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Friday, March 26, 2010

Day 15- Last day :( Kejimkujik Seaside Adjunct

Weather: Rain/Snow/Wind
Temperature: 30s

Keji Seaside Adjunct in the Snow

Well despite the earlier weather forecast looking a little foreboding we all decided we wanted to go out and explore the seaside adjunct of Keji on our last day. It did rain and then turn into snow and we were told that our team was the first team in Nova Scotia to be out in the snow for an expedition... what an honor :)
Map of Keji

We were hoping to find some porcupine, moose and maybe some seals but everywhere we walked, it was barren. In fact they call it the barrens because its such an exposed coastline. Exposed it was, it was super windy and the snow was whipping within it. There was not much there in terms of offering protection.

The Coastline

Harbour Rocks @ Joli Head

We walked to the area called Harbour Rocks, which looks just like its described. In the summer months when its warmer and the sun is shining the seals climb up on the rocks and sun themselves. Obviously they were being very smart and staying in the water today!

Sea Urchin

In and along the coast there were some really neat finds. Of course the usual rounded rocks formed by the erosive action of the waves, but there were also some sea urchins, abandoned lobster traps and a lot of pieces of seaweed.


It was quite a brisk hike around the point, but it felt good to be outside! We didn't see any other animals but a very wet Lycos :) We drove back to the accommodations and setup some places to dry all of our wet gear. It would not be good to pack wet stuff into a suitcase for a day's travel so I am really hoping it dries!

Dr. Chris cooked us our last family meal of Fish and Chips, delicious as usual! Of course I am sure you all know what came next... ice cream!! I am proud to say we have finished all of them over the past 2 weeks... maybe someone should do the data analysis on all those calories!! Hahaha, just kidding!

We presented Chris and Christina with a book that we got for them in thanks for our wonderful experience here. We have all learned so much and have had such a beautiful time here. We feel very very lucky to have worked alongside such incredible scientists!

I still cannot believe today was our last day here, these two weeks have really flown. We've been so busy with all of our work here and keeping in touch with everyone back home it seems like it went by too quickly! I am so happy to have had such a great time and to have met such incredible people from all over the world. I hope that we are able to meet up again sometime for another adventure! That would be great!

I am so happy that I have been able to share this experience with all of you at home, I wish you could have been here with me! I hope you have enjoyed following along on here with the blog. It was my first time "blogging" so I hope I did ok with it!

I am excited to come back to Boston and share with you more about this trip and the research taking place up here. It is really important that this research is happening and that it continues. What the scientists are learning here helps the rest of us understand how our world really works and also helps to protect the species who are absolutely critical in sustaining it.

Signing off from Cherry Hill... See you soon!

- Ms. Smith

Day 14- Weather Woes :(

Woke up this morning to analyze some data and head to Keji... its pouring rain again and we just checked the weather.... not looking too great- what do you think?

Issued : 08.00 AM ADT Friday 26 March 2010

Periods of rain changing to snow near noon. Snowfall amount 2 to 4 cm. Local blowing snow late this afternoon. Wind north 40 km/h gusting to 60. Temperature falling to minus 2 this afternoon.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Day 13- Last Day @ Cook's Lake/ Survival Skills/Beaver Watching

Weather: Sunny and Windy
Temperature: 30s-50s

Today was our last day at Cook's Lake. We were a little bit sad about this, I have to say. Lucky for us although it was very cold, it was blue sky and sunny!

We hiked into the cottage and checked our traps. While I was walking down to check them, I saw a little piece of fur stuck in some pricker bushes...evidence that an animal had been here overnight. I picked it out of the thorns and as soon as I felt it I knew it must be a snowshoe hare. Dr. Christina confirmed this. Here is a picture of it:
Snowshoe Hare Fur

This time when we checked our traps we had 1 pregnant vole ( a new one!) and 1 male vole. It seems that there may be 3 pregnant voles in this area! Pretty cool that the population for the spring is off to a good start.

Pregnant Female

After checking our traps we headed back to East Port Medway to see if we had caught anything with our camera traps. We were able to say hello to the horses again too.

Rocky and Amber

None of us had anything except for the trap that Dr. Chris has placed at the compost pile in back of the accommodations. Any idea what we could have caught? Well here it is (disregard the date and time on the photo- we don't update that when we setup the camera because it uses up the battery):


I think that we were all a bit disappointed that we didn't catch anything with our own traps :( Oh well just a signal that it might not yet be the most active time for some of the mammals here yet.

