Patuxent Research Refuge

I attended the Patuxent River Conference last week. The conference was informative – lots of up-to-date information about the river. One of the branches of the river (the Middle Patuxent) is through the forest – downhill – from my house. The conference venue was the Patuxent Research Refuge and there was opportunity to look around the visitor center and onto a nearby trail. It has been awhile since I had visited the place and the visitor center was in better condition that I remembered.

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The displays in the visitor center had been updated. The one I found most poignant was the whopping crane display. The Patuxent Research Refuge tried for years to raise whooping cranes to establish a new migratory flock but this year the effort was stopped. The whopping crane we saw down in Florida during the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival (see my post here) began its life at this refuge.

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During the morning break – a mockingbird sat in a nearby tree. It had quite a repertoire of songs.

I remember the timber wolf sculpture in front of the visitor center but the colorful screening on the front windows of the visitor center was new to me.

The refuge biologist let a hike during the last session of the day. A prescribed burn had been done on some of the areas around the visitor center to clear out biomass…keep the area grassland habitat rather than forest.

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We hiked over the causeway and into the forest. The Refuge is doing an inventory of the forest trees and taking core samples to determine the age. One of the corers got stuck in an oak and they are still trying to get it out!

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The trees are not leafed out…but some are easy to identify. Beech trees are easy any time of year.

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A lot of the pines at the refuge were planted about the same time and are dying off together too. There are quite a few that have fallen over. But there are still a lot of trees that fill in the canopy. This will be a very shady area when the trees leaf out.

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It was a good day for a conference and a visit to the refuge!

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 16, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Wind Cave, In the National Park, Is 150 Miles Long...And Counting – About 2 miles are surveyed annually and there are about 3,000 unexplored openings that haven’t been checked.

Climate of North American cities will shift hundreds of miles in one generation: New web application helps visualize climate changes in 540 North American cities -- ScienceDaily – The article includes a link to the interactive map. Baltimore Maryland will be like Cleveland, Mississippi in 60 years!

Southern California Will Soon See Another Booming Superbloom | Smart News | Smithsonian – Much better than burn scars and mud slides.

The Obelisks of Heliopolis - Archaeology Magazine – Obelisks taken from the city…a project to understand where they originally stood and the role they played.

In Era of Drought, Phoenix Prepares for a Future Without Colorado River Water - Yale E360 – Living on the edge when it comes to water supply. It’s not just South Africa that has the challenge.

BBC - Future - How Japan’s ancient trees could tell the future –Teasing out how much rain fell in Japan over the past two and half millennia by looking at the preserved wood of ancient forests.    

The soaring cost of US child care, in 5 charts  and Paid family leave is an investment in public health, not a handout – Thought provoking…families coping in the modern world.

Utilities are starting to invest in big batteries instead of building new power plants – Shifts in the way big utilities are structuring themselves for the future – it not all about new power plants.

New molecules reverse memory loss linked to depression, aging -- ScienceDaily – Maybe in the future we’ll be able to treat some types of cognitive decline better than we can now.

The Future of Universities | What's Next: Top Trends – 7 Cs: Critical thinking, Creativity, Collaboration, Communication, Curiosity, Character and Compassion

Gleanings of the Week Ending December 22, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

2018 National Geographic Photo Contest | National Geographic – Galleries of great photography.

Maps Give Detailed Look at Dramatic Land Use Change Over Two Decades - Yale E360 – Land use changes…widespread environmental degradation…between 1992 and 2015.

Himera: One of the greatest archaeological discoveries of recent decades emerges from oblivion - The Archaeology News Network – More than 12,000 almost untouched burials – many from a battle fought between Greeks and Carthaginians in 480 BC. The Greeks were victorious in the first battle but the second battle in 409 BC was won by the Carthaginians and they razed the city.

We broke down what climate change will do, region by region | Grist – No part of the US will be unscathed.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Herons, Egrets and Bitterns – National Geographic Blog – Enjoy some bird pictures. Herons and egrets are my favorites to photograph.

How tree rings tell time and climate history | NOAA Climate.gov – A nice summary of tree ring dating…and an example using Mesa Verde.

Amazing Sands from Around the World – Cool Green Science – I’ve seen the Olivine Sand and Black Sand beaches in Hawai’i (on a very windy day….posted about it here). I’d like to see the star sand in Japan.

