June 04, 2012

Journal Entry #9 - May 20, 2011

Grieg Garden – UW Campus
Seattle, WA

Weather: cloud over, slight rain.
Soil conditions: slightly wet.

I met with some group mates on campus today to flesh out details of our tour, and also to observe some very amusing squirrel behavior. As it was raining and slightly late in the afternoon, we weren’t sure if we would observe any squirrels – but we did! I happened to have some trail mix and was able to coax a group of squirrels out, as long as we kept supplying the food. They especially enjoyed the dry bananas and we even observed one squirrel scatter hoarding! So cool! We didn’t see our squirrel friend, Jopa, this time around as the squirrels we encountered were much more skittish than he. They did appear to have some friendly (or maybe not so friendly) competition going on, and we were able to get some good pictures and video for our tour. None of the squirrels came too close to us, and it could have been due to the rain or simply because they were more cautious as it was a quiet Sunday afternoon and not many people around.

May 31, 2012
Grieg Garden – UW Campus
Seattle, WA

Weather: cloud cover, although no rain during our tour.
Soil: appeared to be dry.

Today is the day of our squirrel tour! Upon waking up, I looked outside to find cloud cover and was not instantly hesitant that squirrels might not come out today. My part of the tour included squirrel feeding and observation, and well, to fulfill this task squirrels definitely need to be present! Since I had doubts about meaningful squirrel observations, I went to Grieg Garden before class to hopefully coax the squirrels out with my combination trail mix and sunflower seeds. For about 20 minutes prior to class, I went to the garden and started looking for squirrels and throwing about some food treat to enchant them out. It worked and within about 10 minutes (thankfully), I had a group of four squirrels coming for food. One squirrel in particular came so close I could touch it – although I never would – and they all kept coming back sporadically for more. They were very energetic and playful, chasing each other about and calling out rather loudly (almost a barking sound). Luckily, I was able to keep them out long enough for all groups to observe and feed the squirrels – SUCCESS! The main points I wanted people to take away from my portion of the tour pertained to: competition and interaction between the eastern and western gray squirrel populations, background information about our native western grays and where the remaining groups are located, getting an indication of a squirrel’s age by their tails and fur, the life span of captive vs. wild squirrels, and some information about squirrels nests. Aaron Johnston was generous enough to provide us with his robotic squirrels so I was able to explain that he has teamed up with Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife to construct a recovery plan for the western gray squirrels, in territory increasingly occupied by eastern grays. I also explained how to tell the difference between eastern and western grays, and these differences are easy to spot – eastern grays are smaller and have a rust-brown infusion in their coats, whereas western grays are much bigger and have fully gray fur. Josh asked me questions regarding whether these species have territorial disputes, and from my understanding of Aaron’s research, they do not so much fight as partition off territory, and don’t seem to enter in another’s area – this leads to competition for space, but also for resources. And we all know squirrels (like other rodents) get their strength in numbers, so to maintain healthy populations – there needs to be a lot of them! Furthermore, western grays prefer dense, wooded forests (which we are clearly losing everyday) and eastern grays prefer riparian areas. I also discussed that eastern grays are tree squirrels and build nests in trees to rear young, as well as live in – I told my “students” not to automatically assume that a nest on campus is from a bird, because it might very well be a squirrel’s nest. And lastly, I found it amazing that in the wild most squirrels don’t live to be even a year old due to harsh conditions (although they can live up to 8), but in captivity squirrels can live anywhere from 10-20 years. I very much enjoyed getting people excited about our awesome UW resident squirrels and it is very easy to. I oftentimes find myself in Grieg Garden with absolutely no sense of time, and end up spending a lot of it just watching these interesting animals.

Posted on June 04, 2012 10:29 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Journal Entry #8 - May 24, 2011

UW Campus
Seattle, WA

Weather: Cloud cover, light raining off and on.

