Final Project- Final journal entry is in booklet, attached to this are pictures I took while observing my location.
Final Project- Final journal entry is in booklet, attached to this are pictures I took while observing my location.
Birds and Waterfowl presentation 5/29
Weather: warm and sunny.
Today we again met at the Union Bay Natural Area to hear the presentations of the birds and waterfowl groups. On our walk with the birds group first, we walked all around the area in search of whatever birds we could come across. We managed to see a great number of red-winged black birds, black capped chickadees, violet-green swallows, song sparrows, and barn swallows. We observed the behaviors of the varying species, which revealed some interesting habits of each. The larger and more numerous species in the, like the red-winged blackbirds, were by far the most conspicuous. Standing atop branches in steadfast guard of their territory, they would often call to others of their same species and fly around to chase out the smaller birds that wandered in to their habitats. They had a very conspicuous call as well, with a trill, electronic sound coming from their territory establishing calls. The black capped chickadees, we learned, were the very common type of chickadee that is seen all across the continental US, throughout cities and wildlife areas and with the distinct “chicka-dee-dee-dee” call. The tour was very informative, and I was very impressed with the ability of the guides to find material to relay to the groups, despite not being constantly around birds.
The waterfowl group was also interesting, however most of the birds they spoke of were quite well known to the class. They taught about the Canada geese which are common throughout this area during the spring and summer when the weather is nice, but who then migrate in the winter. Also, the great blue heron was also discussed. The most interesting fact about the great blue heron is that despite its tendency to live around water during the day, it nests in trees on land by night, like those in the heron rookery on campus. Some lesser known species that the group elaborated on were buffleheads, the smallest ducks in the region that are small enough to nest in the cavities of woodpeckers in the north. They are, unlike most waterfowl, monogamous. Some more common ducks in the areas, besides the well known mallard ducks, are the similar in appearance ducks like the northern shovelers, or the blue or green-winged teals. The females of all these species have similar brown patterns of feathers, and the male mallards and shovelers have iridescent green heads with several colors on the body, which can make distinguishing these species confusing. The best way to distinguish between these is to look for a part of the wing whose feathers are uniquely colored for each species, called the speculum, violet-blue on the mallard, green on the green-winged teal, and green on the shoveler, and white on the buffleheads.
Weather: Bright and Warm
Today the Fungi group began the group projects at the Union Bay Natural Area. We learned that only seven out of the thousands of species of fungi are lethal upon ingestion, so they represent a very small risk of death when eaten without positively identifying the species. However, a good general rule to follow would be to avoid whitecaps or yellowish whitecapped mushrooms. Fungi grow hyphae to decompose nutrients and absorb them through their tips. The first fungus type of organism is dated to about 1.43 billion years ago, and it began as an aquatic organism and moved to land, upon which it became one of the first dominant terrestrial species types. At one point, there were even mushrooms that grew to massive proportions, as tall as a hill, but soon after went extinct. These were replaced by the more effective form of tiny mushrooms that existed only below ground. Fungi fix elements like phosphorus in the soil so that organisms like trees can more easily access them, with which the fungi will often grow upon to sap nutrients of its own to survive. While usually fungi exhibit some sort of mutually beneficial arrangement with their host organisms, they have been known to become parasitic, entirely killing their hosts. One tree we spotted was dead, standing upright with an artist’s conk directly draining nutrients from its heartwood. We saw the various types of rot again, from brown to white, including some more turkeytails, sterium- orange bleeders and non bleeders, hypotalon- black lava rock types, fremedies- non colored turkey tails, and dacrymyces stollutus- orange jelly fungi, Japansese parasol fungi, that were the inky capped mushrooms that died within 24 hours of their growth.
Forbes are the flowering, herb like, non-woody shrubs, sedges, grasses, or flowers. Forbes are all over the UBNA, as most of the ground coverings that weren’t thick and woody like the Himalayan blackberries of other large bushes are types of forbes. Exampels sincluded the large leaf lupine, a purple and assumed poisonous plant, morning glory-an invasive that would kill its host, mountain sage brush- a small yellow flowered forbe, queen anne’s lace, an edible plant whose seeds holds contraceptive qualities, broadleaf plantain, common camis, tall buttercup, dandelion, hairy cat’s ear and others. Washington state has between 1,100-1,300 wildflower species, many of which are introduced. With one of the most diverse populations of forbes, many creative uses have been found for their varying properties. Organisms like the skunk cabbage are unique in that they act almost like an animal in the way that it generates its own body heat to melt its way through snow, is edible but has high calcium oxate levels that make it somewhat toxic. Another common flower, the dandelion, can be eaten and cooked into dishes like collard greens, or used to ferment and make wine, which we sampled on the tour.
