Friday, July 15, 2016

Herpetology intro

Thursday during creek camp we got the chance to meet April Claus. She gave us a lesson in Herpetology.  Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles. April taught us about all the native frog, salamander, turtles and snake species. Also, she taught us how to ID the different species. Identifying species was very important later in the day when we went searching for different species in bousson and french creek. April also brought along her pets. Her pets included frogs, snakes and turtles. My personal favorite was the garter snake. April's pets and knowledge provided a great intro to our salamander, frog, snake and turtle hunts later in the day.

Slimed: The Herp Adventures of 2k16

Once we returned from hellbending, we took a trip with April Claus over to Bousson Preserve to find some additional herp species. When we arrived, we started overturning every rotten log and wet rock we could find in search of salamanders, frogs, and whatever else was hiding underneath. It was much easier to catch little salamanders than the massive, well-muscled hellbenders-- instead of grabbing their throats and hanging on for dear life, it was only a matter of gently guiding some unassuming slimy guys into little plastic cups (even though some of them were pretty evasive).

We found astonishing success. One of the campers was able to capture a spotted salamander, black with striking yellow spots, which April hadn't even anticipated would be above the ground this time of year. We also found multiple Northern Red salamanders, a gaudy scarlet species, and redbacks, which unsurprisingly had dark red backs. Others we caught were dusky salamanders, slimy salamanders, one stray pickerel frog, a wasps' nest, and countless slugs.

Though we didn't find any snakes or spring peepers, I saw more amphibians in one night than I'd seen all year. I'm definitely going to be more careful stepping on random rocks in the future.

Searching for Hellbenders

After learning about reptiles and amphibians we went with a herpetologist to French Creek to look for hellbenders and other types of salamanders. Hellbenders are a type of salamander that only lives in specific areas. It is also a mascot for Creek Camp. We lifted large flat rocks and looked for any movement. When a hellbender was spotted a creek camper would grab them around their neck and then the middle of their body. The hellbender would then be placed in a net and then held up by other creek campers for a picture. About six hellbenders and one mudpuppy, another type of salamander, were found. It was a warm afternoon spent with an expert who is passionate about her job, an ideal atmosphere for finding hellbenders.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


     Today us Creek Campers went to the garden in Carr Hall (aka Carr-den). We split up into two groups and built irrigation systems for two garden beds, a lone bed and a small bed. We used L and T connectors as well as tubing with and without holes. We had to measure the tubing and connect them with the connectors to create lines going on either side of the bed as well as one line going through the middle.


Today we went to the Linesville, PA Spillway and Hatchery and learned about different fish and how they hatched and preserve each fish. We explored through their building and their outside area. We saw frogs and different fish in tubs ready to be released. They also would carefully package the fertilized fish eggs and trade them to other hatcheries that didn't have the type of fish for the type of fish they don't have.  After we had the tour of the hatchery we continued into the spillway, "where the ducks walk on the fish." We were given a whole loaf of bread to throw into the spillway to the carp who squired and flopped over each other fighting for the bread. If you like chaos you could feed the fish, but if you like a more calm area, there was also ducks walking on top of the fish you could feed. It was a fun experience to go there again to see the fish and ducks for a fun adventure.

Night Sky!!!

At around 8:30 we all headed to the Car building to see the planetarium. It looked like something out of a movie. It was AMAZING!!! We found out that from Meadville the north star is 42 degrees from the horizon. We don't see the stars in the morning because of the atmosphere but in the planetarium we saw the sun next to the stars. After the planetarium we went to the observatory and it was so cool! Just from the roof we could see Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Looking through the two telescopes we saw Saturn's rings and its moons. We also were able to see 2 of the 3 stars, Altair and Vega in the Summer Triangle. Someone even caught a glimpse of a shooting star. It didn't last long because it was kind of cloudy, but it was the best thing I have ever done.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Water Horse

The water horse is a machine that uses water to produce energy. The point of a water horse to have environmental safe way to use natural resources to make energy so we don't have to use dams as much. Dams cause a lot of bad environmental impacts so they created the water horse to do the same thing as dams but not as much impacts. They dont want to replace dams because they wont make as much energy as the damn but they are safer. The water horse uses kinetic and potential energy it also uses head an flow. Head is how far the water drops, flow is how much water moves through the system.


Directly after breakfast creek campers and councilors headed over to Sugar Lake to go canoeing and learn about water plants. A Pennsylvania Fish and Boat employee and a Crawford County Conservation worker handed out safety instructions, life jackets, paddles, and canoes. We learned how to paddle correctly. The stern and bow of the boat were identified as well as port and starboard. They then guided us on a tour of Sugar Lake. Sugar Lake is a glacier made lake with a wide variety of plant life which a fellow creek camper has described in a previous blog. Us campers canoed very well for the most part, no one capsized and we completed a circle around the lake. The councilors planned a sneak attack with water guns and buckets as their weapons. Us campers were hit with water while passing by in their canoes, but we were then given water guns to retaliate with when we reached shore. A water fight ensued in which everyone won, lost, and got wet.