Today was the first day of tours and we learned about the trees and moss found on campus. The first group was the trees and we observed quite a few species, to include: horse chestnut, Pacific Madrone, Douglas fir, Deodar cedar, Big Cone Pine, Gingko Biloba, English elm, and Monterey pine. Some interesting facts: horse chestnut produces small, white flowers with red spots and the seeds are called conkers – this tree is native to Europe. The Pacific madrone was actually cold to the touch, which was rather cool, and fruits edible berries, the leaves have medicinal uses, and this tree needs forest fires to maintain health. The Douglas fir is actually a member of the pine family and likes rocky soil and is fire tolerant. The Deodar cedar is native to the western Himalayan region and the fist-sized cones are produced only by female or bisexual trees; they are very durable trees and can live for several hundred years in poor soil conditions – they are also symbols of divinity in Asia. Gingko Biloba is native to China and is the oldest unchanged tree on earth in terms of genetics, ginseng from the tree is commonly used as an aphrodisiac in eastern medicine. Big cone pine produces the biggest cones of all pine species (hence the name) and the needles are long, thick, and in 3-needle clusters; they also produce a natural herbicide: terpene. The English elm reproduces through translucent sucker saplings, and the wood from this tree is a commonly used material for coffins. This tour was interesting, and during the observation of the horse chestnut, we were able to get a tree rubbing from the bark. Furthermore, I had always seen those little metal tags on some trees and I wondered what they were for – I found that one can identify the tree species by recording the number on the metal tag at www.assetmapper.com. I will definitely be exploring more of the trees on Seattle campus, there are so many!

The second group was the mosses and lichens. We learned that there are over 700 species in the PNW as they prefer wet, shady climates with slightly acidic soils. They rely on wind and water for dispersal and they can primarily live in any ecosystem, except marine habitats. They can go dormant for long periods of time and they lack a traditional root system. There were three groups examined: liverworts (which open into segments), mosses, and lichens (harder to the touch with no spores). We first went to the Burke-Gilman trail behind the greenhouse and looked at the different mosses on the bridge. We observed red roof moss and learned they were most common after fires. They were several kinds of mosses in this area and we didn’t have time to identify them all. Next we moved to the area near the bee house to learn about where mosses evolved from. This was very interesting! Bryophytes evolved from green algae and used to be submerged in water and as a result, they do not have a system for storing and distributing water. The haploid life cycle is the most common among algae where moss is furnished with one set of chromosomes. They are spore producing, which distinguishes them from other plants, and the stems/branches serve as sex organs. Fertilization can only occur with the presence of water, as sperm can swim – although they lack vascular systems and acquire nutrients from absorbing air and water from their surrounding environment.

The lichen skit was my favorite part of the tours all day, and was very amusing to watch. I learned that lichens respond very strongly to air pollution, and hence do not do well in urban areas where air pollution is prevalent. Because of this, they are strong indicators of air quality and the more stress they incur; the less they produce reproductive parts. Fungi and algae have a symbiotic relationship. Historically three broad categories of lichen have been acknowledged: crustose (crusty), foliose (leafy), and fruticose (shrubby) – and general rule of thumb: the less complex they are, the more tolerant to pollution they will be. They are the first indicators of change related to pollution and can be used in historical imagery analysis. Some are nitrogen fixers and respond negatively to sulphur dioxide – acid rain, heavy metal, smog, and radiation. Lichenization is the term used for symbiotic relationship between fungi and algae – where fungi provides the home for algae, and lichens live inside the fungi. In this we see that algae couldn’t exist without lichens.

Posted on June 04, 2012 09:57 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Journal Entry #7 - May 18, 2011

Schmitz Park Elementary
West Seattle, WA

Weather: Slight cloud cover.
Soil conditions: dry.

