued development of the Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan (BSAP) initiated by the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region under the United Nations’ Convention of Biological Diversity. Now, the scientists in Hong Kong are looking up in the trees rather than only at the ground in the search for additional marine species. With as estimate by marine biologists that we only know 50–60% of the real diversity of coastal and littoral crabs in Hong Kong, surely there are more surprises in store.

Journal Reference:
Cammocco S. and Ng PLK. 2017. A new species of micro-mangrove crab of the genus Haberma Ng & Schubart, 2002 (Crustacea, Brachyura, Sesarmidae) from Hong Kong. ZooKeys doi: 10.3897/zookeys.662.11908
Web Reference:
The University of Hong Kong. “Marine ecologists discover and name the first endemic tree-climbing crab.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 April 2017. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170411104534.htm.

Resources:
Bagworm caterpillars are out feeding, be ready to spray your trees, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
A New Drone Supports Pollinator Efforts, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

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


Posted on July 24th, 2017 in Urban Forestry, Wildlife | No Comments »

A drone can be defined in a myriad of ways. A constant humming sound can be called a drone. Your professor going over a lecture you find boring can be described as droning on and on about a particular topic. That friend of yours with the uncanny ability to come by your place to eat right at dinnertime but never offers to pay for the food is also a drone. In nature, male bees are also known as drones. These insects, the products of unfertilized eggs have an easy but vital role within the hive; mate with the queen. In technology, a drone is a remote-controlled aircraft either publicly available (those who fly them are termed ‘enthusiasts’) or held by the military that that has dramatically increased in popularity over the last decade. What happens when drone bees and remote-controlled drones meet?

Bee and Drone Expression

Researchers in Japan have come up with an inventive pollination plan. As bees continue to die out, insect sized drones are being used to pollinate lilies. The miniature robots are covered in horse hair and a sticky gel that allows pollen picked up from one plant to be deposited on another. By no means a solution to the global decline in insect pollinators, these robots are working to help alleviate the demands placed on bee colonies to ensure adequate pollination of agricultural crops.

Mechanical BeeThe creative ‘bug’ has reached the industrial design field where 24-year-old senior Anna Haldewang (Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia) developed Plan Bee. Rather than being the size of the bee, this black-and-yellow drone is the size of hand and resembles a flower. Plan Bee passes over flowers collecting pollen for later cross-pollination. Haldewang has filed a patent application and is roughly two years from having a product for the market. The primary role of Plan Bee is as an educational tool, however, hydroponic and large-scale applications may also be possible.

Robotic InsectIn addition to efforts of the Japanese groups, a research group in Maryland has taken the bee drone one step further. This group, led by Sarah Bergbreiter and her colleagues from the Maryland Microrobotics Laboratory at the University of Maryland, College Park has built tiny, microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) devices that look like and share the same movement as other insects such as fleas and ants. This group hopes to use their tiny robots to evaluate bridges and other structures for breakdown and search for survivors after a natural disaster.

The moral of the story is, when you see a bee hard at work, appreciate the job it’s doing to ensure that our crops are fertilized, our flowers are pollinated, and we have honey to eat.

Literature Cited:
Chechetka et al. 2017. Materially engineered artificial pollinators. Chem 2, 224–239.
AVS: Science Array Technology of Materials, Interfaces, and Processing. Insect-like microrobots move just like real insectsScienceDaily, 7 November 2016.

Web Resources:
This ‘bee’ drone is a robotic flower pollinator, CNN Tech
Biometric Trees: A Shockingly Cool Development, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR
Consider Pollinators When Planning Your Garden, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

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

 


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


Posted on July 5th, 2017 in Safety, Wildlife | No Comments »
Female Aedes aegypti mosquito

Photo by: James Gathany, Center for Disease Control and Prevention

While researchers say it is difficult to determine whether unusual weather patterns this winter and spring will lead to larger mosquito and tick populations in the Upper Midwest this summer, one thing is certain – anyone planning to spend time outdoors should take steps to avoid the potentially dangerous pests.

“Every year we face the same risks and every year it is wise to take precautions,” said Catherine Hill, Purdue University medical entomologist. “If you’re going to be outside anytime from early spring to late summer and early fall, you need to be thinking about prevention and protection.”