We headed back to the accommodations for some time with Dr. Chris on Survival Skills. It was interesting because he taught us a way to start a fire using sticks as well as how to build a spring trap.

Fire Starting!

Spring Traps

At this point I'm not sure that I would be a completely reliable person in a situation where a trap might be needed, but at least I would have an idea of what we'd need to do!

We decided that since it was so nice outside, we'd go for a walk in Cherry Hill and check it out. The ocean was soooo nice today! It was cool to see the waves break on the shoreline, eroding the rocks till they were nice and smooth- they looked like dinosaur eggs!

Dinosaur Eggs

As the waves recede back into the ocean, they make a really neat sound. I took a video so I hope you are able to hear them.


Cherry Hill (as I think I've mentioned before) is a tiny fishing community on the Atlantic. Most homes here have evidence of this.. either boats or lobster traps are on their property. I have uploaded some pictures here of this so you can see what its like. Its very serious business here.
Lobster Boat

Lobster Traps
Finally we had an evening that was suitable for going to watch beavers at a lodge not too far away from where we were staying. We bundled up and off we went, binoculars in hand, to see what we could see. Here is a picture of the lodge (before the sun went down) that we were watching.
The Beaver Lodge

We settled in on a bench at the side of the wetland and waited. We had to be completely still and absolutely quiet while we were there. Beavers are sensitive to noise and if they determine the are to be unsafe, they will go inside of their lodge and not come out!

The first thing we saw swimming across in front of us was a muskrat. These little guys look like pretty flat creatures while they swim. They are smaller in size than a beaver but they actually share the beaver lodge with the beavers. I had no idea they did that! Here is a picture of what a muskrat and a beaver look like. Their tails are what you can use to tell them apart. When they are swimming a muskrat's tail goes back and forth like a snake in water while a beaver's tail is pretty flat (although a beaver's body is pretty big and obvious!).



After the muskrat swam into the lodge we started to see activities of the beavers as they came out for their evening activities. We ended up seeing the 2 adults (male and female) as well as the 2 cubs from last year. Apparently beaver cubs stay in the lodge until they are two years old. Sometimes they are kicked out after one year, but these look like they were still a part of the family life at the lodge. It was really nice to watch them swimming along. Here is a picture of the two adults swimming. Its really hard to see them but they are the 2 dark spots in the water.

Swimming Beavers

This was a great finale for our last day in the field! We are so lucky the weather cooperated with us so we were able to observe them and not freeze! I am excited for tomorrow though, we will be heading off to Kejimkujik's seaside adjunct to hopefully see some ocean mammals. We've been told there are a lot of seals there... I can't wait!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Day 12- Cook's Lake

Weather: Showers
Temperature: 30s - 40s

Today we woke up and guess what? It was no longer pouring rain... just sprinkling :) Much better :) We drove out to Cook's Lake to check our traps as we always do in the morning. As we walked down the path to the cottage all of a sudden there was a coyote right in front of us!!! I could not believe we were so close to it! Of course it jumped quickly away into the bushes before any of us could take out our cameras. Once again I am left to googling an image for you:


Today we ended up catching the same pregnant female as yesterday and a mystery animal. The mystery animal is seen in the photos below... can you tell what it is?

Mystery Animal Photo #1
Mystery Animal Photo #2

After checking traps we did another 5 quadrats of droppings and found a bunch of snowshoe hare and deer again. I am not sure what the exact numbers were but we saw a lot!

We ate lunch in the van today because it was still raining and afterwards we went on a field sign transect. The field sign transect was a little interesting today because it was soooo flooded!

Raining again

We walked (more like sloshed!) around for a mile looking to find signs of animal life. We actually saw a lot of things... lots of coyote droppings, a skunk dropping, chipmunk feeding sites and remnants of a deer that looked like a coyote might have gotten it. It was so cool to be in the middle of the woods in the rain and in the middle of such huge puddles!

Flooded Trail

Once we had completed our successful transect we went back up the hill to check the traps one last time. This time we had captured a little male red-backed vole. When we took him out of the trap he was holding a little piece of hay :)

Male Red-Backed Vole

We released him back to the area he was trapped in and set off to the van for our drive home. It was a really good day in the field and we saw a lot! It was great! I wonder what we will catch tomorrow on our final day at Cook's Lake.