Little Brown Matt (Bats)

Tuesday night we had the chance to spend the night with Terry Lobdell a bat enthusiast and expert. We started the night learning the basics about bats. There were two main types of bats we looked for, the Little Brown Bat and the Big Brown bat. Although the species names are very similar they are actually very different. One significant difference is that they have different hibernation periods. We also learned about the significance of bats in our ecosystem. One example is their use for farmers. Bats provide a way to kill pests without the use of pesticides which, is better for the ecosystem. We also go the chance to see 38 Little Brown Bats. 12 of those were pups that did not leave the bat box. We also saw multiple Big Brown Bats. Little Brown Bats population are declining quickly due to White Nose Syndrome which makes the bats awake from hibernation sooner than they should. Them awaking sooner ends up making the bats starve to death. Sadly we have lost 99% of the Little Brown Bats in Pennsylvania. We were therefore very fortunate to get the chance to see the Little Brown bats.

Trees and Hiking

Today we hiked through the woods to the ravine at the bottom of Greendale Cemetery in hopes of learning more about the trees of Pennsylvania! Mark Lewis lead us through the woods covered in Beech Trees, White Ash Trees, Hemlocks, and countless others. We learned about how this ravine merely escaped being glaciated thousands of years ago and now has trees that are said to be almost 300 years old! As you can guess, they were huge - some reaching heights of more than 100ft!

If seeing the trees didn't prove it already, reaching the stream at the bottom was definitely well worth the trek. The water was so clear and the water running over the slippery, algae covered rocks were beautiful. Mark Lewis knew so much about all the trees and the environment that it was basically impossible for us to leave without absorbing some information. Specifically, we learned about the Hemlock Woolly Adelgid and how this bug is destroying Hemlocks throughout the East by introducing its deadly pathogens to the tree and killing it. And even though we left the trails kind of exhausted and definitely in need of some water from all the walking, we really appreciated being able to see all the old trees and to learn about so many new things!

Lake Studies: Plants, Water, Uh, More Plants, Also Guns

Who knew there could be so much life thriving just underneath the water's surface? (Or, in some cases, right at the surface.) Brian Pilarcik, a prominent member of the Crawford County Conservation District, showed us a whole new world-- one filled with slimy plants and algae. Mounted on canoes, the campers rode (er, rowed) out into the heart of Sugar Lake to get a personal tour of the lake's diverse flora. From the gaudy pink swamp lily to a type of plant with flowers the size of a baby's pinky nail, Sugar Lake was astonishingly thick with all varieties of leaves, tendrils, etc.

A few more examples: the coontail, which unsurprisingly looks exactly like a cluster of green raccoons' tails and normally floats freely on the water; waterweed or elodea, a weed that provides superb habitats for aquatic wildlife but that can reduce dissolved oxygen levels significantly; fragrant water lilies, classic-looking white lilies and pads that look and smell very pleasant.

Once we came ashore, a final surprise awaited: huge water guns. While not very scientific or even remotely related to our previous observations, it was a lot of fun to ambush the counselors.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Water chem and macros

On Tuesday morning we went to Woodcock creek upstream. We measured water quality by water chemistry and counting the macroinvertebrates. As a group we did several different water chemistry test, we tested the turbidity, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity an etc. To find different organisms we took kick net and put them in the water and we did the "creek shuffle" to get the macros to swim or go into the nets. Then we collected the macros and identified and counted how many we had.We then compared the data to the data from downstream and found that the macros are more diverse upstream than downstream but are less in numbers.


On Monday night, we took another song filled trip in the van to a cemetery to observe some owls!We geared ourselves up with our headlamps and walking shoes, preparing for a night search of any owls that would allow us to take a look at them. One of the professors here at Allegheny College, Chris Lundberg, came along and taught us all about the owls we thought we'd see. We learned about Barred Owls, Screeching Owls, and Great Horned Owls - how they look, what they sound like, and a bunch of other fun facts. (Chris really knows his birds!)

We played some recordings of the owls' calls in hopes that they'd give us a hoot of a response (which thankfully, they did). We heard a couple of adult Barred Owls and some of their fledglings but unfortunately, we didn't get to see any of them in the trees. Even without seeing the real thing, we all hopped back in the van in excitement about all the cool things we heard.