I sometimes volunteer for the Seattle Audubon Society, and this journal entry will account for my experience teaching natural history to young children. Upon arriving at Schmitz Park Elementary and speaking with program manager Janelle Shafer, I learned that the Seattle Audubon offers the FUN (Finding Urban Nature) program to schools which currently have no environmental education incorporated into their curriculum. It was baffling to think that a school in Seattle, of all places, did not offer any environmental education to students and I made it my duty to foster their learning about the natural world around them. The organization is run mostly through volunteers, with a few salaried employees, and strives to bring children closer to the nature in urban environments – i.e. one’s own schoolyard.

I was instructed to lead three groups of 3rd graders in lessons pertaining to environmental education, and the first topic was “Bird’s Nests.” The kids learned many interesting facts about the different types of nests that birds can make and were instructed to find materials in their schoolyard habitat to make their own bird’s nest. This actually was much harder than it sounds as it was very important to find the right materials to construct the nest, and then putting it together was a challenge as well. Some of the children were easily discouraged and I explained to them that we were only acting as birds, and so this is why we weren’t able to make a nest as well as a bird can. It was clear the more patient a child was in engaging with the activity, the better the nest turned out. I wondered if this was because children are so used to sources of instant gratification in current times, or if this was truly a skill-based lesson. The children used various materials foraged in their schoolyard habitat including: needles from the Douglas fir trees, grass, flower petals from dandelions, and various flexible branches.

My first group of third-graders consisted of five children. Among them was a very energetic, rambunctious youth – Brian – and he kept singing the lyrics to some popular, rather provocative songs. It was quite entertaining. Even more so because I had his twin brother – Tyler – in my next group and he was the exact opposite. Like night and day, literally. Tyler did seem to have more success with his bird’s nest, as he was calm enough to complete the task at hand. Interesting to think about twins and how different their personalities can be, makes for curious analysis.

I also had an autistic boy in this group named Logan. He didn’t seem to grasp, or much less express interest, in the lesson. He just wanted to talk to me and ask me random questions, which I found amusing. His paraprofessional, a Hispanic woman, was present with him and she made sure he remained somewhat on task. I asked her about how the other children responded to having an autistic child – someone who is clearly much different than them – as a part of their class. She stated that initially it wasn’t accepted as much amongst the children, but as they got used to it – the faculty was able to observe the definite improvement in relations between all the students. In my observation, there was one girl in particular – Michelle – who remained close to Logan throughout most of the lesson and helped him out a lot when needed. In returning back to the class, I also saw her desk was positioned right next to his and as this was right before recess, she helped him prepare to go outside. It was actually quite touching how close they seemed. I thought this was an interesting way to integrate diversity into classrooms and promote kindness and understanding in young children.

My last group ended up with the best bird’s nests of the day. I don’t know if it was because they were in a smaller group and I was able to float between the kids easier, or if this group was genuinely more interested in the natural world – maybe a combination of both. Isabel did seem to know a lot of random facts about plant cycles, and I felt bad because she got her jacket dirty and seemed really scared to tell or show her mom. Lastly, it could be that I had conducted this lesson three times by this point, which could have contributed to the streamlined efficiency of it all.

Posted on June 04, 2012 09:01 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

May 30, 2012

Journal Entry #6 – May 1, 2012

University of Washington Campus
Seattle, WA

Weather: Slight cloud cover, mid 50’s.
Soil conditions: dry.

While on campus today, my group mate Marika and I went to this area on campus where I have observed squirrel activity in the past. One just came right up to me while I was reading and ever since, I have loved going there. So our goal was to investigate the behavior of the Eastern gray squirrels so prevalent on campus, and we brought food treat as incentive for some possible interaction. One squirrel in particular, which we named Jopa, was very playful and came so close that he was almost eating out of my hand. At one point, I thought he was just going to jump on me. Squirrels can be kind of scary up close, they are so quick and you definitely don’t want to get bitten. I observed their coats were gray with a brown-copper infusion and it made me wonder if they grow a thicker coat in the winter. They appear to be much fluffier and fully gray in during this time, which leads me to believe this is the case. I also observed one squirrel sort of flicking his tail and fluffing it out and I wondered if this was an aggressive behavior, possibly to make himself appear larger? Or simply just some form of silent communication? All the squirrels appeared to be tame and generally unafraid of humans. They ate the pear that we brought, but were also foraging on trees and the ground for food. This environment seems to be the most ideal for squirrels on campus because they remain relatively closed off from people and there is less traffic.