Trees/Mosses and Lichen group presentations 5/22
Weather: initially dry and comfortable, but subsequently rainy and cold.
The first group project presentations went today, and consisted of the Trees group and the Mosses & Lichens group. The tree group started off with a few unique trees found among campus with a brief history of the species and their roles in society and how they came to be on campus. The first presenter group I was with dealt with exotic species that had all been planted horticulturally for aesthetic purposes. Among these were the Ginko tree, which was originally from China, but thought to be extinct in the wild worldwide. However, it is grown so common horticulturally that they are at no risk of extinction or anything of that nature. They are an extremely old species, and have remained evolutionarily constant since for thousands of years, more so than most plant species. We then learned about the English Elm, which is a common tree on campus. It is an extremely popular tree in many parts of Europe for use in cities and aesthetics, but is native to Italy. It is associated with death because of its tendency to spontaneously drop branches, which can often have fatal consequences. Then we went toward the Heron rookery, where we came across several native species of trees. We began to talk about the uses of trees like the Western red cedar found there, which the natives used for clothing, rope, boat carving, and many other purposes. Because of its easy to peel bark, the western red cedar became essential to the daily lives and subsistence of native Americans in the Pacific Northwest. Another significant tree we discussed was the Giant Sequoia near the rookery, which is noted for being massive and ancient, as well as being an exotic species that was planted on campus by a professor many years ago. The species is native to a particular location in California, but has somehow managed to survive quite well in the Washington climate for all these years.
We then learned about several trees, including the horse chestnut (aesculus hippocastnun), big leaf maple, pacific madrone, and douglas fir. All of these plants are native to the Pacific Northwest and are relatively common throughout the area (with the possible exception of the horse chestnut, I do not recall for that). The pacific madrone was the most fascinating species to me because of its reputation as the Refrigerator tree, a nickname resulting from its lack of deadwood insulating the cool water rushing through the tree’s base to the branches. As a result of this lack of deadwood, the bark of the pacific madrone is consistently cold, even on hot days, hence the name refrigerator tree.
Additionally, the mosses and lichens group went as the rain began, which was appropriate given one of the natural conditions necessary for moss and lichen growth is rain. The group described the roles that fungi and algae play in conjunction to create lichen. The fungi act as structures to house the alagae, which then synthesize nutrients which keep the fungi surviving. This symbiotic nature is conducive to both parties in the system known as lichenization. More complex pairs of fungi and algae create less stress tolerant lichen to external stressors like pollution.
Mosses are briophytes that take from a quarter to half a year to mature. Mosses evolved from green algae long ago and now reproduce through the use of spores, much like fungi. Modern day ferns evolved from mosses.
Weather- sunny but not particularly warm. Late afternoon walk with classmate Kara
Today, Kara and I decided to take a walk down to Greenlake to see if we could observe some more natural history of the Seattle area in action. We certainly found some examples, but I was rather disappointed with the amount of natural things to be found on the way to and at Greenlake. I had only been to the park just once before and my memory served me wrong. I expected an environment more like that of Ravenna or Carkeek park, but Greenlake is actually very urban and un-natural in many ways. However, along some of the streets and at the park we did manage to see a fair number of trees and shrubs that were unique. Additionally, the park was home to a couple common bird species, including crows, chickadees, seagulls, mallards, and Canadian geese. One tree we saw was very difficult to identify. It appeared to be some sort of pine, but its cones were so miniscule that it seemed like it was very likely not a native species to the Puget Sound area. It was not even listed in the Pojar plant guide, and so we were forced to give it up as a lost cause for identification.
Squirrel adventures 2
Weather: Sunny, bright, warm. Spring day in every sense.