When we arrived home it was time to get ready for an evening chat about Geologic Time... I thought it was pretty interesting that we would be discussing this as you were all just working on your Geologic Time Scale Clock! It was a great talk, I wish I was able to draw out all of geologic time like Dr. Chris can! Here is a snapshot of our discussion:
Dr. Chris and Geologic Time

Well that is all for today! I will post more tomorrow on our last day at Cook's Lake!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

For Mrs. Clark's 7th Graders :)

Hi Guys! Great Questions you had for me yesterday, I am so happy you posted! Here are the answers to your questions:

1. No, we did not catch the porcupine that caused all the tree damage. They are very hard to find at this time of the year. In the summer when it is warmer you might be able to find them up in the trees. They like to climb up the tree and then sleep on one of the branches with their legs dangling on either side!

2. We have not yet figured out how many porcupines are in the area here, but I will ask the scientists and let you know.

3. I have not seen any bears... YET! The type of bear they have here is the Black Bear.

4. The largest mammal that we have caught so far is a pregnant vole. You can see her picture in my blog from today. The largest mammal that we have seen so far is the Bobcat!

5. The 9 animals that we have seen signs of during our researching up here are the porcupine, deer, snowshoe hare, coyote, voles, mice, chipmunk, bobcat and raccoon.

6. We have caught 7 voles so far (but one of them was caught 3 times!).

7. The Red-backed vole is named that way because it has a reddish color of fur that runs along its back. You can kind of see that in this picture:

8. The Longworth traps that we use work by placing food and hay (for them to make a nest) in the trap. This makes a nice place for the animals and they smell the food so they want to come inside. When they come inside the trap they walk to the end and hit a little piece of metal that closes the door at the front of it. This keeps them inside until we come and let them out. Some smaller animals such as a shrew, are able to slide out the hole in the back of the trap. This is ok because we are not wanting to trap them. They are also very nervous and would be upset if they were stuck inside.

9. We can tell the differences between the animals by the way that they look. You probably know that animals are very hard to find sometimes so we also need to be able to identify them in other ways. One way we do that is by looking at the droppings they leave behind. Their droppings look very different from one another and that helps us find out who has been there. You can see pictures of droppings on my blog!

Day 11- Cook's Lake/ Tim Hortons ;)


Congratulations to A LOT of you for getting the antler vs horn differences correct!

"It's cold and miserable out there"... that is how Dr. Christina came in this morning as we were ready to have some breakfast. It had been pouring rain all night long and was still raining. I was not sure how this day was going to turn out but I was hoping it would stop soon... it didn't.

We left in another dense Nova Scotian fog after breakfast and drove out to Cook's Lake. When we arrived it was raining even harder than in Cherry Hill. Things were not looking good for us! We hauled in our lunch cooler and made our way down the very muddy and wet trail... the pouring rain. The temperature had dropped significantly since yesterday and unfortunately it looks like this will continue to happen as the week progresses :(

When we got to the cottage at Cook's Lake we immediately started checking our traps to see if we caught anything overnight. I cannot explain how much rain was falling as we did this. I had probably put on 4 layers of clothing on my upper torso and then had a scarf and a rain jacket on. I had long johns and another layer of pants on my legs... but NO RAIN PANTS!! :( I also had on my big boots and the liners to keep them warmer as well as a pair of mittens. Unfortunately this did not work out well. By the time we had checked the traps my mittens were soaked and weighed about 5 pounds each, both layers of my pants were soaked as well and the water was starting to drip into my boots :( Miserable does quite a good job in describing how I felt.

I had no animals in my traps but one of mine had something in it that must have escaped. Another one of my teammates did however catch 2 Red-backed voles! One of them was a pregnant female and the other was a thin female who looked like she had run a little low on her food storages over the winter. The pregnant female was pretty cool because she was so round and it was nice to compare the body shapes. I felt a bit bad too because it was so cold and rainy and we had to release them back into the wild in such awful weather.
Ms. Dosmann with the pregnant vole

The pregnant vole gets her clipping

After the traps were checked we managed to do 5 quadrats to look for scat as the rain continued to pour down on top of us. We found nothing in the first quadrant but then a few deer and hare in the rest of them. It was really tough to do when the wind is blowing, its raining and you are freezing cold... but science doesn't rest! Can you tell what these droppings are?

What animal does this come from?