Both mosquitos and ticks can carry a number of pathogens that could pose a serious threat to people and animals. Mosquitos can transmit several viruses that can cause severe encephalitis (inflammation of the brain and spinal cord), including Zika and West Nile virus, among others. Ticks are known carriers of Lyme disease, which infects about 300,000 people each year, as well as less common but equally dangerous conditions such as anaplasmosis, babesiosis, Powassan and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

To avoid mosquito bites, the best advice is to stay indoors during peak biting times, which is typically dusk to dawn for the mosquitoes that transmit West Nile virus and during the day for mosquitoes that transmit Zika.

“If you have to be outside during those times, it is best to wear clothing that can help prevent bites,” Hill said. Appropriate wardrobe choices include long-sleeve shirts and long pants tucked into socks. It is also advisable to use an effective repellant, such as products containing a minimum of 20 to 30 percent – of diethyltoluamide, commonly known as DEET. The Centers for Disease Control also recommends products containing picardin, lemon of eucalyptus and IR3535. More information is available on the CDC website at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/the-pre-travel-consultation/protection-against-mosquitoes-ticks-other-arthropods.

Mosquitoes breed in standing water and their larvae and pupae need water to develop. Homeowners can help reduce mosquito populations in their back yard by dumping standing water out of buckets and wading pools, keeping lawns mowed and removing piles of brush or yard waste, Hill said.

Ticks can thrive in back yards as well, particularly those adjacent heavily wooded areas, in tall grass and brush and under leaf piles.

Hill said the warmer winter and wet spring could have created ideal conditions for ticks in some areas although conditions vary significantly from region to region.

“We’ve already been getting plenty of ticks,” Hill said. “They’re certainly active.”

The best defense against ticks is to wear light colored clothing with long sleeves and pants and to use a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-approved repellant. It is also a good idea to check your body and clothing for ticks immediately after coming back indoors.

“If you can remove a tick within 24 hours, you have a very good chance of catching them before they transmit,” Hill said.

Ticks feed on blood and tend to attach themselves to tender areas of the skin, including around the hairline and in the armpit and groin.

For the full article, see Purdue Agriculture News.

Resources:
Mosquitoes, Purdue Extension Entomology
One Small Bite: One Large Problem, Got Nature?, Purdue Extension-FNR

Darrin J Pack, Writer/Editor
Purdue University Department of Agricultural Communication

Catherine A Hill, Professor of Entomology/Vector Biology
Purdue University Department of Entomology


Posted on June 30th, 2017 in Forestry, Wildlife, Woodlands | No Comments »
Eastern Hellbender

Eastern Hellbender

We have written about the Eastern Hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in this blog multiple times. It is a unique species and plays an important role in the aquatic ecosystem in which it inhabits. Unfortunately, the species has been declining throughout much of its range over the past several decades and can no longer be found in many of the rivers and streams where it used to be common. In Indiana, the Eastern Hellbender can only be found in the Blue River. However, this population is also declining and without intervention will likely disappear within the next 20 years.

To help prevent this, Purdue University’s “Help the Hellbender” has teamed with Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden (MPZ) to attempt to captive breed the Eastern Hellbender. Purdue University biologists have been capturing wild Eastern Hellbenders from the Blue River and transporting them to MPZ. MPZ has built an indoor stream designed to mimic the conditions in the Blue River. They have followed the advice of members of the highly successful Ozark Hellbender subspecies (C. a. bishopi) breeding program at St. Louis Zoo.

Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden zookeeper, Bryan Plis, places a wild Eastern Hellbender into the new breeding raceway

Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden zookeeper, Bryan Plis, places a wild Eastern Hellbender into the new breeding raceway

If successful, this captive population will provide a long-term, easily accessible source of young Hellbenders for eventual release. This will allow us to continue to repopulate the Blue River while expanding our release efforts to include other southern Indiana rivers with suitable habitat. The breeding program also will reduce the need to spend countless hours searching the river in the hopes of finding increasingly rare Hellbender nests. Through these efforts we will hopefully be able to reestablish self-sustaining populations of Hellbenders throughout southern Indiana and help prevent the extinction of a truly magnificent animal.

For more ways you can help, please visit HelptheHellbender.org.

Resources:
Mesker Park Zoo: Helping the Hellbender , Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources, YouTube
Help the Hellbender, Purdue Extension-Forestry and Natural Resources
Mesker Park Zoo and Botanic Garden
Hellbender Information, St. Louis Zoo
Purdue Partners with Indiana Zoos for Hellbender Conservation, Purdue Newsroom
I found this in my barn. Is it a Hellbender?, Purdue Got Nature?, Forestry and Natural Resources

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

 


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


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