Returning to the spot favorited by campus squirrels, Greig Garden, we observed more squirrels. Squirrels on days like these can be found virtually anywhere on campus. However, generally don’t stray far from at least some form of cover like a bush or grass. Despite how domesticated and comfortable these squirrels have grown with urban development, they will never be at home on the pavement. However, they will certainly be willing to brave the elements of concrete or brick if there is a delicious morsel of food to be acquired. We saw a squirrel climb out of a trashcan with a cracker or some kind of leftover in hand to munch on and subsequently retreated into the nearby tree patch. Other squirrels we enticed with nuts for bait and got very close up looks at. The squirrels on campus, as we know, are exclusively Eastern Gray Squirrels. These are very large, and generally look to be about a foot from head to toe, not including the tail’s length. They are agile and powerful, and are honestly a bit intimidating up close. Their incisors are menacingly sharp and could easily wreck havoc on an over-eager squirrel feeder’s fingers if the squirrel felt provoked.
These squirrels are very comfortable around humans for the most part given their constant inundation with the traffic of campus. One squirrel even refused to move for me while I was riding by it slowly on my bike, nearly causing me to crash. Their preciousness is likely an acclimation to their environment rather than an inheritable trait, as there have been studies performed by other university students testing the precociousness of Eastern Gray Squirrels found on their campus and those found in a nearby park, which concluded that the campus squirrels were more tolerant of human approach. These findings appear to be consistent with the anecdotal experiences of myself and the other members of my group. Similar to ducks or birds or any other animal that is used to being fed by humans, the squirrels have altered their naturally flighty behavior by allowing humans to approach them much closer, exposing them to the risk of predation for the reward of easy food. Having learned about squirrel behaviors such as scatter hoarding, I can observe some of these patterns for myself when the squirrels will not finish their food, and merely take the nut or whatever and scamper off into the denser foliage. This is likely done to create a small burrow in which to hold this new food portion for future consumption.
Campus squirrels seem to have found an easy living by being accommodating to humans and adapting to the easy sources of food from thrown away garbage to handouts from excited observers and making their homes amongst heavily trafficked areas on campus.
Carkeek Park- 5/12
Weather: relatively warm, good medium spring temperature, 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Time: early afternoon, very light out.
Today I found myself near Carkeek park and decided to spend some time looking at the environment in this park. I had never been there before but was eating lunch at the park with some friends before heading into the woods to do some exploring. I wandered up several trails and saw a multitude of horsetails, sword and bracken ferns, many maples (big leaf, Japanese, hornbeam), salmonberry, blackberry, Oregon grape, and an Alaska cedar.
I saw a sign that also read that the fish had returned to the local creek, but from what I saw there was not much to the creek and seemed to be insufficient to facilitate fish runs. However, hopefully this will pick up greatly in the coming weeks or months.
I was surprised that there were very few animals around, as I saw only a single gray squirrel, and several robins. However, the park is very big and surrounded by much deeper woods than that which I explored, and there could be many animals and birds nesting within the denser regions.
I noticed that there was also an adjacent beach area, in which I imagine there would be several species of barnacles, crabs, and some seagulls to boot. However, I never managed to wander down there and see for myself, I will save this adventure for another day.
Fungi Day- 5/8
Weather: Warm- probably above 60 degrees out. Bright and sunny, but not hot.
Class today focused on fungi. We learned about fungi reproduction, function, and where they are found on campus. We began with the discussion of reproduction, which for fungi and their mushrooms, occurs through the spreading of spores. Spores are found in the gill structures of mushrooms, which open up with maturity to release spores. Spores come in many different colors and are a key identifying feature of different mushroom species, which are often difficult to distinguish between.
Testing the color of a mushroom’s spores is done through a process called a spore print. It is simply the use of a bowl or some other encapsulating apparatus to induce a moist environment for the mushroom, in which the mushroom will open its gills and drop spores down. However, because mushrooms naturally grow in moist climates that are conducive to their reproduction, often spores will be found immediately below where the mushrooms are found.
Mycelium is the root-like structure of fungi, which is responsible for the absorption of nutrients through the soil or other surface. This is accomplished through openings at the tips of the tendrils of mycelium called hyphae, which take in carbon, water, and minerals and convert these into energy through digestion.
There are several types of fungi that form on trees: soft/brown rot and white rot, among others. Soft/brown rot sap the nutrients from the tree’s cellulose, hemi-cellulose, and lignin to nurture themselves, as do white rot. However, white rot fungi are far more costly to their host, and eventually will fully absorb the essential and useful nutrients from the tree until it dies. Soft/brown rot has the same affect, but does not usually cause death and sustains for much longer.