In our last quadrant I saw something run out of the corner of my eye and I stopped and looked over. Guess what I saw? A little common shrew (also known as the masked shrew)! It was going in and out of the thick grasses in the farmland, probably looking for a dry place to stay. I cannot imagine how flooded it was underneath all that grass! Shrews have a hard time dealing with stress and I think this was probably a stressful situation.

Common Shrew

After the quadrants Dr. Christina said something we thought we would never ever hear.... "Do you want to go inside, to Tim Horton's to get dry and have lunch"?? I am sure you can imagine what the answer was to that question! Off we went, freezing cold and soaking wet, back down the path to the van. I was soooo happy!! Here is a quick video of me squeezing out all of the water from my gloves...
We arrived at the mall and immediately headed to the bathrooms to look for the hand dryers to try and dry off our clothing. It was tough because we were all in need of them and there were only two! Needless to say none of us were completely dry when we headed off to Tim Hortons in the mall for coffee and lunch :) We lined up and purchased coffees, hot chocolates, soups and sandwiches. We spent awhile sitting there eating and trying to warm up. We were pretty successful. I even found a place that sold waterproof pants... so you know what? I went and purchased them. As soon as I put them on I started feeling warmer and that was a great feeling. With the weather forcasted for the rest of the week, they are totally going to be worth it!

When 2:30pm rolled around it was back to the van for another trip back to Cook's Lake. Remember I told you before that when we trap we need to check them twice a day? Well today was no different with the rain! Unfortunately we didn't catch anything this time, I think all of the animals were being smart and staying in their warm comfortable little homes. What do you think?

I was definitely ready to come back home to the accommodations and dry off! We hung up all of our soaked clothing and made some tea before having a talk with Dr. Chris about all the animals that live up here. It was nice to be inside listening to the wind and rain before dinner but I found myself thinking about all the "other" animals outside dealing with Mother Nature... we are lucky!

We had an excellent dinner made by Dr. Chris and then we spent a little time relaxing and teaching Yuma English tongue twisters. He taught us one too "Nama mugi, nama gome, nama tamago." I know it has something to do with raw eggs, raw rice and raw wheat ;) For all you who love espanol here is one for you too! "Erre con "erre" cigarro,"erre" con "erre" barril.RĂ¡pido corren los carros,Cargados de azucar del ferrocarril."

Tongue Twisters

We also played a Japanese game using "Koma" which are little wooden tops. This is an old game but it was kind of amusing to play.

Well I am really tired from all of the events of the day, but probably mostly from trying to stay warm in such wet and cold weather! I am excited though about what we might find tomorrow morning when we head back out to the traps. I can't believe it will already be Wednesday!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Day 10 - Cook's Lake

Weather: Overcast/Very Foggy
Temperature: 40s

Congratulations to David S - Sociologist of the Day- for correctly defining a matriarchal society!

I woke up this morning to a raging fog that covered the entire area of Cherry Hill. It was really cool. It had rained a little over the night and you could actually hear the waves crashing on the shore at the end of the road! We raced to eat breakfast so that we could set out to our new research site... Cook's Lake.

It takes a little while to drive out to Cook's Lake, probably an hour and a half or so. Well we were driving along and all of a sudden a Bobcat ran across the road! We couldn't believe it! I wasn't able to get a picture of it so I "Googled" one for you here. What an exciting animal to see. We knew there were some around here but they are pretty good hiders so its rare to catch a glimpse of them.
The Bobcat

When we arrived to Cook's Lake we had to hike in about a mile with all of the bins of traps, our lunch, and anything we needed for the day. The trail was pretty muddy in some places but with my huge rubber boots I could walk right through it! We saw a lot of neat things as we walked. I will explain more about all of this when I return to school but for now I want you to look at the pictures and tell me what you think they are:

Specimen A

Specimen B

Specimen C

Specimen D

Specimen E

One more question: do any of you know the difference between antlers and horns?

Can you tell Lycos likes learning about bones too?


Cook's Lake is an old farm that was established on "Crown Land" meaning it was land given to early settlers by the King. It was given out to encourage settling in the new land. If you were given land, there were several things you needed to establish year after year to keep the land. For example in your first year on the land you needed to start clearing trees and build a shelter on it. I will tell you the whole story about this when I return, but it is really interesting and will fit in nicely when we start talking about exploration later on this year in Social Studies!