May 14, 2012

University of Washington
Seattle, WA

Today I went with my group mates, Tessa and Oli, to speak with Aaron Johnston about his research regarding competition between Eastern and Western gray squirrel populations. Aaron is a PhD student in the School of Forest Resources (SFR) and he is examining the encroachment of the Eastern gray into Western gray territory. This research is aimed at assessing whether the Eastern gray is the cause for Western gray decline, and thus subsequent placement as a threatened species. He stated that numbers of Western gray populations are in such decline that they are only found in three places in Washington: along the Columbia, in the North Cascades in the Eastside Mountains, and Fort Lewis Reservation – which has the smallest resident population. He advised that these are isolated squirrel populations, which leads to decreased genetic diversity, and he hopes to augment populations of Western grays at Fort Lewis Reservation (where most of his research is conducted) to increase genetic diversity and enhance species survival. He also seeks to determine if patterns in Western gray resource use and survival at Fort Lewis Military Reservation will extent throughout the PNW in the hopes of finding successfulful conservation strategies in light of Eastern gray’s abundant colonization.

Posted on May 30, 2012 12:43 AM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

April 30, 2012

Journal Entry #5 - April 28, 2012

Mount Baker National Park - Big Four Ice Caves
Snohomish, WA

Weather: cold, cloud cover, snowpack, no rain.
Soil conditions: wetland area.

Upon arriving to Big Four Mountain, we encountered approximately 1½’ of snow inhibiting the trail to the ice caves. The road was blocked and we departed on foot throughout the snow, very ill prepared at that! I was not expecting there to be such extensive snow on the ground and because of this we could not access the ice caves as we wanted. The area was very beautiful and provided habitat to a wide range of species, and there appeared to be old growth trees in this hemlock dominated forest. I observed many areas were beavers were slowly taking down very large trees, and was surprised by the size of the logs they used. We saw many beaver dams along much of the South Fork Stilliguamish River and Ice Creek and the presence of fungi was noted. Abundance of Cedars was noted along the river’s edge and patches of skunk cabbage were prevalent in riparian zones. I only observed one bird, a raven, and he was quite big. There was also an abundance of coltsfoot and willow in areas with wet soil conditions.

Posted on April 30, 2012 08:38 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Journal Entry #4 - April 24, 2012

Burke Museum – UW Campus Seattle
In conducting our tour of the ornithology area, the tour guide advised that ornithology provides very useful information regarding bird physiology. He stated that dental records, skeletal and tissue specimens, and wing spread can provide useful information in comparing bird fossils to identify species type. He states that archive analysis follows a two-dimensional approach through time and space and is used to acquire useful data to compare and track changes throughout time in bird populations. He advised that stable-isotope analysis can be used to find out what animals were eating and how this changes through time – especially important considering the major anthropogenic changes to animal habitats – as well as migration and hybridization zones of different bird species. One thing I wasn't expecting was to be directed to an area where they were skinning a cougar leg. It was pretty graphic and I would have liked some warning.

April 27, 2012
Gas Works – Seattle, WA
Weather: extensive cloud cover, cold, extremely windy.
While at Gas Works I observed a flock of unidentified birds playing in the wind. It was quite interesting to watch how agile these birds were and how much fun they seemed to be having shooting, twisting, diving, and flipping through the wind. They were quite small, black on the back/wing area, white on the belly area, with a horizontal white stripe just above the base of their tail feathers. I tried looking this bird up and could not distinguish the species. While there, I observed huckleberry almost in bloom and Canadian geese at the water’s edge.

