Monday, July 23, 2018

That's a Wrap!

We had a great time at Creek Camp this year! We hope all of our campers feel the same. The beautiful weather made all of our activities so much fun! We are looking forward to doing it all again next year.

The dates for Creek Camp 2019 are:

Session I - 23-28 June 2019
Session II - 7-12 July 2019

We would appreciate it if all of our past creek campers shared their experiences and encouraged more students to come! Thanks for a great camp, 2018 creek campers!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Bousson and Salamanders

After the super cool hunt for hellbenders, we quickly changed gears from water clothes to bug protection and headed north east to the Bousson Experimental Forest  which is owned by the college. Escorted by April Claus we trekked through the woods listening for frogs and toads, looking for snakes and hunting for a variety of salamanders. We successfully found/heard 15 different species including, the American Toad, Green Frog, Red Efts, Slimy Salamander, Spring Salamander, Red Backed Salamander, Ringed Neck Snake, and a Water Snake to name a few. 
Northern Red Salamander caught by Emily
Dusky Salamander
Rolling telephone poles to look 

Herp Intro

Today, we go to meet April Claus, a herpetologist who went to Allegheny. She was going to take us to go hunting for reptiles and amphibians including the Hellbender, but before that we got to get a presentation on all West Pennsylvania's reptiles and amphibians. We got to learn about how many their were, which ones were endangered, and what some of their behaviors were. She also brought some live animals, such as a box turtle, a spotted salamander, a spring peeper, and a corn snake.

Herp Hunting at the Creek

We found several hellbenders at the creek! Everyone was able to handle them and we took some really great pictures. We all had a ton of fun!
- Grace
  Yesterday night, after we went searching for different frog and salamander species, we went to Casey's for ice cream! It was a great surprise and the best way to celebrate new found friendships and memories. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Fish Research

We went with Casey Bradshaw Wilson and Sam to an area of French Creek and captured fish using a net, then identified what we found. We were looking to see if there were any invasive round gobies in the creek, but fortunately we didn't find any. Afterwards, we had time to explore the creek.

Fish Research

Today we went upstream to a different part of the French Creek than we were at on Tuesday. We accompanied Casey Bradshaw Wilson and our presenter Sam from the science lab.

We used a large net and our feet to catch and identify fish. Our goal was to make sure there were little to no invasive goby fish found in that area of the creek. Luckily, we did not find any gobies in the creek, meaning that the creek is safe from invasive species for the moment.

Later we went exploring along the banks and snorkeling to see the many species of rare, freshwater mussels that lived in the creek. How fun!


Astronomy at Allegheny!!

We went to the observatory on campus and used their telescope to examine the night sky! The massive telescope dates back 100 years; it was a true relic! We learned about the motions of the stars and planets, and identified the big and little dipper, the three stars of the summer triangle (Vega, Deneb, and Altair), Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn! The telescope was so powerful we could clearly see Saturn's rings, and Jupiter's moons! 

--Nathan S.

Macroinvertebrate Research

Yesterday we got to look at  macroinvertebrates up close and personal. A student at Allegheny named Sam showed us her research and we got to search through masses of macroinvertebrates. After finding a worthy specimen, we were then allowed to look at them under microscopes. We also got to see the stomach contents of a round goby, an invasive fish in Pennsylvania. Looking at these stomach contents is important to knowing which native species may be competing for food with the goby. Sam was very knowledgeable and excited to share all of her research with us.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


Yesterday as the evening fell, we took a trip out to the local conservation district to meet up the backyard bat specialist Terry Lobdell. During the trip, we saw not only numerous bats, but also a deer moseyed through. The discussion mainly focused on Big Brown Bats and Little Brown Bats who despite similar names are completely different species of bats.
One Big Brown Bat in a bat house.
Terry talking.

Sea of Trees

Hi! 😁 I wrote another post for you! I hope you like it!! 😋

This afternoon, we went on a hike to even out the sore arms from our morning canoeing. Today we met Mark Lewis, who is a PA State Forester. He took us on a hike on a trail that was behind the cemetery we went too for owl searching. This trail was called the Greendale Cemetery and it was a ravine that was deep behind the cemetery.
(photo credits: I don't know)

Mr. Lewis led us to some pretty awesome trees and talked about each tree, which was very interesting to hear about. He talked about the White Ash tree and how it's being affected by a bug called an Emerald Ash Borer. These bugs end up eating the inside of the tree, making it hollow until it suffocates. Mr. Lewis also told us that there are ways to prevent this bug from eating the tree, but the procedure is costly, which is very sad, because the tree is absolutely beautiful.

(photo credits: someone)

We then walked a couple ways more, trying not to trip over rocks and sticks (although Ashlyn totally failed at that), we then saw an Eastern Hemlock, Pennsylvania's state tree.

