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Friday, July 11, 2014

Summer Scientists

Last week campers in grades 5th through 8th joined us for a week of scientific research during NBNC's Summer Scientists camp.  We joined a different researcher in the field every day as we learned their methodologies and aided them in their studies.

Sorting BMIs into ice cube trays

We began the week by heading to the Dog River with the UVM Watershed Alliance for some water quality testing.  After testing for dissolved oxygen, phosphorus, and other chemical and physical properties, we cast our nets for some Benthic Macro Invertebrates (river and lake bottom dwelling bugs).  Placing our nets firmly on the bottom of the river, we reached in and began rubbing rocks with our hands on the upstream side of the open nets, hoping to dislodge some critters, which would then be carried by the current into the net.  With many pollution sensitive species such as stonefly and dragonfly larvae combined with favorable chemical and physical test results, we concluded that section of the Dog River was indeed healthy.  Upon our return to the nature center, we dipped our nets one final time along the bend in the North Branch River before heading home.  

Hellgrammite found in North Branch River
Camper holding a baby wood turtle

Day 2 was spent wading in the Worcester section of the North Branch River with local wood turtle guru Mark Powell and his turtle dog Gracie.  Having been skunked last year, we would have been happy with just one turtle but as luck would have it, we found 3!  Gracie the turtle dog sniffed out in the brush one while our keen camper eyes spotted one basking on the bank.  After we helped Mark weigh and measure the turtles, we released them back into the water.  While bending over to return one of the turtles, a camper discovered our 3rd and smallest turtle of the day.  This turtles was less than one year old with its shell only measuring 1 and 3/4 inches!

For our third day, we stayed onsite at NBNC while visiting Chip and Larry at the bird banding station.  We caught several birds that had already been banded in years prior and some that had just hatched this year.  There were common yellowthroats, song sparrows, chestnut-sided warblers, and house wrens.  The highlight though was a species that we had never banded at the nature center... a red-winged blackbird.  Although they are a very common species at the nature center, they tend to stick to the fields and cattails. 

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Petting a Common Yellowthroat

Our week culminated in a full day citizen science adventure in Groton State Forest as we worked to photograph and identify as many species as we possibly could, which we would then add to the Vermont Center for Ecostudies project the VT Atlas of Life.  The goal of this project is to catalog every living species in the state.  So we photographed and identified everything from slugs to flowers, from birds to newts.  No better way to spend a day than exploring the wonderful flora and fauna of Vermont!

Eastern Newt
We found some Blue-eyed Grass while having lunch atop Owl's Head!

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