Posted on April 30, 2012 08:23 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Journal Entry #3 - April 12, 2012

Union Bay Natural Area – UW Campus Seattle
Weather: cloud cover, light drizzles of rain, windy, cold.
Soil conditions: wetland area.

This area is managed bv the UW Botanic Gardens and serves as an outdoor research laboratory with the goals of “maintaining and enhancing plants, wildlife, and landscape values.” A public wildlife area and natural restoration area that is home for many bird species, this site is off Lake Washington and offers important habitat in this urban area of Seattle. The presence of plants noted: Queen Anne’s lace, Common cattails, crabapple trees, and willows; presence of animals noted: mergansers, ducks, geese, and several unidentified songbird species.

April 22, 2012
Wallace Falls State Park – Gold Bar, WA
Weather: Minimal cloud cover, extremely sunny weather, hot and slightly humid.
Soil conditions: wet and dry soil, presence of rocks noted along all trail areas and within forest.

Upon arriving to Wallace Falls State Park, we took the trail leading to Wallace Lake. We arrived in the early afternoon and the sun was set high in the sky, which made for very hot hikers. The trail was dominated by the presence of very large secondary growth trees comprised mostly of Douglas Firs and Red Cedars. In the understory, the presence of salal, huckleberry, salmonberry, and sword ferns was noted. Sword ferns dominated the slopes of the mountain and along riparian zones. Although it was extremely hot, there wasn’t much sunlight and mostly filtered sunlight passed through the canopy and made ideal conditions for lichen, moss, and fungi to colonize. As we ascended in elevation, the presence of dull Oregon grape was noted and I made an interesting observation in patches of skunk cabbage just off the trail. The presence of moss over much of the tree limbs, branches, and stumps was noted and small, yellow, unidentified flowers were noted in shaded areas – usually at the base of trees. As we began to take more frequent breaks along out 10-12 mile hike, I noted the presence of fungi – some mushrooms in decomposing logs, and yellow brain fungus on downed branches. When we reached Wallace Lake, the presence of skunk cabbage was observed in abundance in patches along the lake in inundates areas along the water’s edge. Although I heard many birds, I sadly did not see any – except in fleeting moments. On the hike back, as it was getting dark and we wanted to hurry, we blasted some music from our iPod and some of the birds seemed to enjoy and sing along. Pretty cool! Also, something interesting to note was the geological formations along riparian zones and river’s edge. The soil conditions were extremely rocky in some places, and I noticed rocks grown into the roots of downed/dead trees. The forest appeared to be very productive and home to many species, although clearly dominated by – Alders, Firs, salal, salmonberry, huckleberry, dull Oregon grape, and sword ferns.

Posted on April 30, 2012 08:09 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Journal Entry #2 - April 1, 2012

Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge – Olympia, WA
Weather: cold, raining off and on, considerable cloud clover.