Grand Canyon National Park Celebrates Centennial Year at Grand Canyon and Around Arizona – 2019 is a milestone anniversary for the park; lots of events to celebrate this national treasure.

Only 12 percent of American adults are metabolically healthy, study finds: Trends help sound alarm for efforts to lower associated risk of types 2 diabetes, heart disease and other complications -- ScienceDaily – Not a good statistic since the long term risks of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and other serious health issues are higher for those that are not metabolically healthy.

Rethinking Raw Milk, 1918 | The Scientist Magazine® - Alice Evans and the path toward avoiding milk borne diseases. Her work was published in 1918. Draft ordinances for states and localities to implement pasteurization requirements for milk to be consumed by humans were written in 1924. The first federal pasteurization law was passed in 1947…saving lives and millions of dollars in public health costs.

Field Trips in the Rain

Last week, I volunteered for two elementary school hiking field trips at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt Pleasant Farm….and it rained both days! On Monday it was kindergarteners and the ‘hike’ was shorted from 40 minutes to 20 minutes and accomplished in mostly the nature center. We started out on the terrace above the nature center looking out over the Honor Garden…talking about trees with leaves (and looked at leaves on the ground). Then we walked quickly around the front of the building to get to the nature center…and were wet enough already. Inside the nature center there were animal skulls and pelts…seeds and leaves…preserved insects…

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And tree cookies.

When I talk to kindergarteners about tree cookies, I take time to explain what they are…and that they are not to eat! We count the main rings on the Royal Paulownia and then note that the other trees grow more slowly. My favorite is the dogwood because the rings are not as regular the other samples. The children are always enjoy learning about sugar maples…and maple syrup.

The rest of the time that would have normally been hiking was spent observing and hearing about Ranger, the barred owl.

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On Friday, it only sprinkled a little on the first hike with second graders while we were out and about in the meadow. It was a very cloudy day.

During the second hike, it started raining. The children were dressed for the weather and more than half of them had umbrellas. We were in the meadow collecting and analyzing soil samples when it started raining. We decided we’d done enough samples and went to learn about the rocks by looking at an old stone wall. We started making our way back to the nature center by way of the goat and chicken enclosures…noting what the animals were doing (both enclosures have shelters and that’s where the animals were…out of the rain). We stopped briefly at the old stump in front of the farm house and discovered a snake skin fragment. Then we headed in to the nature center to see the living black rat snake (Onyx), a snake we see frequently at Mt Pleasant. They were ready for lunch too!

These were my last elementary field trips for the fall season. Even with the challenge of rain, they were good experiences…for me and for the students.

A Stump at Staunton River State Park

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In a grassy area near the visitor center – I noticed a stump. Someone had left a pumpkin on top, probably while they were decorating for the Star Party. I walked over to get a closer look. It looked like it had been cut down recently.

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The rings stood out a lot more than the rings of the Silver Maple at Mt. Pleasant. This stump had not been sanded either. I counted 74 rings but there were some very narrow ones from recent years that were harder to count….so I estimated it was about 80 years old when it was cut down.

The people in the Visitor Center told me that it had been cut down recently and that they thought it had been planted near the time the park was created in 1936. But they didn’t know what kind of tree it was. The next morning, I talked with the park manager that was manning the outdoor grill at the Cantina for breakfast and found out that it was a Post Oak and he had counted 84 rings when it was first cut down. The CCC did most of the work when the park was created so it is likely, because of its location, that it was planted by them. The tree had leafed out last spring but then dropped all its leaves during the summer. It had been struggling for the past few years and looking at the stump shows the evidence of that struggle in the outermost rings.

Steps in the Silver Maple Stump

The Silver Maple Stump that I wrote about a few days ago has been made accessible for shorter visitors! There are steps cut into the side that was not sanded to reveal the tree rings!

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We looked at dogwood and Paulownia tree cookies to learn how to count tree rings and notice how the rings look different – the spacing, the shape, etc. The kindergarteners were thrilled to climb up onto the stump – three at a time – to gather around the center and count 5 rings from the center. The tree was not very big when it was 5 years old!

They were also surprised that the water on top of the stump was coming up from the roots…and that the stump was not perfectly round. They also noticed some ants that made their home near the outer edge of one of the steps…and a daddy longlegs spider climbing the steps too.

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On the down side, when the steps were cut, additional rot was found so the stump may not last very long…I’ll just enjoy it as a field trip stop while it lasts.