We then followed a graduate student out on campus and looked at a variety of mushrooms growing on campus. One patch of agrocybe praecox were growing just alongside the sidewalk in large quantities. Mushroom such as these could belong to a single individual or could be multiple individuals in a colony. Because mushrooms are essentially the fruiting bodies of the fungi, these quantities vary, and can often only be determined by looking at the mycelia to determine separate individuals. The agrocybe praecox had chocolate brown spores, and some mushrooms were far more mature than others, even found within inches of each other. The varying maturity was determined not by size of the cap, which also varied greatly, but by the presence of a veil, a white film that covered the gills and prevented spore loss, but which would fall away from a mature mushroom to allow reproduction.
Other mushrooms we found on other parts of campus were the oyster mushroom and the turkey tail mushroom, traemetes versicolor, both of which were white rot types and found growing on a log. Button mushrooms were also found growing on a compost heap, and which are identical to the types of mushrooms that are found in grocery stores and called Portobello mushrooms, only less mature. Inky caps, possibly belonging to the genus copronoxis were also found growing in the woody groundcover. Some form of pink slime mold was found on a rock in the area as well, which was pretty gross to look at but provided a look at a very unique type of fungus.
The most stunning thing about this class was that there were so many types of fungi, and particularly that such a wide variety grew even just on campus. Also interesting was the fact that mushrooms were not the entire fungus, but merely the fruiting body of the fungus.
Entry 12- Bug day- 5/3
Weather: Wet but not that cold. Drizzling rain all day, but enough to stop the pollinators from doing their work and us from observing them.
Today’s class session was on entomology, during which we went down to meet the entomology professor of UW. He is actually THE entomology professor because being that there is just one entomology class at UW and he is the only professor, it is quite an exclusive position to hold.
He began with an overview of entomology, which essentially includes the study of insects, but in reality includes the greater group of arthropods, which includes insects, mites, scorpions, millipedes, centipedes, snow bugs, beach fleas, and all other “bugs” etc.
Insects play a role of massive importance on the planet, more so than any other organism type. This is because they are responsible for a great deal of decomposition of the waste of other organisms, as well as serve as a major trophic level near the bottom of the food chain upon which many higher organisms rely. In addition to their role within so many food webs, they are interconnected in the webs of waste recycling, soil formation, vegetation control, plant reproduction, natural processes that provide a basis for both human and animal survival.
Their involvement with the human world includes providing food and medicine, consumers of fiber including crop and forest stocks, carriers of disease, intentional use as biocontrol as an alternative to pesticides, often manifested through competition with other insects.
Beetles are a major group of insects, consisting of a third of all insects and 1/5 of all animals by mass. Beetles are distinct because of their two sets of wings, called the elytra (hard outer wings) and the under-wings that control flight. All beetles and other insects have immature forms called larvae, which make up the majority of insects at any time because their immature lives are relatively much longer than their lives as adults.
Moths are another group of insects, which consists of both moths and butterflies, which are just moths that have adapted to flying during the day.
After the introduction to entomology, we went out on campus to see the bee colony, which consists of a number of domesticated bee hives that frequent the flowers on campus and are used in study. The bees feed on pollen which are collected for larvae and nectar, which is used as energy for flying, which is understandably energetically expensive. They collect these from flowers and indirectly carry genetic material from plant to plant, assisting in the reproductive process. Honeybees, while not native, have become naturalized and are now the essential to the agricultural industry for pollinating crops.
Squirrel adventure 5/2
Weather: Rainy all day, chilly but not cold.
Today, some members of our mammals group attempted to go out in search of squirrels to observe and learn about for our group project, which we have decided to dedicate to the study of squirrels on campus. We planned this meeting days in advance, and as a result have managed to pick a very un-productive day for squirrel watching. However, despite the rain, there were several squirrels about in Greig garden, the location on campus most noted for its foliage and squirrel population. We enticed some out with nuts as bait, and others were frolicking around in the grassy round of the garden. However, none of the squirrels spent long out in the rain, and remained mobile, not lingering anywhere for longer than a few seconds. The squirrels would soon after run into the safety and cover of the trees in the gardens, which they would run up and leap from branch to branch. However, we realized the futility of attempting to record squirrels in this environment, other than the specifics of what they do in the event of rain, the answer to which ended up being what most mammals do, including us afterwards, which was seek cover and keep dry.