(photo credits: a human)

We also saw a tree that recently fell over down a hill. We were able to see how hollow the inside of the tree was because of all the bugs that ate inside of it.
(photo credits: Counselor Brian, I think)

Our experience down on this ravine-trail was very beautiful and I wish I could tell you more about our hike, but there is other stuff to read on our blog. 😂

That's it for me now.

Sugar Lake

Hi, it is Ashlyn again.

Today we went to Sugar Lake. We went Canoeing to look at and learn about the different lake water plants. Some of the species that we looked at were Water Lillies, watershields, purple loosestrife, and many more.

Sugar Lake is a natural lake which was made from the glaciers from melted ice.


  Today, the group went to Sugar Lake for canoeing! Brian Pilarcik taught us about the parts of a canoe, the correct way to enter it, how to use the oars, and a lot about the vegetation and the lake it's self. The weather was perfect for paddling around the lake and we also played with water guns. The whole experience was amazing, but the best part would have to be when Brian and Nathan tipped over while in the water. It was pretty entertaining to watch. They managed to get back into the canoe and we returned safely to shore, where we had lunch by the beautiful lake. We also got to see a dog go swimming which was super cute!

French Creek

Today, we were able to meet with Brenda Costa, who gave an interesting presentation on creatures that resided in French Creek, including Hellbenders and Muscles that were threatened thanks to pollution. Afterwards, we got to go wading into the Creek and enjoy the water. We were able to catch and see many cool animals, including many crayfish, stone fly nymphs, and even a Lamprey. We also were able to see two Bald Eagles fly over us and land on a branch near by.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Electroshock Fishing

Today we accompanied two members of the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission, Tim and Freeman. They took us to a spot upstream of the lake where they performed electroshock fishing. Electroshock fishing is a method used to capture and identify fish where a small electric current is sent into the water which incapacitates nearby fish.

After the fish were stunned, we stood by with nets and buckets to capture the fish.

After we collected enough fish, we took them out and observed each one before letting them go, noting the unique characteristics and identifying the species of each fish. We were even given Bingo cards with fish species on them that we used during the identification process. In the end, we had lots of darters, dace, chubs, and even a trout!


Abandoned Mining Drainage and PA State Parks

We met with Miranda Crotsley from Jennings Environmental Education Center. We discussed the causes and effects of water drainage from abandon mines in western Pennsylvania and possible ways to fix these problems. We also learned about the history of these mines and why many were built in western Pennsylvania.
- Grace

Tuesday: Hunting for Macros!!

Today in the morning we looked for macro invertebrates in the upstream portion of the creek. It was a lot of fun! We found several crayfish, a variety of insect larva, and even a few small fish! (even though they're not invertebrates). Identifying them all was a bit of a puzzle, but we had a blast! When we were done, we joined the PA fish and boat commission for a bit of shock fishing! 

--Nathan S.

Silent Beauties

Hey there, people of Earth! My name is Lena! 😀

Yesterday evening, we went to see some owls lead by bird specialist, Ron Mumme. He knew so much about birds and owls alike (and he has the coolest last name ever).

Our first stop on our hunt for owls was Ron Mumme's backyard to look for Barred Owls. He played the Barred Owl's call on a radio and halfway through the CD, among the pine trees and the sounds of other birds, we saw an owl swoop by over our heads and land on the branch of a pine tree. Owls are one of the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen. Despite seeing picture of owls on the Internet and watching Harry Potter over and over again, owls are a much better sight in real life.

(photo credits: Bella, one of our counselors)

As the evening went on, we were determined to find more owls Dr. Mumme talked about. He told us about Screech Owls and the Grey Horned Owl. We went to a cemetery to try to find these owls. However, we did not see the last two owls. While we were trying to find the Grey Horned Owl, we saw a bird called a Merlin.

The Merlin is not a common bird around our camp, and I've never seen this type of bird before, so it made up for the owls we didn't get to see.

Despite only seeing one owl, it was still a wonderful experience. Owls are indeed one of the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen and if you get the opportunity to go looking for owls, you totally should.

That's it for me now.
Bye! 😀

Water Chemistry Day Two

Water chemistry can be used as a quick snapshot of what's really happening inside that waterway. It is not the end-all be-all. Although testing the water can give a basic idea of the health of that waterway, the chemical composition of the water is ever-changing. However, knowing pH, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, temperature, dissolved solids, turbidity, nitrates, and phosphates can help pinpoint any issues a body of water may be facing. Every facet to studying a waterway is a piece in a puzzle of trying to understand the inner-workings of that body of water.

Bicentennial Park Lunch

We had a picnic lunch at Bicentennial Park. After eating, we learned about French Creek and the things living in it.