Thursday, June 30, 2016

Driving Towards Knowledge in our Carr...den

Today right after eating a scrumptious breakfast at McKinleys, we went to the student run garden by the Carr building, the Carrden. At the Carrden Kerstin Martin,  garden manager here at AC, helped us learn about all the types of plants there and about how and why the Carrden  is used and was created. The Carrden sells their produce to the cafeteria’s here at Allegheny College and it is part of what wwe eat for breakfast lunch and dinner While at the carrden we, the creekers, helped to install a new irrigation system by connecting plastic tubes with holes in them to an intake system to which one can attach a hose to get the water to the plants. After making two of these to water the eggplants and tomatoes we moved over to planting different plants. We planted kale and then watered it. We planted two different varieties of kale filling an entire planter. 

Who lives in a pineapple under the creek?


(even though we did not find any)


On Thursday we were given the task to find different kinds of sponges in French Creek. Unlike dish sponges, these freshwater sponges were multicellular organisms that attach to a firm surface. Sponges have simple bodies and have numerous microscopic holes that let water pass through and a few larger holes that let water escape. The sponges presence indicate high water quality and low levels of pollutants. We learned that a sponges have very hollow bodies and hold its shape with the help of mesohyl, a jelly-like substance made from collagen.

With our snorkels and masks we headed out into the creek to look for sponges. However we found no sponges but campers were able to find catfish, crawfish and a leech.

Something's goin' down... wayyy up.

On Wednesday, the Creeker family went to the observatory to learn about space and the night sky. Dr Lombardi, the astronomy professor at Allegheny, pointed out things to find. He showed us constellations and we learned how to spot satellites as they pass by. We were able to look through the telescopes to get a close view of some of our neighboring planets. With much clarity we saw the rings of Saturn as well as the moons of Jupiter. Inside the observatory, we learned how to operate the huge telescope. We oriented the observatory the same way they did when it was built in 1901. The dome roof was spun in a circle with a gear that a camper would rotate with a thick rope. Even though the observatory and its telescope was over 100 years old, we were able to see planets, galaxies and a star cluster called M-15. This particular star cluster is only 50 light years across but it harbors over 500 thousand stars. It looked like a cloud of dust in front of a pitch black canvas, but each spec of dust was a star!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Bats With Terry!

This evening we drove over to Crawford to view bats with Terry Lobdell. Terry is a bat enthusiast who designs and builds bat houses. With him, we mainly talked about Little Brown Bats and Big Brown Bats. Big Brown Bats weigh about twice as much as little brown bats; also, Big Brown Bats prefer a slightly larger crevice to roost in (7/8'') than Little Brown Bats (3/4"). Terry has experimented with different designs and materials for bat boxes, including one with a glass viewing panel. He has built approximately 300 boxes all over the U.S. 

The Little Brown Bats have been significantly impacted by the white-nose fungus. The white-nose fungus grows on and irritates the bats skin, which causes them to wake up during their hibernation in the winter. This causes them to use more energy, but their is no food available to the bats during the winter. Therefore, the bats either starve to death, or freeze to death in an attempt to find food. This fungus has killed 99% of the Little Brown Population in north western Pennsylvania. As of now, the Big Brown Bats have not been affected by the fungus. This is because they prefer to roost in dryer areas, and the fungus cannot grow as easily in these places. The Little Brown Bats that do remain have a bacteria on their skin that inhibits the growth of the fungus. We were able to see one Big Brown Bat and about 30 Little Brown Bats in the boxes. The Little Brown Bats were in fact a group of mothers living together with their pups.

Losing bats can have a significant influence on the number of pests that eat crops. In one case, an organic pecan farmer was losing about a third of his crop to a bug that later turned into a moth. He put bat boxes in his field, and eventually bats came and fed on the moths. By the next harvest, he had virtually no pests. Without these animals, we may see an increase in the amount of pests in farmers fields. Hopefully these adorable creatures will be able to come back!
Canoeing on Sugar Lake! 

Today, we took a drive down to sugar lake. Chad and Brian helped us navigate the lake via canoe and taught us about the plant life of the lake. Canoes were very fun because I've never maneuvered one before so it  was good to learn about. I thought the lake was very enjoyable.The beautiful lily flowers and the brilliant purple of some land shrubs really popped out against brown murky lake water.We traversed in aluminum and had room for two passengers. First thing we learned was the sides of the vessel; port, starboard, bow, stern. The gunnels were running along the sides. We enjoyed riding around the circumference of the lake and learning about the plant life in the lake, invasive or not. The waters were warm, the canoes were zooming, and I had a great time.  

Insider Information on Trees

Today, on 6-29-2016, we met with some Allegheny students to talk about trees. We also took wood samples from various trees around campus. It was hard to get the end of the coring mechanism through the bark, but once we managed that, it was easier to twist it in further. Since the bark is on a tree to protect the living cells, I assume this is normal (Also, we were told to expect this when we were given a demonstration on how to core a tree). I helped core a conifer and a red maple tree. Coring the tree does slightly increase its susceptibility to disease or harmful insects, but as it's only a tiny part of the living wood that gets exposed, it does not make a huge difference. The core sample was narrower than a pencil. We also learned that the inner layers of the trees are not made up of living cells; only a thin layer under the bark is alive. That's why you can have a living tree with a hollow inside.
If a fire or a disease comes through that removes a part of the living cells, the bark and the living wood around it will try to cover it back up again.
Inside the trees, the centermost rings of the trees are called heartwood. That's there to help provide support for the tree. Outside of that, the wood was called sapwood. When I held the core sample, the sapwood felt more moist than the heartwood. I learned that this was because the sapwood was the part of the tree that transported water and nutrients around the tree.
Out of curiosity, I asked about a maple tree with dark purple leaves. I learned that it was called a crimson king maple, and that it was nonnative to the area, which I had not known before.

Searching For Owls (In Vain)

On Monday evening, we took part in a session of "macabre ornithology". Ignoring the threat of mosquitoes, we entered the local cemetery with Professor Chris Lundberg, who taught us about Pennsylvania's species of owls. To prevent the loss of our night vision, we were using red light, which made the cemetery seem even creepier. Professor Lundberg brought along his stereo and played various recordings of owl calls in an attempt to summon owls (none came unfortunately). Despite never actually seeing an owl, we heard the response of a Barred Owl fledgling and saw multiple bats flying above us. Professor Lundberg occasionally deviated from the established learning topic (owls) and taught us about the different levels of twilight, the positions of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky, and the geomorphology of the area. Overall, the experience was very intellectually enriching, and worth the mosquito bites.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Something shockingly fishy is happening at creek camp

After seeing what was up…stream today we, along with the Tim and Freeman from the Pa. fish and boat commission, went fish shocking. Fish shocking is when one uses an electrified probe to send an electrical pulse through the water momentarily stunning the fish making them float to the surface where they can be easily scooped up by us. Why do we do this you might ask?  We do this to survey the different types of fish in the body of water in order to know the health of the water and to see if they’re holding fish that can be sport fished, such as the stocked rainbow trout and small mouth bass. The creek, Woodcock creek, birthed magnificent results containing both of these fish and many other fish that are pollution intolerant that indicate a healthy creek. We thank the fish and boat commission for coming out and helping us with this.