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Posts tagged ‘Trinity River Audubon Center’

14
Aug

Current Community Science Projects

CURRENT AND ONGOING:

The Arlington Archosaur site is closing for the remainder of the summer (as is usual) — in August it’s just Too Darned Hot to dig.  They will return later in the year.

Trinity River Audubon Center’s Third Thursday will have Frogwatch, Amphibian Watch, and National Phenological Database expedition as well as a Chimney Swift watch and possibly an Owl Prowl (whew!)  This time we’ll also be doing a “transect survey” for dragonflies.

Botannical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT) has an ongoing need for volunteers to help with their databases (indoor work!) and do some field research.  Contact them for details.

 

GENERAL EDUCATION, public welcome

Connemara Conservacy has an astronomy walk (August 18th) and an evening Open House (September 23.)  See website for details.

The John Bunker Sands Wetland Center has a First Saturday Walk & Talk Bird Tour.    9:00 – 11:00 am; $10 includes admission if you’re not a member; $5 for members.

Botannical Research Institute of Texas (BRIT)’s Science Saturday – open plant ID, exhibits, demonstrations, tours, etc First Saturday of every month at  10:00 – 2:00.  This is a fun place to visit, even if you’re not really into plants.

 

PLANNED:

The John Bunker Sands Wetland Center is planning to start some Citizen Science initiatives in the near future.  I will be in a planning meeting about this effort at the end of August.

 

2
Aug
Community Science Initiatives logo

Defining Dallas: Does Drought Increase Acid Rain Effects?

     Acid Rain was one of the big “bugbears” of my youth — a keyword that caught our attention along with pictures of dying trees.  Legislative action in the 1970’s (reinforced by the Clean Air Act) helped turn things around, and ponds and lakes began recovering.  Acid rain was an issue of the past.

Maybe.

We’re in the middle of a second year of drought here in Texas, and the drought monitor shows that we haven’t had enough rainfall to make up for the deficits. I’m watching the ponds dry up again at Trinity River Audubon Center and am setting up some trees as monitoring stations to start making measurements of just how much trouble the vegetation is having.  If the research published in the journal Water Resources Research, Charles Driscoll of Syracuse University and the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Hubbard Brook Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site in New Hampshire is indicating a trend, counties suffering from the drought are soon going to be hit with a double whammy when the rains return.

Photo of a stream with boulders in the streambed.

New England’s ecosystems have rebounded from the disastrous situation of the 1950’s only to be faced by issues caused by today’s higher atmospheric carbon dioxide level and its atmospheric fallout.  Warmer temperatures and an increase in carbon dioxide is changing the pattern and quality of water in forested areas, and a model used by Hubbard Brook predicts that snowfall at Hubbard Brook will begin later in winter, snowmelt will happen earlier in spring, and soil and stream waters will become acidified — and we’re back to the Acid Rain problem again.

Here’s the kicker: In scenarios that look decreases in summer soil moisture due to shifts in hydrology (as in, “drought”), the end result is further acidification of soil and water.

Last year, I saw crusts of salt along the ponds here in Dallas as they dried out.  I’m not seeing that yet, but the report suggests to me that it might be a very good time for an increase in citizen science monitoring of our waterways.  Fellow Texans interested in this can contact the Texas Stream Team.  I’ll be getting training for this sometime in the near future, so it may be added to the Trinity River Audubon Center’s Third Thursday Science Programming.

Community Science Initiatives logo

Related Websites
NSF LTER Network: http://www.lternet.edu/
NSF Hubbard Brook LTER Site: http://www.hubbardbrook.org/
Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability NSF-Wide Investment (SEES): http://www.nsf.gov/funding/pgm_summ.jsp?pims_id=504707

 

 

21
Jun

Frogwatch at Trinity River Audubon Center starts up!

As part of my “Community Science Investigations” project, I’m starting up this year’s Frogwatch for both Trinity River Audubon Center and Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center (because, surprisingly, in what I thought was a “frog free” environment, we DO have frogs.)  I’m particularly interested in this after the severe drought of last year.  So we’re doing a “pond watch” of the ponds here at TRAC on the third Thursday of every month.

 

Some general resources for frog-watch folks:

Trinity River Audubon Center: http://www.trinityriver.audubon.org/

Project Frogwatch homepage: http://www.aza.org/frogwatch/

USGS Frog Call http://www.pwrc.usgs.gov/frogquiz/
Frog calls of Tennessee (overlap with Texas species, and this is phone friendly)
http://www.leaps.ms/soundpage.htm

Snakes and frogs found at Spring Creek Preserve in Garland, TX:

http://www.springcreekforest.org/frogs_snakes.htm

And the TPWD Amphibian Watch homepage:

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/texas_nature_trackers/amphibian_watch/

16
Jun

Defining Dallas: The Unexpected Life of Snakes

(

Red-eared Slider on Trailhead Pond at TRAC

Red-eared Slider on Trailhead Pond at TRAC

crossposted and updated from my original article at: http://www.science20.com/tales_otherworlds/blog/defining_dallas_unexpected_life_snakes-80081)

I have just come in from Third Thursday at Trinity River Audubon Center.  The anticipated speaker canceled and there were families there who wanted a program, so I did the “Turtle Talk” and then took them out for turtle watching and a nature hike.  I wish I’d thought to take the pond temperature, because I’m getting reports from others now that yes, turtles don’t bask when it’s too hot.  We saw nine tonight, in the water with just their noses poking out.  When I took the group to look at the one turtle nest we’d seen, someone discovered a second one not fifteen feet from that!  I’ll GPS all three of the known nesting sites so we can see if they come back next year.

This morning we had kids from the YMCA, and one of the fascinating things they discovered was a group of 8 or nine snakes in a puddle of water under the bridge, all sliding around rather furiously — but never leaving the water.  I missed this since I was giving the classroom lecture on “bugs” (basically any “creepy crawly”) but they took me out in the afternoon and we had a look through the binoculars.

There were several Yellow Bellied Water Snakes (Nerodia erythrogasterflavigaster.), a ribbon snake, and one that might have been the non-venomous diamond backed river snake (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nerodia_rhombifer) — which didn’t want to hold still for photos or observation, and as they were in a puddle about four feet below the deck, we weren’t going to scale the fence and then try to work our way down to the ground just to identify the snake (we could easily identify the poison ivy right near it, however.  Lots of it.)  After a few minutes (and with the help of Scott), we determined that they were “fishing” for a shoal of tiny Gambusia (minnows, or mosquito fish) that had gotten trapped in the puddle as the pond shrank.  The fish were swimming frantically trying to get away, but there was no escape.  The pool grew smaller during the afternoon, as the snakes moving through it swept the water from the puddle onto the bank.  By evening there was only a patch of mud and a single very satisfied (and full) ribbon snake.  The Yellow Bellied Water Snake was in another larger pondlet (too deep to be a puddle but only about 8 feet long and 5 feet wide), looking pretty content.

Scott said he had pictures from last year, so this is not a unique occurance.  Hopefully we’ll see other examples of this (and hopefully I’ll have a camera in hand the next time!