Interpreting- Day 4

16 Jan

On Thursday, we spent the morning learning and exploring with the Field Station’s Environmental Research Coordinator, Paul Wetzel.  As we ventured into the woods, he pulled out various thermometers and showed us how the blanket of snow works as an insulator, thus enabling small animals like mice and voles to travel under the snow because it is warmer than above the snow. Plants and animals that have adapted to our Northern climate depend on this temperature differential. As a result, winters without snow are much harder for grasses, for example, than those with plenty of snowfall. Next, we ventured further into the woods and spotted some deer tracks.  As we followed them deeper into the forest along the Porcupine Trail, we found numerous other tracks and used tracking books and Paul’s expertise to determine that squirrels, rabbits, deer, and foxes, had all been through that area.  We even found some deer scat, which Paul excitedly showed us came in piles of small, brown pellets that are green on the inside.

IMG_6616newA student in the class checking the temperature in the air to compare to the temperature in and under the snow.

There were many different types of animal tracks in the snow, the class identified this one as belonging to a deer.

Annie Ames, ’15 cracking a layer of ice at the vernal pool.

The temperature under the layer of ice at the vernal pool was around 40°F.
Even though the weather above the ice might be below freezing, this temperature differential allows fish and other animals to survive the winter under the ice.

As we walked through the woods, Paul also taught us quick and easy characteristics useful in the identification of different tree species. For example, white birch has peeling, white bark and alternating branching and the dogwood lives in damp environments and has opposite branching, where the branches sprout directly across from each other. Besides the conifers, the beech trees are the only trees around the Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station that retain their leaves into the winter. Paul presented both tree and track identification as intuitive problem solving processes that each of us could use in the future. Before we ventured too far into the woods, we were offered sticks of black birch and told to chew on them. Though hesitant at first, I willingly put the stick in my mouth. It tasted surprisingly good, like some combination of maple syrup and mint.

Laura Krok-Horton, ’17 and Reid Bertone-Johnson sample the black birch branches.

– Julia Comeau, ’17
– Anuujin Elbegdori, ’15
– Anna George, ’17
-Pam Matcho, ’17

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