Farmland at Cook's Lake

After dropping off our traps at an area near the farmland, we went on a hike to explore the area around us. As we walked, Dr. Christina explained a lot of the history of the area as well as about the wildlife that live there. Interestingly as we were walking we came upon very fresh coyote droppings and a dead vole. It looks like the coyote had caught a little snack but was disturbed by us coming so close, so he dropped it and took off! I started wondering what else was out there listening to us ... and watching!

We hiked in to Cook's Lake and observed a lot of beaver damage to trees in the area. There are several beaver lodges in the area so there was definitely evidence of them working hard!

Cook's Lake

Beaver Damage

Beaver Damage

After the hike we had a quick lunch and off we went setting traps again. This time we are hoping to catch some different species in addition to the red backed voles you have seen. Here we have jumping mice and woodland mice so I am excited to see what we are able to catch! The area here is obviously very different from East Point Medway so I was a little unsure of my trap placement. There was much less to cover the traps here with unless you were in the woods. We'll see how it goes tomorrow when we check them!

The trap setting went well and then it was off again to the accommodations for dinner and a talk about data analysis. I know some of you are excited to find out how we calculate population size from the data we collected... so here you go! One of the methods we used is called the Lincoln/Peterson Index. Can you find out what the equation is and think about how you might use it?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Day 9- Kejimkujik National Park ("Keji")

Weather: Overcast/Sunny/Sleet

With our late return to the accommodations last night I have to admit I was tired getting up this morning. We had a late breakfast (9am) so that was a nice way to ease us back into research. It was going to be quite a drive to Kejimkujik so I settled into the van and enjoyed the scenery along the way.

Much of Nova Scotia is really pretty rural. Its been such a contrast to see everything looking so different from home in Boston. Lots of land with houses only every so often. Some of the towns we drove through today were so small, they went by in what seemed like an instant. One of the towns we went through had a big event recently... they acquired a gas station! Before this, people had to drive really far and plan ahead for when they might need gas... not good if you are on empty!

When we arrived at Keji we first stopped for a little 1/4 mile hike to some rapids to stretch our legs. They were really raging but apparently once the winter thaw has happened, they get calm enough to walk across and sunbathe on the rocks. On our way back to the car we saw a red squirrel in a tree. She actually stopped long enough for us to photograph her :)
The rapids

Red Squirrel
Once back in the van we headed to an area to do some transects for deer scat but did not find any. Dr. Chris thinks that because there was so much snow this year, a lot of it was carried away in the meltoff. That was ok with us... it was time for lunch!

Kejimkujik was established in 1967 as a national park and its name means forest of the fairies. It comes from the native language of the first natives here in Nova Scotia called the Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaq are a matriarchal society (do you know what this means??) This tribe are descendants of people who had lived here for about 2000 years until they were forced out by government. The struggles that the natives here faced are very similar to those faced by the Native Americans in our own country. What is very interesting here is that there are many petroglyphs left on the rocks by the Mi'kmaq people. Here are some reproductions of them so you can get an idea what they look like. In the summertime you can go on a tour to see the real ones.
The Petroglyph Reproductions
After lunch we drove to an area of Hemlock forest (Old Growth) for a 6 mile hike. On our hike in we saw a few coyote droppings and some deer prints.

Deer Footprint

This forest has the oldest trees in the area... it has been untouched for about 100 years so there are some pretty impressive trees here. Its neat to see how old growth forest is very different from the younger forests we've been in. Old Growth forests are much more spaced out in the understory, whereas younger forests are crowded with lots of little trees growing. Only very tall trees are surviving in the old growth forests because they have out-competed the other trees for sunlight. Think back to the pictures of the woods at East Point Medway and compare them to the ones I show here of the Hemlock Forest.

Old Growth Hemlock Forest
The Big Tree you see here is over 100 years old!

What is also so neat about Keji is that there is a gigantic granite intrusion here. You should know what that means by now :) In certain parts of the park you can see it exposed such as in the photo I put below.
Root System and part of the Intrusion

The hike was great because we got to see a good bit of inland Keji. We will be visiting the seaside adjunct which is also part of Keji (though in a totally different spot), at the end of the week before we leave.

We went looking for deer droppings afterwards and were able to find a whole bunch in an area you could tell they had been sleeping in. It was pretty cool... also cool because we didnt have to count each one, only the "event" or number of piles :)

It was a pretty long day here in Keji but a really nice time. I am looking forward to seeing the checking out Cook's Lake tomorrow and seeing another new spot!