AMD//Coal Speaker

Today we were introduced to a speaker, Wil Taylor, and he talked to us about coal mining and different ways to filter out metals, like iron. To start out the presentation, Wil talked to us about his state park Jennings, and was he does to help and regulate his park. To kick off the coal mining topic he had a demonstration of one of our campers and simulated the role of being underground mining for coal with a game. The game consisted of a human life game board, us as the playing pieces, and tokens for the different amount of coal you could collect. To play you would read the card and move or do what ever the card told you. At the end you could have been the highest payed for your coal collection, or be dead from a mishap. Then we got to do some science experiments using two types of different water, one from a stream (A) and the other from mine drainage (B). We didn't know which was which, so using different tests (pH,Alkalinity, Iron test,etc.) we found the results of that Group A was the stream water, and B was the mine drainage. It was very interesting to continue our results to a farther level, such as filtering out the iron in sample B. Wil supplied the B sample with Hydrogen Peroxide and then Ammonia to recolor sample B. Then after a little, the iron settled to the bottom clumping it. This taught us the steps Jennings, the State Park, uses to filter their mine drainage.
Testing waters A and B with different tests

Geology- Stream Table

Creek Campers and councilors gathered in Alden Hall to learn about geology from an Allegheny alumni. We first learned about topography maps, learning how they are used to measure elevation and steepness. We then had the opportunity to use an Augmented Reality Sandbox. This sand table had projected contour lines on it, making a 3-D topography map that changed as the sand was molded into mountains and valleys. Creek Campers made a Grand Canyon out of the sand and then virtually flooded the map. This was a perfect example of how water sheds work, with water running off of different mountains in different directions. After utilizing, (playing with), the Augmented Reality Sandbox, we transitioned to using real water and sand. We used a Stream Table, a large oval shaped container with a gently sloping pile of sand taking up three fourths of it leading to a pool of water at the last fourth. A stream began on the top of the hill and ran down to the pool. We observed how the water took the path of least resistance through the sand. Dams were then constructed and a small pipe, a plastic wall, and a toy tent and campers were used. Creek Campers shaped multiple worlds in less than an hour.

French Creek

     Today us Creek Campers visited French Lake for the first time. While at French Creek, we had a Phyla Hunt where we broke into two teams looking for macro-invertebrates. Team 1 consisted of Milo, Abby, Aaliyah, and Jasmine. Team 2 consisted of Nyjah, Bella, Stephanie, and Kara. As a team, the macro-invertebrates we found needed to find were freshwater sponge, freshwater jellyfish (hydra), planaria, roundworms, leeches, freshwater mussels, freshwater snail, zebra mussel, crayfish, a spider, hellgrammite, case building caddisfly, water penny, giant water bug, water scorpion, a snake or turtle, a frog or toad, or something unusual the counselors can't think of. Points were awarded for each macro-invertebrate found. Team 1 finished the day with 40 points while Team 2 ended with 90.5 points.

Shock Fishing!!

Today we tested the upstream water of the dam. Every thing for the most part was the same. The only thing was that dissolved solids, alkalinity, and turbidity was a bit lower. After doing the experiments we did some kick netting and found a ton of crayfish. From what we found there were less invertebrates than downstream, but the upstream water was more diverse in invertebrates. After doing all that we met Jay G. and did some shock fishing. Shock fishing is when a small stream of electricity is entered into the water to shock the fish to the surface without killing them. Some people carried buckets and the others were catching the fish on the surface. We ended up finding 14 different types of fish on our adventure.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Downstream Testing

During our first full day at creek camp we did the beginning of  our research project. Our project focuses on the affect of the dam on the stream. To test the affects of the dam we will be testing the stream above and below the dam. Today we ran tests on the down stream portion of the dam. First, we collected water samples in the same spot at the same time to keep variables controlled. Next, we ran a series of tests using many different tools to determine stream health. Some of the things we tested included dissolved oxygen and alkalinity. We ran all the tests at least twice to ensure we had accurate data. Later, we did kick netting which allowed us to sample the macroinvertebrates in the stream. We identified the macroinvertebrates and estimated the number of each species. We then looked at the species we found and how tolerant they are to pollutants. Also, we looked at the number of species in order to understand the  diversity of the stream. All of the tests ran gave us data to better understand the impact of the dam on the stream.

Camp Intro//Geocaching

On the first day here we were settled into Allegheny with welcoming hands and open hearts. The counselors were very helpful and it was easy to settle in. Even though the camp is named creek camp, other things were put into play to get to know other people and the college campus. Once settled we were introduced to the college with a game similar to a scavenger hunt, geocaching. We got GPS's after we were split into two teams. The objective of the game was to follow a set of coordinates to find plastic containers with different coordinates which lead to other coordinates. Along with us we had one counselors and two gator guides who followed us relying on us to find our way to the next spot. On the way we learned two stories that have happened in certain locations. One was that a president, President McKinley, put a cow on the top of the roof as a joke at the Bentley building. Also another story told was about the kissing bridge; the myth was that if a freshman girl was kissed by a upperclassman boy, was off limits to her freshman class boys. Geocaching was a great way to get use to the campus and bond with the other campers as a group.