Upon arriving at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, we had a brief presentation on the history of the area and learned of the different land uses the refuge has undergone. The area was converted from wetland to agricultural area, and was slated for the possible site for waste disposal. This refuge was so beautiful and abundant in birds and waterfowl, and it would have been a tragedy if waste disposal as the primary land use was implemented. Luckily, this area is in the process of restoring the wetland habitat for migratory bird populations. When we exited the community center, we took the Loop Trail and observed wetland areas dominated by the salmonberry along riparian zones. There were also a variety of bird and waterfowl species present and we observed Canadian geese, Red-tailed hawk, Great blue heron, robin, and owl species throughout the trail along the boardwalk. When we reached the end of the Loop Trail, some of us branched out and headed towards the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail. To reach this trail, we had to walk past the Twin Barns and along much of what was used for agricultural land post-colonial times. Along the banks of the trail, there was Common cattail in abundance and this provided optimal area for the American bittern to forage in. I almost missed this bird as he blended in so well with the straw-colored cattails. He was definitely my favorite observation, as he had a creepy gate and moved in a very striking way. He also had bright green feet which contrasted nicely with his golden, straw colored feathers – optimal camouflage for this habitat. Also, something to note was the occurrence of very few trees throughout much of this area and we came to the conclusion, these trees were probably placed to provide shade for grazing livestock when agriculture was the primary land use. As we walked further along this trail, wetland area began to dominate and the abundance of waterfowl was amazing. There were several species of ducks, geese, herons, and many others. I noted that most of the males were much more striking than females and for important reasons – predation and reproductive purposes. Upon arriving at the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail, we observed juvenile eagles and it was apparent that the other birds were nervous and were vigilant in response to this. Upon walking back to the community center, we walked along a boardwalk trail which faced the Twin Barns. I noticed some interesting colonizers on the nurse logs in this wetland area, and these trees appeared to be very alive in spite of their downed state. Salmonberry and willows were noted throughout this area and also a few waterfowl species: mergansers and ducks. The male merganser was particularly striking with his Mohawk-styled feathers and beautiful colors – which indicated it was mating season. This area was very beautiful and seemed to be thriving. The abundance of birds was amazing and it was obvious that this area is home to many different bird populations.

Posted on April 30, 2012 07:49 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Journal Entry #1 - March 31, 2012

Pack Forest – Eatonville, WA
Weather: cloud cover, light rain off and on.
Soil conditions: extremely wet, muddy.

Upon arriving to Pack Forest, we were directed to a large open space surrounded by a predominantly coniferous forest. In this field, I observed robins foraging through the grass and surveyed species around the edges of the forest. Salal and salmonberry were observed in abundance among this thick understory vegetation. Upon proceeding into the forest, I observed Alder species surrounding a stagnant pond with what appeared to be algae blooms on the surface. Alder is an important species in forest ecology as it can fix nitrogen, and because of this plays an important part in species succession. Pack Forest is a considered to be a working forest and is comprised of secondary growth – and the thick, dense understory is indicative of this. The soil conditions were extremely wet and the vegetation was clearly adapted to this wetland environment.

The presence of Red-flowering currant was noted throughout much of the dense understory, and Alder and Firs were among the dominant tree species. There was also an abundance of lichen and moss, and observed morels in muddy soil conditions. Something interesting I noted was what appeared to be marks in the trees from woodpecker activity – later identified as sapsuckers.

Trail of Shadows – Longmire, WA (Mount Rainier)
Weather: partly cloudy, raining off and on, higher altitude – snowpack present.
Soil conditions: extremely wet and muddy, surrounding mineral springs – wetland.
Upon arriving at the base of Mount Rainier, we observed snowpack and the drop in temperature was noticeable as we ascended in elevation. The Trail of Shadows was a beautiful hike surrounding iron mineral springs – which colored the water a vibrant rusty, copper color. These springs were historically used as a health spa for people to come nurse various ailments in the soothing mineral water. We observed the brick formations of spas, mostly still intact, and information boards explained the homeopathic qualities of the healing mineral waters. The water was also warm and bubbling in certain areas.

This forest was much more open than Pack Forest, and appeared to be older growth. This was evident by the sheer size of the trees, and also the presence of down and dead trees throughout the understory. Alders and Western Yews were observed, as well as several species of Pines. There was minimal light which shown past the canopy of the trees, and what light did come through was filtered. This was optimal for lichen, moss, and fungi to grow and it was observed in abundance and quite colorful than that compared to Pack Forest. I observed British solder lichen and yellow brain fungus near the water’s edge. A meandering stream along most of the trail was lined with deer fern in abundance along both banks. I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the spotted owl among the snags of old growth, but sadly no animal sightings.

Posted on April 30, 2012 07:02 PM by jmarcello1 jmarcello1 | 0 comments | Leave a comment

Archives