Oh Dam!

After lunch today, we took a trip over to Woodcock Dam, a rancid-smelling but scenic corner of the Pittsburgh District of watersheds. We'd been given a brief introduction to the dam the day before, and we'd also spent part of our afternoon building a miniature one on a stream table (a.k.a. a giant, wet sandbox), so we weren't new to the topic, but we definitely had only scratched the surface of the immense amount of thought, planning, teamwork, and science involved in the construction and maintenance of a real-life dam.

Joe, a park ranger working for a division of the U.S. Military, gave us a more in-depth (no pun intended) presentation of the dam, inside and out. We learned how a system of buoys, anchors, and sensors transmitted water temperature data to biologists in real time, allowing them to have a better understanding of what life the water can and can't maintain. We also learned how hydrologists regulate and prevent flooding by communicating with each other from all around the district so that they can know how much water is safe to release from a dam without flooding any downstream areas. Additionally, Joe showed us why "doors" that let water flow through the stream are positioned in the way that they are: there are openings at the very bottom in case of an emergency, but since water at the bottom has very little dissolved oxygen, it's not desirable to let into a creek unless we want fish to drown; there are also openings located in the middle and closer to the top, which are opened and closed depending on environmental changes.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Buzz About Pollinators

On Wednesday, we got the chance to work with an Allegheny professor and her student researcher, who specialized in pollinators. We went outside and collected specimens using the most high-tech equipment: plastic cups and dish soap. Next, we used microscopes to examine honey bees and their own specimens, which yielded some amazing results. We found a variety of bees as well as other insects and got to see them up close and personal with the microscopes. Over all, it was a fascinating experience.

Lake Studies: A Giant Aquatic Salad

After learning proper canoeing technique with Chad and Brian, we embarked on a botanically-oriented tour of Sugar Lake. In the shallow water of the lake, there were a plethora of submerged aquatic plants. Brian, shown below, taught how to identify some of the more common native species like Coontail and Large Leaf Pondweed, as well as some invasive species, such as Eurasian Watermilfoil and Curly Leaf Pondweed. We also learned about Fragrant White Water Lily (several of us actually smelled the flower, which in my opinion, had a beautiful aroma),  Pickerelweed, and Spadderdock. Spadderdock, by far, was my favorite plant, as the flower of the plant looked otherworldly. All in all, this was my favorite Creek Camp activity, because it really opened my eyes to an area of botanical diversity that I did not even know existed.


Herp Hunting in French Creek

Today we went in search of herps at French Creek with April Claus. Herps are amphibians and reptiles. First we made our way down to French Creek where we initially looked for Hellbender salamanders and Mudpuppies. We split up and lifted rocks to try to find the species thereof. Within five minutes we had caught our first Hellbender, and by the time we were done we had found thirteen. Though we found no Mudpuppies, we did see some fresh water sponge that we hadn't been able to find earlier. We were also able to get some great shots of a Hellbender we named Herbert with the underwater camera.

Once we had found enough Hellbenders, we went over to some rocks on the side of the stream to find snakes. We caught two water snakes, and we saw a black rat snake. As we were leaving the creek, we encountered a water snake that had caught a catfish! We also came across a Hellbender with scratches on its back and tail; most likely, it had been attacked by a raccoon. We took it to deeper water, and hopefully it will live a long life. It was really fun to be able to see Hellbenders!
Herp hunting with April Claus at Bousson.

After a fun afternoon at French Creek, April took the gang down to Bousson. Bousson is an off-campus research area for Allegheny. April was very excited to catch some salamanders, newts and frogs, or maybe even turtles. We noted 11 different species just in this area. I can see why it's a good research facility! My favorite species was the slimy salamander. They have beautiful white spots on jet black skin. We found every species under rocks, rotting logs, and in research ponds. there was a river where we found some two lines, red backs, mountain duskies, and much more! I was very happy to see how  slimy life and diversity was in such a small area. April was a huge help identifying all of the species and her excitement to seeing all of them was funny. I had a great time with the slimy little guys.


Slithering Into Herps

April Claus came to camp to teach us about native herps before we went on the hunt for some yesterday. The term "herps" refers to reptiles and amphibians. We learned about the native species of snakes, turtles, frogs, and salamanders in Pennsylvania and how to identify them. April even brought a few of her own herps as examples. The snakes were definitely a favorite. Even the campers that were originally scared of snakes braved their fears and held the milk and corn snakes. April's enthusiasm of herps radiated to the campers, making us all excited to catch some on our own!